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A path forward for pro-marriage equality parishes in conservative dioceses?

A path forward for pro-marriage equality parishes in conservative dioceses?

Bishop William Love of Albany, in a letter to the diocese has stated that he would not authorize use of the marriage rites approved at General Convention for same-sex marriages”

I cannot in good conscience, despite listening to the very moving stories and experiences of many gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ, give my approval for the Church’s blessing of same gender marriages.

The Diocese of Albany will continue to uphold the Church’s traditional understanding of marriage as that “solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God” (BCP 422). The Diocese of Albany’s marriage canons, Canon 16.1 “Celebration or Blessing of Marriages by Clergy” and Canon 16.2 “Marriages on Church Property” remain in effect. In addition, as stated earlier, I will honor and uphold the precepts of the Communion Partners Salt Lake City Statement.

The resolution passed at General Convention said that bishops must make provisions for those seeking smae-sex couples seeking marriage though and Bishop Love mentioned that in his letter as well;

Those gay and lesbian couples who, in spite of all that has been said above, still want to and believe they should be married, can take advantage of the provisions allowed for in General Convention Resolution A054. I will work with the bishops of the surrounding dioceses to assist them in doing so. I have, in fact, already begun conversations with the bishops of Vermont and Central New York. Whatever provision is ultimately decided upon will not violate Diocese of Albany Canons 16.1 and 16.2.

For several years some parishes within the diocese which stand in support of LGBT inclusion and marriage equality have been under Delegated Episcopal Oversight (DEPO) which is a mechanism where parishes at odds with the majority perspective of their dioceses can seek, with the bishop’s approval, to develop a pastoral relationship with an alternative bishop.

Now, at least one parish, St Andrew’s in Albany, has sent a letter to the bishop asking to allow marriage equality to happen in the diocese within the auspices of DEPO.  The entire letter is printed below.  Is this the opportunity to move forward on marriage equality the church needs and which best suits the requirements of A054?


The Letter

Dear Bishop Love,

Grace and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. We write this letter in a spirit of love, commitment to unity within the Diocese of Albany, and a strong hope of reconciliation to one another. The issues raised by the 78th General Convention’s approval of marriage rites for same-gender couples and your subsequent decision to prohibit the use of those rites locally continue to roil congregations and individuals throughout this diocese. While some approve of and unequivocally support your stance, we submit that a significant segment of worshippers are either deeply troubled by it or object strongly, as evidenced by your needing to disrupt your long-awaited sabbatical in order to address the issue.

It is reasonable to predict that these tensions will escalate as parishes seek to serve the pastoral needs of same-gender couples, their families and communities. Fortunately, you have already provided the diocese with a potential mechanism for addressing and reconciling these concerns via the Delegated Episcopal Oversight (DEPO) provisions. For the well-being of the entirety of the Diocese of Albany, we urge you to utilize the DEPO process as a means to allow clergy and congregations who so choose to honor the call of conscience and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and celebrate same-gender marriages locally.

General Convention A054 states, in part, “Bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority or, where appropriate, ecclesiastical supervision, will make provision for all couples asking to be married in this Church to have access to these liturgies.” The resolution further states, “That this convention honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality; and that no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her theological objection to or support for the 78th General Convention’s action contained in this resolution.” Your response to this resolution, as expressed in your July 18, 2015, pastoral letter, states, “Those gay and lesbian couples who, in spite of all that has been said above, still want to and believe they should be married, can take advantage of the provisions allowed for in General Convention Resolution A054. I will work with the bishops of the surrounding dioceses to assist them in doing so. Whatever provision is ultimately decided upon will not violate Diocese of Albany Canons 16.1 and 16.2.” We respectfully assert that the accommodation you provide falls short of the language of the convention on both levels. It does not make adequate provision for those couples and their families, and it penalizes clergy who support the Convention’s action.

Adequate provision for same-gender couples must take into account the local church and the larger community’s role in their lives. LGBT individuals and families are integral members of parish communities, serving and giving at every level within the church, and living, working, and participating within the larger community. Same-gender couples seeking to be married within the church do so precisely because they exist within the community. These couples cannot be adequately or appropriately served by forcing them out of their home diocese to receive these rites in other dioceses. To do so robs them of their dignity and isolates them from their community. It also fails to take into consideration the countless biological and church family members, co-workers, neighbors, and friends who love them and want to affirm their commitment to each other by witnessing and sharing in their celebration. The Diocese of Albany’s current policy, in effect, burdens entire communities who, despite their beliefs being in accordance with those of the larger Episcopal Church, are forced to either withdraw support from their loved ones on what is supposed to be a joyous communal occasion, or to travel outside of and away from the places they call home. Both of these options foster further separateness within families and church communities, and within the Diocese of Albany.

Clergy must be able to fully honor the call of conscience in serving the needs of their parishioners. We support clergy’s right to not perform same-gender marriages if their consciences so dictate. However, we believe that honoring the call of conscience must work both ways. Compelling priests who support the Convention’s action to deny their parishioners access to the approved marriage rites goes beyond merely coercing them to say “no” in order to be obedient to their Bishop. It puts them at odds with the Holy Spirit moving within them, doing damage to their own souls. It makes them into liars – falsely representing their beliefs to those couples, their parishes, and to the world outside the church to whom they are charged with carrying Christ’s message. It makes them complicit with a policy that they know to be destructive in the lives of their parishioners. It erodes the bonds of trust necessary if a pastor is to be able to minister to the entirety of their community.

We believe that the DEPO process already in effect within the Diocese of Albany can provide the means to encompass the range of views and needs within the diocese without causing further division, or requiring substantial change to existing diocesan policy. We ask that same-gender marriages be allowed to be performed within the DEPO parishes in the Diocese of Albany, if they so choose, by affirmation of the respective rectors, vestries and congregations. We further request that any clergy member who feels called by conscience to celebrate such marriages be allowed to do so, either in those DEPO parishes with permission of the appropriate rector, or at a private location.

As a longstanding congregation within the Diocese of Albany with deep roots in and a demonstrated commitment to partnership with the Diocese, we prayerfully request that you consider and implement the recommendations proposed in this letter for the benefit of us all. May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the name of Jesus Christ,

Signed this day, Sunday, September 6, 2015, the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, by the Vestry, clergy, and members of the congregation of St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Albany, New York:


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prof christopher seitz

The most obvious question to ask is, If a Bishop does not agree to the DEPO-Deimel plan, what happens?

More obliquely, same-sex marriage takes place in a neighboring diocese, ‘hapless couple’ returns, spouse wants to enter the ordination process, or run for Vestry, etc, and the Rector and various agencies say No.

This will lead immediately to Title IV deployment.

But I have already commented above on all the problems GC 2015 has set into motion with this odd resolution.

Lionel Deimel

I have attempted to analyze the possible ways of fulfilling the requirements of Resolution
A054 in very conservative dioceses (or ones with very conservative bishops). DEPO is perhaps the only pastorally sensitive and canonically available mechanism for making the trial rites “available” to requesting couples. See my blog post “What Might Resolution A054 Mean in Practice?

Robert T. Dodd

Mr. Wesley: If the Diocese of Albany is dissolving, it is the end result of a 15 year, two bishop campaign to immunize it against the Episcopal Church and those of us who support that church. Albany’s problem is not in the center but at the top: A diocesan who puts his right to honor his beliefs ahead of the right of his flock to honor theirs. Can he change? Might the Damascus Road run through Greenwich?

Prof Christopher Seitz

apologies for typos. travelling at present.

Prof Christopher Seitz

The answer too your question is a decided Yes.

But I think this is a feature, not a bug, in what GC 2015 wrought.

The office of Bishop; the very idea of diocesan canons; the way that a constitution functions and needs proper amending: all these are now otiose. This if the General Convention-Title IV hierarchical church in practice, if not in Constitutionality.

I think that TEC ought to embrace this new understanding if it wants it, and do what is necessary in an orderly way. I am puzzled as to why their is some residual gravity toward ‘wanting it both ways.’

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