EPISCOPALIANS: Fort Worth Diocese change does not have to end in court

david at virtueonline.org david at virtueonline.org
Wed Jan 14 22:13:39 EST 2009

EPISCOPALIANS: Fort Worth Diocese change does not have to end in court

Special to the Star-Telegram
Jan. 13, 2009

We are created simply to worship God, but it certainly can get complicated.

A recent column claims that confusion reigns in North Texas over the status of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. (See: "Pressing on after parishes vote to leave national church")

But why?

It is still centered in Fort Worth, as it has been since its inception in 1982. It is still led by Bishop Jack Iker, the elected choice of the diocese since 1993. It still holds title to its property in its corporation pursuant to state law.

But here's what has changed. After decades of being systematically attacked for its orthodox biblical viewpoint, the diocese voted overwhelmingly (almost 80 percent to 20 percent) in November to separate from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States (TEC) led by Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori and affiliate with a different province within the Anglican Communion, the umbrella group for both.

Of course, there were some parties who didn't agree.

Instead of respecting the conscience and vote of the majority, they organized themselves into the Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians (the "Steering Committee"), under co-chairs Father Courtland Moore and Walt Cabe, in an attempt to take over the name of the diocese and, with it, our assets.

We wish them no harm and would welcome a peaceful realignment should they so choose.

In fact, anticipating the 2008 vote, the diocese voted in 2007 to adopt a new procedure (Canon 32) for TEC loyalists to leave the diocese amicably. This was done in good faith to avoid lawsuits between Christians, but the handful of churches (out of 55) seeking to remain with TEC have ignored it.

Bishop Iker and other leaders even met with them and worked out an alternative resolution to avoid lawsuits, but they backed out when the presiding bishop disapproved.

So the diocese hasn't changed its name, its polity, its teaching or its leadership - just its provincial membership.

Then why the confusion being created now?

Maybe a definition would be helpful. The word episcopal literally means "led by bishops."

That's it. It doesn't mean people who are controlled by the general convention or the presiding bishop, who clearly don't have authority over the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Reformed Episcopal Church or the Scottish Episcopal Church, to name some.

Any group of Christians led by a bishop is entitled to call itself episcopal, so long as the group is not doing it to take away the name or property of others. Unfortunately, that is the Steering Committee's stated aim. They are not now and cannot be "the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth" as that name is taken, although they are free to otherwise be episcopal in name or practice, and we support their efforts to form a TEC diocese.

But now they claim that the 80 percent majority actually voted to leave the diocese itself, although the resolution is clear: "The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth does hereby immediately enter into membership with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone as a full and equal constituent member of such."

We have left TEC but we are still episcopal (led by a bishop). Our bishop hasn't renounced his ordination vows (which TEC doesn't own) or ceased to be our bishop. He has simply transferred to another jurisdiction of the Anglican Communion, along with the entire diocese.

TEC has recently adopted a new idea, not supported by law or history, that only individuals can leave TEC, not parishes or dioceses.

Since its inception in the 18th century, each diocese has operated autonomously through its bishop, supported by its local congregations. But when TEC realized that its growing cultural relativism was driving people away in droves (averaging 700 a week the last five years) and whole parishes and dioceses were preparing to leave for more orthodox provinces, its communications office just invented a new tactic to try to prevent any loss of income to TEC.

TEC and/or the Steering Committee have already hired lawyers and threatened anyone who stands in the way of what they want - including several specified pieces of real estate - even if they have to file lawsuits against lay people who have served their churches for years.

We regret the disagreement between the overwhelming majority who have expressed their will in the diocesan convention and the minority still loyal to TEC who don't accept the same.

We take this opportunity to make our position clear again: Those parishes wishing to separate from the diocese must stop claiming to be what they are not, and are still welcome to invoke Canon 32 at any time.

Let's resolve these issues without delay so that we can all concentrate on the worship of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the spread of His Gospel, and ministry among His people. 


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