Episcopal Diocese of Albany, NY
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A Return Visit

by Steve Ouellette, Features Editor

PLATTSBURGH -- Originally, the program "Trinity Priests Return Home to Mother Parish" was supposed to be a fun way to reunite former clergy with the current parish at Trinity Episcopal Church.

Due to an uncommon stroke of good timing, however, the program will provide more than nostalgia this weekend.

Returning to visit Plattsburgh will be the Rev. William Love -- who just six days ago was elected as the new bishop of the 19-county Albany Episcopal Diocese.

"This was planned a long time ago ... but maybe God was guiding us a little bit," said the Rev. John Sorensen, with a chuckle. "I think this will probably increase attendance a little."

Love will lead a retreat at the church Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and will also deliver the sermon at the 5 p.m. service and Sunday's two morning (8 and 10 a.m.) services.

"It will be a lot of fun to get to know him a bit, I'm looking forward to it," said Sorensen. "He's a soft-spoken, deeply reflective guy. From everything I've heard, he's a very loving, caring person ... which is probably why he was elected."

Love first came to Plattsburgh in 1982 as an intelligence officer in the Air Force. Here he met his wife, Karen -- piloting KC-135s for the Air Force (she's now a colonel in the Air National Guard) -- and got married in 1983.

The couple attended Trinity Church and when Love left the military in 1986, the church sponsored him into the ministry.

Before leaving the area for a seminary in Wisconsin, however, Love received a master's degree in education from Plattsburgh State, and witnessed the birth of his son, Chris.

"(Plattsburgh) will always hold a very special place in my heart," said the bishop-elect. "It's been a few years since I've been up there and I'm excited about the opportunity to get reacquainted with some old friends and meet some new people."

Love said that becoming a bishop wasn't something he had ever considered -- or desired.

When Bishop Daniel Herzog decided that he would step aside, however, others nudged Love toward the position.

"The lord sometimes has plans that we don't have for ourselves," said Love. "Several people asked me if I was interested, and I said no. Then others asked me if I would consider it ... I said no."

The Rev. Alan McNab, from Lake Placid, kept pushing however, and convinced Love that God wanted him to move upward in the church's hierarchy.

"He was a dear friend, and he wouldn't take no for an answer," said Love of McNab, who died before seeing his friend elected.

Love was one of 11 candidates at a special convention held Saturday in Albany's Cathedral of Saints. It took five hours and four ballots before he emerged with the requisite number of votes.

"It was actually a fairly quick decision," said Sorensen, who admits he supported another candidate.

Love is expected to be approved at the national convention in June and should be consecrated in the fall. According to Episcopal guidelines, Herzog can then remain as Love's superior for up to three years before officially retiring.

Love said he hopes to maintain residence in Lake Luzerne, where he has been the rector at St. Mary's Church for 14 years, easing the transition for his 13-year-old daughter Katie.

"One of the hardest parts is having to step down at St. Mary's," he said. "I feel very blessed to have been part of this community for so long.

"This is exciting and terrifying at the same time. I'm trying to keep from being overwhelmed."

The issue of gay clergy has torn apart the Episcopal Church on some levels since the 2003 ordination of openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

In his written response to questions posed to all 11 candidates, Love left little doubt as to his position on the topic of homosexuality.

"There are NO circumstances in which I would authorize the use of rites for, or any practice of, same-sex blessing, union or marriage in the diocese or anywhere else in the church."

Sorensen, who supported the ordination of Robinson, feels that Love will not push the agenda the way Herzog, a national leader against gay clergy, has.

"I don't know him well, but I don't feel that he will be the activist that our current bishop has been."

Love agreed that will not be his greatest priority when taking over as bishop of Albany.

"Not unlike other Christian bodies, the Episcopal Church is going through difficult times," he said. "I just hope that I can be an instrument of God's healing grace."

Christian healing will actually be the topic of Saturday's retreat, which still has openings.

Love, though, isn't sure what he'll talk about later in his sermon.

"It's still in the making," he admitted. "I haven't had time yet ... it's been a busy week."

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