Former Episcopal Bishop Disciplined for Refusing Same-Sex Marriages in Diocese to Join Anglican Church

An Episcopal bishop who was punished by church leadership for refusing to allow same-sex marriages in his diocese said he is leaving the mainline Protestant church on Good Friday and seeking to be received into the Anglican Church in North America.
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An Episcopal bishop who was punished by church leadership for refusing to allow same-sex marriages in his diocese said he is leaving the mainline Protestant church on Good Friday and seeking to be received into the Anglican Church in North America.

In a statement Tuesday, William H. Love, the former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, New York, announced he wrote to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, “requesting to be released and removed from ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, effective Good Friday, April 2.”

Love pointed to the difficulties he has experienced maintaining a biblical view of marriage:

As a cradle Episcopalian (with nearly 30 years of ordained ministry as a deacon, priest and bishop), that was not an easy decision, but given all that has transpired these past couple of years and the constraints placed upon me as a theologically conservative and orthodox bishop within TEC, I believe it is the right decision.

As the Christian Post observed in July 2018, the Episcopal Church General Convention passed Resolution B012, which mandated that all dioceses must allow for same-sex marriages, even dioceses in which the local bishop maintains a traditional, biblical view of marriage and sexuality.

Though the resolution permitted clergy to refuse to perform same-sex marriages, it also required traditional bishops to allow another bishop to provide support for the same-sex couple and clergy to perform the ceremony.

The following November, the Post reported on Love’s pastoral letter in which he asserted the same-sex marriage rites approved in July “shall not be used anywhere in the Diocese of Albany by diocesan clergy (canonically resident or licensed).”

“Jesus is calling the Church to follow His example,” he wrote. “He is calling the Church to have the courage to speak His Truth in love about homosexual behavior – even though it isn’t politically correct.”

Love continued:

Sexual relations between two men or two women was never part of God’s plan and is a distortion of His design in creation and as such is to be avoided. To engage in sexual intimacy outside of marriage between a man and women, is against God’s will and therefore sinful and needs to be repented of, NOT encouraged or told it is ok.

Curry subsequently punished Love in January 2019 by restricting his ministry and, in October, he was found guilty by a disciplinary board/hearing panel of violating canon law due to his opposition to the resolution on same-sex marriage.

The board maintained the resolution had provided an accommodation by requiring a bishop with a biblical theological perspective to allow another bishop to arrange for the same-sex marriage ceremony.

“What is not before the Hearing Panel is the discretion of any clergy to refuse to perform any rites of marriage as requested by any couple seeking such a rite,” the panel asserted. “That right remains resolute.”

Following the panel’s guilty verdict against Love, the Standing Committee of Love’s diocese of Albany stated it “joins many in the diocese in our deep disappointment in this verdict … We continue to offer our unequivocal support of Bishop Love and pray for him and his family.”

Curry released a statement Tuesday in which he said he was granting Love’s request to be released from ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.

“Deep in my heart I believe that as a church we are called, as Jesus once said, to be ‘a house of prayer for all people,’ where, as my slave ancestors used to sing, ‘there is plenty good room for all of God’s children,’” the presiding bishop said.

“That conviction is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture,” he added. “Rather, 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.”

Jeff Walton, communications manager and Anglican program director for the Institute on Religion & Democracy, wrote in October at Juicy Ecumenism about Love’s struggle over the past two years. He cited as applicable late theologian Richard John Neuhaus’s “law” that asserted whenever orthodoxy is an option, it will eventually be banned.

Neuhaus explained:

Orthodoxy, no matter how politely expressed, suggests that there is a right and a wrong, a true and a false, about things. When orthodoxy is optional, it is admitted under a rule of liberal tolerance that cannot help but be intolerant of talk about right and wrong, true and false. It is therefore a conditional admission, depending upon orthodoxy’s good behavior. The orthodox may be permitted to believe this or that and to do this or that as a matter of sufferance, allowing them to indulge their inclination, preference, or personal taste. But it is an intolerable violation of the etiquette by which one is tolerated if one has the effrontery to propose that, this or that, is normative for others.

Walton also wrote about the Episcopal Church’s embrace of same-sex marriage:

Episcopalians have steadily embraced same-sex unions, first consecrating an openly partnered gay bishop in 2003, followed by a bishop in a Lesbian relationship in 2009. Bishops in same-sex partnerships have since been elected and consecrated to lead dioceses in MaineMichigan and Missouri.

“A small minority of Episcopal Church diocesan bishops teach a traditional understanding of marriage between a man and a woman,” he added. “However, Albany is the only remaining domestic U.S. diocese to prohibit clergy from presiding at same-sex rites.”

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