Albany Episcopal Bishop William H. Love has gotten lots of feedback, both pro and con, since releasing his "pastoral direction" on Saturday outlawing the officiating of same-sex weddings in the Episcopal Diocese of Albany.
"I have received hundreds of emails and phone calls from all over the United States as well as Canada, Europe, Central America, and New Zealand," said Love, in a written statement Thursday. "Most have been very encouraging and supportive of the stand I have taken upholding Holy Scripture and the Church's traditional understanding of Christian marriage, which dates back over 2,000 years.
"However, there are also a number of emails that are opposed to the actions I have taken and have expressed the anger and hurt they feel. I can understand and appreciate the variety of views that have been expressed."
Love's directive came after meeting with Episcopal priests from the Albany Diocese in September, following the passage of Resolution BO12 in July at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas. That directive, while not allowing same-sex marriage to become part of the denomination's theology, did make it OK for Episcopal ministers to conduct same-sex weddings. While 93 bishops concurred with the decision, Love was one of eight from around the U.S. who continue to prohibit same-sex weddings in their diocese.
In a letter informing Albany Diocese priests of his decision on Saturday, Love wrote: "Until further notice, the trial rites authorized by Resolution BO12 of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church shall not be used anywhere in the Diocese of Albany by diocesan clergy (canonically resident or licensed), and Diocesan Canon 16 shall be fully complied with by all diocesan clergy and parishes."
In the accompanying letter to priests, Love wrote, "I believe BO12 is misguided, heavily flawed and will ultimately do far more damage than good. As a result, I cannot in good conscience as a bishop in God's holy Church agree to what is being asked by BO12. While I respect the authority of General Convention as an institutional body, my ultimate loyalty as a bishop in God's holy Church is to God."
Love's decision has garnered mixed reviews in the Schenectady area. The Rev. David Paul Culbertson, who arrived at St. Paul's Church on Fairview Avenue in Schenectady in July, says he fully supports the Bishop.
"I wholeheartedly agree with what he had to say in his directive," Culbertson said on Wednesday. "I thought he wrote a wonderful letter giving all the reasons he believes what he believes, and I support him 100 percent."
Culbertson says he can't speak for his entire congregation, but he thinks most of them are in agreement with Love.
"I do think there are those who feel differently, but I think most agree with him, and it's not something we've had a lot of conversation about," said Culbertson, who was serving at a church in central Pennsylvania before heading to Schenectady. "I have let everyone know the way I feel, and people are still coming to church. Nobody is leaving, but I'm sure there are some who feel differently."
Culbertson added that while he and Bishop Love might be in the minority on the issue in the U.S., most church members around the world have a negative reaction to same-sex marriage.
"He may be in the minority around the country, but worldwide most Anglicans and Episcopalians are in complete accordance with the Bishop," said Culbertson. "We're actually part of the majority."
The Rev. Matt Stromberg, of St. George's Episcopal Church in the Stockade, has a different viewpoint.
"I was hoping that he would find a way, despite his strong opposition, to make some sort of concession to clergy who felt otherwise," Stromberg said in a prepared statement. "I felt this was the best way to move forward without further division in our church. The bishop, after much prayer and discernment, has decided that he can not in good conscience follow that path. Obviously, it is his call and not mine or anyone else's in the diocese. I respect his authority as my bishop and will not do anything contrary to his wishes in this regard."
Stromberg, however, says members of St. George's are not in agreement with the Bishop.
"My congregation, almost exclusively, supports the direction of the national church in this manner," he said. "We pride ourselves in being a parish where gay and lesbian Christians feel welcome and included, and where they can practice their faith and grow. Nothing about the Bishop's letter will change that. St. George's will continue to be a welcoming congregation."
Should an Episcopal clergy member perform a same-sex ceremony, Love wrote that "they would be in violation of the Rubrics and Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer regarding marriage. In addition, they would be in violation of Diocesan Canon #16 on marriage (which passed overwhelmingly in 2008 by the vast majority of clergy and lay deputies at the Diocesan Convention). All of these are Title IV offenses for which they can be held accountable. With that said, it is not appropriate for me to speculate about what disciplinary action would be taken."