Friday, January 18, 2008

Is Bishop Iker Engaged in Realignment or Schism?

Ample evidence for the charges that Bps. Schofield and Duncan have abandoned the Episcopal Church has been made readily available. But it appears that Bp. Iker of Fort Worth has not received such close scrutiny, other than that offered by the members of Fort Worth Via Media. Here's a partial list of actions and statements by Bp. Iker that would seem to be cause for one to question his loyalty to the Episcopal Church. To make it simpler to understand, I'll be using Via Media's USA's Schism Quiz to grade Bp. Iker's performance:

The Schism Quiz
Is it "realignment" or schism?

Schism is a break with the official decision-making processes and governing structures of a church. Use the quiz below to see how far towards schism a particular diocese has moved. Each "yes" answer is worth 10 points.

1. Has the bishop and/or diocesan leadership altered their governing documents to deny the authority of General Convention or the governing documents of the Episcopal Church?

The following change to the Constitution of Fort Worth was approved in November, 2007:

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, consisting of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces and regional churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the
historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Old and New Testaments and expressed in the Book of Common Prayer.
This change removed all references to the Episcopal Church from their Constitution.

2. Has the bishop defied jurisdictional authority and/or boundaries or recognized clergy deposed by another bishop?

From an August 2007 statement:

A decision by Bishop Peter Lee of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to declare 21 priests to have “abandoned the communion of this Church,” will not have force in much of the Anglican Communion or in a number of Episcopal dioceses.

The Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, the Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, the. Rt. Rev. Jack Iker of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Rt. Rev. John David Schofield of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin have issued the following statement...

...“Because these Virginia priests are priests in good standing in the Provinces of Uganda and Nigeria, respectively, the deposition is, in fact, of no effect. Each is recognized as a priest in good standing of the Anglican Communion. Therefore we welcome them to exercise their sacerdotal ministries in our Dioceses"...

3. Has the bishop participated in the creation of a polity outside the Episcopal Church's structures, which affiliates or plants congregations physically within the bounds of the Episcopal Church, but independent of the Episcopal Church?

From a report regarding the August 2007 consecrations of Bill Atwood and Bill Murdoch as Bishops to serve in the United States under the jurisdiction of Kenya:

...In addition to this assembly of the major players in the Global South, the following US bishops were present: Bishop Robert Duncan (Pittsburgh), Jack Iker (Fort Worth), Martyn Minns (CANA) and Chuck Murphy (AMiA), plus Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti (Recife) and Bishop Donald Harvey (Canada)...
4. Does the diocese, under the leadership of the bishop, withhold financial support from the Episcopal Church and/or divert those funds to another entity?

From a July 2006 letter from George J. Komechak, President of Fort Worth Via Media, to Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold:

...In the diocesan budget for 2006, funding for Domestic and Foreign Mission was reduced from $30,000 in 2005 to zero, and funding for the Anglican Communion Network was increased from $20,000 to $50,000. Our diocese refuses to meet its requested financial commitment [request is 21 percent of diocesan income] to The Episcopal Church. The Diocese of Fort Worth pays only 3.2%. That amount of money is paid only because a few moderate parishes insist that their portions be forwarded to the national church. Bishop Iker requires that the vestries of these parishes renew that request each year...
5. Has the bishop stopped participating in the councils and governing bodies of the Episcopal Church, and/or has the bishop encouraged other clergy to do the same?

To my knowledge, Bp. Iker has refused to fully participate in any of the House of Bishops meetings since June of 2006. He has been absent from most of them, and only present for portions of those which he did attend. He refuses to share Holy Communion with members of the House of Bishops.

6. Has the bishop signed or supported agreements negotiated directly with other denominations without consulting the offices established by the whole Episcopal Church to coordinate such conversations?

Since the Common Cause Partnership includes various groups who will most likely never be in communion with Canterbury, such as the Reformed Episcopal Church, I think this hybrid would qualify as a new "denomination." Here is part of the September 2007 statement from the Common Cause Partnership:

...In order to achieve greater unity and strengthen our partnership in the Gospel, we the undersigned commit ourselves to the Common Cause Partnership as set forth in the Articles of the Partnership (see Appendix 1).

We declare clearly that we are taking this as a first step in the formation of the “separate ecclesiastical structure” in North America called for at Kigali in September, 2006...
Since we know that Bp. Iker attended this meeting, one would assume that he also signed the statement.

7. Has the bishop continued to provide services of the episcopacy to individuals who have withdrawn from the Episcopal Church?

See #3.

8. Has the bishop created and/or supported mission and outreach agencies to directly compete with those of the Episcopal Church?

Fort Worth is a partner with Anglican Global Missions, identified as "A Network Initiative". This partnership is linked to a diocesan program, World Missions, which sponsors projects in Malawi and Mexico. The "outreach" of the Diocese is summarized here:

...Diocesan outreach programs include mission work in Mexico and the African nation of Malawi. Locally, our churches have helped to build seven Habitat for Humanity homes in the last six years. Clergy-led ministries are provided to students at four local colleges and universities...
I could find no references to suggest support for Episcopal Relief and Development or other Episcopal Church sponsored outreach efforts.

9. Does the bishop refuse to allow all clergy in good standing within the Episcopal Church to function within the diocese or parish?

Ordained women priests and bishops are not permitted to function sacerdotally in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

10. Has the bishop created a "chilly climate" for, or threatened clergy loyal to the Episcopal church?

Considering all of the above, I'll let you come to your own conclusions on that one. Speaking personally, I would say that a "chilly climate" would be a huge understatement. I could never in good conscience place myself under the authority of this Bishop. If other members of the clergy would like to offer their personal testimonies regarding their experiences of the Diocese of Fort Worth, we'd appreciate hearing them.

0 - Playing by the rules
10-20 - Opened the door out of The Episcopal Church
30-50 - On the way out
60-80 - Across the threshold
90-100 - Episcopal Church? What Episcopal Church?

Congratulations, Bp. Iker. By my reckoning, you scored 100%!

("Schism Quiz" - copyright 2005 Via Media USA. Permission to reprint granted freely as long as this copyright line is included.)


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