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by Zealy Helms
Recently, Bishop William Love’s letter to the Diocese of Albany concerning Resolution B012 of the 79th General Convention has incited controversy and division because of the bishop’s condemnation of same-sex marriages in the Episcopal Church. Resolution B012, passed in July of 2018, requires that dioceses conduct marriages for same-sex couples while giving the option to invite another member of the clergy to perform the marriage. Bishop Love voted against this resolution and has now banned clergy in the Diocese of Albany from complying with it, claiming that offering same-sex marriages “is in direct conflict and contradiction to God’s intent for the sacrament of marriage” and part of Satan’s plan to bring division in the Church.
Bishop Love appears to be painting himself as the victim here, especially when he claims that the resolution forces him to violate his ordination vows, when in reality, it is the LGBTQ community of the Episcopal Church who suffer from this type of bigotry. Historically and currently, it is Christians who persecute the LGBTQ community for exhibiting “sinful” behavior. The bishop speaks of “days of old where our gay and lesbian Brothers and Sisters in Christ were despised and treated shamefully,” which shows that he does not understand the persecution that they still face today. People are still beaten and murdered for being LGBTQ and children are often afraid to come out to their parents because they fear abuse.
The bishop also seems to be operating under the assumption that being gay is a choice, as he implores them to “repent and seek God’s love and healing grace” rather than give in to their “sinful” desires. Many people could tell him that there is no choice involved, and the “Gay Rights Agenda” he condemns only seeks to protect our LGBTQ Siblings from the abuse they so often experience and allow them to live as equal citizens in our society. He claims his views are formed out of love, but we cannot profess to love and welcome all while denying an entire population one of the sacraments of the Church. If we would not deny them baptism, communion, or confirmation, why deny them matrimony?
Furthermore, the bishop cites “over 2000 years of church teachings” as a reason for rejecting same-sex marriage. However, 2000 years of church teachings also includes not ordaining women or even allowing them to speak in church, as written in 1 Corinthians 14:34, “women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says.” A visit to the Diocese of Albany’s website reveals that they employ many female clergy despite what is written by Paul. So, why defy this teaching? Simple: The Church recognized the value of women’s contributions and updated its views to reflect the changing times. Why not apply this same method to same-sex marriage?
Bishop Love’s deviation could have major consequences for the Church. He claims that accepting the resolution will cause a schism in his diocese and cause “the blood bath and opening of the flood gates” that has happened to other dioceses. He seems more concerned with maintaining global relationships with other Anglican leaders than ministering to the marginalized people of his own diocese. The majority of the Episcopal Church is accepting, and even welcoming, this resolution that seeks to provide greater equality. It is Bishop Love who is at odds with the Church and seeks to create greater conflict than what he claims will happen to his diocese if he does nothing.
As a college student, I participate in an Episcopal-Lutheran campus ministry where we openly accept all students of all sexual orientations. We also seek to support the LGBTQ community on our campus by being in contact with our LGBT Resource Office and seeking to express the love of Christ to those whose main source of abuse is the Church. Personally, I volunteer with the LGBT Resource Office as an office assistant, where I welcome visitors at the front desk, take phone calls, and provide information on office resources. During training for this position, the associate director told our team of assistants that the most important thing to say to visitors when they enter the office is “Hi! Welcome.” I believe this to be true for the Church as well. The passing of Resolution B012 made me proud to be an Episcopalian, as I believe it enables us to truly live out Paul’s words: “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God (Romans 15:7 NRSV).”
Bishop Love, I implore you: seek out compassion and understanding and keep an open mind. Your antiquated ideas have consequences and I will not stand by while you degrade a community that has been persecuted for so long.
Zealy Helms is a sophomore at East Carolina University majoring in Religious Studies and Geographic Information Science and is a member of The Well: Episcopal-Lutheran Campus Ministry. She also helps with Sunday School at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greenville, NC and is originally from Monroe, NC.