A Bishop's lonely fight against same sex marriage is over

Bishop William Love of The Episcopal Church (the US branch of the Anglican Communion) has ended his fight against same sex marriage by resigning his role leading the Albany diocese (region).

Love has been found guilty by a church hearing panel of disobeying church rules because of his refusal to allow same sex marriage in his diocese. By resigning as part of an accord reached with Presiding (head) Bishop Michael Curry, Love  has spared the churches he looks after months of legal action that would ensue if he had appealed the verdict.

“After much thought and prayer, recognising that whatever disciplinary action would be offered would not be anything I could in good conscience agree to, I have made the very difficult, but necessary decision to resign as Bishop of Albany, effective February 1, 2021 – the 14th Anniversary of my becoming the Bishop Diocesan,” he said, speaking to the Albany’s 152nd diocesan convention, which was held online. “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.”

The change in church rules is controversial because the task force judging Love’s case justified their guilty verdict on the basis that same sex marriage services had been added as authorised prayerbook services, while Love points out that  prayerbook revision had in fact been voted against at The Episcopal Church’s last General Convention (its church parliament).

Another six conservative bishops have used a clause in the new church rule that requires same sex marriages to be made available everywhere civil law permits to have another bishop oversee such marriages.

“Once that verdict was reached, Love’s departure as Bishop of Albany was probably inevitable,” the Living Church reports. “The resignation eliminates the possibility of a harsher sanction — ‘deposition,’ the term the Church uses for removal from ordained ministry… ”

“The resignation accord was approved by Presiding Bishop [church head] Michael B.Curry and by the Hearing Panel, so there will be no further proceedings.”

Bishop Love would have faced a sentencing hearing on Monday if the agreement about him resigning had not been reached with the hearing panel and the Presiding Bishop.

The structure of The Episcopal Church makes it unlikely that any future Bishop will be appointed who will take a stand against same sex marriage. This is because even if a diocese (region) like Albany which has a majority of conservative churches should vote for a conservative bishop, a majority of votes by the standing committees of all the other Episcopal Church dioceses is required to ratify the appointment.

By contrast each Australian diocese in the Anglican Church can vote to appoint their own bishop.