By Kirk Petersen
By announcing his resignation as the IX Bishop of Albany on October 24, the Rt. Rev. William H. Love spared the diocese and the wider Episcopal Church the potential bitterness of debating and imposing a penalty on him.
“Given all that has happened, and that which was still to come, I believe that to stay any longer would be more of a detriment to the Diocese than a help,” he said, speaking to the 152nd diocesan convention, which was held online.
When the resignation takes effect on February 1, every American diocese of the Episcopal Church will have made provision for same-sex marriage under the terms of the compromise reached at the 2018 General Convention. That compromise, enshrined in Resolution B012, introduced a mechanism for the traditionally minded Communion Partner bishops to transfer oversight of progressive parishes to other bishops, and so preserve their own teaching as normative.
The resignation pre-empts the need for a public hearing regarding penalties, which was to have taken place on October 26 in front (virtually) of the same Hearing Panel that ruled on October 5 that Love violated his vow to “engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.”
Once that verdict was reached, Love’s departure as Bishop of Albany was probably inevitable. The resignation eliminates the possibility of a harsher sanction — “deposition,” the term the Church uses for removal from ordained ministry. Love could have filed an appeal, touching off a process that might drag on for months. “I have no reason to believe that appealing the Hearing Panel’s Decision would result in any different outcome,” he said.
The resignation accord was approved by Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry and by the Hearing Panel, so there will be no further proceedings.
The accord stipulates that Love will begin a one-month terminal sabbatical on January 1, and his resignation will take effect February 1. Love’s order barring the use of same-sex marriage rites in the Diocese of Albany continues for the time being, but will expire with his episcopacy on February 1. Under the canons, the diocesan Standing Committee will become the ecclesiastical authority, and will direct the search for a new bishop.
Love, 63, will still have voice and vote in the House of Bishops, will be able to perform all the duties of a priest. He could serve as rector of a parish or exercise pastoral care for a conservative parish in a liberal diocese, under the terms of delegated episcopal pastoral oversight (DEPO).
The convention was live-streamed from Christ the King Center in Greenwich, New York, with only a handful of people physically in attendance. Love disclosed his resignation in front of the main altar of the Center’s Chapel, at the end of lengthy opening remarks about the diocese and the business of the convention. He delivered the news dispassionately, save for a brief catch before the word “resign,” and displayed no trace of animus. A spokesperson said the bishop would have no comment beyond the statement.
Later in the day, the Church released a statement confirming the details Love had announced. The statement said: “Presiding Bishop Michael Curry expresses sadness for the pain that has been experienced across the theological spectrum and also his continuing support for the Church’s intention that all persons have access to marriage rites authorized by the Church. He expresses thanks for Bishop Love’s faithfulness as Bishop of Albany and wishes him well in retirement. Bishop Curry anticipates a collaborative and respectful transition in episcopal leadership and prays for healing, reconciliation, and mutual flourishing across deeply held theological differences.”
Love closed his remarks with a note of encouragement for the diocese. “Over these past 14 years, you have accomplished so much together, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. God has used you to help bless countless lives in our communities and beyond. The Lord is powerfully present in the Diocese of Albany and will help lead you through the uncertainties of the coming days – if you fix your eyes on Jesus. In Him, we find hope, truth, unity, strength, and peace.”