Monday, November 12, 2007

The Prince Bishop Responds with Great Pomposity

Last week, Bp. Katharine sent a letter to Bp. Iker of Fort Worth in which she alerted him of some of the possible consequences if he moved forward with his plans to try to take the Diocese of Fort Worth out of the Episcopal Church. Bp. Iker has issued a response:

I have received your letter of November 8th and am rather surprised by your suggestion that I have somehow abandoned the communion of the church and may be subject to ecclesiastical discipline. Such a charge is baseless. I have abandoned nothing, and I have violated no canons...
Bp. Iker has advocated for removing any reference to the Episcopal Church from the Constitutions and Canons of the diocese. In public statements he has said that it is his intention to "realign" the diocese with another Province (the recent FiF address comes to mind as but one example...I'll add a link later). Bp. Iker has met with Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone to plan his break with the Episcopal Church. Those are just a few examples off the top of my head of actions by this bishop that can clearly be identified as "abandonment" of the Church (clearly identified in the Constitution and Canons as referring to "the Episcopal Church") and his ordination vows.

...It is highly inappropriate for you to attempt to interfere in the internal life of this diocese as we prayerfully prepare to gather in Convention. The threatening tone of your open letter makes no attempt to promote reconciliation, mediation, or even dialogue about our profound theological differences. Instead, it appears designed to intimidate our delegates and me, in an attempt to deter us from taking any action that opposes the direction in which you are leading our Church...It grieves me that as the Presiding Bishop you would misuse your office in an attempt to intimidate and manipulate this diocese...
Bp. Katharine has fulfilled her responsibilities as our leader by informing Bp. Iker of the consequences of his actions. That Bp. Iker doesn't like it, or finds it "inappropriate" or "intimidating" has nothing to do with Bp. Katharine's decision to do her duty.

...While I do not wish to meet antagonism with antagonism, I must remind you that 25 years ago this month, the newly formed Diocese of Fort Worth voluntarily voted to enter into union with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. If circumstances warrant it, we can likewise, by voluntary vote, terminate that relationship...
Not according to the Constitutions and Canons, which is part of the "discipline" of this Church, if Bp. Iker wishes to acknowledge that reality or not. There is no process by which a diocese can leave the Episcopal Church. Such an attempt will not be recognized, just as it was not recognized during the Civil War.

...In closing, let me be very clear. While your threats deeply sadden us, they do not frighten us...
It would seem to me that it might be a good idea for Bp. Iker drop the machismo stance and hear the clear message being offered to him from the leadership of TEC. If he continues on the path he is on, he will be deposed, a new standing committee will call for the election of a new bishop, and lawsuits will be filed against those who attempt to retain Episcopal Church property.

This is no threat. This is a promise. And nothing that PB Venables, Dr. Williams or the Primates might do is going to change that response.

So continue to swagger into the future if you must, Bp. Iker. But do note that your continued arrogance is going to become increasingly costly to you, and to those placed under your care, in the months to come.


UPDATE: Episcopal Life provides us with a quote from Bp. Iker made at the recent Forward in Faith meeting:

...In an October 20, 2007 address to the Forward in Faith International Assembly in London, a recording of which is available on the group's website, Iker stated that the three Forward in Faith dioceses -- Fort Worth, San Joaquin, and Quincy -- intend to leave the Episcopal Church by 2009.

"There are three Forward in Faith dioceses in the United States, and the three bishops of those dioceses have come to a common conclusion that we have no future in the Episcopal Church," Iker reported to the London meeting. "Our conventions in those three dioceses, Fort Worth, Quincy, and San Joaquin, will be taking constitutional action to separate officially from TEC. Because it is a constitutional change, it must be passed at two successive annual conventions."

On the recording, Iker continued: "…Our plan is not only to disassociate, then, from the Episcopal Church, but to officially, constitutionally re-affiliate with an existing orthodox province of the communion that does not ordain women to the priesthood. These conversations are very far along but cannot be announced until the province that is considering our appeal has made their final decision public."
What did the bishop say in his letter?
...(I am) surprised by your suggestion that I have somehow abandoned the communion of the church and may be subject to ecclesiastical discipline. Such a charge is baseless. I have abandoned nothing, and I have violated no canons...
I think the bishop needs to ponder his own words before feigning such great indignation in the future.

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