In a theological dispute that ECUSA’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has now personally allowed to become a travesty, the Episcopal Church in the USA (what I call “ECUSA”, because it is a spawn of today’s secular United States, and as such is not qualified to assume the broader mantle of “TEC”, or “The Episcopal Church”), held a formal hearing whose object was to remove the Rt. Rev. William H. Love, Bishop of Albany, from the post to which his diocese long ago elected him.
His sin (sc. offense against the authorities) that requires his deposition? It was his faithfulness to the “doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church (USA)” — exactly as he vowed when he took Episcopal orders, and again when he was consecrated one of that organization’s bishops.
Bishop Love took God at His word when He decreed in Gen. 2:24 that “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” In today’s PC terminology, he denied to same-sex couples their humanly implied right to have their unions receive God’s sanction and blessing in the churches of his Diocese. But the 2018 General Convention passed a Resolution (see below) purporting to make the availability of an “alternate rite” for same-sex couples mandatory in all dioceses. And Bishop Love has steadfastly refused to allow any such rite to be celebrated in any of his parishes.
For such an unforgivable trespass upon General Convention’s claimed divine prerogatives, Bishop Love must now depart his post, according to that apostate group’s current leadership.
To my regular readers: please forgive the barely concealed disgust in those lead-in paragraphs. Your Curmudgeon cannot refrain from it, when it comes to describing the apostasies of the church in which he was raised from birth, and from which its leadership, by those same apostasies, has now forever alienated him. As I have documented abundantly on this site, that leadership continually abuses its ($350 million worth of swaggering) power. Your Curmudgeon was trained always to speak the truth to power. If that truth be seen in some circles as contempt for “ECUSA’s leadership” (an oxymoron in itself), then so be it — let the shoe fit him who wears it.
The (in)validity of the charges brought against Bishop Love turns first upon the status of Resolution B012 passed (after many amendments from the floor, which you may trace at the link) at ECUSA’s 2018 General Convention. That Resolution states at its outset (with my bold emphasis added):
The two liturgies referenced in the Resolution purport to be ceremonies joining or blessing the union of two persons of the same gender in what they each call a “marriage” now recognized ecclesiastically by General Convention, but not by ECUSA’s standard Book of Common Prayer (1979 revision). It was the adoption of their predecessors in the 2015 General Convention that proved to be the final straw that compelled your Curmudgeon to quit his theretofore lifelong membership in ECUSA — because of the ceremonies’ reliance on outright blasphemy against Christ and His Church (as explained in this earlier post). When ECUSA’s assembled bishops blessed ritual blasphemy, it was time for faithful Christians to depart from their company.
Way back in 2012, when General Convention was beginning to consider proposals to provide trial services for the ecclesiastical union of two men or two women (I refuse to use the term “marriage” to describe such things, because it would be a category mistake), I put up a series of carefully researched articles that demonstrated why General Convention lacked the legislative power to do any such thing, without first proposing to amend the Book of Common Prayer. (See Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, Part IV here, and Part V here.)
The reason for its inability is that both the Constitution (Art. X) and the Canons (Canon II.3.1) make the BCP mandatory and normative for all forms of worship in the Episcopal Church (USA). And General Convention — to repeat myself — has not altered the marriage liturgy or rubrics in the BCP, both of which specify that Episcopal marriage is the union of a man and a woman in Holy Matrimony.
Let’s try an analogy or two here in order to understand the magnitude of the problem facing Bishop Love’s Hearing Panel at this point. Suppose General Convention enacted a resolution that purported to authorize, “for trial use, in accordance with Article X of the Constitution and Canon II.3.6” (exactly as it did in the case of 2018 Res. B012), a liturgy for Holy Eucharist to be celebrated by a lay (i.e., non-ordained) person (which it called a “President”). Would the bare reference to its authority under Art. X and Canon II.3.6 suffice to make the measure constitutional, or even canonical (which at bottom has to be the same thing, because the Constitution limits what GC may enact as Canons)?
Or again, suppose General Convention passed with the same references a resolution authorizing the substitution of readings from the Muslim Qur’an in place of those from Holy Scriptures. (I am deliberately choosing from among examples within our lifetime in order to avoid any charge of fantastical fabrication.)
Could either such a measure be upheld as canonical — i.e., within the competency and powers of General Convention as spelled out in ECUSA’s Constitution and Canons? No? Well, why not?
Because in both instances, the proposed “alternatives” would violate the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer. Those rubrics bar anyone but a duly ordained priest or bishop from officiating at Holy Eucharist, and prescribe given readings from the Old and New Testaments for each Sunday in the calendar. If General Convention could change the liturgies of the BCP by passage of a single resolution at any one session, then the rites of the BCP would cease to be the constitutionally mandated forms of Sunday worship, and Article X of ECUSA’s Constitution would lose all of its force and meaning.
And that is why Article X of ECUSA’s Constitution requires that all proposed revisions or additions to the BCP pass a first reading in both Houses at a given General Convention, followed by a formal transmittal of them to the individual dioceses for deliberation in their respective annual conventions, following a passage (by carefully specified majorities) on second reading in each House at the next succeeding General Convention. (For the qualifying details, see my posts on amending / revising the BCP as linked above.)
For reasons of expedience, the backers of 2018 Res. B012 chose to deny that they were proposing any addition or alteration to the Book of Common Prayer. But their proposed “alternative to the rite of marriage in the BCP” does just that, and is contrary to its explicit rubrics concerning marriage, as any reader of English may plainly ascertain for himself. So where does that leave Resolution 2018-B012?
Its supporters next fall back upon the change they made to Canon I.18 in 2015, purporting to change its definition of marriage (then matching the BCP’s rubrics) to one expansive enough to embrace same-sex unions under the “Church’s umbrella.”
To pretend to change the language of the marriage canon, however, is meaningless if one does not change the rites and rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer — which requires, as I remind the reader, two successive General Conventions for its accomplishment.
Admittedly, the Church’s Canons may be changed by resolution duly adopted in just a single session of General Convention — but not (according to Article X) the Book of Common Prayer!Precisely because it takes a longer process to amend ECUSA’s Constitution and BCP than it does to amend its Canons, canon law authorities have uniformly held that the former two documents take precedence over the latter in the case of any conflict. As it states in the last two paragraphs on the last page (p. 482) of Volume I of White & Dykman, Annotated Constitution and Canons (viewable / downloadable at this link), which is every canon lawyer’s bible, in regard to a similar attempt to amend Canon I.7 in 1979:The 1979 Amendment to Canon 7 is now inconsistent with the authority granted by the rubrics of the rite for the Dedication and Consecration of a Church which is part of the 1979 Prayer Book.
The authority granted in the Prayer Book would take precedence over the provisions added to Canon II. 7 at the 1979 General Convention.So those members of General Convention who fancifully imagine they solved the problem by their purported 2015 “amendment” to Canon I.18 delude themselves — from a constitutional standpoint. And if an organization will not respect the terms of its own duly adopted and agreed Constitution, then what is the point of organizing under it in the first place?
From what has been logically demonstrated above, the conclusion logically follows: the prosecution of Bishop Love is neither canonical nor constitutional. It is brought upon baseless charges that have no backing under ECUSA’s Constitution and Canons properly adopted thereunder — which, for the reasons stated, do not include the current version of Canon I.18.
The disgrace that should fall upon those in ECUSA who are pressing the charges against Bishop Love is made manifest by these other incontestable facts:
1. The same General Convention that passed Resolution 2018-B012, under which Bishop Love is being prosecuted, also passed Resolution 2018-D078, which had language showing that it was expressly intended as a change to a specific part of the BCP, as authorized by Art. X, section b of the Constitution — so General Convention knew perfectly well how to signal when it was using its authority under Article X to amend the BCP (quoted with my bold emphasis added):
2. Not only that, but the same General Convention showed that it was fully aware of the Constitutional defects in its previous adoption of church-wide “trial rites” intended to supplement, and not amend, the Book of Common Prayer. (As mentioned, my 2012 series of posts linked above went into those defects in depth.) With Resolution 2018-A063, the Convention passed on first reading a proposed amendment that would grant the following specific authority to the power of a single session acting with the appropriate majorities under Article X of the Constitution, by adding a new subsection (c):
(Emphasis added.) This amendment will not become effective, however, until it passes on a second reading at GC 2021 next year. So it cannot save the illegitimacy of Resolution 2018-B012, and it cannot rescue the prosecution of Bishop Love from its illegality, as well. To the contrary — by passing the proposed Amendment to Article X, General Convention 2018 in effect conceded that it lacked all authority to propose any supplements to the BCP for mandatory use throughout the church without observing the formalities that Article X requires.
3. But this third and final fact is truly stunning: the Rt. Rev. Nicholas Knisely, Bishop of Rhode Island, who is the Chairperson of Bishop Love’s disciplinary Hearing Panel, was also one of the proponents of Resolution 2018-B012 — the very Resolution whose applicability to him Bishop Love is challenging! Why has no one to date noticed the inherent conflict of interest in Bishop Knisely’s appointment to the Hearing Panel?
It is all very complex and interrelated, I know. But I hope I have been clear enough in laying the matter out to show what the chief difficulty is with attempting to try (and convict!) Bishop Love for violating “the discipline and worship” of the Episcopal Church (USA):
As specified in Canon IV.2, “Discipline of the Church shall be found in the Constitution, the Canons and the Rubrics and the Ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer” (italics added). The “worship” of the Church is not specially defined in the canons, but how could it not consist of what is in the Book of Common Prayer?
The current Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer repeatedly provide, as they did when Bishop Love was ordained and consecrated, that a celebration of marriage in the Church is only between a man and a woman, and not between two of any other kinds of persons (see the BCP online here, beginning on page 423).
The rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, as we have seen, take precedence over any canon in the case of a conflict, and the rites in the Book of Common Prayer spell out the mandatory forms of the Church’s worship.
Therefore, it is impossible that, by adhering as he does to the text of the Book of Common Prayer (which does nothing other than incorporate God’s words in Gen. 2:24, as also quoted by Jesus in Mt 19:5), Bishop Love can be said to violate either his vows given upon ordination, or the discipline, or the worship of the Episcopal Church (USA).