ALBANY, N.Y. — The Episcopal Church on Friday cleared the way for same-sex marriages in an upstate New York diocese where they had been barred by a bishop who claimed the church had been "hijacked by the "Gay Rights Agenda."
The Rev. William Love now faces possible disciplinary action for his November directive barring same-sex marriages in the Albany-based diocese.
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry wrote Friday that Love's action "may constitute a canonical offense" and referred his case for disciplinary review. While the case is pending, Curry placed restrictions on Love that forbid him from penalizing clergy, laity or worshippers in the diocese for arranging or participating in same-sex marriages.
Church leaders in July overwhelmingly passed a same-sex marriage resolution that gives bishops with theological objections to same-sex marriages the option to have another bishop oversee services. Activists said Love is the only U.S. bishop entirely refusing to comply with that updated resolution, which went into effect Dec. 2.
"(A)s Presiding Bishop I am called upon to take steps to ensure that same-sex marriage in The Episcopal Church is available to all persons to the same extent and under the same conditions in all Dioceses of the Church where same-sex marriage is civilly legal," Curry wrote in his letter.
Love said he would abide by the restrictions against him but would appeal any disciplinary action.
"While I obviously would rather not have had disciplinary actions taken against me, and hope to see it overturned in the near future, I will abide by the restrictions placed on me by the Presiding Bishop during the appeal process," he said in an open letter to the diocese on Friday.
Love wrote in his eight-page letter in November that: "The Episcopal Church and Western Society have been hijacked by the 'Gay Rights Agenda,' which is very well organized, very strategic, very well financed, and very powerful."
He added: "Satan is having a heyday bringing division into the Church over these issues."
Curry said that while he believed in Love's sincerity and good will, the policy was mandatory for all dioceses.
There is no guarantee that Love will be disciplined, but Curry's action immediately takes away Love's ability to discipline clergy who take part in same-sex ceremonies, said Christopher Hayes, a deputy to the general convention that adopted the resolution and chancellor of the Diocese of California.
"The presiding bishop's action should take that fear away," Hayes said.
Eight dioceses had previously refused to comply with an earlier 2015 resolution allowing same-sex marriage in the church.