[Episcopal News Service] The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Albany, the last American diocese of the Episcopal Church to ban same-sex marriage, announced on November 1 that the ceremonies can take place in the diocese, bringing the diocese into conformity with the mandate of the General Convention to make the rites of marriage accessible to all couples.
“We are seeking the renewal and reconstruction of our diocesan community,” wrote the standing committee in its announcement, which cited the 79th General Convention Resolution B012 and other church documents to explain the committee’s decision. âWe are committed to working with each other in a spirit of mutual respect amidst ‘theological diversity in matters of human sexuality’.
The status of same-sex marriage in the Diocese of upstate New York has been a point of contention since former Bishop William Love refused to implement resolution B012, the 2018 General Convention’s measure aimed at ensure marriage equality in all dioceses where same-sex marriage is legal. Seven other bishops who, like Love, were theologically opposed to same-sex marriage agreed to end restrictions on ceremonies in their dioceses, through a process under B012 in which another bishop assumes any pastoral oversight that might be necessary for marriage.
Love was the only bishop who refused to implement B012, and a disciplinary panel determined in October 2020 that his refusal violated the church’s canon law and its ordination vows. Love resigned rather than face further disciplinary action and joined the Anglican Church in North America.
Since Love’s resignation, the diocesan standing committee has been the ecclesiastical authority while the search for the next diocesan bishop is ongoing.
In its November 1 announcement, the standing committee – which has new members following elections at the October 23 diocesan convention – declared that “as a body” it is theologically opposed to same-sex marriage. However, in order to comply with B012 during the interim period until the election of the next diocesan bishop, the committee asked clergy considering performing same-sex marriages to consult with Assistant Bishop Michael Smith, whom the committee called in August to serve during the leadership transition.
Smith, previously bishop of the Diocese of North Dakota, was one of eight bishops who refused to allow same-sex couples to marry using trial rites approved in 2015 by the 78th General Convention. In 2018, he agreed to implement B012 in North Dakota by designating pastoral oversight to another bishop. Black-smith retired as diocesan bishop in May 2019.
The Albany Standing Committee, in asking the clergy to “work out on our behalf the details of a letter of agreement for additional episcopal pastoral support,” is working under the provision of B012 for another bishop to oversee same-sex marriages, although this is not the case. immediately clear which bishop would fulfill this role.
The diocese was to vote at its convention of October 23 on the advisability of modifying its canons which still prohibit the clergy from celebrating same-sex marriages (and the use of diocesan property for such marriages) and of restricting ordination to persons who are in heterosexual marriages. or single. However, rather than debate the change, lay and clergy delegates voted 126 to 116 for a procedural amendment that stated that no canonical changes would be made during the online convention. The next time the diocese can consider the resolutions is at its next diocesan congress in person, scheduled for June.
Until then, the guns remain on the books. Some other dioceses – like Dallas – also have similar prohibitions in the books despite their bishops allowing same-sex marriages.
– Egan Millard is associate editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at [email protected]