...Pisses Me Off!
So writes Larry Steffler in the recent issue of Community, a monthly publication of the Pride Center of the Capital Region. Larry is the partner of the Rev. Keith Patterson, who went through the process for holy orders in the Diocese of Albany but had to turn to the Diocese of Vermont for ordination because Bishop Love refused to ordain him.
According to the article, Larry met his partner two years into the process, and just after Bishop Love told him “that he would never be ordained in his diocese unless he stayed in the closet, single and celibate.” Keith was sponsored by Christ Church parish in Hudson, where he had been “an active, well respected member of the parish,” and where the parishioners “loved him.”
After being rejected by Bishop Love, Rev. Keith restarted the ordination process in Vermont, serving in four different churches and traveling back and forth from Albany for over five years. When the rector of Christ Church retired, the vestry voted to offer the position of interim rector to Keith. Bishop Love nixed the offer, citing a lack of experience. According to Larry, “The bishop did not have the guts to be vocal about his own beliefs and be honest about why he turned down Keith for the position,” namely, that he was a gay man in a committed relationship.
“My partner and I had dealt with the repercussions of Bishop Love’s bigotry for over a decade along with many other folks in the diocese,” says the author. He admits that not all parishes in the Diocese of Albany are closed minded. “A few make a strong effort to be inclusive regardless of the bishop and his policies.” But the hurt remained. The thought kept recurring, “Why do most of the members of the Albany Diocese accept the status quo? Are they unaware, homophobic themselves, or just apathetic?”
In an effort to find the answer, Larry sent an email inquiry to twelve clergy of the diocese, in which he asked,
...how you reconcile being a Christian who preaches love and compassion in the Albany Episcopal Diocese and yet do nothing to change your diocese’s stance on LGBT people? Sadly, I have found that the Albany Diocese has a national reputation as closed minded and bigoted towards LGBT people. I hope that your answer to my question has more substance to it than “it says so in the Bible.” If you write back and tell me that your parish is inclusive, I will ask you why you have not protested against Bishop Love’s policies and tried to change them.
Larry Steffler promises to write about the responses (if any) that he receives to his heartfelt question. In the meantime, what can we do to support equality of access to all the sacraments and ministries of the Church in the face of a homophobic ordination policy by the Diocese of Albany? In other words, who will challenge discrimination in the name of God?
The Rev. Keith Patterson