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Former Albany Episcopal Bishop Reflects on his Exodus from TEC into the ACNA Diocese of the Living Word

Former Albany Episcopal Bishop Reflects on his Exodus from TEC into the ACNA Diocese of the Living Word

By David W. Virtue DD
August 20, 2023

An exclusive interview with the former Episcopal Bishop of Albany, The Rt. Rev. William Love.

VOL: Bishop, it is just over two years since you stood down as the Episcopal Bishop of Albany and began serving as the Assistant Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word. Can you tell us what it was first like facing your accusers, then agreeing to leave and where you are today?

LOVE: First of all, thank you David for reaching out to me. In some ways it seems like only yesterday that I stepped down as Bishop of Albany. In other ways it seems like an eternity. In response to your question about facing my accusers, that was one of the frustrations of the whole ordeal. Apart from the institution of The Episcopal Church, I don't know who my "accusers" were. Shortly after I released my Pastoral Letter and Pastoral Directive to the Clergy and People of the Diocese of Albany in November 2018, I was informed by the Presiding Bishop's Office that individuals from within as well as outside the Diocese had contacted the Presiding Bishop complaining about the actions I had taken, but I was never told who those individuals were. As far as the legal case that was presented, it simply stated The Episcopal Church -- vs -- The Rt. Rev. William Love. When I asked who it was that was bringing charges against me, I was told that my issuance of the Pastoral Directive prohibiting the clergy of the Diocese from officiating at same-sex marriages was in violation of General Convention Resolution B012, and justification enough for bringing charges against me, whether anyone complained or not.

Once the guilty verdict came down from the Hearing Panel, I sensed the Lord saying, OK Bill, now you can leave. Prior to that, each time I prayed about leaving The Episcopal Church due to its continuing drift further and further away from Christ and the Truth of the Gospel, particularly in regard to marriage and human sexuality, I always sensed the Lord saying, "stay where you are and keep sharing the message I have given you to proclaim."

While it was a tremendous honor and privilege to serve the clergy and people, in the Diocese of Albany, all of whom I still deeply love and care for, it was a huge burden serving within the "institution" of The Episcopal Church. I am so thankful that the Lord has released me from TEC, and opened the door for me to continue serving Him and His Church in the Anglican Church of North America. It is truly a breath of fresh air.

I must add, I am eternally grateful to Archbishop Foley Beach -- for his godly leadership; his willingness to receive me into ACNA as a bishop; his friendship and for the love and pastoral concern that he and his wife Allison have shown Karen and me these past few years .I am equally thankful to Bishop Julian and Brenda Dobbs -- for their trust in inviting Karen and me to serve alongside them; for their friendship and for the support and encouragement they continually offer us. In essence, Karen and me feel like we are in a very good place.

VOL: How great was the pressure from the Standing Committee to resign?

LOVE: There was absolutely no pressure from the Standing Committee for me to resign as Bishop of Albany. The Standing Committee was very supportive of me throughout the entire trial process, and I believe would have supported me had I chosen to appeal the guilty verdict handed down by the Hearing Panel.

Ultimately, I chose not to appeal the verdict. While I didn't agree with the Hearing Panel's ruling, given the nature of the case, and the Episcopal Church's demonstrated intent to ensure all dioceses allow for same-sex marriages, I had no reason to believe that appealing the Hearing Panel's decision would result in any different outcome. It would only prolong the inevitable, and ultimately be a detriment to the Diocese. Consequently, on October 24, 2020, during my Bishop's Address to the Diocese at its 152nd Annual Convention, I announced that, after much thought and prayer, I had made the very difficult, but necessary decision to resign as Bishop of Albany, effective February 1, 2021 -- the 14th Anniversary of my becoming the Bishop Diocesan.

VOL: When it was clear that you had to go, how great was the pressure from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry for you to resign?

LOVE: Presiding Bishop Curry never asked me to resign. Had the disciplinary process continued, he might have, however, I preempted it by voluntarily entering into an Accord which I presented to Presiding Bishop Curry for his consideration. In the Accord, I stipulated that I would resign effective February 1, 2021, the 14th Anniversary of my becoming the Bishop Diocesan. He and the Hearing Panel agreed, thus ending any further disciplinary action.

The Hearing Panel had been scheduled to reconvene on October 26, 2021 to determine what disciplinary action should be taken against me. I honestly don't believe they would have recommended deposing me, at least not initially. Most likely they would have demanded that I agree to abide by General Convention Resolution B012 and rescind my 2018 Pastoral Directive which prohibited the clergy of the Diocese of Albany from officiating at same-sex marriages. That was NOT something I was prepared or willing to do.

When I first issued the Pastoral Directive in November 2018, I knew it would not be well received by the Presiding Bishop or the wider Episcopal Church, and that there would be a price to pay, but it needed to be done. As I can attest, speaking God's Truth can come at a cost, but failing to do so comes at an even greater cost. I was determined by God's grace, to remain true to the Word of God and faithfully lead the people and clergy of the Diocese of Albany during the troubled times we found ourselves in, regardless of the cost. With that said, when it became evident that I could not continue as Bishop of Albany, without compromising the Word of God and my strongly held beliefs, I decided that if I was going to step down, I wanted to do so under my terms and not those imposed upon me. God was gracious, and enabled me to do so. The one thing the Presiding Bishop wanted me to include as part of the accord, was my willingness to rescind my 2018 Pastoral Directive regarding B012. I refused, and ultimately he backed down, for which I was very thankful, otherwise I most likely would have been deposed.

VOL: What happened with the Christ the King Spiritual Life Center that you helped bring into existence?

LOVE: Christ the King Spiritual Life Center is owned and operated by The Episcopal Diocese of Albany. After stepping down as Bishop of Albany, I lost any control I had over CTK.

At the same time that the Diocese of Albany purchased the land for CTK, The Community of St. Mary (formerly of Peekskill) purchased a 100-acre piece of property adjoining CTK's property, directly across the valley. (It had all been part of the original 612-acre farm.) They sold their convent in Peekskill and built a new convent on their new property in Greenwich. During my tenure as Bishop, they purchased an additional 70 acres from the Diocese to give them clear access to Burton Road.

Throughout Bishop Herzog and my tenure as Bishop, there was a very close relationship between CTK and the Convent. While there is still a working relationship between CTK and the Community of St. Mary, it is not what it once was.

Shortly after I resigned as Bishop of Albany and joined ACNA, Mother Miriam and the Sisters of St. Mary formally left TEC and realigned themselves with ACNA. Because of the unique nature of the Community of St. Mary, they were able to leave with their property. It is completely owned and operated by the Sisters. TEC had no control over it whatsoever.

While Bishop of Albany, I served as the Bishop Visitor for the Community of St. Mary. Mother Miriam and the Sisters have asked me to continue serving as their Bishop Visitor now that we are both in ACNA.

VOL: What made you choose Bishop Julian Dobbs and the Diocese of the Living Word to be your ecclesiastical authority rather than another ACNA bishop. You always struck me as being evangelical catholic, while bishop Julian is more reformed evangelical?

LOVE: After hearing that I had resigned as Bishop of Albany, Bishop Julian reached out to me and invited Karen and I to spend a weekend together in Philadelphia with he and his wife Brenda to get to know one another and discuss the possibility of me assisting him in the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word (ADLW) as his Assisting Bishop. I had met Bishop Julian briefly in the past through Bishop Dave Bena, but didn't really know him well. We had a very enjoyable and blessed weekend together, filled with open and honest conversation, during which we discussed a variety of topics, as well as dreams and aspirations.

By the end of the weekend, Bishop Julian and I as well as Karen and Brenda sensed that we would make a good team. Our shared love for the Lord and His Holy Word; our common commitment to the Great Commandment and Great Commission; and our joint desire to faithfully share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, outweighed any differences we may have had. Bishop Julian invited me to assist him and I accepted his most gracious offer. All of that was contingent upon Archbishop Foley Beach and the College of Bishops accepting me as an active bishop in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), which they did. Archbishop Foley received me as a bishop in ACNA on Holy Saturday 2021 and the College of Bishops received me into the College at their June meeting in 2021.

VOL: How involved was your wife in your decision making?

LOVE: As husband and wife, Karen and I try very hard to respect one another and discuss and pray together before making any major decisions that will impact our family and lives together. We have done that throughout her military and teaching career as well as my ordained ministry as a priest and bishop. She was very supportive of my decision to resign as Bishop of Albany as well as my decision to leave the Episcopal Church and come to ACNA, accepting Bishop Julian's invitation to serve as his Assisting Bishop in ADLW. One of the things we always try to do is to discern not so much what either of us want, but more importantly what is God calling us to. As we approach our 40th wedding anniversary this fall, I continually give thanks to God for Karen and her ongoing love and support for me and our family. We are both tremendously thankful to God for this new chapter the Lord has opened in our life together, enabling us to continue serving Him and His Church, often in ways that we had not been able to up until now.

VOL: Were your children impacted by your decision? Where are they today in their spiritual journey? Did they keep the faith or lose it because of the way you were treated by TEC?

LOVE: Karen and I are so richly blessed by a wonderful and loving son and daughter (Chris and Catie) and their families. Because both kids are married and live on their own, they were not as impacted as they might have been had they still been living at home. They have all been tremendously supportive of us throughout this journey. The greatest impact on the family resulting from the charges brought against me and the pursuing trial was the vicious attacks against my character and all the negative publicity in the media as well as TEC. I think it was particularly hard for my daughter, to see her dad being persecuted often by perfect strangers, and accused of things she knew not to be true. With that said, Chris and Catie and their families are strong Christians, and actively go to Church, (one to an ACNA Church, and the other to a non-denominational church). If anything, I think they are even stronger in their faith as a result of all that has happened. I could not be more proud of them. God is GOOD!

VOL: You seem to be at peace with where you are today, at least as far as I can tell. What is your role in the Diocese of the Living Word?

LOVE: As the Assisting Bishop of the Diocese, I serve at the pleasure of Bishop Julian, the Diocesan Bishop. He has asked me to assist him in ministering to the clergy and people of the Diocese. I am currently averaging about two parish visitations a month. It could be anywhere in the Diocese. ADLW is a non-geographical diocese with approximately 48 congregations scattered over 19 states, literally stretching from coast to coast and north to south. If the parish is within a 10-hour drive of where we live in the Adirondacks in upstate New York, Karen and I will usually drive. If it is farther than that, we will fly. (Being non-geographic has been a real blessing. Although it requires that we travel more, it allows us to keep our home, and not move, for which we are very thankful.) As far as other duties, I have been asked to regularly meet with and help provide pastoral care to some of the clergy who may be going through a difficult time. Those meetings can either be in person, or via zoom, depending on the circumstances. I participate via zoom in the diocesan staff meetings as well as diocesan clergy meetings. Occasionally, Bishop Julian will ask me to work on or oversee a particular project. One of the best parts of serving as an Assisting Bishop, is that I can primarily focus on the things that I really enjoy such as pastoral care and parish visitations, while not being responsible for the administrative or financial concerns of the Diocese. I did that for 14 years as the Bishop of Albany. It is wonderful not having that responsibility hanging over me, keeping me awake at night. Given the fact that my position is more or less part time, I have more flexibility, enabling me to participate and assist in helping to lead prayer conferences and retreats in other ACNA dioceses. On a couple of occasions, Karen and I have been able to help co-lead the conference. That is something we never had the opportunity to do before. We are discovering that it truly is a joy to minister more closely together.

VOL: Do you find a different mindset ministering among ACNA parishes verses TEC parishes?

LOVE: Given that the only TEC diocese I served in prior to coming into the ACNA was the Diocese of Albany, I have not experienced as great a mindset difference between TEC and ACNA parishes as I would have had I been in a different TEC diocese. Theologically, the majority of the parishes in Albany would share common values and a love for God's Word as those found in ADLW. That would not be the case for the vast majority of the rest of TEC. In addition, many of the congregations in the Diocese of Albany, like many of the congregations in ADLW are relatively small in size, struggling financially to make ends meet. As a result, there are many common concerns in terms of being able to afford full-time clergy and other ministry related expenses.

While there are some commonalities as mentioned, there are some real differences as well. The use of Bi-vocational clergy is something both need, however it is becoming an ever-growing need in TEC as more and more parishes are shrinking, while many of the ACNA parishes are working to transition into full-time clergy as their congregations grow.

Most if not all the parishes in the Diocese of Albany worship in their own buildings, where as many of the parishes in ADLW are sharing buildings with other non-Anglican churches, or meeting in secular buildings for their worship service. This requires a great deal of time and energy to set up and break down prior to and following the service. Some of those parishes that were formerly in TEC, are still grieving the loss of their former buildings. Fortunately, most have been able to move beyond that and are thankful that they are no longer under the shadow of TEC. As time goes on, many of the clergy and parishes in ADLW as well as much of the rest of ACNA come from other denominations and have no former connection with TEC or the baggage that comes with it. One of the great challenges they have is learning what it means to be Anglican and how to adjust to Anglican polity. This can create issues both at the local parish level as well as the diocesan level.

For me personally, one of the greatest blessings of being in ACNA, is the new found freedom I feel in the ACNA College of Bishops, worshiping and serving beside fellow bishops who are united in their love of Christ and the Holy Scriptures (recognizing the authority Holy Scripture has in our life) and are dedicated to sharing the Gospel for the building up of the Kingdom of God. I realize ACNA is not perfect. There is no perfect church this side of Heaven, however, it is such a refreshing change to not feel like an outcast in my own Church.

VOL: How long will you continue in your present role as a bishop in the ADLW? Do you have a retirement date in mind?

LOVE: As mentioned earlier, as an Assisting Bishop, I serve at the pleasure of the Diocesan Bishop. I am very thankful to Bishop Julian and his tremendous kindness and generosity in inviting me to serve alongside him, ministering to the wonderful clergy and people of the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word. I just turned 66, and to the best of my knowledge, I am still in good health. There is currently no mandatory retirement age for bishops in ACNA. By God's grace and with Bishop Julian's blessing, I hope to continue serving in ADLW for the foreseeable future.

VOL:Thank you Bishop Love.

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