Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Diocese of Fort Worth's New Tactic: Realign with the State of Confusion

In October 2007, the following words were recorded from a speech by Bishop Jack Iker of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth:

"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."
In November 2007, the Diocesan Convention of Fort Worth passed the necessary amendments to their constitution and canons in preparation for the same stunt as San Joaquin unsuccessfully attempted; to remove an entire diocese from TEC and join another Province. At that convention the Province with which they hoped to join was identified; the Southern Cone.

In January 2008, this message was sent out by Bp. Iker:

...BISHOP STANTON OF DALLAS AND I had a very good meeting yesterday at St. Vincent’s, where we discussed how to make provision for any parishes in this Diocese that may choose to remain in TEC if the Diocesan Convention votes to separate from The Episcopal Church. We were joined by our Canons to the Ordinary, the Presidents of our respective Standing Committees, and the Chancellor of the Diocese of Dallas. You will be hearing more about this in due course...
Apparently, the recently released Canon 32 Guidelines are the result of that meeting with Bp. Stanton.

The proposed wording of this Canon is cause for some confusion, however. I assumed that this would be the process by which a congregation could "apply" to remain in TEC if the Diocese were to vote to abandon this Church at their next convention. Such a process would be problematic in and of itself, as to engage in it would be to validate that the Diocese has the authority to abandon the Church by a majority vote at Convention; an authority it does not have. But the wording of this "Canon 32" creates new problems. For instance, consider this statement from Bp. Iker in the preface:

...The following guidelines (as called for in Canon 32.3) are offered as a way forward in addressing the prospect of a parish seeking to separate from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth...
And then this from the guidelines:

...2.f A Statement by the Vestry and Rector of the affiliation the Parish intends to establish with another ecclesial body (a Province or a Diocese of the Anglican Communion; or a body outside the Anglican Communion)...
Do you see the dilemma? The guidelines are for separation from "the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth," which would mean separation from the Episcopal Church. The parish then must declare what other Province they are aligning with.

Those who object to the plans for schism by Bp. Iker have no desire to separate themselves from "the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth." It is the idea of a "Southern Cone Diocese of Fort Worth" to which they object.

As this new Canon 32 is currently worded, it appears that it applies only to those congregations dreaming of abandoning TEC and joining the Southern Cone. It does not address the situation of those remaining faithful to the Episcopal Church.

I think this new Canon has been introduced intentionally to cause more confusion within Fort Worth. I would caution all faithful Episcopalians to use extreme care before beginning such a process. If you are an Episcopalian, you need not ask anyone permission to remain as an Episcopalian.

Katie Sherrod has some thoughts on this new "Canon 32." Here's part of what she has to say:

...Canon32Land is a place where a bishop who is leading a schismatic movement expresses his concern for "the unity of the church.

It is a place where Episcopal parishes which already are part of The Episcopal Church must apply to "return" to The Episcopal Church and jump through multiple hoops to do so.

A place where "Christian charity" is used as an argument against going to court to protect your property from those who would take it illegally, where taking legal action to protect your property is "rupturing the bonds of affection."

A place where the diocesan leadership says it has "watched with sadness as issues and attitudes have caused deepening differences at all levels in the Anglican Communion" -- as if their issues and attitudes have had nothing to do with the divisions they have done their best to exacerbate for years.

It is a place where parishes loyal to the doctrine and discipline of The Episcopal Church have to appeal to a schismatic bishop in order to stay in TEC, a bishop who gets to be judge, jury, and source of final appeal.

It is a place where the schismatic bishop, who called members of his diocese who disagree with him "demons" in his diocesan convention address, will require 'a year-long non-disparagement clause, whereby the leaders of the Parish and the leaders of the Diocese agree not to disparage one another in public statements, press releases, website announcements and articles, other articles, and sermons' before "releasing" a parish "back" to TEC.

It is a place where a canon developed in the Diocese of Dallas to deal with parishes wanting to leave a diocese of The Episcopal Church has been twisted to apply to parishes who want to stay in The Episcopal Church while the diocesan leadership tries to take the diocese out of The Episcopal Church.

Yes, I know. It makes your head hurt, doesn't it?

Welcome to Canon32Land...
Canon32Land, located in the State of Confusion.

As I have said, I think this confusion is intentional; proceed with great caution.


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