After years of internal debate, the Episcopal Church is preparing to put one of its bishops on trial, not because he failed to follow biblical teachings but because he took it seriously.
Bishop William Love, who oversees a diocese in Albany, New York, is facing punishment because he is refusing to allow same-sex weddings in the upstate New York churches he oversees.
With his ecclesial trial scheduled for April 21, Bishop Love (pictured below) tells OneNewsNow that he loves and cares for the congregations that fall under his leadership.
"And because I do genuinely love and care for them," he says, "if I believe something is not appropriate, or in violation of God's will as revealed through Holy Scripture, then I would be doing them a great injustice to say it's okay."
Bishop opposes 'marriage equality'
According to the liberal Episcopal News Service, Bishop Love "flouted" a General Convention resolution on "marriage equality" in 2018.
Calling homosexual behavior "sinful and forbidden," Love was one of eight conservative bishops who refused the trial marriage rites for same-sex couples, the unflattering story reported.
“What I tried to do as best I can, by the grace of God," Love, 62, told the news service last year, "is to be faithful and obedient to that which I believe the Lord has called me to, even though it sometimes can be very difficult, and sometimes it’s not politically correct."
Before that resolution was passed, the bishop says, he could tell himself that part of the Episcopal Church had drifted in one direction but not all of the denomination had done so, including the Diocese of Albany.
Bishop did not wander away
Jeff Walton of the Institute for Religion and Democracy says Love is being a faithful Episcopal priest but it is the denomination that has wandered.
“[Love] said that his commitment as a bishop to scripture, and the faith that he's received and understood through the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer, says that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Walton tells OneNewsNow.
The coming trial comes after years of internal debate in which Love - at times seemingly alone - has fought fellow church leaders as their beliefs drifted leftward.
A resolution from the Diocese of Albany that affirmed biblical marriage dates back to 2008, and the following year he defended his views at a church convention that preached "inclusivity" in the shrinking denomination.
"I am a lifelong Episcopalian, a lifelong Anglican,” Bishop Love said a press conference that summer, The New York Times reported. “It is breaking my heart to see the church destroy itself."
The bishop appeared on he "verge of tears," the Times reported at the time.
What about the Bible?
At the coming trial, Bishop Love says he will be judged by three fellow bishops, a priest, and a lay person. His punishment could mean being kicked out of the Episcopal priesthood.
The bishop’s superiors have offered what they consider a compromise: Step aside if he doesn’t want to officiate but allow another bishop to take his place. Love has refused to do so, Walton says, and says taking such action would suggest he is personally condoning the ceremony as acceptable.
Walton says the controversy might seem to be a disagreement over marriage but it’s really about the authority of scripture.
“Is scripture breathed by God,” Walton asks rhetorically. “Does it have authority in our lives and what are the consequences of that?”
Those are questions, he says, that are not only relevant to the fractured Episcopal Church but to every Christian alive today.