Thinking Anglicans

Diocese of Albany considers same-sex marriages

Updated to include further letter from Bishop Love

The Albany Times-Union reported earlier this week, following extended interviews with Bishop William Love and other members of the Albany diocese: Facing a schism: A bishop, gay marriage and the Episcopal diocese of Albany.

… this past July, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church issued Resolution B012, a compromise aimed at allowing gay couples to marry at their home churches in the eight dissenting dioceses across the country – Albany among them – where gay marriage remained forbidden.  In response, Albany Bishop William Love issued a soberly worded letter calling the resolution “problematic and potentially damaging,” adding, “The vast majority of the clergy and people of the Diocese, to include myself, are greatly troubled by it.”

He called for a special meeting of clergy – scheduled for Thursday at the Christ the King Spiritual Life Center in Greenwich.  What may come of it, no one knows – not clergy, not laypeople, not Love himself, who sat for a two-hour-and-15-minute interview one Friday morning in August. From his standpoint he’s the one now trapped in canonical limbo, “where our diocesan canons state one thing, and the General Convention says something else. And we have to figure out how to deal with that tension.”

But no matter what their role in the church or where they stand on the issue of gay marriage, nearly all of the 19 people who commented for this story by phone or email described a diocese in the thick of complex, ongoing and difficult change. Love was blunt in his own assessment: “We’re in the midst of a major schism.”

Before the meeting yesterday, Leander Harding wrote an article for Covenant, titled Being Disarmed in which he said:

Bishop Bill Love and the clergy of the Diocese of Albany will meet today (Sep. 6) to discuss our response to the actions of the latest General Convention. The choices seem rather straightforward to me. Either we make our peace with serving in a church that endorses same-sex marriage as part of its normative teaching, and we make an accommodation for those parishes in favor of such rites. Or we leave individually or in some corporate sense, as has been the case with Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, San Joaquin, and South Carolina.

In the time I have been in the diocese I have never heard the bishop or any of the leading clergy counsel secession. Anything like that would in my view be an institutional disaster. We are a diocese primarily made up of struggling small-town churches. We are part of the Rust Belt, and the economic turnaround has yet to appear in most of our communities. The major regional export is young people. A healthy dose of bitter controversy would be just the thing to sink our little fleet of ships already struggling to stay afloat.

Overall, I think our diocese is strong in faith and spiritual vitality, but institutionally we are fragile and weak. We don’t have many people, we don’t have much money, our missionary context is a combination of dying rural communities and the see city, which ranks as one of the most secular in the country. The theological convictions of the bishop and a majority of the clergy in the diocese are vastly out of sync with the majority of the Episcopal Church in theology, ethos, and style…

So far there is no substantive report of the meeting, though a press release is promised soon. The Albany Times-Union had only this: Albany Episcopal Diocese discusses resolution on same-sex marriages.

…Albany Bishop William Love, who spoke with The Times Union following the meeting, said the time was used to pray, worship and converse in private.

“Today was a chance for us to come together and for me to be able to hear from the clergy of the diocese and for them to be able to hear from me,” Love said. “It gave us an opportunity to come together as brothers and sisters of Christ and just say, ‘OK, this is what was put before us,’ and to figure out how best to be faithful to the lord and work through these issues.”

Love said the meeting was held in an executive session but a press release on the generalities of the discussion will be put out soon…

Update

Episcopal Café has published the full text of a letter from Bishop Love: Albany clergy meet… no defined path forward yet.

…As I mentioned in my letter of invitation to the clergy, the purpose of the meeting was NOT for me to issue a proclamation at that time on how B012 will be carried out in the Diocese of Albany, but rather for me to share with them some of my thoughts regarding B012; to clarify my understanding of what it does and doesn’t say; and to give me a chance to listen to the thoughts and concerns of the clergy.

Ultimately, as the Bishop, I will make a decision regarding my response to B012 and how it will be dealt with in the Diocese of Albany. That decision will be made thoughtfully and prayerfully and will be openly shared with the whole Diocese prior to December 2 nd .

While, I know there are some who would like me to simply say today what I am going to do, it is not simply a matter of being for or against same-sex marriage. As a result of the complexity of B012, there are a multitude of implications not only for same-sex couples wishing to be married in their home parish, but also for the clergy and parishes involved; for my role and ministry as Bishop; for the Diocese of Albany and its relationship with the wider Anglican Communion and body of Christ.

Whatever decision I and or the rest of the Church make regarding B012, there will be consequences. There is no escaping that. My ultimate desire as your Bishop, is to be faithful and obedient to our Lord Jesus Christ, discerning not my will, but His will in knowing how best to lead the Diocese of Albany in such a way that He will be glorified and His Church and people be blessed. Please keep me and our Diocese in your prayers.

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Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

I find it fascinating that the bishop did not see fit to have any of the laity take part in this discussion, as though the thoughts, opinions, and faith of those in the pews were of no consequence. “The theological convictions of the bishop and a majority of the clergy in the diocese are vastly out of sync with the majority of the Episcopal Church in theology, ethos, and style…” But nobody asked if the laity were in agreement with the bishop and clergy of the diocese or with the majority of the Episcopal Church.

Cynthia Katsarelis
Guest

We know that the LGBTQI laity, and allies, have been livid that they haven’t been able to marry when the rest of the church can. Guess the bishop doesn’t want to hear that again… All that has changed is that is that Bishop Love can no long oppress LGBTQI people in his diocese. Conservative clergy and parishes don’t have to embrace SSM. This is all about the bishop not getting his way.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Based on this quote from the Albany Times-Union article, I think a majority of under-50s would flatly reject what the Bishop believes. “If anything, he said, the Episcopal Church “is doing a great injustice” to gays, affirming their behavior and depriving them of a chance to repent.” It seems that the Bishop simply wants to block all gay people in his diocese from marrying. That’s a remarkable, and remarkably cruel, position. I hope the clergy of his diocese will think twice before agreeing with it. Because if they take that view, then they truly are condemning themselves to shrinking, aging… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

The die is cast on this matter in TEC. When the remaining conservative Bishops retire consents will only be given to those fully behind ss marriage. No exceptions. The question facing Albany and others now is how to handle divided parishes; what to do about diocesan canons; how does bringing in a different bishop affect diocesan assessments, participation of these parishes in a diocese with different plenary views, and so on. It is easy to write things like B012 and less easy to know what they effect on the ground. But to repeat. The problem is temporary. Soon there will… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

Christopher you said: “The die is cast on this matter in TEC. When the remaining conservative Bishops retire consents will only be given to those fully behind ss marriage. No exceptions” The die being cast, as it is also cast for every church in Western Society, is cast because the only place that people in the church are gathered from is a world and society that now takes as read that this issue is settled. And make no mistake, it is. The church is not, and should never be, a refuge from the world. That kind of ecclesiology is a… Read more »

Ian H
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Ian H

What a slightly odd theology of the incarnation.

“In the world but not of it” surely? Did Jesus come into the world to conform to it or the save it from itself? I’d suggest the latter. That doesnt mean everything in the world is opposed to God but it must mean there is some “misalignment”, ie “sin”. What that is being the issue.

The Revd Dr John Bunyan
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The Revd Dr John Bunyan

Whatever one’s views, it is simply not true that “a world and society that now takes as read that this issue is settled”. The world is a little larger than the USA let alone the TEC ! – such an attitude provokes my response. This issue is not settled in much of Africa, for example, or in much of Asia, or in the Pacific (including the Maori and Polynesian until now parts of the New Zealand Church) nor in my own Anglican Church of Australia where same sex marriage is not authorised anywhere in our church, and the Bishops speaking… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

John: fair comment. But that’s why I specified ‘western society’.

John Bunyan
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John Bunyan

Thanks, Andrew, for your calm and courteous response. Our society in Australia is still very largely “western” – though with large and growing Asia and Middle Eastern elements, on this subject the latter (Christian and Muslim) generally conservative, the Asian views probably diverse.

Ian Montgomery
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Ian Montgomery

It was a fruitful gathering. There is nothing wrong with the bishop seeking the mind of his clergy. We were able to speak for ourselves and our ministry. We are also properly enjoined to silence about anything said by another person – this gave us the freedom to speak candidly and from our hearts, minds able freely to lead by the Spirit of God. I agree any decision is temporary. The juggernaut of assimilation and conformity to the mindset of TEC will overwhelm us. BUT we who resist it will continue to do so do so. We are strengthened by… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

Thanks for the note. Bless all of you in Albany. Sunday grace and peace.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Oh, Mr Godsall I can assure you this church is now fully yours to make work! I “got over this” when I retired two years ago, and have watched this trending for decades. Do liberals have trouble winning?

TEC has got everything it has wanted, and is a bit over 500K ASA. The stats in the CofE are even more astonishing.

Go and enjoy!

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

Oh Christopher you are missing my point hugely. Which perhaps suggests you haven’t got over anything. My post was not about TEC or the C of E was it? I don’t really care too much about either of those institutions, both of which are broken in several ways. My post was about western society, which is the only place that the membership of both TEC and the C of E is going to come from. Isn’t it? Once western society has concluded that ss relationships are no longer criminal, and indeed wishes to celebrate ss marriage, then the church or… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

“Do liberals have trouble winning? …….The stats in the CofE are even more astonishing.” Please tell me where ‘liberals’ have won anything in the C of E? Clergy are not allowed to marry their ss partners or even have any kind of intimate relationship with them. Church wardens try to prevent lay ss couples receiving the sacraments of the church. The house of bishops take years to produce any thinking about it and enforce a document called ‘issues in human sexuality’ which deliberately prevents truth and human flourishing. Please tell me what liberals have won? I’d love to hear. And… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

“Do liberals have trouble winning?” in TEC and those hopeful in CofE (did you read “even more”?). If CofE believes TEC’s liberalisation improves public interest in the CofE, that is fool’s gold. TEC is aging and collapsing, and the CofE stats are yet more dramatic. I had assumed you had read the recent stats.

But above all, “keep calm and carry on” — it is a glorious Sunday.

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

Christopher: my question to you about the sis marriage issue was “Please tell me where ‘liberals’ have won anything in the C of E?”
I’d be glad of your answer. (Though as others have noted before, answering questions is not your strength).
And if you put your faith in stats then the schismatic diocese of South Carolina is hardly doing very well.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Selah. I don’t answer questions posed to me purporting to be what I have said, which are inaccurate. Maybe read more carefully? Let me try to help. 1) Liberals rule the day in TEC. 2) Their numbers are as quoted. 3) Donc, if the CofE believes a liberal victory will mean a redressing of horrible numbers, they should look at the canary in the TEC coal mine. Have a good day.

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

Christopher: there is no purporting so far as I can see. What you said was: “TEC has got everything it has wanted, and is a bit over 500K ASA. The stats in the CofE are even more astonishing.” This was, apparently, to do with ‘liberal’ victory. So I repeat my question: what are the liberal victories in the C of E relating to the area of ss marriage? It has often been through that Albany might follow South Carolina in leaving TEC. So it may be helpful to give some related perspective on your comment about TEC stats. The Episcopal… Read more »

CRS
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CRS

Using the legally fraught situation in SC to try to plot a grid for TEC as such is certainly an inventive approach! I’ll give you that much. You are first person who has sought to soften the blow of TEC decline by recourse to 7000 people in lower SC. TEC leadership isn’t in any doubt that they are facing a real crisis. You cannot have ASA at 560K, average age in the 60s, average size 57, baptisms and marriages halved in 15 years, and not know there is a question of viability long term. 50% of dioceses under 4500 ASA.… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

Have a read of Leander Harding. Industrially depressed. I work in Toronto, and lived in CT for twenty years, just across the border…

CRS
Guest
CRS

“We are a diocese primarily made up of struggling small-town churches. We are part of the Rust Belt, and the economic turnaround has yet to appear in most of our communities. The major regional export is young people. A healthy dose of bitter controversy would be just the thing to sink our little fleet of ships already struggling to stay afloat.”

Sorry to lose my ‘you are the first person I know’ status!

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

Once again Christopher you miss the point. Maybe read more carefully? I don’t seek to soften the blow of TEC decline at all. It’s far more serious than that. What I am pointing out is that the theologically conservative diocese of SC (that self refers as Anglican, but of course isn’t) has declined by 33% while the ‘liberal’ and actual Anglican Diocese in the same area has increased by 26% in the same period. That will be instructive to those in Albany wondering what to do.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Mr Godsall, The Diocese of Albany is not in a position to ‘leave’ as a Diocese. It has never sought to do so. It has no legal window to consider such a course of action. What you refer to generously as a liberal ‘diocese’ is TEC in SC, with around 7K people in toto. This is the bellweather for exactly squat, which is why no one has ever looked to TEC in SC as an example of much of anything. Except a sort of tragedy. There is nothing instructive for Albany in SC, unless you mean, what *individual clergy* might… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

“The Diocese of Albany is not in a position to ‘leave’ as a Diocese. It has never sought to do so. It has no legal window to consider such a course of action.”

Christopher: nowhere – absolutely nowhere – do I suggest it is, do I? Once again you ignore the very clear point that a conservative expression of a diocese has shrunk by 33% and a liberal diocese has grown by 26%. It’s that simple. And if that diocese is a tragedy, why is it growing in number whilst Bp Lawrence’s diocese shrinks?

CRS
Guest
CRS

“That will be instructive to those in Albany wondering what to do.”

Wondering to do what?

If you want to persuade people that TEC in SC constituted by 7000 people is somehow apposite, in respect of liberal promise for turning around TEC or the CofE, you be my guest.

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

I’m fascinated by this idea you keep returning to of a liberal promise for the C of E Christoper. What do you base it in? What signs are there?

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

What troubles me even more about Christopher’s evaluation is that he equates “winning” with numbers of parishioners. I always thought Christians “won” by being on the same side of an issue as God…no matter how many or how few others were on that side as well. I note that Jesus had only 12 committed followers in his lifetime (that we know of)…and some of them were pretty weak at times (Peter) and one betrayed him. Does that mean Jesus didn’t “win”?

CRS
Guest
CRS

You are missing AG’s point. The numbers in SC!

CRS
Guest
CRS

AG: You will search in vain for any prediction I have made about the CofE’s eventual liberalisation. What I have said is that if “getting with the culture” is meant to be an antidote for the staggering decline, I doubt it. The great public is happily at peace with the views it holds and does not need to CofE to servilely “get on board”. “The proportion of Brits who describe themselves as ‘belonging to the Church of England’ is at a record low, halving in the last fifteen years, with the sharpest decline among 45 to 54 year olds. The… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

Christopher: I’m afraid I have no idea what you mean by “getting with the culture” or “get on board”. You will need to explain that and what you think the consequences might be. The ‘great public’ as you put it holds a variety of views but as a matter of legal fact it is not a criminal act to engage in same sex marriage or activity and for the bishop of Albany to use such phrases as ‘the Episcopal Church “is doing a great injustice” to gays, affirming their behavior and depriving them of a chance to repent’ is simply… Read more »