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Former Episcopal Bishop Disciplined for Banning Gay Marriages Says God Is ‘Releasing’ Him

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(Update 4-1-2021) The Reverend William H. Love, the former Episcopal bishop who was disciplined for banning same-sex marriages in his diocese, has announced that he is leaving the Episcopal Church. In a statement on March 30, Bishop Love wrote:

Following my resignation as Bishop Diocesan on February 1st, I have spent much time in thought and prayer, seeking God’s guidance in how I might best remain faithful to His Holy Word and serve Him and His Church in this next chapter of life. In so doing, I have come to believe that the Lord is now releasing me from any further ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church.

Love said that on March 25, he wrote the Presiding Bishop that he was “resigning from the House of Bishops and requesting to be released and removed from ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, effective Good Friday, April 2, 2021.” The decision was not easy, said Love, as he is a “cradle Episcopalian” and has served as an ordained minister in the Episcopal Church for 30 years.

“But given all that has transpired these past couple of years,” he said, “and the constraints placed upon me as a theologically conservative and orthodox bishop within TEC, I believe it is the right decision. I know not all of you will agree with this decision and some may be angered or hurt by it, and for that I am very sorry.” Love said he hopes to join the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) “in the very near future.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a statement in response to Love, saying he had granted his request. Curry also alluded to the controversy that led to Love’s decision: “It is born of my belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are the ultimate sign of the very love of God reaching out to embrace and welcome us all.”

(10-26-2020) The Reverend William H. Love of Albany, New York’s Episcopal Diocese has announced he will resign, effective February 1, 2021. Bishop Love famously banned same-sex marriages in Albany’s diocese in 2018, after the Episcopalian Church moved to allow the unions in their churches earlier that year. The Bishop was recently found to be in violation of canon law and his ordination vows by a hearing panel.

When Bishop Love leaves office in February, his edict banning same-sex marriages in the Albany Diocese will go with him. 

According to Anglican Ink, Bishop Love addressed the Diocese of Albany’s annual meeting on Saturday, October 24, 2020. Bishop Love explained a bit about the accord reached between himself and Bishop Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. The accord stipulates that Bishop Love is to leave office in February, after having spent a month on a sabbatical beginning January 1st. The accord also stipulates that Bishop Love will help the diocese as it transitions his replacement into the role of Bishop of Albany. Finally, the restrictions Curry placed on Bishop Love’s ministry will be in effect until his resignation.  

The hearing panel which found Love to be in violation of his ordination vows was scheduled to hold another hearing today, October 26th, to determine any further discipline to which Bishop Love should be subject. However, because Bishop Love and Bishop Curry reached an accord, his case is considered resolved and the hearing no longer necessary. 

“After much thought and prayer, recognizing that whatever disciplinary action would be offered would not be anything I could in good conscience agree to, I have made the very difficult, but necessary decision to resign as Bishop of Albany,” Bishop Love said in his remarks on Saturday.

The Story Behind Love’s Resignation

As ChurchLeaders reported earlier this year, 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 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. Shortly after, Bishop Curry placed the restrictions on Love and warned him of potential disciplinary action.

At a virtual hearing in June 2020, 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 Love said he did not believe that appealing the panel’s decision would do any good. 

For Bishop Love, this is much more than losing a job. In 2018, Bishop Love wrote, “I can’t help but believe that God has removed his blessing from the Church. Unless something changes, the Episcopal Church is going to die.”