By Kirk Petersen

In a restrained response to Bishop William H. Love’s rejection of a General Convention resolution, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has forbidden him from taking any disciplinary action against clergy in the Diocese of Albany who choose to participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony.

The action follows Love’s declaration in November that “the trial rites authorized by Resolution B012 of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church shall not be used anywhere in the Diocese of Albany.”

In restricting Love’s authority, Curry wrote:

  • “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.
  • “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.”

In a letter posted on Albany’s website Jan. 11, Love agreed to abide by Curry’s  restrictions, while defending his position on marriage.

“As your Bishop, it is important that you understand I have not changed my understanding or teaching regarding the sacrament of Holy Matrimony,” Love wrote to his diocese. “The official teaching of this Church as outlined in the rubrics of the Marriage Service in the Book of Common Prayer is that: ‘Christian marriage is a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God’ (BCP 422.) Canon 16 of the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of Albany upholds this teaching and remains in effect until it is either changed by the Diocesan Convention, or is legally proven to be over-ridden by the legitimate actions of General Convention; none of which has yet taken place.”

Love said he would challenge “the authority and legality of Resolution B012.”

Sources said they are not aware of any pending plans for a same-sex marriage in the Diocese of Albany, which includes about 120 churches and is one of six dioceses in New York.

Curry acknowledged that his restriction of Bishop Love’s ministry necessarily falls within the ambit of Title IV disciplines. “Bishop Love’s conduct in this regard may constitute a canonical offense under Canon IV.4(1)(c) (“abide by the promises and vows made when ordained”) and Canon IV.4(1)(h)(9) (“any Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Clergy”),” Curry said in a written statement, citing the Constitution & Canons.

Before the July 2018 General Convention, Love was one of eight Communion Partner bishops who had not permitted use of the rites for same-sex marriage within their dioceses. The 2018 resolution established a new arrangement in which conservative bishops may call upon other bishops to provide pastoral oversight in certain instances.

Under the Canons, Curry could have placed Love on administrative leave, but he chose a narrower prohibition. Love has the right to ask the Disciplinary Board for Bishops to review the restriction. If Love continues his resistance, the disciplinary process could continue for years and could possibly lead to the suspension or deposition of his priesthood.

“This is a proud day to wake up an Episcopalian,” said the Rev. Susan Russell of Pasadena, Calif., a longtime LGBT activist. “I co-convene, with the Bishop of Tennessee, a Task Force on Communion across Difference,” she said. “Part of our work in the triennium ahead is going to be to have some hard and, I think, important conversations about how are we still in communion with each other across some significant differences.”

The Bishop of Tennessee, the Rt. Rev. John Bauerschmidt, is a Communion Partner bishop and president of the Living Church Foundation. The task force will meet for the first time in March, Russell said.

The Rev. Glen Michaels, an assistant attorney general for New York, said in November he was prepared to ignore Love’s prohibition and marry same-sex couples if asked. “This inhibition will free other clergy, who don’t have the luxury of an outside income,” to perform such marriages, he told TLC.

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