Episcopal Church holds hearing for bishop who refused to allow gay marriages in diocese

The Title IV hearing for Episcopal Diocese of Albany Bishop William Love, held via Zoom conference on Friday, June 12, 2020.
The Title IV hearing for Episcopal Diocese of Albany Bishop William Love, held via Zoom conference on Friday, June 12, 2020. | Screengrab: Facebook/TItle IV Hearing Panel

The Episcopal Church held a hearing in the case of a bishop who refused to allow for the blessing of same-sex marriages in his diocese.

Bishop William Love of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany was punished last year with a restriction on his ministerial duties after refusing to allow gay marriages in his diocese.

His case was brought before a Title IV Hearing Panel, which focuses on issues of ecclesiastical discipline whenever a clergyman is accused of misconduct.

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Originally scheduled for April 21 before the shutdowns over coronavirus concerns, the hearing was held via Zoom teleconference on June 12 and posted on social media.

The teleconference hearing did not address the theological validity of Love’s views, but rather focused on whether the bishop’s actions violated Episcopal Church law.

Paul Cooney, who represented The Episcopal Church, told the hearing panel that Love was obligated to a new resolution that mandated all dioceses to bless same-sex weddings.

“Canon 118 provides that wherever permitted by secular law and the dioceses of The Episcopal Church, opposite sex and same-sex marriage both may be solemnized by Episcopal clergy,” explained Cooney.

“We contend that the Albany marriage canons’ limitation of access to holy matrimony to couples who are a man and a woman is in conflict with the standard of access in Canon 118.”

The Rev. Chip Strickland, representing Love, said that The Episcopal Church carries “the burden of proof” and that he believes they have “failed to prove any offense by Bishop Love.”

Strickland argued that Love was adhering to the doctrines of the denomination, which includes the Book of Common Prayer, where marriage is defined as being between one man and one woman.

“The doctrine of the Church as found in the marriage rites, the prefaces in the marriage rites, and the catechism, defines marriage as between a man and a woman,” argued Strickland.

“It’s ironic that Bishop Love is on trial today for failing to conform, when in fact the facts in law will show that he’s fully conformed.”

It could take weeks for the Title IV panel to reach a decision. If found in the wrong, Love could be suspended or deposed from his position as bishop. An appeal is possible for either party.

In July 2018, The Episcopal Church’s General Convention approved Resolution B012, which allowed same-sex couples to marry in all dioceses, even ones where the bishops objected.

B012 allowed clergy to refuse to officiate gay weddings, but dissenting bishops had to provide a clergy member to perform the same-sex wedding ceremony.

Other impacted dioceses included Dallas; North Dakota; Springfield, Illinois; Tennessee; the U.S. Virgin Islands; the Diocese of Florida; and the Diocese of Central Florida.

In response, Bishop Love sent out a letter in November 2018 stating that same-sex weddings were not going to occur in his diocese despite the General Convention resolution.

"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," wrote 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."

In January of last year, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry officially restricted Love’s ministry, preventing him from enforcing his opposition to B012.

“Love … 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,” stated Curry at the time.

“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 worshiping congregation of his diocese for their participation in the arrangements for or participation in a same-sex marriage in his diocese or elsewhere.”

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