Albany's Episcopal bishop bans gay unions

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — An Episcopal bishop in upstate New York says the church has been "hijacked by the 'Gay Rights Agenda'" in a directive barring same-sex marriages in his diocese.

The pastoral directive from The Rev. William Love, who is based in Albany, New York, highlights lingering opposition three weeks before a resolution goes into effect setting rules for same-sex marriages in Episcopal churches nationwide. Love's letter sent Saturday said the policy going into effect Dec. 2 "turns upside down over 2000 years of Church teaching" about marriage.

"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," Love wrote in the eight-page letter.

He added: "Satan is having a heyday bringing division into the Church over these issues."

Church leaders in July overwhelmingly passed the same-sex marriage resolution, which gives bishops with theological objections to same-sex marriages the option to have other clergy perform services. Eight dioceses had previously refused to comply with an earlier 2015 resolution allowing same-sex marriage in the church.

Love is the only U.S. bishop refusing to comply with the new resolution, according to The Rev. Susan Russell, an activist for an inclusive church based in the Los Angeles diocese.

"It's sadly sending a message out to the wider world that is not in alignment with where the Episcopal Church stands on the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church,"  she said.

The national office of the Episcopal church had no immediate comment on whether it recognized Love's authority to enforce his directive.

The Times Union reported some parishioners gathered outside St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Albany on Sunday to ceremonially burn Love's letter announcing the directive.

Other congregants said the directive doesn't fit the teachings of the church.

"You come to a church looking for comfort and love and you're told that you're acting in concert with Satan?" said Nadya Lawson, an Albany resident who said she felt welcome at St. Andrew's as a lesbian. "Anybody who doesn't fit in with his vision of how things should be is unsafe because of his letter and his actions."