ALBANY: Convention passes canons banning same-gender marriages, blessings

June 9, 2008

The Episcopal Diocese of Albany, meeting June 6 in its 140th annual convention, passed new canons prohibiting same-gender blessings and ordaining and licensing only those clergy who are married to a member of the opposite sex or "celibate and abstinent."

In his address to the convention meeting at Camp of the Woods in Speculator, New York, Albany Bishop William Love said the canons "are consistent with past and current diocesan policy and are not in violation or contradiction" with the Episcopal Church's canons.

The new canons "are not intended to be divisive, although some have come to see them that way," he said. "But rather, they are intended to provide clarity, in a time where there is great confusion within the Episcopal Church as well as the Anglican Communion concerning marriage and sexual relations outside of the confines of marriage between a man and women."

He noted that the canons "apply to everyone, regardless of one’s sexual orientation. There is one standard concerning sexual relations by which we are all called to live. While recognizing that many heterosexual couples have chosen to engage in sexual relations outside of marriage, the Church will not bless such unions."

Love also placed the need to pass the canons in the light of recent executive order issued by the governor of New York state, ordering state agencies to recognize the legality of same-gender marriages of couples coming from other states and Canada where such marriages are legal.

In his address, Love disagreed with those who say that God created some people to be oriented towards people of the same gender "and therefore it is in accordance with His will that they live out their gift of sexuality in a same-sex relationship."

"To the best of my knowledge, there is no scientific study that proves that people are born homosexual," he said. "There is no genetic link that has been discovered. In regard to God creating people homosexual in orientation, Matthew 19 makes a strong case against such an argument. Jesus said, 'Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?" So they are no longer two but one.'"

The canon on blessing same-gender marriages also notes that "properties owned, controlled, managed, or operated by this Diocese, or any Parish of the Diocese, or any legal entity established by the Diocese or a parish of the Diocese, shall not be the site for any service, public or private, for the Celebration or Blessing of a Marriage or any other union except those between one man and one woman."

The new canons, as proposed, and all other proposed convention resolutions, are available here.

-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is Episcopal Life Media correspondent for Episcopal Church governance, structure, and trends, as well as news of the dioceses of Province II. She is based in Neptune, New Jersey, and New York City.