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Bishop Found Guilty for Refusing to Allow Same-Sex Weddings in Diocese

william love

A disciplinary panel with the Episcopal Church (TEC) has determined that the Rt. Rev. William Love has violated canon law and his ordination vows by refusing to allow same-sex marriages to be performed in his diocese. Love learned of the panel’s decision on Friday, Oct. 2, and responded to it in a statement on Monday, Oct. 5.

“I had very much hoped to share with you a very different outcome regarding the Hearing Panel’s ruling,” said Love. “Unfortunately, that was not too [sic] be. With that said, I want to encourage each of us in the days ahead to keep our focus on our Lord Jesus Christ. While we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, the Lord does. He will guide and lead us through all the storms of life, if we keep our eyes on Him, trusting Him in all situations.”

The members of the Title IX Hearing Panel were unanimous in their finding that Love, who is bishop over New York’s Albany diocese, was guilty of violating canon law. In their decision, which you can read here, the panel says:

This Panel unanimously concludes that TEC has met its burden of showing, by clear and convincing evidence, that Bishop Love has violated Canon IV.4.1(c) in that his November 10, [2018] Pastoral Directive violated the Discipline of the Church…TEC has further met its burden of establishing that Bishop Love’s Direction also violated the Discipline of the Church in that it violated Canon I.18.

“The Hearing Panel has found me guilty of failing to abide by the Discipline and Worship of The Episcopal Church, and thus violating my ordination vows,” said Bishop William Love. “A separate Hearing will be scheduled within the month to discuss the terms of discipline to be carried out. Until then, we don’t know what actions will be taken. Whatever the final outcome, it will severely impact not only me and the ministry entrusted to me as Bishop of Albany, but it will also seriously impact the life and ministry of the Diocese. I continue to pray that somehow God will use all of this for His purposes.”

Bishop William Love: We Need Your Prayers

In 2015, the Episcopal Church voted to bless same-sex marriages while allowing dioceses to prohibit gay weddings. But in July 2018, the church passed Resolution B012, which said that church leaders could no longer ban same-sex unions from taking place. Rather, if priests object to performing gay weddings, their bishops have to find someone else to perform them. 

Bishop William Love defied that order when in November 2018, shortly before the resolution went into effect, he read an eight-page letter stating he would not allow gay marriages in the Diocese of Albany. He said,

There is no doubt The Episcopal Church and now the Diocese of Albany are in the midst of a huge storm that can rip us apart if we are not careful. That is exactly what Satan wants…I pray the Lord will help us to see one another as He sees us; to love one another as He loves us; to forgive one another as He forgives us. I know there are people of good will on both sides of this issue, and that ultimately, we want the same thing – to know how best to show God’s love, and minister to our Brothers and Sisters in Christ who have same-sex attractions. The problem is, we have a very different understanding of how to go about it. 

In January 2019, Bishop Michael Curry, who preached at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, issued Love a restriction on ministry. The restriction forbade the bishop from preventing gay unions and noted that Love’s actions might constitute a canonical offence and result in disciplinary action.

That is precisely what the hearing panel has determined. At a virtual hearing in June, Rev. Chip Strickland, who represented Love, argued that the bishop had not violated canonical law. Resolution B012 is not a revision to the Book of Common Prayer, Strickland argued, and therefore does not have canonical status. Another argument Love and his team put forward was that the resolution contradicts the Book of Common Prayer, which still states that marriage is between one man and one woman. 

In their decision, the panel argued that even though resolution B012 is not explicitly designated as a “proposed revision to the Book of Common Prayer,” it does not need these “magic words” to be considered canonical. Rather, “The intent of General Convention must be gleaned from the plain language of the resolution.” Regarding Love’s argument that the resolution’s definition of marriage contradicts that of the Book of Common Prayer, Anglican Ink reports the panel rejected it on the following grounds: 

The preface of the marriage rite in the Book of Common Prayer, the panel said, only applies to that particular rite and not the additional rites authorized by General Convention, and the rubrics to the catechism describe it as “an outline for instruction” that is “not meant to be a complete statement of belief and practice.

In his statement, Bishop William Love said he did not believe that appealing the panel’s decision would do any good. “I want to thank all of you who have been holding me, my family, and the Diocese of Albany up in your thoughts and prayers these past many months,” he said. “I would ask that you please continue to do so. We appreciate and need those prayers.”