By Kirk Petersen
The only remaining domestic bishop who bars the use of same-sex marriage rites in his diocese will face a Title IV Hearing Panel that could eventually end his ministry.
The Rt. Rev. William Love, the IX Bishop of Albany, announced that the public hearing will be held on April 21 at an Albany hotel. Three bishops, a priest and a lay person will conduct an ecclesial trial 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.”
Love said he expects his hearing will take only a few hours. “Both sides have agreed that there are no contested facts regarding my actions and neither side will be presenting witnesses. Instead, the attorneys will be making arguments as to what the canon law requires,” he said, in an announcement to his diocese.
Before the 2018 General Convention, Love was one of eight domestic diocesan bishops who exercised a veto power provided in the 2015 resolution that authorized the use of same-sex marriages rites. The 2018 convention eliminated the veto with Resolution B012, and the other bishops made provisions for same-sex marriages to have episcopal oversight from a nearby bishop.
After Love announced in November 2018 that the resolution would not apply in Albany, Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry issued a Partial Restriction on Ministry in January 2019, prohibiting Love from taking disciplinary action against any clergy regarding same-sex marriages. Love was formally charged in September 2019.
The Hearing Panel will adjourn after arguments by attorneys for each side, and will issue an order after deliberating at its own pace — potentially months later. The panel’s decision can range from a complete acquittal to ending Love’s ordained ministry, a process known as deposition. Love will have the right to appeal any sanction.
The stipulation of Love’s actions makes the proceeding considerably simpler than the last public trial of a bishop, in 2017, when a panel heard more than 20 hours of testimony over three days regarding Bishop J. Jon Bruno. Bruno, who has since retired, was suspended from ordained ministry for three years for his statements and actions in a three-year dispute with a church in the diocese. He lost his final appeal in January 2019.