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.