Bishop Love: “The Diocese of Albany is in the midst of a battle”

by

Bishop William Love addressed the Diocese of Albany’s Convention this weekend, using the moment to rail again against the actions of last year’s General Convention to extend provisions for marriage equality across dioceses, and even invoking brutal images of the martyrdom suffered by Christians elsewhere in the world to paint a picture of a faith under attack at home from forces of “social justice or women’s rights, or political correctness.”

Bishop Love quickly defined his firm stance against marriage equality and “political correctness” as “Standing Firm in the Holy Spirit,” as he drew up his battle lines:

Tonight, I need to talk about the crisis that faces this Diocese and Christianity in general.  The Diocese of Albany is in the midst of a battle whose outcome is not yet known.  The very nature and character of this Diocese as we have known it, is under attack from forces outside as well as within.  Each of us must decide how we will respond.

We have all read the final chapter.  We know how the war ends — God is triumphant!  The question is – whose side will we be on when that final day comes?  Will we “Stand Firm in the Holy Spirit, striving together as One” in Christ and His Holy Word, or will we cave under the pressure of political correctness and special interest groups, being driven by the shifting winds of culture and society?  Will we speak God’s truth in love, or will we embrace false teachings to the physical, spiritual and psychological detriment of others?  Will we be “strong and courageous” as God commanded Joshua as he was preparing to lead the Israelites across the river Jordan into the Promise Land, or will we cower in fear of what others may say or think or do?  The decision is ours.

On a more personal note, Bishop Love alluded to the disciplinary actions that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry initiated after Bishop Love issued a Pastoral Letter last November refusing to abide by the decisions of General Convention to extend pastoral provision to same-sex couples seeking marriage within their own parishes and dioceses:

As all of you know, in January of this year, the Presiding Bishop placed a partial restriction on my ministry in regard to overseeing Title IV Disciplinary Proceedings involving same-sex marriage. In issuing the partial restriction, the Presiding Bishop stated, “Bishop Love’s conduct in this regard may constitute a canonical offense under Canon IV.4(1)(c) (“abide by the promises and vows made when ordained”) and Canon IV.4(1)(h)(9) (“any Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Clergy”).

As I informed the Diocese after receiving the partial restriction, I plan to appeal the disciplinary action taken against me as well as officially challenge the legality of B-012 and bring clarity as to which has more authority when at odds with one another — a General Convention Resolution or a Diocesan Canon.

Unfortunately, my appeal is temporarily on hold, as I await a formal charge being brought against me.  It has now been over four months since the Presiding Bishop took disciplinary against me, and to date, I have still not been officially charged with anything. I have asked (for my sake and the sake of the Diocese) that this process not be drawn out.  I was told an investigation into the allegations made against me would be conducted and I should hear something in a couple of weeks. That was in the middle of February. It is now June. As soon as I hear something, I will let you all know.

Bishop Love described the toll that this argument has taken on the diocese’s ability to fill vacant clergy positions in churches, and to collect parish assessments:

Some clergy are hesitant to come to the Diocese because of the uncertainty of what is going to happen to the Bishop. Will I be deposed or forced to resign? Others are under a false allusion as to the true nature of the Diocese, having believed the lies and misrepresentations being spread around by people who have no clue who the Diocese of Albany truly is. Others are concerned about the finances of the parishes they are considering.  Clergy interested in coming to a parish look at its relationship with the rest of the Diocese and whether or not the parish is honoring its assessment. …

The level of financial giving to the Diocese has taken a huge hit this year – so much so that diocesan programs that have been such a blessing to the clergy and people of the Diocese over the past several years are in real jeopardy.  …

I realize that not all of the drop in financial giving to the Diocese is related to B-012 and the Diocese’s stance on same-sex marriage, but a significant portion is. There are people on both sides of these issues voting with their feet and their pocket book. 

Throughout the address, Bishop Love maintained his theme of a Bishop, a Diocese, and Christianity itself under attack. In one breathtaking passage, he lifted up the example of Christians martyred by ISIS in Libya in 2015, and compared their murders to the kinds of attacks he sees conservative Christianity enduring in the West:

For those of us in the West, I believe the greatest threat to the Church and individual Christians is currently being manifested under the guise of social justice, anti-hate rhetoric, and political correctness. Whatever the source or justification, let there be no doubt that Christianity and our religious freedoms are under attack.

When you have a masked jihadist holding a knife to your throat demanding that you denounce your belief in Jesus Christ, you know your faith is under attack. When the forces of culture and society encourage you to embrace a particular agenda all in the name of social justice or women’s rights, or political correctness we can sometimes compromise our faith and violate God’s Holy Word before we realize what has happened. Again, I would argue that the greatest threat to the Church in the West comes from the ongoing cultural wars over human sexuality and same-sex marriage; abortion; “hate-speech legislation” and court rulings by judges who seem to have little to no regard for the U.S. Constitution (particularly the First Amendment and its guarantee of  religious freedom and freedom of speech). I am convinced that the day will come in our lifetime, when a person who stands up and speaks about sexual morality (particularly in regard to homosexuality or transgenderism) and quotes Leviticus or Romans – will be charged with a “hate crime” and either fined or imprisoned for doing so. The current “Equality Act” just passed by the House and now before the U.S. Senate may very well create that scenario. Are you prepared to go to jail for the Gospel’s sake? What is happening in other parts of the world is at our doorstep.

And what of the parishes in the Diocese of Albany that want to pursue a progressive course, in step with the actions of General Convention, and affirming the social justice, marriage equality, women’s rights that they read in God’s Holy Word? Bishop Love had a word for them, too:

I am very much aware that there are a few parishes in the Diocese of Albany that feel much more politically and theologically aligned with the wider Episcopal Church and feel stuck and frustrated in the Diocese of Albany. While I have great love and appreciation for every member of this Diocese (even those who believe differently on these issues) and would hate to see anyone leave the Diocese, I asked the Presiding Bishop if it would be possible for those parishes who wished to be legally transferred to another diocese more in line with their beliefs to do so. I was told that there is currently no legal way to do that. Given the current deep theological divisions within the Church, it may be that it is time for The Episcopal Church to think outside the box and make provisions for non-geographic dioceses. I reminded the Presiding Bishop that when TEC wants to do something, it usually finds a way.

The full text of Bishop Love’s address can be found at Diocese of Albany website. The Pastoral Letter to which he alludes in his speech is here. Previous Café coverage of Bishop Love’s response to General Convention and the subsequent disciplinary ramifications is here.

Dislike (3)
Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail
newest oldest
Notify of
Donald Caron
Guest
Donald Caron

As I have followed the issue, it seems to me that Bishop Love previously was holding a knife to the throat of his diocesan clergy who used the provisions of GC to officiate at same sex marriage. Not long ago, TEC commissioned a study of the scriptural foundations of the discussion, with two teams, representing the two sides of the issue. It seemed like good scholarship to me but I'm not sure that it was widely available.

Like (1)
Dislike (1)
Member

Donald, if you are referring to “To Set Our Hope On Christ,” it was widely available, but also quite often ignored.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

I haven't followed Albany closely. The comment by fellow Canadian David Bowring seems a bit smug. Cynthia Katsarelis' comment is insightful. Conscience clauses can be form of clericalism which prioritize the rights of clergy over others. Shutting out access in an entire diocese would be especially grievous. Comparisons between the Canadian and American situations can be facile unless one takes into account both church and secular contexts in the two countries. Same sex civil marriage has been legal everywhere in Canada since 2005. Blessings of civil marriages is long standing in some dioceses. Some already permit same sex marriage even as the church awaits final reading on canonical revision next month. For Canadian Church chronology/ issues to date see:

https://www.anglican.ca/news/a-word-to-the-church-considering-the-proposed-amendment-of-marriage-canon-xxi/3002388

Like (4)
Dislike (2)
JoS. S. Laughon
Guest

Hopefully the good bishop will find a place to land.

Like (4)
Dislike (3)
Kurt Hill
Guest
Kurt Hill

Hopefully charges against Bishop Love [snicker] will be presented soon. Perhaps Albany will be rid of this man in the not-too-distant future...

Like (11)
Dislike (23)
David Bowring
Guest
David Bowring

My, my! Please allow a Canadian a little self-righteousness as we look at you Americans take every social issue (especially sexual issues) extremes. Canadians are divided over same sex too, but nobody is making reference to Taliban guns! Just cool it please and look at your assumptions (modernist, traditionalist, fundamentalist, sexist, etc.) In Canada we used a "conscience clause" to take the pressure off those who lost the battle to stop women priests, and likely we will do the same over same sex marriage.

Like (7)
Dislike (5)
Claire Goodrich Dyer
Guest
Claire Goodrich Dyer

After hearing Bishop Curry speak at our clergy conference in love, I find it hard to believe the Bishop of Albany’s stand. So sorry for the clergy in the diocese!

Like (2)
Dislike (5)
Cynthia Katsarelis
Guest
Cynthia Katsarelis

Well, your indulgence gives no comfort to those suffering because of this awful man. But I’m wondering about the intellectual honesty of your claim. In TEC, no priest has to marry anyone, and thus, at that level, every priest can exercise their conscience. Also, a parish can call a rector who fits there conscience. The problem is when a bishop insists on IMPOSING their conscience over all others, refusing to allow priests to exercise their conscience to do marriages, and LGBTQ+ people to get married. If you are saying that your lovely, warm and fuzzy, perfect solution is to let some bishops screw the well being of the LGBTQ+ people in their region, then I’m sorry, that remains horrifically hurtful and NOTHING to be proud of.

TEC has had SSM since 2015, people died before they could be married. That’s happening in Canada as elderly couples await the “nice” solution that only sacrifices some...

Like (9)
Dislike (9)
Thomas Hofer
Guest
Thomas Hofer

Bishop Love is half right and half wrong. It was opponents of political correctness that brought Donald Trump into the White House. But the issue of same-sex marriage has not been adequately addressed. I do not believe that his actions warrant disciplinary action and feel that Presiding Bishop Curry should exercise diligence on this.

Like (10)
Dislike (6)
Eric Bonetti
Guest

I am ambivalent about this whole kerfuffle. On the one hand, glad that 815 is showing some backbone. On the other, dismayed that it cannot pay equal attention to bishops — my former bishop, Susan Goff included — when it comes to their refusal to address clergy misconduct within their dioceses.

I mean, why the difference between refusing to implement marriage equality and refusing to implement the provisions of Title IV, which Susan Goff has done repeatedly? Indeed, in the case of one northern VA parish, the diocese refused to provide a pastoral response to the parish, allegedly because legal counsel told the diocese to keep them at arm’s length for fear of liability.

It undercuts the credibility of the church and the entire Title IV process when Todd 815 crowd pick and choose when and how to apply it.

And yes, I am bitter about that, having left the church over these issues.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Eric Bonetti
Guest

Meant to say, “Todd Ousley and the rest of the 815 crowd.”

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Spencer
Guest
Spencer

All I can write is what my rector would say, “It is for us to love and God to judge”. I wonder how much love Bishop Love actually has. This makes me sad and again makes me question the value of organized religion.
- Spencer, please use your full name for future comments to be approved. - Editor

Like (10)
Dislike (3)
Bill Rice
Guest
Bill Rice

What a courageous and upright Bishop, a man close to God's heart. I salute you for the orthodox stance you are taking against the progressive Episcopal Church. And I support your stance that the Episcopal Church should be broad enough to accommodate progressive and traditional orthodox Christians. Stand Upright and Stand Firm.

Like (11)
Dislike (22)
Cynthia Katsarelis
Guest
Cynthia Katsarelis

So it’s OK to sacrifice the well being of LGBTQ+ Episcopalians in Albany in order to make you feel good about tolerating intolerance? And that’s the Gospel of Jesus?

Like (0)
Dislike (3)
Mary Ekenstam
Guest
Mary Ekenstam

The ongoing struggle for women's rights, and equality for women, half the human race are, in Bishop Love's mind and heart, anti-Scriptural and anti-Church theology? This, from a man who must at least once have read the entire Scriptures, including the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles and the deep regard for women in those books; plus the Letters of St. Paul, and his ongoing defining of women as his co-apostles, some 15 of them by name? Perhaps it is Bishop Love who will be found un-Episcopal as well as small-minded and shrivel-hearted.

Like (18)
Dislike (6)
Cynthia Katsarelis
Guest
Cynthia Katsarelis

Yeah, a mediocre man who lifts himself up by putting down others who are different.

Like (1)
Dislike (3)
F A Trice
Guest
F A Trice

How many walked out during his address?

Like (18)
Dislike (6)
Christopher SEITZ
Guest
Christopher SEITZ

do you know?

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
John White
Guest
John White

The one interesting point that Bishop Love makes is the suggestion that the Church consider extra-territorial dioceses. That is an idea that deserves serious discussion. Unfortunately, he brings it up only as a throwaway line. As a member of a parish in the Diocese of Albany that currently has DEPO status with a nearby diocese, it appears ironic that Bp. Love ignores this one, proven way of handling theological dissent. I am sure that he would much rather that our parish, and others who feel similarly, leave the diocese rather than engage with him in a respectful, though dissenting dialog. It is telling that Bp. Love, after initially approving DEPO for several parishes in the diocese, has never followed up with attempts at reconciliation, or even serious discussion.

Like (11)
Dislike (5)
John Chilton
Editor

John, you have had to think about extra-territorial dioceses in a more than abstract way, and I have not. But my strong opinion is that extra-territorial dioceses smack of a path toward allowing individuals to choose their bishop. For me, a principle of our church is that you don't get to choose your bishop. Respectful alternative depo is as far as I would go, and I might not go that far given the way I have seen it abused.

Bishop Love may have the support of the majority of the diocese of Albany. But I would hope his actions and words are enough to have him removed by the church at large. I don't know what the canons say. Or what is practical. But the faithful Episcopalians of the diocese have suffered long enough under this tyrant.

Like (14)
Dislike (9)
Donald Caron
Guest
Donald Caron

If I am not mistaken, the selection of a bishop is a process accomplished by clergy and laity of the diocese.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Jon White
Admin

Ignoring General Convention is not a reason for removal under Title IV. In fact, we ignore GC all the time in every parish so I'm not sure that's a doorway we really want to open. So the case against Love is not as clear cut as many might wish I fear. His central argument regarding the subordination of diocesan canons is one that needs to be answered once and for all and hopefully this will lead to a resolution.

Like (1)
Dislike (0)
John White
Guest
John White

I agree that the question of canons must be decided. And we are looking for a "resolution", not a "Resolution". He has already trashed the Resolutions he does not agree with. So if a legislative path to closure is not available, there must be an executive decision. That would appear to put the question in the hands of the the Presiding Bishop and Council. Pray that they provide us a strong response.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Eric Bonetti
Guest

Excellent point Jon. And I am mindful that the GAFCON crowd is accurate when it accuses TEC of following its canons when convenient, and ignoring them with equal alacrity when it so suits. I certainly don’t agree with the dissidents, but it’s disingenuous to argue that the Dennis Canon applies to dioceses and parishes, yet in almost the same breath the Diocese of Virginia ignores provisions it doesn’t like.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Christopher SEITZ
Guest
Christopher SEITZ

Thank you, Jon, for this reminder of real life on the ground vis-a-vis GC.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)
Tom Downs
Guest
Tom Downs

Clearly Bp Love doesn’t want to be part of the Episcopal Church as it currently is. Perhaps an early retirement would be in order.

Like (19)
Dislike (7)
John Chilton
Editor

Bishop William Love's rhetoric is appalling. This makes me sick.

Like (18)
Dislike (6)
mike geibel
Guest
mike geibel

Some members are leaving the Church, or abandoning the practice of religion altogether, not because they believe the Church is wrong on the societal issues of the day, but because the Church’s activism is a pervasive, all-consuming obsession with political gender justice slogans and activism.

Perhaps the problem is not the message but the uncompromising manner in which its messengers denounce the bishops whose sin is to read the Bible too literally. Marginalizing dissenting clergy has evolved into eradication. And when the smoke clears and the unrighteous are vanquished, only then may they see that the audience has lost interest in this ugly melodrama and the pews are empty.

Like (3)
Dislike (1)
Gwen Palmer
Guest
Gwen Palmer

To characterize the hurt, rejection, and over-the-top personal insult to the LGBTQ community — by calling them “immoral,” “denouncing Christ,” and “violating God’s Holy Word” — as mere literal reading falls short. It goes far far beyond “reading the Bible too literally.”

Like (1)
Dislike (1)
mike geibel
Guest
mike geibel

If B+Love said the quoted words, then I agree with you. Several months ago, B++Curry issued an official Statement proclaiming that the Tax Reform Bill was “immoral,” that our immigration laws were “racist,” and that the political slogan “Make America Great Again” was “Heresy.” The use of emotionally-charged rhetoric or pejoratives will not soften hearts and minds and makes the author sound spiteful and divisive.

I’ve re-read the EC article, B+Love’s full Address and his Pastoral Letter, and I could not find where he called gay and lesbian members “immoral,” “denouncing Christ,” and “violating God’s Holy Word.” Maybe I missed it or it was said in a different context.

Like (3)
Dislike (1)
Gwen Palmer
Guest
Gwen Palmer

From the quoted passage in this article:
“I am convinced that the day will come in our lifetime, when a person who stands up and speaks about sexual morality (particularly in regard to homosexuality or transgenderism) and quotes Leviticus or Romans – will be charged with a “hate crime” and either fined or imprisoned for doing so. The current “Equality Act” just passed by the House and now before the U.S. Senate may very well create that scenario. Are you prepared to go to jail for the Gospel’s sake? ”

This is unambiguous about equating homosexual acts with “sexual immorality,” and equating failure to stand for that principle with failure to stand up for “the Gospel.”

Like (1)
Dislike (1)
mike geibel
Guest
mike geibel

Quotations must match the source document word for word. Paraphrasing involves a form of extrapolation by putting statements into your own words based upon a personal interpretation. Apparently he did not actually call gay and lesbian members “immoral,” “denouncing Christ,” and “violating God’s Holy Word.”

I do agree that he uses verses from the Bible to condemn as sin all sexual conduct outside of traditional marriage, even pre-marital sex between consenting adults. The question is whether it is an impeachable offense for a Bishop to impose his Bible-based beliefs on all parishes and clergy within his oversight. I think B+Love welcomes a fight so that he can coerce the TEC to state “on the record” of a disciplinary proceeding that the Church disavows the Bible verses he quotes. The exodus of conservative members may increase if the TEC picks up that gauntlet.

Like (3)
Dislike (1)
Gwen Palmer
Guest
Gwen Palmer

If you can read that quotation and in any way find an interpretation that he’s not declaring unrepentant practitioners of same sex relations “immoral,” we’re undoubtedly at an impasse on that one.

But you’re probably right that he wants TEC on record as disavowing those verses. I seriously doubt that TEC could take the bait. Not one of the verses is talking about sacramental marital love for better or worse, but if he honestly thinks such relationships are included in the verses, he and TEC will also be at an impasse. I doubt that most conservatives of TEC also believe that sex during menstruation is against God’s law, but there it is in the same Leviticus passage. What defines “disavowing” when we accept some changes and not others?

What surprises me is not that +Love and others believe that marital commitment is included in the verses in question. What’s stunning is the level of critical importance that the conservatives place on it, to leave a credal church over this.

Like (1)
Dislike (2)
Christopher SEITZ
Guest
Christopher SEITZ

You have spoken about a reality here, borne out by the decline in membership and general financial slide.

Like (1)
Dislike (0)
Jon White
Admin

And yet the Washington Post carried a story yesterday describing the massive decline of the Southern Baptist Convention, hardly a church obsessed "with political gender justice slogans and activism." Christianity is troubled in the Western world, not just progressive Christianity, and the "impulse to division" introduced by the Protestant Reformation is the real underlying cause I would offer. Five hundred years of conflict and division has left the church looking irrelevant.

Like (1)
Dislike (0)
mike geibel
Guest
mike geibel

I can’t speak to the Southern Baptist Convention, and I don’t trust the Washington Post to do so objectively. Myself—I left the Episcopal Church because of its politicking. “Progressive,” like “conservative,” is a political ideology, not a Christian ideology.

President Carter, when facing the societal rhetoric of the so-called Moral Majority decades ago, stated: “When a group of Christians try to implant through government our beliefs on others as superior, that subverts the basic constitutional prohibition concerning separation of church and state.” I have joined a growing non-denomination church where the congregants are mostly college students and young families with children. The median age of congregants in the TEC is around 60 and most will be dead within 25 years, at which time the Church may resemble the cathedrals of France—relics best suited for tourists or sold to fund the pensions for the architects of this sad decline.

Like (3)
Dislike (0)
Christopher SEITZ
Guest
Christopher SEITZ

All people of justice should pray that this not just drag out as it is clearly doing. It is not fair to the accused. One can sense the foreboding that comes with scrutiny and charges without resolution.

Like (1)
Dislike (0)
mike geibel
Guest
mike geibel

Is there any doubt that TEC will “investigate and impeach” B+Love for his exercise of what he believes is consistent with his ordination and consecration vows. In the Masterpiece Cake appeal, the TEC wasted pledge money on an Amicus Brief demanding punishment for an insignificant baker in “Podunk” Colorado who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. Justice Kennedy wrote: “The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection.” That passage echoed the Chief Justice’s similar plea for tolerance in Obergefell where he called for “an open and searching debate” between opponents and champions of same-sex marriage. The hostility toward B+Love is palpable . The canons will be weaponized to eliminate dissent under the zero-tolerance mandate of B012 which permits no exceptions or compromise. When his followers walk out, they will walk out of the TEC forever.

Like (2)
Dislike (0)
John White
Guest
John White

This comment contains an interpretation of B012 that cannot be supported by the clear wording of the Resolution itself. It was designed to give the greatest possible latitude to bishops while defending the directive that all dioceses make marriage equality available in local parishes. It is in the spirit and the letter of this directive that we in the Diocese of Albany who are faithful to General Convention ask Bp. Love to uphold his obligation to implement B012 in this diocese.

Like (1)
Dislike (0)
Tom Downs
Guest
Tom Downs

“Impulse to division” troubling the West. Surely a large part of the reason Christianity has nearly faded away in the Middle East.

Like (0)
Dislike (0)