The Episcopal Diocese of Albany, meeting June 8-10 in its 139th annual convention, heard Bishop William Love praise the diocese for "the wide variety of ministries being carried out by fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (clergy and laity, from all different theological and churchmanship perspectives)" in the diocese.
"When we are obedient to God's call, and keep our focus on Christ, there is no limit to what the Lord can and will do in and though us," said Love, who was installed as the ninth bishop of Albany in February. "The Holy Spirit is alive and present and doing wonderful and mighty things in and through us."
Yet, he said in his address, that "a spirit of poverty and fear" has come over much of the diocese. "Far too many parishes are in a survival or maintenance mode, due to limited finances and fear. That is not what God wants for us," he said. "Satan knows all too well our human vulnerability when it comes to money and material possessions, and he is using it against us, to limit our effectiveness in serving God and growing the Kingdom."
Love invited the congregations of the diocese to "take an honest look and identify as best we can those things that are a detriment and hindrance to the life and ministry of our parishes and the diocese and then offer them up to our Lord, asking Him to cleanse us and set us free."
At the ordination liturgy, a representative from each parish was invited to "come forward and nail the sins of the Church on a large cross that will be placed on the stage," in Love's words.
Noting the tensions in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, Love said the situation is not unique in church history. "The issues might change, but the attack doesn't," he said. "If the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion are to survive, it is essential that we recognize what Satan is up to, and stop cooperating with his battle plan. I am all too aware of the great diversity in theological views concerning the appropriateness or inappropriateness of homosexual behavior in the Church today. Emotions are raging on both sides of the issue, and as a result, Satan is succeeding in turning what once were friends into enemies of one another."
Love said that each person must decide how to respond to Satan's attack. "As your Bishop and brother in Christ, I am asking each of you to join me as we move forward, and ask, ‘What would Jesus do?' in determining how best to address and deal with the issues before us and those who disagree with us," he said.
The bishop pledged that the diocese would continue to be a "strong conservative voice in the larger Church, upholding the traditional and orthodox teachings of the Church" and will welcome and love all people.
"If the Episcopal Church or the wider Anglican Communion takes any action that would threaten our continued relationship with either, then I will call for a special convention of the diocese to come together as a Diocese to deal with whatever confronts us," Love said. "It is my hope and prayer that there will never be a need to do so."
The diocese gathered at Camp of the Woods Conference Center in Speculator, New York. Delegates passed resolutions to:
- increase the standard clergy stipend schedule by two percent for 2008;
- adopt the diocesan budget and assessment for 2008;
- disassociate the diocese from any participation in or support of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and affirm "the sanctity of human life as a gift of God from conception to natural death;" and
- continue its companion relationship with the Diocese of Down and Dromore, Northern Ireland, for another three years.
Diocese of Western Louisiana Bishop Bruce MacPherson was the preacher at a June 9 ordination service during which five people were ordained to the transitional diaconate.
The Diocese of Albany comprises about 19,700 Episcopalians worshipping in 122 congregations and summer chapels.