FT. WORTH: Dissident Episcopal Stayers in Quandary over Their Future

david at virtueonline.org david at virtueonline.org
Wed Jan 14 22:06:38 EST 2009

FT. WORTH: Dissident Episcopal Stayers in Quandary over Their Future 
Bishop Iker Writes letter to PB Jefferts Schori, "Stay out of my Diocese".

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue 

Dissident Episcopal priests and their parishes in the Diocese of Ft. Worth have backed themselves into a corner and they don't know what to do about it.

Their diocese is no longer a constituent member of the Episcopal Church. Because they refuse to recognize their bishop, the Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker who has moved his diocese (by an 80 to 20 vote) to the Province of the Southern Cone, they now say they want their own bishop.

They have also invited Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori into two of their parishes to celebrate the Eucharist in February - an action deemed "uncanonical" by traditionalist bishop Iker.

In a stiff letter written on January 8 to Jefferts Schori, Bishop Iker stated, "We urge you to focus your pastoral ministry within your own province. Please desist from interfering in this matter." 

This is all happening before all the expected lawsuits fly down from 815 Second Avenue in New York with David Booth Beers legal footprints all over them.

In his letter to Jefferts Schori, Bishop Iker cited Canon III.12.3.c of the Canons of General Convention,: "No bishop shall perform Episcopal acts or officiate by preaching, ministering the Sacraments, or holding any public service in a Diocese other than that in which the Bishop is canonically resident, without permission or a license to perform occasional public services from the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in which the Bishop desires to officiate or perform Episcopal acts."

Bishop Iker went on to say that neither he nor the duly elected members of the Standing Committee have issued such an invitation to Jefferts Schori and vigorously objected to her visit.

"We write to urge you not to bring further discord into the Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth. Visiting a special convention with the expressed purpose of creating a rival diocese is an unprecedented and unwarranted invasion of, and meddling in, the internal affairs of the Diocese. You have no canonical authority to do what you propose to do. We ask you to reflect on how you responded to such a visit to your own Province from a fellow primate last year."

Bishop Iker concluded by saying that Jefferts Schori's actions are "profoundly uncanonical" and that those wishing to leave his diocese have not made any use of the Canons enabling them to withdraw from the jurisdictions and relationships to the Diocese. "They, therefore, remain under the constitution and canons."

To date, All Saints in Ft. Worth has failed to implement Canon 32 that calls for a parish-wide vote to determine the collective will of its members. Their priest is stonewalling his people by forbidding them to call the question and vote on whether they want to remain with the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth or retrocede back to TEC, headquartered at 815 Second Avenue, New York. "A parish-wide vote would be welcome," Bishop Iker told VOL via e-mail. 

UNPERTURBED, dissenters have been casting about for a bishop to serve them, but to date have drawn two embarrassing "provisional" bishops from TEC's liberal pool, both of whom they have rejected.

The first was Bishop Sam Hulsey, retired bishop of Northwest Texas who lives in Fort Worth. Apparently, he was rejected as a provisional bishop because (in part) he celebrated at an Integrity Eucharist where Louie Crew, The Episcopal Church's First Sodomite Emeritus, preached. That did not sit well with the remainders.

The second nyet was to Arkansas Bishop Larry Maze because of his repudiation (in 2006) of a moratorium on public same-sex blessing rites. Maze is no lover of orthodoxy. So, it would be a complete contradiction to bring him in as a provisional bishop or any liberal as the stayers are, for the most part orthodox. They can't find a conservative bishop who will go up against Bishop Iker. Really.

The truth, said Suzanne Gill Director of Communications for the Diocese of Ft. Worth, is that Province VII is the most conservative province in TEC. These dissidents are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they pick a liberal flunky courtesy of Jefferts Schori they stand to isolate their own people, and it is doubtful they will find someone orthodox who will take them under their ecclesiastical wing.

The wording used to reject Maze was terse and blunt: "The Executive Committee of the Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians had the privilege to meet with the Rt. Rev. Larry Maze, retired bishop of Arkansas, on Saturday afternoon, January 10, 2009, to discuss the role of provisional bishop. The result of a shared process of discernment was a mutual decision to seek another candidate for provisional bishop."

Gill said, "With these two candidates out of the running that leaves mostly the retired bishops from other Texas dioceses, and perhaps Bishop Moody of Oklahoma. So one wonders: Is any of the retired Texas bishops willing to work with the PB's office on this?"

"Assuming that the TEC canons will be followed, and a bishop must be found from somewhere in the surrounding area, it's quite a tall order to fill. The candidate must be revisionist enough to do it and traditional enough for the flock to accept," she said. "If the diocesan canons will be followed, the problem must be resolved within the next seven days."


The Bishop's letter can be read here: http://tinyurl.com/746v5j

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