Wednesday, January 22, 2020


On yesterday, 21 January, Bishop William Love, of the Diocese of Albany, issued a letter to his diocese announcing a hearing on charges against him. Find the letter on the diocesan website here under "Announcements."

The hearing is to be on April 21, 2020, in Albany, and will be conducted by a panel of five people under provisions of Title IV Disciplinary proceedings. This action is in response to two reports charging that Love violated his ordination vow to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church. Love has very publicly rejected General Convention Resolution B012, disallowing it in his diocese. This resolution provided for arrangements in which same-sex marriages could be performed in a diocese. 

Love pointed out in his letter that no one was contesting the facts of the case. There will be no witnesses. Instead, lawyers for the Church and for Love will present arguments to the board. The issue at hand is the relationship between a bishop and canon law.

One will recall that, in the case of Bishop Lawrence in South Carolina, there was no hearing. He was charged twice before the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, first in 2011 and second in 2012. In the first, Lawrence was not charged with abandonment of the communion, but in the second he was. The difference between the two was the issue of the quit claim deeds. Bishop Lawrence's issuance of the quit claim deeds, in late 2011, was in direct disregard of the Dennis Canon of the Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons. The Dennis Canon held that all local properties were held in trust for the benefit of the Episcopal Church and its diocese. In the quit claim deeds, the bishop purported to renounce diocesan trust interest in the properties. In 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court rejected Lawrence's claim and ruled that 29 of the 36 local properties in question were owned by the Episcopal Church because of the terms of the Dennis Canon to which these local churches had acceded.

On Oct. 15, 2012, the presiding bishop placed a restriction on Bishop Lawrence who ignored it and, along with the diocesan leadership promptly left the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church administered no discipline to Lawrence after Oct. 15, 2012, because he separated from the Church at the moment of the schism. The presiding bishop issued a Release and Removal to Mark Lawrence on Dec. 5, 2012, formally removing him as bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina.

The cases of bishops Lawrence and Love were similar in that both challenged the notion that Episcopal bishops had to adhere to the canons of the Episcopal Church. In the case of Lawrence, the Church was unable to resolve that issue on its own because the former bishop left the Episcopal Church, but the federal and state courts did resolve it. They ruled that the legal rights of the historic diocese remained in the diocese that adhered to the national church, not in the disassociated organization. In South Carolina, the former Episcopal bishop did not succeed in defying the canons of the national church. After lengthy court battles and millions of dollars spent, the disassociated organization, which Lawrence still heads, lost the legal entity of the historic diocese and the bulk of the local properties. Surely, Bishop Love is well aware of what happened in South Carolina.