Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry placed a restriction today on the ministry of a leading traditionalist bishop and has begun a disciplinary process after the bishop declined to permit same-sex marriages in his diocese.
Bishop William (Bill) Love of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, New York, issued an eight-page letter read aloud to local parishes following services on Sunday, November 11. Love directed clergy resident, licensed, or canonically resident in the diocese (serving elsewhere) not to use trial rites solemnizing marriages between persons of the same sex.
Access to those rites was originally at the discretion of diocesan bishops, but the 2018 General Convention held in Austin, Texas passed a resolution (B012) mandating that it be available for use across all dioceses where civil law permits same-sex marriage.
Curry’s restriction upon Bishop Love, announced in a January 11 post and made available by the Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs, forbids Love from disciplining Albany clergy who participate in same-sex weddings or “involves the issue of same-sex marriage”. But it also begins a process under the denomination’s disciplinary Canon IV that may result in further action against the leader of the Albany diocese.
After meeting with the Standing Committee and Chancellor of the Diocese of Albany, Curry wrote:
“While I am persuaded of the sincerity and good will of Bishop Love in these difficult circumstances, I am convinced that Resolution B012 was intended by the Convention to be mandatory and binding upon all our Dioceses, particularly in the light of its provision that a diocesan bishop ‘hold[ing] a theological position that does not embrace marriage for [such] couples’ and confronted with a same-sex couple wishing to marry in that bishop’s diocese, ‘shall invite, as necessary, another bishop of this Church to provide pastoral support to the couple, the Member of the Clergy involved and the congregation or worshipping community in order to fulfill the intention of this resolution that all couples have convenient and reasonable local congregational access to these rites.’ I am therefore persuaded that as Presiding Bishop I am called upon to take steps to ensure that same-sex marriage in The Episcopal Church is available to all persons to the same extent and under the same conditions in all Dioceses of the Church where same-sex marriage is civilly legal.”
The top Episcopal Church official goes on to explain the discipline process:
“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.”
Bishop Love insists that he cannot in good conscience implement a policy that will lead people astray.
“With the passage of B012, the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in effect is attempting to order me as a Bishop in God’s holy Church, to compromise ‘the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3 ESV), and to turn my back on the vows I have made to God and His People, in order to accommodate The Episcopal Church’s ‘new’ understanding of Christian marriage as no longer being ‘a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God’ as proclaimed in the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP 422), but now allowing for the marriage of same-sex couples,” Love wrote in his November pastoral letter.
LGBT activists within the Episcopal Church earlier this week raised concerns about another diocesan bishop, John Bauerschmidt of Tennessee, for not yet issuing guidelines for same-sex church weddings. The policy passed at General Convention in July, Resolution B012, went into effect across the denomination at the beginning of Advent, December 2, 2018.
Holly Meyer of the Nashville Tennessean reports that Bauerschmidt said in an email that his guidance on how the new measure will be carried out in his diocese is coming soon.
“The guidelines will be available later in January,” Bauerschmidt wrote. “I’ve been very clear since July 2018 that B012 will be implemented.”
Bauerschmidt’s Canon to the Ordinary, Andrew Petiprin, recently joined the Roman Catholic Church and the resulting change in top diocesan administrative staff may have factored into the delay in issuing guidance.
UPDATE [1/11/2019]: Bishop Love has written his diocese about the partial inhibition and his plans to appeal the disciplinary action. Hat tip to George Conger for sharing this letter on Scribd.