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Former Episcopal bishop punished for not allowing gay marriages in diocese leaves denomination

Bishop William Love
The Rt. Rev. William Love, IX Bishop of Albany, gives his address at the 152nd annual Diocesan Convention on Oct. 24, 2020. |

A bishop of The Episcopal Church who was punished for refusing to allow the blessing of same-sex marriages in his diocese has decided to leave the mainline Protestant denomination.

William H. Love, former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, was disciplined last year for refusing to enforce a church resolution mandating the blessing of gay marriages in every diocese, including those previously opposed to the practice.

In a statement released Wednesday, Love explained that he was leaving the Episcopal Church effective April 2 and planning to join the Anglican Church in North America, a more theologically conservative denomination.

“As a cradle Episcopalian (with nearly 30 years of ordained ministry as a deacon, priest and bishop), that was not an easy decision, but given all that has transpired these past couple of years and the constraints placed upon me as a theologically conservative and orthodox bishop within TEC, I believe it is the right decision,” wrote Love.

“It is my hope and plan to be received into the Anglican Church in North America in the very near future, at which time all the details of what I will be doing and where I will be serving will be shared in a separate announcement.”

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, leader of the denomination, released a statement in response to the announcement, explaining that he had granted Love's request.

Without specifically mentioning the issue of same-sex marriage, Curry went on to argue that his belief was that “as a church we are called, as Jesus once said, to be ‘a house of prayer for all people,’ where, as my slave ancestors used to sing, ‘there is plenty good room for all of God’s children.’”

“That conviction is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture. Rather, it is born of my belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are the ultimate sign of the very love of God reaching out to embrace and welcome us all,” stated Curry.

“To believe that is to commit to God’s work of creating what some have called the beloved community. It is to pray not only with our lips but with our lives, as Jesus taught when he said, ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’”

In July 2018, the Episcopal Church General Convention passed Resolution B012, which mandated that all dioceses must bless same-sex unions — despite being in conflict with the biblical standard of marriage — even ones where leadership objects.

While the resolution allowed clergy to refuse to perform same-sex weddings, it also required bishops who oppose gay marriage rites to let another bishop provide pastoral support for the same-sex couple as well as clergy for the ceremony.

In addition to the Diocese of Albany, the resolution impacted the dioceses of Dallas, Texas, North Dakota, Springfield, Illinois, Tennessee, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Diocese of Florida, and the Diocese of Central Florida.

That November, Love released an open letter stating that he was not going to enforce the resolution in his diocese, stating that he believed Jesus Christ “is calling the Church to have the courage to speak His Truth in love about homosexual behavior – even though it isn't politically correct.”

“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,” stated Love in the 2018 letter.

“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.”

In January 2019, Presiding Bishop Curry officially restricted Love’s ministry and last October, a disciplinary panel concluded that Love had violated canon law by opposing the resolution.

The Title IV Hearing Panel, created to focus on issues of ecclesiastical discipline when a member of clergy is accused of misconduct, released a unanimous opinion at the time finding Love guilty.

“Love’s actions in issuing a Pastoral Direction to his clergy that they refrain from performing same-sex marriages violated the Discipline and Worship of the Church as Bishop Love promised in his ordinal vows. His actions, therefore, constitute a breach of Canon IV.3.2(a),” ruled the panel last October.

The panel added that Resolution B012 allowed for bishops and clergy who oppose same-sex marriage to be exempted from blessing such unions, as long as a replacement could be found.

“Importantly, an accommodation is offered to diocesan bishops who oppose same-sex marriage to invite another bishop into the diocese to provide pastoral support for same-sex couples who seek to be able to utilize the rites in their local congregation or worshipping community,” continued the panel.

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