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Area cleric to mind new flock as bishop

Paul Post, The Saratogian

LUZERNE -- The Rev. William Love is a bit like Moses, who found reasons not to lead when the opportunity first presented itself.

Then he considered that it was God, not people, asking him to do a job, and that made all the difference.

Love, the pastor at St. Mary's Church in Luzerne, has been elected bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, which covers 19 counties from Pennsylvania to the Canadian border and western New England to Central New York .

'I felt God challenging me in my motivation for saying no,' he said. 'He was saying, 'Have you considered what I might want? If you're obedient, I can work in and through you.' That kind of turned things upside down for me.'

Having served 14 years at Luzerne's tiny parish, he'll soon be administering 130 churches with more than 20,000 parishioners. One of his top priorities, in addition to shepherding the flock, is the development of a new $9.1 million spiritual retreat center in Greenwich , which opened last year at a former 612-acre farm.

The facility replaces former retreats in Cooperstown and Brant Lake , giving Episcopalians a year-round, centrally located site for spiritual renewal and growth. To date, a welcome center, director's residence and summer camp cabins have been built, and plans call for a new adult lodge. Love said the price tag has generated a bit of controversy, but the center's long-term benefits for the church's well-being far outweigh the costs.

'You can see it's a real value for the money that's being spent,' he said.

Love's selection still needs formal approval from national church leaders. Bishop Daniel Herzog announced his retirement plans last fall and called for a vote to determine a successor. Love is expected to be confirmed in September.

Under church rules, however, Herzog has three years to step down, and it's unsure yet if that will come sooner or later.

Love will relinquish his pastorate at St. Mary's but said he hopes to continue living in Luzerne, while his duties will take him throughout the diocese on an almost daily basis.

A former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer, Love described himself as being somewhat conservative theologically.

'I'm conservative in that I uphold the traditional teachings of the church,' he said. 'I remain faithful to Scripture as the revealed, living word of God.'

Love was selected on the fourth ballot during elections held Saturday at the Cathedral of All Saints in Albany . He was one of 11 candidates considered. To gain election, a person must obtain separate majority votes of clergy and lay persons, which totaled about 700 people.

Things started turning in his favor after the second ballot, and elections took more than six hours to complete.

His was one of four names left on the final ballot, and in the end, Love was chosen over a seminary teacher from Kentucky.

'It was open to any priest in good standing within the Anglican community,' he said. 'I felt honored just to be named with those 10 other men. I could have served under any one of them.'

Several people approached Love to consider the bishop's post when nominations first started to be taken, but he said, 'Thank you, no.' Just before the deadline, a retired priest from Lake Placid called and asked him, politely but with a bit more conviction, to consider again.

Heeding the Lord's Prayer, Love said, 'Not my will, but thy will be done.'

He said he hopes to build upon the foundation laid by Herzog and Bishop Suffragan David Bena, who holds the second highest post in the diocese. Love said one of his main goals will be keeping qualified priests in place. Only two or three churches within the diocese have vacancies.

'My first priority is to just remain faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ, listen to his call and be faithful to Holy Scripture,' he said. 'Everything we do will be centered around those things.'

©The Saratogian 2006

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