By Kirk Petersen

Update: In a letter posted on the diocesan website, Love wrote:

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.

Now that the Reference Panel has acted, canonical timelines will be put in place, ensuring that the remainder of the Title IV Process should move much more quickly. It is my hope and prayer that God’s will, will ultimately be accomplished whatever the outcome of the Title IV proceedings.

I appreciate so much all of you who have been holding me and the Diocese of Albany up in prayer. I will keep you posted as I learn more.

Bishop of Albany William Love, the only bishop who has defied a mandate from the 2018 General Convention to allow Episcopal same-sex marriages to take place in all dioceses, now faces formal disciplinary charges that could result in penalties up to and including deposition from ministry.

The church announced September 18 that Love has been referred to a Hearing Panel that will conduct the equivalent of an ecclesiastic trial, open to the public, to determine whether Love has failed to “abide by the promises and vows made when ordained” or is guilty of “conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.”

The referral was made by a three-person Reference Panel composed of Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, President of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops Cate Waynick, who is the retired Bishop of Indianapolis, and Bishop for Pastoral Development Todd Ousley.

Love was one of eight domestic bishops who had exercised a veto over same-sex marriages within their dioceses, as provided for in the 2015 General Convention resolution authorizing same-sex marriage ceremonies. After an emotional and protracted debate, the 2018 General Convention eliminated the bishop’s veto with Resolution B012, specifying that bishops who object to same-sex marriage must refer any such marriages within their dioceses to another bishop. The seven other bishops have all made a variety of arrangements to comply with the resolution.

Love is at the House of Bishop’s meeting in Minneapolis and could not be reached for comment, nor could the Diocese of Albany (the news release was issued after business hours).

In a November 10, 2018 letter to the diocese, Love stated that after “agonized” consideration he concluded that the canons of the Diocese of Albany should outweigh the resolution of General Convention. “The marriage canon of the Diocese of Albany recognizes and upholds this traditional understanding of marriage, and as a result prohibits its clergy from officiating at or allowing any marriage to take place on any church property other than that between a man and woman. Thus, to carry out the dictates of B012 would be a direct violation of our own diocesan canons.”

On January 11, 2019, Curry issued a “Partial Restriction on Ministry” to Love, forbidding him from participating in any disciplinary process against any member of the clergy involving same-sex marriage. Love said he would abide by the restriction while appealing it.

The proceedings against Love will be governed by Title IV of the Canons of the Episcopal Church, and could continue for months or even years. Title IV is laid out in 40 densely worded pages of poorly organized and internally inconsistent prose. The text is so confusing that the church spent $300,000 developing a website designed to take users through the process step by step. The website is titleiv.org.

The precedent of former Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno’s Hearing Panel gives some idea of what to expect. The panel heard three long days of public testimony in an overcrowded hotel conference room in Pasadena. The Title IV process is intended to be confidential, up until the point it is referred to a Hearing Panel.

Bruno eventually was suspended from ordained ministry for three years in August 2017 for his actions in a dispute with a church in his diocese. The suspension was stayed while he appealed, and he retired in December 2017 without missing a day as Bishop of Los Angeles. His suspension was upheld in January 2019.

Nancy Davidge, the public affairs officer for the Church, said no date has been set for Hearing Panel proceedings for Love. The canons prescribe a panel consisting of three bishops, a priest and a lay person. Members of the Hearing Panel will be:

  • The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson, Episcopal Diocese of West Texas
  • The Rt. Rev. Herman (HollyHollerith IV, Resigned, Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia
  • The Rt. Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, Hearing Panel President
  • The Rev. Erik Larsen, Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island
  • Ms. Melissa Perrin, Episcopal Diocese of Chicago

Knisely, Hollerith and Larsen all served on Bruno’s Hearing Panel.