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Further Action on Bishop Love’s Nov 10, 2018 Pastoral Letter and Pastoral Directive

Further Action on Bishop Love’s Nov 10, 2018 Pastoral Letter and Pastoral Directive

Released from the Episcopal Church on September 18:

Further Action on Bishop William Love’s November 10, 2018 Pastoral Letter and Pastoral Directive

The Title IV Reference Panel for the discipline of bishops – composed of Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops Cate Waynick, and Bishop for Pastoral Development Todd Ousley – announced it voted earlier today, pursuant to Episcopal Church Canon IV.11.3, to refer to a Hearing Panel the matter related to Bishop William Love’s November 10, 2018 Pastoral Letter and Pastoral Directive. Bishop Love’s pastoral letter and pastoral directive referred to the 2018 Resolution B012 of the General Convention. Under the Canons, the Hearing Panel will conduct a proceeding and then “reach a determination of the matter by (a) dismissal of the matter or (b) issuance of an Order.” (Canon IV.13.12)

In his Pastoral Letter and Pastoral Directive, Love, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, articulates his belief that same-sex marriage is contrary to Scripture and the “official teaching” of this Church and as a consequence directs that same-sex marriages may not be performed by any canonically resident or licensed clergy of his Diocese, and requires full compliance with the Diocese of Albany’s Canon XVI, which forbids the same clergy from “officiat[ing] at,” “facilitat[ing],” or “participat[ing] in” such marriages; forbids the recognition of such marriages in that Diocese; and forbids the use of church property as the site of such marriages.

On January 11, 2019, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a Partial Restriction on Ministry to Bishop Love after broad consultation with leadership in The Episcopal Church and discussions with both Bishop Love and the Episcopal Diocese of Albany Standing Committee. In addition to the partial restriction on ministry, Bishop Curry also noted, “I am aware that 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”), and that conduct has been referred to the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, bishop for pastoral development and intake officer for disciplinary matters involving bishops.”

Title IV is the section of The Episcopal Church’s Canons that addresses the grounds and processes for “ecclesiastical discipline,” a canonical process adopted by the Church to encourage accountability, reconciliation, and pastoral response when a member of its clergy (deacons, priests, or bishops) is accused of misconduct.

Members of the Title IV Hearing Panel for this matter include:

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson, Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
The Rt. Rev. Herman (HollyHollerith IV, Resigned, Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia
The Rt. Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, Hearing Panel President
The Rev. Erik Larsen, Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island
Ms. Melissa Perrin, Episcopal Diocese of Chicago

The press release can be found online here. The Times Union of Albany, N.Y. covers it here. Bishop Love’s letter can be found here.


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Eric Bonetti

The problem with Title IV is that the church wants to have it both ways. It wants to come down on +Love for bucking the will of 815, but with equal alacrity it says with a straight face that clergy who commit perjury can’t be pursued under Title IV unless criminal charges are brought—something notoriously difficult to do with perjury. And yes, the latter is a real-life example, coming from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.

Such inconsistency diminishes trust and respect in church disciplinary canons and, in the situation in the Diocese of Virginia, undermines faith in the church generally. It also suggests to clergy who wish to game the system that the door is wide open for clergy misconduct—just don’t get prosecuted.

In the case of Love+, the situation is exacerbated by the lack of transparency in the process. If the matter has gone before a hearing panel — the last and most adversarial part of the process — it’s likely that many steps have already been taken towards resolution

Cynthia Katsarelis

But it doesn’t come down to “bucking the will of 815,” it comes down to violating the mind of the church as expressed through General Convention after years of study, prayer, conversations, and discernment.

Eric Bonetti

But because that part of the process occurs behind the scenes, one is left with the impression that 815 suddenly went after +Love.

I’d add that there is a serious lack of understanding of Title IV, even at +Todd’s level. I have heard senior officials state, for example, that a bishop cannot intervene in day-to-day church matters. That is expressly contrary to the provisions of Title IV, which provides that a pastoral directive may occur at any time, on any matter, even without a Title IV proceeding.

Further, church officials like to pick and choose provisions, including inventing them as they go. In my case, the Diocese of Virginia tried to tell me that I am required to keep my Title IV complaint confidential. That is NOT a requirement, and any such guidance is highly unethical. Those hurt by the church have an unfettered right to share their experiences. Period.

Eric Bonetti

Lastly, I would note that the SCCC’s comments about a mishandled Title IV case are spot on—the result often is irreparable damage to the reputation of all parties involved. Yet church officials are cavalier about Title IV.

Why? And how does that fit with the baptismal covenant?

John Rabb

William Love is a friend, and someone with whom I have strong disagreements, notably on marriage. However I lament that we are going into a disciplinary process rather than a theological process. There will be no winners here. I urge that we stay focused on the prayerful and theological discussions that ultimately how we need to resolve issues. I strongly support marriage for all persons, and have officiated at same-gender weddings. But I do respect my sisters and brothers who are not at that point in their pilgrimage.

Cynthia Katsarelis

“There will be no winners here.” Well, for the people who have been barred from marriage, it will be a relief. Bishop Love could still be a priest and follow his conscience, it would involve stepping down from the bishop role. Forbidding others to follow their conscience, in sync with GC, should not be barred from doing so. People died before they could get married, it doesn’t make sense to allow any more of this suffering. And of course, the aged LGBTQ+ couples are most likely to have mobility issues to “just go to the next diocese.”
I don’t what a theological solution would look like, but surely it means no longer being able to harm others? I’m not thrilled about punishment, I just want him out of the position of harming others. Maybe there’s another role for him. He could do as he likes about marriage as a priest, just not as a bishop. It’s possible to respect someone without allowing them to continue to inflict harm on LGBTQ+ people.

Brian Shallcross

What rule is he charged with breaking?

Eric Bonetti

He’s charged with violating GC’s requirement that all dioceses permit same-sex marriage. And while I am in favor of the GC provisions (my husband and I were among the first married in The Episcopal Church), the reality is that dioceses ignore the canons all the time, as I tried to illustrate in the case of my situation with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. And, as in the case of +Goff and her holding that perjury is okay for clergy, they do so with impunity all the time.

BTW, apologies in advance if I sound bitter. I am.

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