The head of The Episcopal Church has said that he's deciding on what actions to take after the bishop of a New York State-based diocese has refused to officiate same-sex wedding ceremonies.
Bishop William Love of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany released a lengthy pastoral letter last week stating that he will not allow same-sex weddings in his churches, despite a recently approved resolution mandating them for all dioceses.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who supports same-sex marriage and leads the mainline Protestant denomination, released a statement earlier this week explaining that he's "assessing the implications of the statement and will make determinations about appropriate actions soon."
"We are committed to the principle of full and equal access to, and inclusion in, the sacraments for all of the baptized children of God, including our LGBTQ siblings," said Curry.
Curry also said that he believed the Church is tolerant of different points of view on marriage, adding that those who adhere to the biblical definition of marriage should not be forced to officiate same-sex unions.
"As members of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12), we also are committed to respecting the conscience of those who hold opinions that differ from the official policy of The Episcopal Church regarding the sacrament of marriage," continued Curry.
"It should be noted that the canons of The Episcopal Church give authority to all members of the clergy to decline to officiate a marriage for reasons of conscience, and Resolution B012 of the 79th General Convention does not change this fact."
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the Episcopal Church's House of Deputies who supports LGBT marriages in all forms, also released a statement in response to Love's pastoral letter, highlighting the denomination's support for LGBT relationships.
"We recognize the Holy Spirit at work in the marriages of LGBTQ people and we know that there are Christians who have been drawn further into fidelity and service to the world by living in committed same-sex partnerships and marriages," stated Jennings. "When we celebrate these marriages, the entire church is blessed by the love and fidelity of these faithful couples."
Earlier this year, the Episcopal Church General Convention passed Resolution B012, which allows congregations to perform same-sex weddings even in dioceses where leadership objects. The new policy is scheduled to take effect on Dec. 2.
While the new resolution still gives clergy the right to refuse to perform gay weddings, bishops who oppose same-sex marriage rites must call on another bishop who does not oppose such unions to provide pastoral support for the couple and a clergy for the ceremony.
In addition to the Diocese of Albany, the other impacted dioceses include Dallas; North Dakota; Springfield, Illinois; Tennessee; the U.S. Virgin Islands; and two of the denomination's Florida-based dioceses, the Diocese of Florida and the Diocese of Central Florida.
This contrasts with a resolution passed by the General Convention in 2015 that allowed bishops opposed to same-sex marriage to maintain a ban on such unions within their diocese.
Love took issues with this new resolution, officially stating that the same-sex marriage rites approved earlier this year "shall not be used anywhere in the Diocese of Albany by diocesan clergy (canonically resident or licensed)."
"Jesus is calling the Church to follow His example. He is calling the Church to have the courage to speak His Truth in love about homosexual behavior – even though it isn't politically correct," said Love.
"Sexual relations between two men or two women was never part of God's plan and is a distortion of His design in creation and as such is to be avoided. To engage in sexual intimacy outside of marriage between a man and women, is against God's will and therefore sinful and needs to be repented of, NOT encouraged or told it is OK."
Love also said that he believes both his denomination and overall Western society "have been hijacked by the 'Gay Rights Agenda,'" and that pro-LGBT Episcopalians have been "received into believing a lie that has been planted in the Church by the 'great deceiver' — Satan."
"There is no doubt The Episcopal Church and now the Diocese of Albany are in the midst of a huge storm that can rip us apart if we are not careful. That is exactly what Satan wants," Love added.
"We don't have to play his game. If we focus on what divides us, we will be destroyed. If we focus on what unites us — our Lord Jesus Christ — He will get us through to the other side. I pray the Lord will help us to see one another as He sees us; to love one another as He loves us; to forgive one another as He forgives us."