Thursday, January 17, 2008

One Glimpse into the Bizarre World of Fort Worth

There are many examples that could be offered as to why life in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is quite different from what Episcopalians might encounter in other places. I think the following story will give you an idea of how "bizarre" things are allowed to become in that Diocese.

The following is part of a letter written to Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold by Dr. Ann Tucker in 2003. I discovered this letter elsewhere on the net, but have reproduced it here. Dr. Tucker describes an incident that occurred on August 10, 2003 at St. Michael Church, Richland Hills, Texas. The parish and the rector, the Rev. Deuel Smith, were at that time a part of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Here is what happened:

...I attended there until Fr. Cooke accepted a call in California. I returned to St. Michael's once again. I went to the 9 AM Holy Eucharist, or a portion of it, there this Sunday, August 10, 2003. It was a day in that church and in my life I shall never forget. The events of that service trouble me greatly.

The service was late in getting underway. Fr. Deuel Smith was at the back of the church. He strode down the center aisle and dramatically threw the staff and flag of the Episcopal Church down on the floor at the foot of the altar and then walked across it. Walking back and forth across the flag he announced a change in the lessons, psalms, music, etc.

He announced that they would not come from the rubric of the Book of Common Prayer. The processional started and again all walked on the flag, even the child acolytes, who of course had no choice. At the reading of the Gospel, again a display was made of four persons walking back and forth across the flag. The sermon was extremely rancorous and dramatic about The Episcopal Church.

He told us he had put black tape on the word Episcopal on the church signs, and a large black cover would be in place the next day on the large curb side sign He informed us we were no longer an Episcopal church and that he was no longer an Episcopal priest and the flag and the word Episcopal would be neither seen nor spoken in that church again. He encouraged all parishioners to wear black ribbons and to sign a statement of withdrawal from the Episcopal Church.

He concluded the statement, walked again on the flag, and resumed the service. He announced that no monies from St. Michael's would ever go to the Episcopal Church, but only to support Bishop Iker. Fr. Smith's wife clapped lightly several times but was not joined in this affirmation. After The Peace Fr. Smith again returned to the lectern to read his formal letter to the congregation and a letter from Bishop Iker. I will include a copy of the letter that Fr. Smith read.

I am sure you already have many copies of Bishop Iker's letter, as I understand he had it be read in all church in the Fort Worth Diocese that same day. Fr. Smith further informed us that he would wear only purple vestments because of the state of his previous church, and that he would no longer call himself an Episcopal priest. Stepping on the flag again he returned to the altar to conclude the Word and begin the Communion...

So, is this the case of a priest who was simply off his meds? It doesn't appear so. He remained the rector of that parish until his retirement. I am told that he received no public rebuke from Bishop Iker. When the Bishop was asked about his response to this ugly incident, I am told that the member was informed that it was none of his business how Bp. Iker chose to discipline his clergy.

Perhaps this is a minor incident within the bigger story. But it is one that seems to me to offer a good glimpse into the bizarre world known as the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.


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