BISHOP WILLIAM LOVE AND LOVE
An article published on March 6, 2020, in Christian Today, a conservative, evangelical journal, is causing a stir among Episcopal Church critics who are promoting it. It is "A Trial that Should Shame all Anglicans," by David Baker, an ACNA "minister." Find the article here .
The point of Baker's article is that Episcopal Church presiding bishop Michael Curry, famous for his theology of love, is showing no love to Bishop William Love, of Albany. The author holds Curry's behavior, and the Episcopal Church actions concerning Love, are "shameful." Love is depicted as the innocent, correct-thinking, victim of a corrupt, wrong-thinking, church bureaucracy. Unfortunately, Baker is misconstruing and misinterpreting the matter at hand.
We have to go back to General Convention of 2018. Resolution B012 "Marriage Rites for the Whole Church," included a section referring to dioceses that do not authorize liturgies for same-sex marriage. It said a congregation in such a diocese may request that another bishop be allowed to enter and provide access to the liturgies for same-sex marriage: (Resolved, That where diocesan canons or bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority do not authorize the use of these liturgies for persons of the same sex, congregations may request, and when requesting shall receive delegated episcopal pastoral oversight (DEPO) by a bishop of this Church who shall provide access to these liturgies, as permitted by civil law...) In other words, any parish may have the possibility of conducting same-sex marriage ceremonies. They may do so by a delegated bishop from outside the diocese. The resolution did not require a bishop (or a priest for that matter) to accept same-sex marriage. Nor did it require a bishop to adopt same-sex liturgies in his or her diocese. It is important to understand what the resolution did and did not say. Among the eight most conservative bishops, all but William Love, agreed to follow the terms of the resolution.
Love rejected B012 and banned it in the Diocese of Albany. He did this in an official letter to the diocese dated November 10, 2018. He directed: Until further notice, the trial rites authorized by Resolution B012 of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church shall not be used anywhere in the Diocese of Albany by diocesan clergy (canonically resident or licensed), and Diocesan Canon 16 shall be fully complied with by all diocesan clergy and parishes.
In the civil state, local rejection of a national law is called nullification. Some southern states tried this before the Civil War, unsuccessfully. It was unconstitutional. Nullification is also contradictory of the hierarchical nature of the Episcopal Church. Resolutions of the General Convention apply to all dioceses equally. No diocese has the right to ban a duly enacted resolution of the GC. The Diocese of South Carolina tried nullification in 2010 and 2011. Last September, the federal court in Charleston ruled this attempt at nullification to be illegal. It recognized TEC as an hierarchical religious institution entitled to govern itself. Following the federal court ruling in Charleston, we would have to conclude that Bishop Love has no right under the C and C of TEC to reject a canon of the Church in his diocese.
Following Love's nullification announcement, presiding bishop Michael Curry issued a partial restriction on Love, on January 11, 2019, forbidding him from interfering in any way with clergy in his diocese regarding same-sex marriage. In other words, Curry ordered the enactment of B012 in the diocese of Albany.
Love appealed against the restriction but agreed to abide by it pending future action. In September of 2019, the panel for the discipline of bishops agreed to refer the Love case directly to the Hearing Panel under terms of Canon IV. 11.3. This panel will hold a hearing on April 21, 2020, in Albany. Love has said he does not dispute the facts of the case, but does contest the legality of Resolution B012. I, for one, am unclear what he means by this. At least the hearing will give Love's lawyers the opportunity to argue once again against same-sex marriage which Love has characterized as the work of Satan (letter Nov. 10, 2018). A decision will be made by the majority of the members of the Hearing Panel. If it finds against Love, there are several options open under the terms of the canon. A guilty verdict does not necessarily mean deposition as a bishop.
So, back to the article in the first paragraph above. The author claims it is "shameful" that Curry does not show "love" to Bishop Love when Curry is famous for his theology of love. It implies that Love is the victim here. I argue it is the reverse. It is Curry who is showing love. In the first place, Bishop Love is subject to the governance of the Episcopal Church as per the vows he made at his ordination/consecration as a bishop. He does not have the right to reject duly made laws of the Episcopal Church. He has no leg to stand on in regards to Resolution B012. It is the law of the Episcopal Church. He has no right as an Episcopal Church bishop to defy Church law. Certainly, this will be judgment of the Hearing Panel next month.
The larger issue here is same-sex marriage. The Episcopal Church holds it is an act of love to allow this in the Church. Bishop Love holds it is sinful. So, who is practicing love for people who have been historically persecuted, ignored, marginalized, maligned, and denied human rights? It is Michael Curry and the Episcopal Church. They are the champions of love.
What is "shameful" is that many Anglicans around the world still believe it is the Christian thing to do to continue the historic persecution of a certain minority of human beings made in the image of God. Several Anglican provinces have indeed incorporated same-sex marriage into the church, to their credit. This is love. Yet, many of the Anglicans provinces still go out of their way to fight against equal rights and inclusion of open homosexuals. In too many places this discrimination applies to women also. Prejudice, bigotry, discrimination, and persecution of God's children is the true shame of the church.
Bishop Love and David Baker are entitled to their own opinions. In my view, they are misguided and unsupported by the facts.
The Episcopal Church has resolved to defend the human rights of all human beings regardless of sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, or disability. That is love. The reverse is shameful.