Thursday, January 17, 2008

If Fish Could Think

Someone once said that if fish could think, water would be the last thing they would discover. They are so immersed in it that it is invisible to them.

That's what it's like in this diocese these days. Jack Iker has immersed this place in his delusions for so long they are invisible to most of us.

Normally intelligent people are buying into his delusion that he can "take the diocese" AND the property "out of The Episcopal Church" and just plop us all into the Southern Cone.

They are buying into his demand that those parishes who have no desire to "leave" TEC have to petition him for permission to "leave" the diocese and "return" to TEC.

[It's hard to even WRITE this stuff so that it makes sense.]

They are buying into his demand that a supermajority of congregations -- not just vestries -- have to vote to remain in TEC before he will even consider their request to "leave" the diocese and "return to TEC." Gee, I thought we elected vestries to make decisions for the parish .

Or they are buying into his alternative suggestion -- that he "transfer" these parishes into another diocese -- as if the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth of which they are already a member was his to do with what he wishes.

He said as much in his most recent Ad Clerum:

"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 James Stanton is ALSO buying into the delusion that he and Iker can just move parishes about as they will, with no regard for things such as canons.

Folks, repeat after me:

People can leave parishes. Priests and bishops can leave The Episcopal Church. Parishes can't leave. Dioceses can't leave.

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is a creature of General Convention. General Convention brought it into being and ONLY General Convention can dissolve it.

If you are an Episcopalian today, you will STILL be an Episcopalian in November, EVEN IF diocesan convention passes the proposed canonical changes a second time.

There WILL be an Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth still functioning here no matter what Jack Iker does. If Jack Iker decides to move to the Southern Cone, he may be a bishop in that province, but he won't be a bishop in TEC any more and he won't have authority over TEC properties here.

Just because Jack Iker says he can do this doesn't make it so, no matter how much he and his minions try to dress it up with the appearance of legality.

Just because Jack Iker may truly believe he can do this doesn't mean you have to believe it.

And just because Jack Iker says no one can impose any consequences on him -- or on the clergy who are following him -- for these actions doesn't make it so. There will be consequences.

We are commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength AND with all our mind.

Let's exercise our minds, folks. It's the only way to see through fog of delusion around here.


fr craig said...

Katie and all you FW's - it breaks my heart to see/hear what you're going through. I'm a former lawyer, now priest and all I can say is that I have a deep and abiding faith in the TEC legal representation who will be handling this. TEC is blessed with exceptionally competent people who love it. But, the wheels in this kind of thing grind exceeding slow - they have to, to be sure that all the t's are crossed, etc. Those schismatics will have lawyers to and all of what we are witnessing - in Virginia, fi - is posturing for the ultimate appeals that will come. Deeply frustrating, I know, but if God is good, and s/he is, Iker will not get his way.

texanglican said...

Dear Ms. Sherrod, I truly do not understand how you can be so vehemently opposed to the efforts of Bishops Iker and Stanton to reach an agreement for the peaceful separation of the parishes presently within the dioFW in the event our diocesan convention this year ratifies the decisions of last November. Every effort is being made to allow those parishes steadfastly dedicated to remaining in full communion with PB Schori to do so, without acrimony and litigation, without blackening the name "Christian" in the eyes of the world any further than the present crisis already has. Why is this not a good thing to be encouraged?

If, for example, the people of Trinity Fort Worth or St. Martin's Southlake cannot bear to part from the General Convention of TEC, clearly our diocesan leadership wants to let them go with their property and a blessing. Why are you so adamantly determined to deny that same benefit to the people of St. Vincent's Bedford or St. Laurence Southlake? (Both of these "traditionalist" parishes, I can assure you, are steadfast in their determination to follow our bishop--85%+ of their members would concur with a decision to affiliate with Southern Cone, I have no doubt.) Why are you not doing everything in your power to make this separation respectful, peaceful, and just?

Do you truly believe that the Kingdom of God would be best served by using the secular courts to take away the buildings of these orthodox parishes from the people whose money built them and hand them over to whatever tiny remnant Via Media can cobble together as their "continuing" TEC dioFW, should the 80%+ majority of our diocese depart for the Southern Cone later this year? Does an uncompromising vaunting of Mr. Beer's interpretations of the Constitution and Canons of TEC and the laws of Texas, if it means 80% of the people of our diocese have to leave their property behind for Via Media's tiny remnant to sell off, truly help to win the world for Jesus Christ? Such a court-assisted property seizure for the benefit of the Via Media minority (unlikely as I believe it to be) would deeply impair the on-going ministries of our majority "pro-Iker" parishes, you must admit (St. Vincent's School cannot pack up and move to a high school gym, even if our Sunday worship can!). Would the pugnacious course you seem to advocate truly glorify God or show the degree of charity Christ wishes Christians to have for one another better than an amicable, agreed separation? Ought we not pray that Bishops Iker and Stanton are successful in their negotiations, and that PB Schori will see the wisdom in a friendly parting of the ways rather than extended litigation?

Rev. Randall Foster, St. Vincent's Cathedral, Bedford

munkirench said...

Last Sunday we had the mandatory showing of Bishop Iker’s opening address to the Fort Worth Diocesan convention held in November. Along with the address was a very polished commentary on the “New Religion” of the “General Convention Church”. It appeared to me to be propaganda meant to vilify the Presiding Bishop and her leadership.

Bp. Iker and most of the other Clergy that promote the view that there is a “new religion” are good and faithful individuals. They are entitled to their beliefs and it appears to me that they feel genuinely threatened by the inclusive nature of The Episcopal Church. This does not make any of them bad people; they just share a different vision of the future of the Church. The repeated denial of the existence of a national church which gave approval for the creation of the Diocese of Ft. Worth and to which the Diocese acceded authority seems to be a sort of self-deception meant to justify their actions.

It also appears to me that by being very selective in the clergy he has allowed to practice in the Diocese of Ft. Worth Bp. Iker has established a purity of thought. The result of this purity of thought seems to be a sort of “cult of personality” in which the “true believers” cannot fathom why anyone would disagree with Bp. Iker in his quest to lead us to his vision of “holiness”.

It is time for Bp. Iker to exit the Diocese, but he is not welcome to take anything with him save his miter, crozier and other personal possessions. Given Bp. Iker’s stated position and the actions at the last diocesan convention I believe it is time for the Presiding Bishop to take action so the healing can begin sooner than later. I will miss him for his pastoral gifts, preaching ability and his kind eyes. I hope our new bishop will bring the same abilities to the office of the Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth. I further hope that he or she will be a pastor that will value the gifts all God’s children have to bring and welcome them for who they are.

In knowing Bp. Iker, other clergy, and laypersons that seek to leave the Episcopal Church I feel what is coming is akin to a divorce. At first there will be hurt feelings and emotional outbursts. Then over time some healing will occur and we will come to an uneasy friendship with our Christian brothers and sisters whom we disagreed. After a while longer we may even find a sort of joy and closeness in our shared history.

Pray for the Church.

Harold Parkey
Christ the King Episcopal Church

texanglican said...

But Mr. Parkey, please do not forget that this is a "divorce" where one of the former partners is insisting on keeping 100% of the property and claiming the other should get absolutely nothing at all with which to get on with their lives. Although apparently you are graciously willing to allow our bishop to keep his "miter, crozier and other personal possessions", it seems from your comment that you believe the members of every parish that do not share your vision of faithfulness to TEC's General Convention and its hierarchy must abandon their buildings, furnishings, bank accounts, and--I gather from the conduct of 815 in other places, even their pew Bibles and prayer books--and leave everything behind if they feel they must separate from GenCon in order to serve God as they feel called.

It seems to be your position (i.e., "he is not welcome to take anything with him") that every asset associated with the 80%+ of our parishes that may wish to follow our bishop and other diocesan structures into the Southern Cone later this year will belong to Via Media's new bishop and his 815-loyal " replacement diocese of Fort Worth," no matter how tiny the number of congregants in communion with that replacement organization? If that is not your position, then you should be joining me in supporting Bishops Stanton and Iker in working out an arrangement for an equitable separation later this year (should our diocesan convention ratify the key decisions of last year).

It boggles my mind how Via Media's position can claim any moral high ground over that of our diocesan leadership, who will be quite happy to wish our liberal parishes Godspeed and allow them to keep their property and continue their ministries as they see fit under a bishop loyal to PB Schori et al. Why does Via Media insist on keeping everything the people of the majority, traditionalist parishes have built with their time, talents, and treasure in service to God's Kingdom? Does the Dennis canon trump basic Christian charity? An astonishing thought.

Let us part ways in a decent and respectful manner and not try to destroy one another in the process. Surely we can manage an "amicable divorce." God will not be served by scorched earth.

Rev. Randall Foster, St. Vincent's Cathedral, Bedford

munkirench said...

Dear Fr. Foster,
Continuing with the allegory of a divorce, this is a situation where the parties entered into the relationship with a clearly defined prenuptial agreement of sorts. As a condition of its establishment the Diocese of Fort Worth agreed to the accession clause of the Episcopal Church. Further, the Diocese agreed to hold all property for the benefit of the Episcopal Church. The property of this Diocese, any diocese, is held in common trust for the benefit of all Episcopalians. No parish or diocese holds the property solely for their own good. The buildings, furnishings, bank accounts and any other assets you reference are not kept for the use of the specific parish or diocese but for the common good of the Church. The time, talents, and treasure should have been given without condition and in full knowledge that once the gift was given there are no conditions on it’s use in the service of God’s kingdom.

As a practical matter there is no conflict between the Dennis Cannon and basic Christianity. The vestries of the individual parishes are trustees of the property, which is held for the benefit of the Diocese of Fort Worth. The Diocese of Fort Worth holds the property in trust for the benefit of the Episcopal Church. Any vestry member or convention delegate that votes to take that property out of the Episcopal Church and transfer it to the jurisdiction of another ecclesiastical authority are in breach of their fiduciary duties.

The alleged 80%+ of the parishes of this diocese that may wish to follow Bp. Iker are free to leave to and to seek a means to serve God as they feel called. That does not give them license to engage in what I believe may well be theft. The conditions of the agreement by which the Diocese was formed were clear. The number of congregants remaining is irrelevant given the unambiguous agreement defining the relationship of the Diocese of Fort Worth with the Episcopal Church.

God gave us the free will to make choices and enter into agreements. At times those choices come with costs that must be weighed. While the number of congregants of this specific diocese that are choosing to leave are a majority, they represent a “tiny number of congregants” that are proposing to leave the Episcopal Church. If 80% of those who currently make up the Episcopal Diocese choose to leave I would hope a factor in that decision would be the probable loss of those buildings, furnishings and bank accounts you speak of.

The issue I have with any attempts with an agreement with the Diocese of Dallas is that there is no need for it. The Diocese of Fort Worth will still exist, albeit smaller, and we will continue to go about God’s work, as I hope those that choose to leave will. The difference is that we will remain a part of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and those that have chosen to leave will not.

Once again, as in a divorce where the parties had a well-defined prenuptial agreement, it would be incumbent upon the parties to come to an understanding both can live with. I expect any such agreement between the Episcopal Church and the former members of the Diocese of Fort Worth will be done with Christian charity. In working out a fair and equitable agreement to transfer any property from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth to those who wish to leave we must consider that the property is held in trust for the whole Episcopal Church and not those departing.

Harold Parkey

Brian said...

Mr. Parkey,

You have laid out the issues of property and accession with much clarity. Thank you for doing so. I especially like the comparison of accession to a prenuptial agreement.

There are consequences to our actions, and the people of the diocese of Ft. Worth need to know the consequences of following Bp. Iker's plan to transfer property out of TEC.

As a member of the diocese of Dallas, I do not welcome +Stanton's involvement in +Iker's plan. This plan attempts to give the appearance of legitimacy to this "separation." We in the diocese of Dallas should be lending spiritual support to the loyal Episcopalians in Fort Worth, but we should not be aiding the schismatic acts of +Iker.