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Bishop Love in the fight of his life for his diocese

Bishop Love in the fight of his life for his diocese
Albany bishop refuses to bow before TEC's altar of "sacramental marriage equality"

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
June 11, 2020

Things are coming to a head between Bishop William Love (IX Albany) and The Episcopal Church over the performance of same-sex marriage rites in the upper New York diocese. Bishop William says "No!" The Episcopal Church says "Yes!" and the National Church will force you to do it its way or you hit the highway. Lay your crozier on the altar, clean out your desk, pack up your books, turn in your keys and leave.

Bishop Love says he can't give in because he is a deeply committed Christian who has taken an oath -- before God -- to remain faithful to his Vows of Ordination he took when he was first ordained a deacon (June 22,1991); then a priest (March 1, 1992) and finally consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of Albany (September 16, 2006).

In July 2018, the Episcopal General Convention passed Resolution B-012 calling for the use of non-traditional marriage rites to be used throughout The Episcopal Church, in every diocese of the church, regardless of what the sitting bishop's objections may be.

This means that homosexual couples (same-sex or transgendered) could demand the right to be "married" in the Episcopal church of their choice in any diocese of their choosing and the local sitting bishop could do nothing to stop it. The authority to permit the wedding ceremony, in keeping with cultural norms which spread to all 50 states in 2015, was now in the hands of the local priest, not the diocesan bishop. Sitting bishops were stripped of their authority over what goes on within their dioceses.

While at the 2018 General Convention, Bishop Love made a 10-minute impassioned defense of his ordination vows and the Scriptural authority which trump the every-changing Episcopal Church canons.

"I will, by the Grace of God, try to remain faithful to my Ordination Vows," he said speaking directly to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on the floor of the House of Bishops. "But, in those instances where I find that this church is asking me to go in opposition to what God has spoken through Holy Scripture -- God's Word will triumph in terms of my actions. And then, this House will have to decide how you will deal with that. But I will remain faithful to God's Word."

In September 2019, The Episcopal Church brought Title IV charges against Bishop Love, charging him with violating Canon IV.4.I(c): failing to "conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church," by not "abiding by the promises and vows made when ordained."

When Mr. Willian Love was ordained a deacon on June 22, 1991 at the hands of Bishop David Ball (VII Albany), he had this exchange with his bishop.

Bishop Ball: "Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them? And will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work?"

Mr. Love: "I am willing and ready to do so; and I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine,
discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church."

Then on March 1, 1992 when Deacon Love was ordained priest, he again had the same exchange with his bishop about the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church.

Bishop Ball: "Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them? And will you, in accordance with the canons of this Church, obey your bishop and other ministers who may have authority over you and your work?"

Deacon Love: "I am willing and ready to do so; and I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine,
discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church."

Fourteen years later, Fr. Love is the coadjutor-elect of the Diocese of Albany. On September 16, 2006, he pronounced these words as a part of his consecration ceremony.

Bishop-elect Love: "In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I, William Howard Love, chosen Bishop of the Church in Albany, solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all
things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church."

He then signed the declaration before witnesses, including his chief consecrator Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, co-consecrating bishops Daniel Herzog (VII Albany); David Dena (VIII Albany); David Ball (VI Albany); and ecumenical witness Bishop Harold Miller from the Church of Ireland.

But though the years, The Episcopal Church strayed further and further from the Faith once delivered to the Saints and a biblical understanding of marriage and human sexuality. This brought Bishop Love into direct conflict with what The Episcopal Church now teaches and what the dictates of Holy Scriptures has always demanded.

"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." Jude 1:3-4

Not only is Bishop Love's bishopric on the line, his very salvation hangs in the balance. He must ultimately answer to God, and not The Episcopal Church on how he lived out his Episcopal ministry, when he is called to his judgment.

Bishop Love is like other Episcopal bishops who have left The Episcopal Church: Andrew Fairfield (X North Dakota); David Bena (Albany-suffragan); William Cox (Oklahoma-assistant); Edward MacBurney (VII Quincy); Terence Kelshaw (VII Rio Grande); John Lipscomb (IV Southwest Florida; Jeffery Steenson (VIII Rio Grande); William Wantland (VI Eau Claire); Donald Davies (I Fort Worth); and Peter Beckwith (X Springfield); lead their dioceses out of The Episcopal Church: Robert Duncan (VII Pittsburgh); John-David Schofield (IV San Joaquin); Jack Iker (III Fort Worth); Keith Ackerman (VIII Quincy); and Mark Lawrence (XIV South Carolina); or left The Episcopal Church only to return again: David Bane (IX Southern Virginia); Daniel Herzog (VIII Albany); and Clarence Pope (II Fort Worth). Bishop Love has remained loyal to The Episcopal Church and has remained within the church, trying to hold on as the church embraced more and more of the surrounding culture with each successive General Convention.

Resolution B-012 is the straw that is breaking the camel's back for both Bishop Love and The Episcopal Church.

TEC has a four-point indictment against the Albany bishop claiming that: (1). The Diocese of Albany's Pastoral Directive prohibits canonically resident and licensed diocesan clergy from using the Authorized Liturgies "anywhere in the Diocese of Albany" and directs full compliance with Diocese of Albany Canon XVI by diocesan clergy and parishes overriding Episcopal Church canons. (2). The content and context of the Diocese of Albany Pastoral Directive establishes that the Bishop of Albany "holds a theological position that does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples." (3). Bishop Love's position and pastoral directions to his clergy, and the parishes within the diocese, are "inconsistent with and fail to carry out" the Episcopal Church's mandate for bishops to "continue the work of leading the Church in comprehensive engagement with Authorized Liturgies and continue to provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church." and (4). Bishop Love fails to "honor theological diversity with regard to matters of human sexuality.

On October 24, 2019, Bishop Love gave a quick one-page reply to The Episcopal Church's charges against him: "I deny that I have violated the promise and vows I made when I was ordained, as pertains to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of The Episcopal Church, and thereby plead NOT guilty to the charges made against me as outlined in the Statement of Alleged Offense, dated September 27, 2019."

As with any court case -- ecclesial courts and hearing panels included -- there have been a bevy of motions and counter motions leading up to the disciplinary hearing date.

In January 2019, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry stepped in and partially restricted Bishop Love's ministry as a run-up to the Disciplinary Hearing.

"I am convinced that Resolution B012 was intended by the Convention to be mandatory and binding upon all our Dioceses," the Presiding Bishop wrote on Jan. 11, 2019 citing Canons IV.7(3)&(4), and IV.17(2). "I hereby place the following partial restriction on the exercise of Bishop Love's ministry: (1). During the period of this restriction, Bishop Love, acting individually, or as Bishop Diocesan, or in any other capacity, is forbidden from participating in any manner in the Church's disciplinary process in the Diocese of Albany in any matter regarding any member of the clergy that involves the issue of same-sex marriage; (2). Nor shall he participate in any other matter that has or may have the effect of penalizing in any way any member of the clergy or laity or worshipping congregation of his Diocese for their participation in the arrangements for or participation in a same-sex marriage in his Diocese or elsewhere."

Bishop Love's hands have been tied and his episcopal ministry is hobbled. The Presiding Bishop's restrictions are in place until the Title IV matter pending against Bishop Love is resolved.

On Feb. 12, 2020, Episcopal Church Attorney Paul E. Cooney, and the Rev. William Strickland, attorney for Bishop Love, came to a meeting of the minds on non-disputed material facts including: (1). that at the time of William Love's ordination he made a "Declaration of Conformity" saying the words : "I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church;" (2). That the 2018 General Convention adopted Resolution B-012; (3). That on November 10, 2018, Bishop Love issued a Pastoral Letter and Directive concerning same-sex marriage ceremonies within the Albany diocese; (4). E-mail correspondence between Bishop Love and the Rev. Mary White, rector of St. Andrew's Church in Albany seeking to perform same-sex marriage rites; and (5). Diocese of Albany canons 16.2 & 16.2 which prohibit diocesan clergy from carrying out same-sex marriage rites or allowing them to be celebrated on any church property. Weddings are to be performed between one man and one woman only.

On Feb. 14, 2020, The Episcopal Church filed a 21-page Motion of the Church for Summary Judgment with the Hearing Panel. It was followed by another 21-page supplement listing Resolution 2015:A-036 on Amending Canon I.18 On the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony; Resolution 2015:A-037 on Appointing an Expanded Task Force to Study Marriage; Resolution 2015:A-54 on the Authorization Trial Use of Marriage and Blessing Rites; and Resolution 2018:A-227 on Creating a Task Force on Communion Across the Difference.

The supplement also included several articles of the Episcopal Church Constitution including: Article V on the Admission of New Dioceses (the Diocese of Albany was formed in 1868); Article VIII in the Requisites for Ordination; and Article X on the Book of Common Prayer (the latest BCP revision was in 1979).

There are also seven Episcopal Church Canons highlighted including: Canon I.18 on the Celebration and Blessing of Marriage; Canon I.19 on the Regulations Respecting Holy Matrimony: Concerning Preservation of Marriage, Dissolution of Marriage, and Remarriage; Canon II.3.6(a) on the Standard Book of Common Prayer; Canon III.9.6(a)(1) on Rectors and Priests-in-Charge and Their Duties; Canon IV.3.3 on Clergy Accountability; Canon IV.4 in the Standard of Clergy Conduct; and Canon IV.7 on Pastoral Direction, Restricted Ministry and Administrative Leave.

On March 16, Bishop Love filed a 30-page opposition to the Episcopal Church's motion for summary judgement and filed his own cross motion for summary judgement, accompanied by a 124-page brief underscoring his motion.

In the lengthy brief, Bishop Love referenced the 1997, 2006, 2012, 2015, and 2018 Red Books. He also mentioned the 1996 Righter Heresy trial; and several media articles on the Episcopal Church's march to same-sex marriage, and also highlighted Volume 1 of the 1981 Annotated Constitution and Canons.

The Albany bishop similarly pointed out several General Convention resolutions proposed through the years including: passed Resolution 1991:A-121 Amending Constitution Article I.7 on the Time and Place of General Convention; rejected Resolution 1994:A-016 the Topic of the Constitutional Article on Forms of Worship; referred Resolution 1994:B-005 to Distinguish Between Policy and Recommendations of General Convention; passed Resolution 1997:C-021 on planning Constitutional and Liturgical Changes to Enrich Common Worship; passed Resolution 2000:A-132 on Amending Constitution Article X on the Book of Common Prayer; rejected Resolution 2003:A-108 on Amending Constitution Article X on the Book of Common Prayer; passed Resolution 2006:A-078 on Inviting Dialogue and Develop Frameworks for Resolving Liturgical Issues; passed Resolution 2012:A-049 to Authorize Liturgical Resources for Blessing Same-Sex Relationships; rejected Resolution 2015:A-066 on Amending Constitution Article X on the Book of Common Prayer; and passed Resolution 2015:A-054 to Authorize Trial Use of Marriage and Blessing Rites in "Liturgical Resources."

On March 30, 2020, The Episcopal Church responded to Bishop Love's request for summary judgment with a 30-page reply pointing out seven areas of disagreement. In it, TEC states that (1). Bishop Love's Motion to Vacate the Restriction on Ministry is the wrong time to present it to the Hearing Panel; (2). Bishop Love's Pastoral Letter and Directive violates Article X and Canon II.3.6; (3). That neither Resolution B-012 nor Canon I.8 violates the Doctrine of The Episcopal Church; (4). The Diocese of Albany's Marriage Canon are incompatible with the Episcopal Church Canon I.18 concerning same-sex marriage; (5). The 1979 BCP rubrics are not a canonical barrier to authorized same-sex marriage rites; (6). Resolution B-012 neither nullifies nor requires the relinquishment of a diocesan bishop's authority; and (7). By refusing same-sex marriage within the Diocese of Albany, Bishop Love has failed to conform with the worship of The Episcopal Church.

"Eight bishops have been seen problematic," Bishop Love explained on the that hot July day in 2018 as the House of Bishops debated Resolution B-012. "Because in our understanding of Holy Scripture, in our desire to try to uphold in maintaining the unity of the church and in carrying out our Apostolic relationship with the other bishops throughout the church, we have been seen as problematic. And we are trying to be silenced and told that we cannot speak on this as it relates to our parishes."

The eight conservative bishops who got run over by Resolution B-012 were described as "straight, white guys" by Episcopal Cafe's Jim Naughton, who tweets as Resistance Cookie. His June 30, 2018 pre-convention tweet reads: "Fellow straight, white #Episcopal guys, please join me in this pledge: 'At no point during General Convention will I pit the interests of people of color against the interests of LGBTQ people to achieve an end desired primarily by straight, white guys.' Because this is how we straight, white guys persuade ourselves that we act not for ourselves, but for a greater good. And it is seldom true."

In 2018, the eight bishops were: Greg Brewer (Central Florida); George Sumner (VII Dallas); John Howard (VIII Florida); Michael Smith (XI North Dakota) Dan Martins (XI Springfield); John Bauerschmidt (XI Tennessee); Ambrose Gumbs (V Virgin Islands); and Bishop Love. Since General Convention, Bishop Smith has retired and Bishop Martins has announced his retirement. Bishop Gumbs is a foreign bishop serving churches in both the US and British Virgin Islands. Same-sex marriage is allowed in the US Virgin Islands since it is an American territory, but not allowed in the British Virgin Islands.

Now Bishop Love is standing alone. He is the only bishop in the American Episcopal Church refusing to bow to the Altar of Sacramental Marriage Equality. All other conservative bishops have folded in one way or another, yet Bishop Love believes there is a Higher Court, a Divine Judgement he must one day face, so he is not folding.

"What I tried to do as best I can, by the Grace of God, is to be faithful and obedient to that which I believe the Lord has called me to, even though it sometimes can be very difficult, and sometimes it's not politically correct," Bishop Love told the Episcopal News Service.

He said he is looking forward to the opportunity to explain his reasoning behind holding pat on the Biblical understanding of marriage in his diocese.

"I greatly appreciate the Reference Panel's decision to expedite the process by referring this matter directly to the Hearing Panel, where I will have the opportunity to address the concerns raised by the issuance of the November 10, 2018 Pastoral Letter and Directive (which upholds the Church's traditional understanding and teaching on marriage)."

His day in the lower court -- the Episcopal Church's hearing panel -- is to take place on Friday (June 12.) Because of the new abnormal, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Bishop Love's original hearing date was April 21 in Colonie, New York. But it was postponed. It took some time for the logistical as well as legal requirements for such a meeting to occur to be ironed out. Now the proceeding is to be held as a virtual hearing to take place via Zoom and it is to be live-streamed over Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/events/265211354592608/

The Title IV disciplinary hearing is to begin at 9 A.M. (Eastern time). The Episcopal Church will first be given the chance to lay out its argument, followed by Bishop Love. Each side is to be allotted 45 minutes to make their case.

"The purpose of the hearing is to provide an opportunity for oral argument on the Motion of The Episcopal Church ("TEC") for Summary Judgment and the Cross Motion of the Rt. Rev. Bishop William H. Love ("Bishop Love") for Summary Judgment in the case of In the Matter of The Episcopal Church v. The Rt. Rev. William H. Love," the Episcopal Church said in a pre-hearing statement. "The proceedings in this proceeding under Title IV of the Canons of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church involve matters of high seriousness and great importance to the Respondent and to the Church. We ask that all persons who are present for this proceeding conduct themselves in a manner that reflects the seriousness of the proceeding and respects the Hearing Panel, the Respondent the Church, and counsel for both parties."

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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