Wednesday, January 9, 2019


The bishop of Albany, the Rt. Rev. William Love, has advised his flock that he may well be examined by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops because of his defiance of the 2018 General Convention's Resolution B012. 

On December 10, 2018, Love posted "A Christmas Message..." to the diocese (find it here ). It included this paragraph:

As I write to you, I don't know what the future holds. There is a strong possibility that I may be facing Title IV disciplinary proceedings for my unwillingness to abide by General Convention Resolution B012. As I stated in the Pastoral Letter, it was "not out of mean-spiritedness, hatred, bigotry, judgmentalism, or homophobia" that I have taken the actions that I have, "but rather out of love---love for God and His Word; love for the Episcopal Church and wider Anglican Communion; love for each of you my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, especially love for those who are struggling with same-sex attractions." Whatever the outcome, I trust and believe that God will use it for His purposes and the benefit of His Church and people.

As one will recall, Resolution B012 moved from the diocesan bishop to the parish rector the discretion over whether to allow same-sex weddings in a parish. The resolution called for alternative ecclesiastical authority in dioceses where the bishops opposed s-s marriage rites. This removed the power of a bishop to prevent s-s weddings in his or her diocese. It went into effect in the Episcopal Church on the first Sunday in Advent, 2018. 

Before the enactment date, Love sent a pastoral letter to his diocese rejecting Resolution B012 and ordering the continuation of his standing policy, a blanket ban on s-s marriage rites in the diocese of Albany. Love was one of eight diocesan bishops, out of 109 who refused to allow s-s weddings in his or her diocese. To my knowledge, he is the only one to refuse the enactment of B012.

There are two problems with Love's paragraph given above. In the first place, it is homophobic to say people struggle with same-sex attractions. Homosexuality is not a disease that people struggle against, as cancer, diabetes, or a host of other disorders. It is a God-given state of nature. Secondly, it is not affirmation for the Episcopal Church that drives a bishop to deny his or her ordination vows of loyalty to the church. It is a judgment that the church is wrong and this one bishop alone knows the will of the Holy Spirit.

Under the canons of the Episcopal Church, communicants of the diocese of Albany may make a presentment against Love claiming he has abandoned the Church by refusing to accept a resolution of the Church's governing parliament, the General Convention. A bishop does not have the right to nullify a decision of the Church in his or her diocese any more than a state has a right to overrule a law of Congress in that state. The Disciplinary Board for Bishops would then be required to consider the evidence the presenters offered and vote on whether the bishop had abandoned the Episcopal Church. If no, the bishop is cleared. If yes, the presiding bishop is required to restrict the bishop under charge. This removes him or her from ministry pending a resolution of the issue. The resolution may come in two ways, a letter of the bishop to the presiding bishop offering an explanatory defense, or a decision by the House of Bishops. If it is the first case, the presiding bishop has the discretion of accepting the letter, removing the restriction and restoring the bishop to his full authority. If it is the second case, the House of Bishops would vote to acquit or to convict and remove the individual as a bishop.

The situation in Albany today is quite a contrast to what happened in South Carolina. While one may disagree with Love's policy, one must respect his procedures. He is up front saying what he is doing and why he is doing it. He is taking personal responsibility for the whole issue. He is acknowledging the issue at stake. I for one have considerable appreciation and admiration for Love in his approach. None of this was true in South Carolina where the bishop tried to pretend the schism was necessary because of theology and only recently publicly admitted he left the Church because of sexuality. Also in SC, the diocesan leadership promoted a long-term scenario of victimization, that the bishop was the innocent victim of malevolent forces from off. It was "us" against "them." In his recent speaking tour, the bishop repeated the "target on the back" theme. The diocesan leaders promoted the fantastic claim that it was the Church that caused the schism in SC. Too, the bishop hid behind the standing committee, advising them they had the right to disassociate the diocese from the Church. When the committee unanimously passed a secret resolution of conditional disaffiliation, the bishop could claim it was the work of the constituted authorities rather than himself. The preponderance of evidence shows the schism in South Carolina was the secretly premeditated work of the diocesan leadership including the bishop.  Therefore, I find what Love is doing now in Albany strikingly different that what we saw in South Carolina.

In my opinion, Love is making the wrong policy but following the right procedures. In contrast, the leadership of SC followed the wrong policy under the wrong procedures. The colossal mistake of this came home to roost in the South Carolina supreme court decision that demolished both the wrong-headed policy and the procedure. The schism in SC has been a huge and tragic failure. Certainly, Bishop Love in Albany is well-aware of this. If not, I will be glad to send him a copy of my history of the schism in SC.

Where all this goes in Albany is open to question now. My guess is that communicants will present a case to the DBB against Love on the charge of abandonment of the communion. The DBB will then have to decide if nullification rises to the level of abandonment. In the second case of Bishop Lawrence (he was examined by the DBB twice), the DBB voted that the bishop had indeed abandoned the communion because of his willful, sweeping disregard of the Dennis Canon. No doubt, presiding bishop Michael Curry will try to settle all of this by quiet compromise. Good luck with that. PB Jefferts Schori bent over backwards to appease Bishop Lawrence and got absolutely nowhere. But then, these two situations are markedly different. Maybe Curry will have a better outcome with an openly frank renegade bishop.

You may be asking if the Diocese of Albany is heading for schism. Will it be the sixth diocese to vote to secede from the Episcopal Church? I am not familiar enough with the internal matters of the diocese to comment on that, but on the surface, I do not see the overt signs of impending schism I saw in South Carolina. From the limited amount I know, it appears this is primarily a personal protest of a bishop against his church. If there are indeed hidden institutional movements within the diocese to prepare for a schism, perhaps the members of the diocese could inform us of them. 

Getting back to basics, people like Love and Lawrence need to understand that the Episcopal Church worked out over a half-century equality for and inclusion of homosexual and transgendered persons. I for one see this as the work of the Holy Spirit. I for one see this as a tremendous success for human rights. I understand that others may not agree and that is fine. What is not fine is that they want to change the rules of the game after they have lost. If one vows to adhere to an institution, one is honor bound to support that institution or to resign from it.

NOTE. For more information on the effects of B012, see the excellent article in Episcopal News Service here .