Last month we commented on an article in the magazine of the Capital Region Pride Center by the partner of a priest formerly in the Diocese of Albany, the Rev. Keith Patterson. Larry Steffler called out the diocese for practicing discrimination in the name of God. One of the actions he took was to write to “twelve ministers” in the diocese asking how they reconciled their preaching with “the policies of discrimination and bigotry against LGBT people” in the DoA.
In this month’s issue of Community he continues his story. Predictably, Larry received no answers to his twelve emails. In spite of the lack of direct response, “they [the clergy] had no problem complaining to their Bishop about my email.” For example, Paul Hartt, the rector of St. Peter’s, Albany, “sent my email to Bishop Love demanding that something be done about me.”
As a result, Bishop Love summoned Larry to a two hour meeting in his office, which Larry weathered with the repeated repetition of the Serenity Prayer. During this personal ordeal, he saw a disconnect between the words and demeanor of his interrogator:
Have you ever dealt with a person whose words did not match what you saw in their eyes and did not match what you saw in their body language? That was my experience with Bishop Love.
The first thing Larry Steffler noticed upon entering the meeting was the presence of another priest, the Rev. Adam Egan from St. Stephens, Delmar. “The bishop did not have the fortitude to meet with me by himself.” While the bishop’s avowed intention was to “minister to” Mr. Steffler, the bishop spent much of the time justifying his policies.
He told me in various ways over the course of the meeting that he loves gay people like he loves all people, but not their lifestyle, but not as clergy in his church, but not as married couples. I thought to myself, if someone tells you they love you, yet there are so many “buts” attached, is it really love or just empty words?
When asked about same-sex marriage, the bishop pointed to wording in the Book of Common Pray that states marriage is between a man and a woman, rather than to Scripture, which has no limiting pronouncements on the matter. When asked if persons were not born gay, the bishop equated being gay to being an alcoholic. A predisposition to either requires an intervention, according to Bishop Love. Adam Egan, the kibutzing priest, returned the last sally. Asked how Jesus would treat LGBT folks, “there was a long silence before Fr. Adam laughed and blurted out that Jesus will keep us guessing.” Guessing is all that Fr. Adam can do, unless he reads Jesus’ own words, which contain no condemnation of homosexuals, only acceptance of all who accept Him.
When released from the bishop’s office, Larry Steffler emailed Bishop Love with his impression of the experience:
I saw a sad man who is closed off from his own emotions and feelings and even a major part of his church, a condescending man who did not have the courage to meet me alone.
All of which begs the question, how can diocesan leaders reconcile the Gospel with bigotry and discrimination against LGBT persons?