Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pittsburgh Conservatives Disagree on Tactics

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette is reporting that twelve rectors and priests, including the diocese's most tenured rector, have written Bp. Bob Duncan to tell him that they "disapprove of his effort to remove the diocese from the Episcopal Church and will, instead, remain with the denomination."

[You can read the Episcopal News Service story on the twelve priests here.]

They sent a "signed, one-paragraph letter yesterday to the diocese's 66 churches saying that while they supported the 'reformation of the Episcopal Church ... we have determined to remain within, and not realign out of' it."

Everyone is making much of this disagreement among conservatives, but I think it is important to note this key quote:

"We are unified [with Bishop Duncan] on a vision,' said Father Geisler, president of the diocese's clergy association. 'We are not unified on a tactic."

The Post Gazette reports that "The group does not support ordination of openly gay clergy or conducting same-sex blessings, the so-called 'innovations' at the forefront of denominational disputes since 2003. However, members said they do not believe it is necessary to leave the Episcopal Church, the American arm of the worldwide Anglican Communion, to make that point.

"'The bishop has made a mistake,' said Father Quinn, with 25 years of service the longest-tenured priest in the diocese. 'He seems to be going in a different direction than we are.'"

The paper reminded its readers that the presiding bishop had warned Duncan earlier this month that he could be removed from office for his efforts to leave The Episcopal Church and take its property.

"The uncertainty of the diocese's future -- and its own parishes' property, congregations, pensions and missions -- had led the group of priests to begin meeting monthly last fall.

"Some members of the group said the prospect of protracted court cases evolving from the diocese's realignment effort played a role in their decision to disagree with Bishop Duncan. In this year's budget, the diocese set aside several hundred thousand dollars for legal issues.

"Father Geisler's 123-year-old church has an endowment of more than $500,000; balance that, he said, against spending it all in a single year on legal fees.

The newspaper pointed out that the letter's impact will be much bigger than the number of priests who signed it, because of Duncan's position as moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, and because of the widespread perception that conservative Pittsburgh Episcopalians are in lockstep with the bishop.

"Father Geisler acknowledged that the group's public repudiation could create a backlash.

"'Some will think of us as traitors," he said. "But each priest is saying that for the good of our parish this doesn't seem to be where we should be going.'

"The Rev. James Simons, rector of St. Michael's of the Valley in Ligonier, said his decision to sign the letter was a 'stewardship issue.'

"His church's outreach programs include a pension for a Ugandan bishop and support for a school in Guatemala City and a medical missionary in Bombay, India.

"'I don't think it's good stewardship to use that money for legal fees,' he said.

"'When all the dust is settled, the real issues are how we're going to live beside each other once this is settled. The big picture is there's an irretrievable breakdown in the Episcopal Church," said the Rev. Jonathan Millard, rector of the Church of the Ascension in Oakland. 'Some sort of split is inevitable.'"

While I applaud the priests' decision to remain at the table in The Episcopal Church, one hopes they will discard other of Duncan's tactics, such as the use of rhetoric that describes The Episcopal Church as a pagan church, as a church that has abandoned scripture, and its faithful members as people who "do not love Jesus."

As the Rev. Scott Hankins has pointed out, "If reconciliation among very diverse groups means sweeping the dirt under the carpet so that we can 'just get along' - well, that's a step back. But if we can keep speaking our most profound convictions and remain at the same table - well, that's a mutual step into a new place."

I hope this is a step into a new place for these priests in Pittsburgh.


Signees of the open letter to the Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese are:
• The Rev. Nancy Chalfant-Walker, priest in charge of St. Stephen's, Wilkinsburg
• The Rev. Jay Geisler, rector of St. Stephen's, McKeesport
• The Rev. Daniel Hall, priest associate, assigned to First Lutheran Church
• The Rev. Norman Koehler, priest, chaplain at Presbyterian Senior Care, Oakmont
• The Rev. Jeffrey Murph, rector of St. Thomas', Oakmont
• The Rev. Scott Quinn, rector of Church of the Nativity, Crafton
• The Rev. Bruce Robison, rector of St. Andrews', Highland Park
• The Rev. James Shoucair, rector of Christ Church, North Hills
• The Rev. James Simons, St. Michael's of the Valley, Ligonier
• The Rev. Stephen Smalley, rector of St. Barnabas', Brackenridge
• The Rev. Philip Wainwright, rector of St. Peter's, Brentwood
• The Rev. Don Youse, priest in charge, Emmanuel, North Side

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Search Process

We are living in a strange time.

The leadership of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is claiming they can “take the diocese” out of The Episcopal Church. They claim our diocesan convention can vote to leave for the Province of the Southern Cone and take all of us – and the property – with them.

They are portraying the time between the first vote on this action and the second vote as a “time of discernment” for parishes, although this mostly consists of a team of spokesmen for the diocese visiting each parish to “make their case.”

As strange as this time is for most parishes, it’s even stranger for those parishes that are in or about to be in a search process. Imagine those conversations – “We’d like you to consider applying for rector of our parish, even though our bishop tells us we won’t be in The Episcopal Church by this time next year.”

Makes for a short list of candidates, don’t you imagine?

But then that’s normal for this diocese. Our bishop accepts no newly ordained clergy except from Nashotah House. He accepts no female priests, of course. He accepts no male priests who have been ordained by bishops who are women. He accepts no openly gay priests who will not sign a pledge of celibacy. He accepts no priests who support the ordination of gay men who are in committed relationships. He accepts no priests who support or who have performed the blessing of a same sex union. He will accept male priests who support the ordination of women as long as they agree not to make a big deal about it [assuming they were ordained by a male bishop].

Search committees are typically given a list from the bishop’s office and are left with the impression that they can choose only from that list.

But our diocesan canons give search committees and vestries more power in this process than they are led to believe.

It DOES take a vestry and a search committee who knows what the canons actually say, not just what the bishop says they say. Which is:

Sec. 33.1 Upon the organization of a new Parish or in the event of a vacancy in the Rectorship of an existing Parish, the Wardens shall give notice within three (3) days to the Bishop of the Diocese of such vacancy. It shall be the duty of the Bishop or his deputy to meet with the Vestry of the vacant Parish before the Vestry takes whatever measures may be necessary to continue regular services. If the Vestry of the Parish shall for 30 days have failed to make provision for the services it shall be the duty of the Bishop to take whatever measures may be necessary to continue regular services.

NOTE: The bishop puts an interim in the parish ONLY IF THE VESTRY hasn't taken action to do so within 30 days. You CAN pick your own interims, folks.

Sec. 33.2 In the case of a vacancy in the Rectorship of a Parish the Bishop or his deputy shall meet with the Vestry of a vacant Parish to discuss the calling process. The Bishop shall suggest the names of one (1) or more priests to fill the vacancy. The Vestry shall, in the calling process, inform the Bishop of other priests that it would like to consider for the vacant post.

Note: You don't have to stick with the bishop's list. You CAN add candidates of your own.

Sec. 33.3 Following notice that the Bishop has no objection or if after thirty (30) days the Bishop has made no objection to any Vestry nominee(s), the Vestry may proceed, either from the Bishop's suggestions or from the list submitted to the Bishop.
Sec. 33.4 If the Bishop objects to any priest nominated by the Vestry, he must do so in writing within 30 days, giving his reasons therefor. Before proceeding to an election, the Vestry shall consider such objection at a meeting called and held for that purpose.

NOTE: The Vestry has to CONSIDER the bishop's objections, not automatically cave in to them. [See below]

Sec. 33.5 A Vestry, having decided upon the person whom they wish to call as Rector of the Parish, sends the name of that person to the Bishop, who is given not more than thirty (30) days in which to communicate with the Vestry in the matter. At the end of thirty (30) days, or as soon as a communication has been received from the Bishop, the Vestry may proceed to an election. Written notice of such election shall then be sent to the Bishop, signed by the Wardens confirming a majority of the entire Vestry. If the Bishop be satisfied that the person so elected is a duly qualified Priest, the Vestry may then, but not until then, proceed to issue a call to such Priest to become Rector of the Parish.

Note: The only requirement the bishop can impose is determining that the person so elected "is a duly qualified priest," NOT that the person agrees with the bishop and NOT that the person graduated from a certain seminary.

Sec. 33.6 Once the Priest has accepted the call, the Bishop shall notify the Secretary of the Diocesan Convention and the Registrar of the Diocese both of whom shall record it. Such record shall be sufficient evidence of the relation between the new Rector and his Parish.
Revised October, 1991

The key is a vestry/search committee with knowledge of the canons and the fortitude to stand up to the bishop's pressure to call a priest of his choosing. It also is worth noting that any parish should look very closely at calling a priest who is willing to break this solemn vow:

I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.

Here is some commentary from White and Dykeman's Annotated Constitution and Canons:

" White & Dykeman in their commentary on the Church Canons argue a bishop has the right to reject the election of a rector1 due to the “duly qualified Priest” phrase of Title III, Canon 9. In their opinion “qualified” must “...receive a more comprehensive meaning than merely that he has been ordained; it must be taken to mean that the bishop is to be satisfied of the general fitness of the Minister elected, both morally and intellectually, before he can be compelled to transmit the certificate to the Wardens, as to the election of such Minister, to the Secretary of the Convention for record, and thus complete such election to a Parish under his jurisdiction."2
White & Dykeman do not argue a bishop has an unqualified right to reject the election of a rector, for any rejection must be based on a determination the priest’s general moral or intellectual fitness is deficient. Rejection for any other reason appears to be a violation of the Canons of the Church, which would make a bishop liable for presentment under the terms of Title IV Canon 1 Sec 1(e)3 Canon 3(C) and Sec 23 (a)(2).4

As generally used the phrase “general fitness” means “characteristic of the majority of those involved; prevalent; being the usual the case; true or applicable in most instances of those eligible” in terms of moral character and intellectual achievement and capability. More succinctly the phrase points to some moral or intellectual characteristic that sets a priest apart from the norm.

Canon Law gives no guidance as to specific actions or characteristics that would justify such a determination; however, church practice as in the case of Bishop Dixon’s rejection of the election of Fr. Edwards to be rector of St. John’s Parish in Accokeek is instructive. In rejecting Fr. Edwards’ election the Bishop cited “derogatory remarks...made about the Episcopal Church, including that ‘the machinery of the Church is hell-bound,’ and...teaching the importance of ‘gumming up the works of the Church.’ Opinion at 10; 172 F. Supp. 2d at 708. Furthermore, Father Edwards had advised her that his obedience to her, ‘as a woman bishop, would be limited;..he would not guarantee that he would obey her instructions regarding her visitation to Christ Church...and he would not guarantee her that he would not attempt to lead Christ Church out of the Church or attempt to take Church property as part of that effort.”5
Thus it can reasonably be concluded actions indicating unfitness must go quite a bit beyond the slightly strange, unusual or unconventional. Indeed it appears they must be such as to clearly and unequivocally set the priest apart from the norm.

It is also noteworthy as to church practice that Bp Dixon conveyed her decision and the reasons for it in writing to the vestry. The clear implication is that while the Bishop, assuming White & Dykeman are correct, has the right to reject the election of a rector, the Bishop is nonetheless accountable for that decision within the joint discernment process between a Diocesan Bishop and a parish vestry in selecting a new rector."

1 Canon Law commentators are not unanimous in the opinion that a Bishop has the right to reject the election of a rector see Stevick, Daniel B.; Canon Law: A Handbook (New York; Seabury Press, 1965) 193.
2 White & Dykeman, Church Law.
CANON 1: Of Offenses for Which Bishops, Priests, or Deacons May Be Presented and Tried, and Of Inhibitions
4 TITLE IV CANON 3: Of Presentments
Sec. 23 (a) A Bishop may be charged with any one or more of the Offenses other than Offenses specified in Canon IV.3.21(c) by
(1) three Bishops; or
(2) ten or more Priests, Deacons, or adult communicants of this Church in good standing, of whom at least two shall be Priests. One Priest and not less than six Lay Persons shall be of the Diocese of which the Respondent is canonically resident....
5 UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT, Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt. Peter J. Messitte, District Judge. (CA-01-1838-PJM)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"A new day built on old promises"

Along with many Episcopalians in Fort Worth, I watched the live video stream from the "Moving Forward, Welcoming All," gathering of the Remain Episcopal group in the continuing Diocese of San Joaquin.

It was full of hope, and even better, information.

It began with a Eucharist, of course, this being a churchful of 350 Episcopalians. [And if any of those so quick to claim The Episcopal Church has abandoned Scripture were watching, I wish they'd please point out to me at what point in this service that happened.]

The turnout was especially notable, given the terrible cold and wet weather that part of California was experiencing. But as the day progressed, the sun came out, filling the church with light.

The celebrant and preacher was the Rev. Canon Moore of Seattle, who was appointed by the presiding bishop as an "interim pastoral presence" in the diocese. Moore told those present that they are called to walk the road of Christ, act in love and humility and yet with discipline. He said it was not their job to be judgmental.

He spoke of how the early disciples were "forced by circumstance to move out on their own initiative, to incarnate the Gospel in all its beauty, power and grace."

He gave them the charge to "learn the confidence of our gifts, the power of our faith."

After the service, Cindy Smith of Remain Episcopal said that the group has received generous financial, liturgical, and emotional support from all over the country. They also have heard from clergy from all over who are offering to come serve congregations on an interim or permanent basis.

Smith said Remain Episcopal was planning "for the day we cease to exist, a day the renewed leadership of the Fresno-based Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin can once again continue the reconciliation, work and mission of the church."

She cautioned that patience would be required as "communities of faith" continued to form and grow and the future of the diocese takes shape.

Nancy Key, co-founder of Remain Episcopal, also spoke. Among other things, she said, "Today represents the healing between the Diocese of San Joaquin and the national Episcopal Church."

Then Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, spoke. She began by saying, "You are the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin."

She spoke to them about making order out of the complexities and seeming chaos facing them.

She listed at least five different groups of Episcopalians who would be building the reconstituted diocese:
1. Some who are willing to litigate to keep church properties
2. Some who are not willing to litigate to keep church properties.
3. Some who voted to leave TEC but who have reconsidered and are willing to stay.
4. Some who are still on the fence.
5. Some who simply want things to get back to normal "so they can worship without all this disagreement."

Anderson emphasized that "any way forward must be Christ-centered. We are the people of God. That is our reality. The eye on the prize here is moving toward reconciliation."

She told them "It's not going to be real easy. You have people to reach out to, a lot of trust building to do."

She told them it's a new day in San Joaquin, but it's "a new day built on old promises," the promises of our Baptismal Covenant -- to seek and serve Christ in all persons.

"We have to ask ourselves, 'How would I like to be treated in this kind of situation?' Everyone has to swallow their pride and reach out to those you do not trust and who may have hurt you or been hurt by you in the past," Anderson said.

"This process of reconciliation will take courage. People will need to truly reach out to each other in the name of Christ. I encourage those present to reach out to others in the diocese who are struggling with their decision. Be open and encouraging, including everyone.

"Some people will need to let go of newly-found power. Some people will need to let go to long-held power," she said.

"Safe place for conversations and safe ways of talking together will need to be developed. Everyone must be committed to this work."

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori also addressed the group, via letter and videotape.

The letter, read by Canon Moore, said, "We expect to work next to clarify the status of members of the clergy in the Diocese of San Joaquin, and the status of any former diocesan leaders who wish to remain in The Episcopal Church."

Jefferts Schori said that financial and other support will be coming.

"We are already working to ensure continued salary for mission clergy who were recently removed from their posts by John-David Schofield. We will similarly work to continue diocesan functions such as ensuring insurance for congregations and clergy.

"Once the ultimate status of John-David Schofield is adjudicated by the House of Bishops, and if he is deposed, I will seek to gather the remaining members of the Diocese in a special convention to elect new leadership and make provision for an interim bishop. I will work with diocesan leadership to clarify ownership of the personal and real assets of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin," the letter said.

Episcopal News Service reported, "On January 11, Jefferts Schori inhibited Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin from continuing to serve after a Title IV review committee determined he had abandoned the communion. He has the options of recanting his position, renouncing his orders or declaring that the Title IV assertions are false.

"If a majority of bishops concur with the Title IV review committee's findings during the March 7-13 House of Bishops meeting at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas, the Presiding Bishop will depose Schofield and declare the episcopate of the San Joaquin diocese vacant.

"While acknowledging that there may be "bumps in the road" Jefferts Schori declared that TEC seeks 'the continued functioning, new growth, and renewed flourishing of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of San Joaquin.'"

Other national and provincial leaders were also present. Executive Council members Dottie Fuller of the Diocese of El Camino Real and Hisako Beasley of Seattle were present, as were the Rev. Charles Ramsden and Holly McAlpen of the Church Insurance Corp. to field questions. Michael O. Glass, an attorney who represents several local congregations and individuals was a featured speaker during an afternoon Q & A session.

Province VIII president, the Rec. Dr. Jack Eastwood and provincial coordinator Patricia Erskine were also present to offer information and help.

Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on January 25 wrote to inform each member of the standing committee elected at the last convention of the Fresno-based Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin that she does not recognize them as the standing committee of that diocese. She also assured continuing Episcopalians of financial and legal support in reconstituting the diocese.

Jefferts Schori, in a letter delivered January 26 to the committee's eight members, cited their unanimous vote to disaffiliate with The Episcopal Church (TEC) and their "attempt to organize as the standing committee of an entity that identifies itself as an Anglican Diocese of the Province of the Southern Cone," actions which violate church canons.

"In light of your recent actions, I find that you have been and are unable to well and faithfully fulfill your duties as members of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin under Canon I.17.8," she wrote. Canon I.17.8 provides that anyone accepting an office in the church "shall well and faithfully perform the duties of that office in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of this Church and of the Diocese in which the office is being exercised."

"Accordingly, with this letter I inform you that I do not recognize you as the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin," she wrote. "I regret the decisions that you have made to attempt to take the Diocese out of The Episcopal Church and the necessary consequences of these actions."

The letter was delivered by overnight mail the day of "Moving Forward, Welcoming All" a gathering of faithful Episcopalians at the Church of the Saviour in Hanford, about 30 miles south of Fresno.

These folks are moving forward in the light of Christ toward reconciliation, while holding church leaders responsible for the decisions they have made and the trust they have betrayed.

There ARE consequences to choices.

Friday, January 25, 2008

What really happened in Los Angeles

Here's what really happened at that Eucharist at the pro-cathedral in Los Angeles -- only Christians took communion. Some of those Christians were Indian, and they wore traditional Indian clothing. Bp. Jon Bruno did NOT apologize for Christians evangelizing Hindu people. The Indian Rite Mass is not some pagan ritual. It's from the Church of South India, which is a member of the Anglican Communion.

So can we all calm down now?

Here's what started all the fuss online [and among our diocesan leadership]:

The LA Times printed a story on January 20 reporting an Episcopal service in which Hindus and Christians took Communion together. A day later, the paper printed a correction, explaining that only Christians took Communion, and that some of those Christians were dressed in traditional Indian dress. The story with the correction inserted is here.

I knew as soon as I saw a reference to the story posted on the House of Bishops/House of Deputies list that the people in our diocese who live to trash The Episcopal Church would be ALL OVER that story.

Well, sure enough, here comes the Ad Clerum from the bishop's office:

From: Suzanne Gill

Sent: Thursday, January 24, 2008 4:59 PM

Cc: Bishop Iker

Subject: Ad Clerum: Los Angeles Episcopal-Hindu service

To all clergy and convention delegates:

On Jan. 3 the Diocese of Los Angeles Web site announced an upcoming “Indian Rite Mass” to be held Saturday, Jan. 19, at St. John's Cathedral. “Spiritual leaders of the Los Angeles Hindu community will be honored guests,” the announcement said.

It continued: “This Mass will be hosted by the Bishop Diocesan J. Jon Bruno, who will take this opportunity to ask for deepening dialogue with the leaders of the Hindu community and offer an historic apology for the religious oppression that has been imposed on Hindu by many Christians.
“The Diocesan Hindu-Episcopal Dialogue Group and the Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Concerns and its chairperson, the Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord, are sponsoring this service.”

The following account appeared the next day in the Los Angeles Times. Please be aware as you read that the Times printed a correction today, saying that “although attendees walked toward the Communion table, only Christians were encouraged to partake of Communion. Out of respect for Hindu beliefs, the Hindus were invited to take a flower. Also, the article described Hindus consuming bread during Communion, but some of those worshipers were Christians wearing traditional Indian dress.”

[The story from Sunday's Los Angeles Times followed]


Here's the description of the same service from the LA diocesan news service:

Indian Rite Mass celebrates ties between two faiths

In a colorful rite that honored the traditions of both the Christian and Hindu faiths in India, some 260 participants gathered for an Indian Rite Mass on January 19 at St. John's Pro-Cathedral.

Bishop Chester Talton, who attended the service, read a statement from Bishop J. Jon Bruno that offered friendship to the Hindu people of the Indian community and apologized for past harsh treatment of the Indian people by Christians. Swami Sarvadevananda, a leader of the local Hindu community, accepted the apology with thanks for three years of Hindu-Episcopal dialogue through a program founded by the Rev. Gwynne Guibord, diocesan ecumenical/interfaith officer, who also assisted at the service.

Mass was celebrated by the Rev. Karen MacQueen, assisting priest at St. Paul's Church, Pomona, who also preached. She noted that the Christian minister Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Hindu philosopher and activist Mohandes Gandhi, two of the most influential religious figures of the 20th century, drew from each other's work to promote nonviolence as a powerful agent for change.

During the service, trays of flowers were offered to God, as is traditional in India. At the Eucharist, Hindu attendees were invited forward to take a flower as a sign of friendship: Indian Christians, some of whom were also in traditional garb, took part in the Eucharist.

Indian, Orthodox and traditional Western church music were offered by the choir of St. John's and two Indian bands.

The LA diocesan web site said that "The Mass is to be in the tradition of Bede Griffiths and the Indian Rite of the Church of South India."

Alan Richard "Bede" Griffiths was a British-born Benedictine monk and mystic who lived in ashrams in South India.

Here is information from the web site of The Church of South India:

"The Church of South India is the result of the union of churches of varying traditions Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian, and Reformed--in that area. It was inaugurated in September 1947, after protracted negotiation among the churches concerned. Organized into 16 dioceses, each under the spiritual supervision of a bishop, the church as a whole is governed by a synod, which elects a moderator (presiding bishop) every 2 years. Episcopacy is thus combined with synodical government, and the church explicitly recognizes that Episcopal, Presbyterian, and congregational elements are all necessary for the church's life. The Scriptures are the ultimate standard of faith and practice. The historic creeds are accepted as interpreting the biblical faith, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper are recognized as of binding obligation."

The Church of South India is one of the four United Churches in the Anglican Communion. Its bishops participate in the Lambeth Conferences and it has representation on the Anglican Consultative Council.

Now. Is that Christian enough for you?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"I know who you are."

Jake reports on a fireside chat with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

The part of the report that most interested and saddened me was this:

"In response to another question, which I believe was about if Bp. Katharine had ever considered sitting down for dinner with Bps. Iker, Duncan and Schofield to just talk things over, Bp. Katharine made an interesting comment. She inferred that she did have some level of a relationship with Bps. Duncan and Schofield, but none with Bp.Iker, as he had rebuffed any attempts she had made to be cordial. The first time she had the opportunity to meet Bp. Iker, she approached him to introduce herself. His response was to say "I know who you are," and to then turn away."

This is, of course, at odds with what Jack Iker has been saying about his encounters with the presiding bishop.

But he has made it clear from the day of her election -- when he wasted no time announcing his plan to seek "alternate primatial oversight" -- that he has never had any intention of trying to find a way to work things out with her.

How can we justify saying we have no need of one another?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mark Your Calendars for Live Video Stream from San Joaquin

San Joaquin: 'Moving Forward, Welcoming All' conference to host online audience January 26
January 23, 2008
[Episcopal News Service]

When Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin gather on Saturday, January 26 for "Moving Forward, Welcoming All" at the Church of the Saviour in Hanford, California, they will welcome an online audience.

Viewers may access the live video stream, to be carried via Episcopal Life Online, by logging on to

The video stream will also bring Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's greetings to continuing Episcopalians gathered at the Central California Valley historic church, starting about 10 a.m. Pacific time (11 a.m. Mountain, 12 a.m. Central, 1 p.m. Eastern), said Mike Collins, Episcopal Life Media Video/Multicast Unit director.

"The situation in the Diocese of San Joaquin is something that is on the minds of Episcopalians across the country," Collins said. "We felt it was important to provide live streaming coverage to the wider church as well as to show support for those who remain in the diocese."

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson and the Rev. Canon Robert Moore, appointed by the Presiding Bishop as the interim pastoral presence for continuing Episcopalians, will keynote the gathering on site to offer support and encouragement, along with other speakers. Anderson's comments to the gathering, expected to draw Episcopalians from across the diocese and the state, will be videocast.

The event will culminate Moore's five-day "listening tour" of the experiences and hopes of clergy and laity remaining in the Episcopal Church in Stockton, Riverbank, Fresno, Bakersfield and Visalia.

Nancy Key, a co-founder of Remain Episcopal, which is sponsoring the January 26 event, said faithful Episcopalians are ready to move forward. "We really want to rebuild this diocese, and it's going to be tough," said Key.

Viewers will be able to watch the videocast, from 10 a.m. to 11.45 a.m. Pacific time in Windows Media and Real Media versions in high and low quality as well as audio only for those with slower internet connections, Collins said.

The Prodigal

The Rev. Tom Woodward spoke last Friday night to 66 people in Wichita Falls and to more than 100 people in Fort Worth on Saturday about what is at stake for Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

A synopsis of his speech can be read here at the Fort Worth Via Media web site.

One image in particular from his talk in Fort Worth has stayed with me as I've spent the last couple of days fighting a cold, sore throat, and fever.

Woodward likened the situation between Jack Iker and his followers and The Episcopal Church to that of the older son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

The Return of the Prodigal Son (1773) by Pompeo Batoni

You know the story: the younger son takes his share of the inheritance while his father is still living and leaves to squander it in riotous living only to end up as a swine herder -- a terrible fate for a Jew. Finally he decides to return home and throw himself on his father's mercy. He practices his speech asking forgiveness, but hardly gets a chance to deliver it, because his father, seeing him coming at a distance, picks up his skirts and runs to embrace him. Rejoicing in the return of his child, the father orders the fatted calf killed for a celebratory feast.

But the older son, who has remained dutifully at home, watches all this from a distance, jealous at the fuss being made over his feckless brother and angered over the lack of reward for his faithfulness.

His father urges him to join the family celebration:

Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
– (Luke 15:32, KJV)

But the older son refuses the invitation. He cannot embrace this kind of family, one that includes even sinning swineherds. In his righteous indignation he separates himself from the family, holding himself apart from a family he considers contaminated by its inclusion of his brother.

Just so has Jack Iker and those who agree with him chosen to hold themselves apart from The Episcopal Church's inclusion of all the baptized in the life and ministry of the church. They cannot bring themselves to be part of a "family" that includes women ordained as priests and bishops, as well as gay and lesbian priests and bishops [at least one of whom has been open about who he is and who he loves].

So in their pain they are seeking a purer church "family."

And while that is a source of grief for those of us who remain in The Episcopal Church, no one argues with their right to such a search.

What we do argue with is their attempt to take the possessions of the family they are leaving behind with them.

What we do argue with is their willingness to tear other families apart -- parish families as well as actual blood related families -- in their move to a new family.

What we do argue with is their characterization of those who remain with the Episcopal family as unChristian, as "demons," as people who do not love Jesus, as people who are members of a "pagan" church, or at best, a "mythical national church."

Yes, we are sinners -- as are Jack Iker and his followers. Yes, we fall short of the vision God has for us, just as do Jack Iker and his followers.

But in The Episcopal Church we still find our unity in common worship, the Holy Scriptures as the revealed Word of God, the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, the historic episcopate, and the ancient creeds of the Church.

What this dispute is about is interpretation of scripture and the historic Anglican practice of encompassing and respecting a wide spectrum of theological views.

Jack Iker and his followers wish to impose a much narrower interpretation of scripture, especially in the area of human sexuality, and to exclude those who do not agree with their views.

Having failed to achieve this at General Convention, they now choose to leave the table entirely. And while we wish they would stay at the feast with the rest of us, they can leave. But they can't take the table with them.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

San Joaquin Steering Committee Members Fired

See UPDATE below.

Episcopal Cafe has posted a report from Dan Martins that John David Schofield has fired six of the eight members of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of San Joaquin because they won't go to the Southern Cone with him. Martins was a priest in San Joaquin until he was recently called to a parish in Indiana.

Here's what Episcopal Cafe reported:
The message from Bishop Schofield:

"On December 8th at our Diocesan Convention the overwhelming vote to transfer from the Episcopal Church to the Province of the Southern Cone was passed. At that time I became a member of the House of Bishops of that Province. Therefore, the Standing Committee, which is my council of advice, must be composed of clergy members who are Anglican priests of the Southern Cone. This is required by Diocesan Canons and the Archbishop of the Southern Cone of South America, who writes:

“'In welcoming you to the Province of the Southern Cone on December 8th it is my clear understanding that even though you are allowing a period of discernment for those clergy who are still undecided, it would be highly inappropriate for any officer or leader within the Diocese of San Joaquin to be currently undecided or clearly within the Episcopal Church and continue as an officer or leader. The requirement governing each diocese of the Southern Cone is that all members of Diocesan Council, Standing Committee, and those selected as representatives at Synod be recognized Members of this Province.'

"Therefore, this morning I received the resignation of those members of the Standing Committee who do not meet the above qualifications. Communication and correspondence related to the Standing Committee should now be directed to the new President of the Standing Committee, ---------, at the Diocesan Offices."

Then we have this , from the duly-elected president of the Standing Committee:

"During the Standing Committee meeting of January 19th, the Bishop determined that the elected members of the Standing Committee who had not publicly affirmed their standing in the Southern Cone [whose congregations are in discernment, some over the legality of convention's actions] were unqualified to hold any position of leadership in the Diocese, including any elected office. He pronounced us as unqualified. No resignations were given. The question of resignations was raised and rejected. The members of the committee at this morning's meeting were quite clear on this point, we did not resign, we were declared unqualified to hold office. The Bishop's decision affects up to 6 of the 8 elected members of the Committee including all of the clergy members."

The Presiding Bishop's representative and the President of the House of Deputies are scheduled to meet with members of the Diocese of San Joaquin to discuss the future of the church in central California.

Note a couple of things. Apparently there are no lay people on the steering committees of dioceses in the Province of the Southern Cone.

Therefore, the Standing Committee, which is my council of advice, must be composed of clergy members who are Anglican priests of the Southern Cone. This is required by Diocesan Canons and the Archbishop of the Southern Cone of South America . . .

Note also how quickly the purging has started of those who are still "discerning" what they want to do. According to Dan Martins, these are very conservative priests who were fired by Schofield. Sadly, Martins couldn't resist taking a shot at members of Remain Episcopal as "malcontents."

I suspect these conservative priests will find themselves more welcomed by the "malcontents' in RE as they try to reconstitute their diocese than the RE members ever were in the parishes of these conservative priests.

UPDATE: Apparently there ARE lay members on the Standing Committee. Dan Martins updates his earlier report and gives the names of the preists involved.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hooray for Bishop Frade!

Here's an update in the schism struggle -- Episcopal Cafe is reporting that Bp. Leo Frade voted to consent to the inhibition of Bob Duncan.

"Dearly Beloved in Christ:
"Greetings from the Holy Land! While leading my yearly pilgrimage of the faithful to the land of our Lord Jesus, I have been asked to comment on the decision of the Three Senior Bishops to unanimously move to inhibit the Bishop of San Joaquin, but not to inhibit the Bishop of Pittsburgh.

"I must state that after carefully examining the decision of the Review Committee headed by the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, which recommended the move to inhibit both bishops--of the Dioceses of Pittsburgh and of San Joaquin--and after reviewing all the supporting documents that give evidence of their actions, I was astonished that we neglected to take action any sooner on their obvious violation and breach of their oath to engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church.

"I firmly believe that any bishops whose words and actions are in violation of this oath, as stated by church canon, should be equally subject to the appropriate canonical discipline.

"I also believe that it is my episcopal duty to assiduously safeguard both the membership and patrimony of our Church as a whole. The faithful of those dioceses that have been betrayed by their bishops need to know that they are not abandoned by their Church.

The Episcopate must not tolerate such actions as these bishops have taken; they have betrayed the trust that was given them when we, their brother and sister bishops, consented to their election. The seriousness of this betrayal is not mitigated by the fact that in one of the cases the goal of turning away from The Episcopal Church has not been fully achieved. As I have learned to say in America, "You can not just be a little pregnant."

"It was with great sadness that I concluded I had no other choice but to vote to move to inhibit two of my brothers who have betrayed their trust to be faithful shepherds of their dioceses, which are integral parts of our Episcopal Church.

"The beauty and flexibility of Anglican polity has allowed since its foundation disparate and disagreeing parties to remain in full communion. It is my sincere hope and prayer that these two bishops, who once pledged of their own free will to engage to remain faithful to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church, will in a spirit of reconciliation choose to fulfill their previous promises.

"If they are unable to do so, we in the HOB must do our sad duty to discipline them and move in a timely manner to protect and provide for the many remaining faithful of these dioceses.

The Rt Rev Leopold Frade
Bishop of Southeast Florida and Senior Bishop with Jurisdiction of TEC. "

Here's what really resonated with me:

"The faithful of those dioceses that have been betrayed by their bishops need to know that they are not abandoned by their Church."


"The Episcopate must not tolerate such actions as these bishops have taken; they have betrayed the trust that was given them when we, their brother and sister bishops, consented to their election. The seriousness of this betrayal is not mitigated by the fact that in one of the cases the goal of turning away from The Episcopal Church has not been fully achieved. As I have learned to say in America, "You can not just be a little pregnant."

Let those who have ears to hear, hear.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Some reading matter for your long weekend . . .

Please read Jake today.: 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? "

Bishop Iker scores 100.

Please also read Mark Harris on why the three senior bishops did not agree to inhibit Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh.

Then read Episcopal Cafe's "Does the lack of inhibition of Bishop Duncan matter?"

"There has been a lot of discussion about the meaning of the senior bishops' lack of consent to inhibit The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The question has been "does this mean the process is stopped or not?" The letter to Bishop Duncan from the Presiding Bishop and Canon IV.9.2 state that the process continues not withstanding the senior bishops' non-consent to inhibition. "

All these will help bring you up to speed on the actions that TEC leadership is taking against bishops advocating schism.

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.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bishop Iker reports and responds

Bishop Jack Iker's comments on the letter he received Tuesday and his comments on the action against Duncan are appended below the Ad CLerum.
From: Suzanne Gill :
Wednesday, January 16, 2008 10:30 AM
Cc: Bishop Iker; Canon Hough
Subject: Ad Clerum: A Message from Bishop Iker

Yesterday was a rather interesting day, and I wanted to make certain that all of you were aware of the following events:

BISHOP SAM HULSEY, the retired Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas, hosted an organizational meeting yesterday afternoon at his home here in Fort Worth for all clergy of this Diocese who are opposed to the decisions made by our Diocesan Convention in November and who are committed to keeping this Diocese in The Episcopal Church, no matter what. Though I was not given a list of those invited, I understand that only two or three rectors attended and that the rest were a handful of retired priests and a couple of deacons. Of the 14 clergy who voted against the constitutional changes in November, it is believed that half are retired or non-parochial.

I HAVE RECEIVED A SECOND THREATENING LETTER from the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. Interestingly enough, it arrived on the same day as the meeting convened by Bishop Hulsey. As you will recall, in a much-publicized letter in November the PB had threatened me with disciplinary charges of “abandonment of the communion of this church” if I permitted the Diocesan Convention to vote on the proposed constitutional revisions that were put before us. This time she threatens me with charges of a violation of my ordination vows if I continue “any encouragement of such a belief” that parishes and dioceses can leave The Episcopal Church. Well, so much for an invitation to dialogue and conversation! It’s all about threats of dire consequences if you don’t comply with the party line.

BISHOP BOB DUNCAN of Pittsburgh was officially charged with abandonment of the communion of the church on this very same day! Though the Review Committee endorsed the charges brought by the PB, the three senior diocesan bishops would not consent to his being inhibited from functioning as a bishop, as they had done in the same charges brought against Bishop John-David Schofield of the Diocese of San Joaquin just last week. The essential difference in the two cases is that San Joaquin approved measures to separate from The Episcopal Church with a second, ratifying vote on December 8th, whereas the Pittsburgh Convention approved of their measures at the preliminary, first reading vote in November, an action which will need to be ratified at the 2008 Convention. Fort Worth is in the same position as Pittsburgh.

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.

Thank you all for our prayers, encouragement and support during these difficult days in the life of our beloved church.

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth


Also, last night Bishop Iker released the comments which are appended below to the press concerning the charges against Bishop Duncan and the letter Bishop Iker had received from the Presiding Bishop. A copy of the letter is being posted on the diocesan Web site.
Suzanne Gill
Director of Communications
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth

Concerning Bishop Duncan, Bishop Iker said:
I find it tragic and deeply disturbing that the Presiding Bishop would seek to take canonical action against the Bishop of Pittsburgh prior to any final decision by his diocesan convention concerning separation from The Episcopal Church. The fact that Bishop Duncan and the Diocese of Pittsburgh are still a part of The Episcopal Church was clearly affirmed by the refusal of the three senior diocesan bishops to consent to his being inhibited for this alleged offense. The Episcopal Church continually gives lip service to the need for ongoing conversation and dialogue to heal our divisions while at the same time closing off any possibility of continuing conversations by aggressive, punitive actions such as this.

Concerning the letter he received from the Presiding Bishop, Bishop Iker said:

Today [Tuesday] I received a second threatening letter from the Presiding Bishop, this time by regular mail. Unlike her November letter, it did not imply a charge of “abandonment of the communion of this church,” but it said that I would be liable for charges of violation of my ordination vows if I continue “any encouragement of such a belief” (i.e. that parishes and dioceses can leave The Episcopal Church). She also claimed that conservative voices are “disappearing” from TEC “by their own decision and at their own hands.”


You can read the "threatening" letter here.

Read Mark Harris' analysis of the whole situation here.

Read Fr. Jake's take here.

Read the Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh press release here.

From ENS --Duncan has abandoned Communion

The latest in the schism struggle. Note especially paragraphs 8 and 9.

Pittsburgh bishop has abandoned communion of Episcopal Church, Title IV Review Committee says
By Mary Frances Schjonberg
January 15, 2008
[Episcopal News Service]

The Episcopal Church's Title IV Review Committee has certified that Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan has abandoned the communion of the church.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori informed Duncan on January 15 of the certification and sent him a copy.

Her letter told Duncan that she sought the canonically required permission from the House's three senior bishops with jurisdiction to inhibit him, based on the certification, from the performance of any episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts.

"On 11 January 2008 they informed me that such consents would not be given at this time by all three bishops," Jefferts Schori wrote.

"Pursuant to the time limits stated in Canon IV.9, the matter will not come before the House of Bishops at its next scheduled meeting in March 2008, but will come before the House at the next meeting thereafter," the Presiding Bishop wrote in her letter.

"I would, however, welcome a statement by you within the next two months providing evidence that you once more consider yourself fully subject to the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church," Jefferts Schori wrote in her letter to Duncan.

The three senior bishops with jurisdiction -- Leo Frade of Southeast Florida, Peter Lee of Virginia, and Don Wimberly of Texas -- did give their permission on January 11 for Jefferts Schori to inhibit Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield in another case where the Title IV Review Committee certified an abandonment of the communion of the church. The House will consider the case matter involving Schofield in March. The time limit to which Jefferts Schori referred is a two-month period afforded to bishops subject to such a certification to retract their acts, demonstrate that the facts alleged in certification are false, or renounce their orders by way of Title IV, Canon 8, Sec. 2 or Title III, Canon 12, Sec. 7.

The Title IV Review Committee told Jefferts Schori on December 17 that a majority of its nine members agreed that Duncan had abandoned the communion of the church "by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church."

The Review Committee's certification from Upper South Carolina Bishop Dorsey Henderson, committee chair, said that the committee received submissions alleging Duncan's abandonment of communion from "counsel representing individuals who are either clergy or communicants in the Diocese of Pittsburgh" and from the Presiding Bishop's chancellor, David Beers, and his colleague, Mary E. Kostel. They asked the Review Committee for a determination.

Some 40 pages of material submitted by Pittsburgh counsel, which allegedly "trace the course of Bishop Duncan's actions from the meeting of the General Convention in 2003 through the most recent Annual Convention of the Diocese" in early November, is included in the committee's certification and is available here.

Pittsburgh's diocesan convention November 2 gave the first of two approvals needed to enact a constitutional change to remove language in the diocesan constitution stating that the diocese accedes to the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons as the church's constitution requires.
The Presiding Bishop sent Duncan a letter prior to the convention, asking him to retreat from his advocacy of the changes.

The first section of Title IV, Canon 9 says that a bishop abandons the communion of the Episcopal Church if he or she takes one of the following actions:
"open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of the Church;"
"formal admission into any religious body not in communion with thesame;" or
"exercising episcopal acts [which include primarily Holy Orders and Confirmation] in and for a religious body other than the Episcopal Church or another Church in communion with the Church so as to extend to such body Holy Orders as this Church holds them, or to administer on behalf of such religious body Confirmation without the express consent and commission of the proper authority in this Church."

In addition to Henderson, the 2007-2009 Title IV Review Committee includes Bishop Suffragan David C. Jones of Virginia, Bishop C. Wallis Ohl Jr. of Northwest Texas, Bishop Suffragan Bavi E. Rivera of Olympia, Bishop James Waggoner of Spokane, the Rev. Carolyn Kuhr of Montana, the Very Rev. Scott Kirby of Eau Claire, J.P. Causey Jr. of Virginia, and Deborah J. Stokes of Southern Ohio.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I will, with God's help

NOTE: The next Fort Worth Via Media meeting is Monday, January 28 at 7 p.m. at the Southwest Regional Public Library, in the 4000 block of South Hulen [north of I-20]. It was originally scheduled for Jan. 21, but since that is Martin Luther King Day, the library will be closed.

I've been thinking a lot about baptism lately. This Sunday's lessons about the baptism of Jesus added to my sense of urgency on this subject.


Because I've been listening to a lot of lay people in my diocese who are feeling helpless, who feel they have no voice -- nay -- no right to speak up as our diocesan leadership steadily increases the pressure on clergy to commit to the bishop's plan to leave The Episcopal Church and take the property with him. In turn, the clergy are increasing the pressure on the lay people in their parishes.

These lay people are struggling against an epidemic of learned helplessness, a condition carefully cultivated by the clergy here. There are several ways the clergy do this:

There is the "Father knows best" group, who pat lay people on the head and tell them to sit down and be quiet.

There is the "How dare you question me/the bishop" group, who are much more forceful in their silencing techniques, using public shaming and even verbal abuse to shut people up.

There is the "Heads in the Sand" group, who have dealt with the conflict in the diocese by pretending it's not happening. They have allowed no discussion of it in the parish, they have held no forums on it, and they quickly label as "troublemakers" those who try to discuss it, or to ask questions. These well-meaning rectors see this as being "neutral," while the reality is that their silence has helped maintain the status quo; ie, the bishop's position.

Lay people are not without responsibility in this.

Many have assisted the clergy in this by declaring they "don't want to get involved in church politics." They have been doing the equivalent of putting their fingers in their ears and humming every time someone tries to talk to them about it. They don't want to know. It's too painful. They have friends on "both sides." They just want to go to church and worship, not fight.

Well, can you blame them? It IS painful. It IS more peaceful to just worship and not struggle with political decisions. And who wants to take on their priest week after week, much less their bishop?

All this has essentially reduced the role of the laity here to that of children doing what the adults tell them to do, a situation that suits most of the clergy here just fine.

But a whole lot of the "children" have finally had enough. They are finding their voices, and they are seeking ways to speak up. And as they do, they are taking on the mantles of their baptisms.

Then they wonder, "What do I do now?"

The answer is, pray and pray and pray, get informed, and then get political.

Because what we are facing in this diocese is a political struggle, for all the bishop tries to frame it as a theological battle with the forces of "good" [Bishop Iker and his allies] ranged against the forces of "evil" [TEC].

Make no mistake.
This is a struggle for power and control with issues of
scriptural interpretation being used as weapons of mass distraction.
This is a question of church governance and as such, it is political. I believe that to opt out of that political struggle is to abdicate part of our baptismal vows. The catechism teaches us that "Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ's Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God."

As members of the Church, we have a responsibility to help govern it. By virtue of our baptisms, we are one of the four orders of ministry. Indeed, we are the first order, and the largest. But in this diocese the role of the laity has been largely reduced to rubber stamping what the bishop and the clergy have decided.

We can change that. Our baptisms don't just confer responsibilities on us. They also confer authority. Baptism is an ordination we share with Jesus himself. It is the ONLY ordination Jesus had before he began his public ministry.

I have pasted the Baptismal Covenant below. Please take time to read it, think about it, pray about it.

Fellow blogger Marshall wrote, "There is a distinct contrast between seeing faith primarily in action, as in the Baptismal Covenant; and in seeing faith primarily in acceptance of the necessary content."

Faith primarity in action can include challenging clergy, including bishops. Disagreeing with Bishop iker is NOT disobedience. It is NOT a sin.

This is the month we have our annual parish meetings in this diocese. At those meetings vestries are elected. Delegates to convention also are to be elected at these meetings, although at some parishes the delegates are elected from among the vestry by the vestry. Budgets are approved, reports are given. At some parishes, awards are given out. Some are held as business meetings, some are banquets.

For years, in most parishes here, rectors have essentially appointed vestry members, since people weren't standing in line to be candidates. In fact, that was discouraged. Rectors preferred to have only enough candidates to fill the empty slots, so if there were three vacancies, there were three candidates. The excuse given was that it prevented hurt feelings. It also prevented discussion and diversity.

One of the biggest tools the clergy use to control vestries is the Bishop's Customary. The customary, which you can read here, is interpreted by most rectors as giving them the right to "strike" any candidate with whom they feel they cannot work. This provision has been used almost always to keep people who disagree with the bishop off these slates of candidates. These rectors also do not allow nominations from the floor.

Now are you begining to understand why votes at diocesan convention are so lopsided?

But the people elected are delegates, not deputies. They are delegated to be the voice of their parish -- ALL their parish -- at diocesan convention. So no matter who is elected to your vestry and no matter who is elected as your delegates, you have a right to talk to them, to express your opinions and to expect that your views be heard and represented.

Yes, we are heading into unknown territory. But be of good cheer. Remember-- there WILL be an Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth no matter what happens.

Once Bishop Iker and his followers leave, those of us who remain will reconstitute our diocese. We will be given an interim bishop by the presiding bishop who will help us reorganize and eventually elect a new bishop. The diocese may be smaller at first, but it WILL grow. We may not all be worshipping in the buildings we are used to, but we will be worshipping.

There will be court battles, and there will be loss. We will have much to grieve over. But we also will have much to celebrate. We will survive, with God's help.

So if your rector won't let you have informational meetings at your parish, have them in your homes. Invite your fellow parishioners to come listen to a speaker, read a book, or discuss blogs.

Use the Internet. There are vast resources for you out there. Set up a yahoo group for your parish, so those of you who want to stay in TEC can find one another and support each other.

If you are in the north part of the diocese, attend the gathering "You Can Choose to Remain Episcopalian" in Wichita Falls on Friday, Janaury 18 at 7:00 p.m. at First Christian Church, 3701 Taft, Room 1-A, Wichita Falls. Use the Chapel Entrance, South Doorway. It is sponsored by North Texas Remain Episcopal. The Rev. Tom Woodward will speak and several members of Fort Worth Via Media will be there. There will be a Q&A session after the address.

Or come hear "WHAT IS AT STAKE FOR EPISCOPALIANS IN THE DIOCESE OF FORT WORTH?" at 2 p.m., Saturday, January 19, at the Sid Richardson Hall, Lecture Hall 2, TCU. It's at 2840 W. Bowie Street. The Rev. Tom Woodward will speak. His address will be followed by a Q&A session.

Come to Fort Worth Via Media meetings. The next one is Monday, January 28 at 7 p.m. at the Southwest Regional Public Library, in the 4000 block of South Hulen [north of I-20].

Join the FW Via Media Yahoo Group. Send an e-mail to Barbi Click at and ask her to add you to the list. It's a great place to stay informed and find like-minded souls.

Note: Fort Worth Via Media is an organization of lay people and clergy who intend to remain in The Episcopal Church. You don't have to agree with everything TEC has done. You don't have to agree with everyone in the group. It does not matter where you are on the theological spectrum. The only "requirement" for membership is a desire to remain in The Episcopal Church.

From the beginning the move to separate this diocese from The Episcopal Church has been a clergy-led movement. It is well past time for the voice of the laity to be heard.


The Baptismal Covenant

Celebrant: Do you believe in God the Father?
People: I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

Celebrant: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
People: I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Celebrant: Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
People: I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Celebrant :Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
People: I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant: Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People: I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
People: I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
People: I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People: I will, with God’s help.
Here was yesterday's Collect

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

We CAN do this -- with God's help.

Friday, January 11, 2008

From ENS -- Presiding Bishop inhibits San Joaquin bishop

Presiding Bishop inhibits San Joaquin bishop
Action comes after Review Committee says Schofield has abandoned the Episcopal Church

By Mary Frances Schjonberg -->January 11, 2008

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on January 11 inhibited Diocese of San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield.

In the text of the inhibition, Jefferts Schori wrote: "I hereby inhibit the said Bishop Schofield and order that from and after 5:00 p.m. PST, Friday, January 11, 2008, he cease from exercising the gifts of ordination in the ordained ministry of this Church; and pursuant to Canon IV.15, I order him from and after that time to cease all 'episcopal, ministerial, and canonical acts, except as relate to the administration of the temporal affairs of the Diocese of San Joaquin,' until this Inhibition is terminated pursuant to Canon IV.9(2) or superseded by decision of the House of Bishops."

Jefferts Schori acted after the Title IV Review Committee certified that Schofield had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.

On January 9, Upper South Carolina Bishop Dorsey Henderson, committee chair, wrote to Jefferts Schori, telling her that the nine-member committee had met that day and that a majority agreed that the documentation provided to them "demonstrated that Bishop Schofield has abandoned the communion of this Church by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church."

Jefferts Schori needed, in accordance with Title IV, Canon 9, Sec. 1, the consent of the three senior bishops of the church with jurisdiction (as opposed to being retired or not in diocesan seats) to issue the inhibition. She noted in the inhibition that Leo Frade of Southeast Florida, Peter Lee of Virginia, and Don Wimberly of Texas gave their consents January 11.

"I think what is crucial for us is that the bishop was presented with potential consequences of his actions long ago and repeatedly, and now the review committee has indeed made their determination, which will go forward to the House of Bishops," the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, told ENS. "The three senior bishops have given their consent to his inhibition and, again, the ministry of the Episcopal Church continues and moves forward."

At Schofield's urging, the convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin voted December 8 to leave the Episcopal Church and to align with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Jefferts Schori warned Schofield of the possible consequences of his actions prior to the convention via a letter and then asked him on December 14 to confirm her understanding that he had left the Episcopal Church and was no longer functioning as a member of its clergy.
Mike Glass, a San Rafael, California attorney who represents congregations and individual Episcopalians who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church, welcomed the actions.

"The Title IV Review Committee's certification of abandonment is the first step in clarifying and resolving John-David Schofield's canonical status. The accompanying inhibition will provide safety and assurance to those who are working toward the continuance of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin in the Episcopal Church," Glass said. "The inhibition also provides a safe space for those who wish to remain Episcopalian, but may have otherwise felt they could not speak their true heart for fear of retribution. My clients, Canon Robert Moore and I will use this time to continue our efforts to reach out to those individuals, missions, and parishes."

Moore was appointed by Jefferts Schori as an interim pastoral presence in San Joaquin. He, Glass and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson plan to gather with Episcopalians in the diocese at a previously planned January 26 event titled "Moving Forward, Welcoming All." The event is being organized by Remain Episcopal, an organization that has been a rallying place for San Joaquin Episcopalians who did not want to follow Schofield out of the church.

Anderson first came to the diocese to support those Episcopalians in February 2007 at Remain Episcopal's invitation. Since then she has been in contact with the organization on a regular basis to provide the members spiritual, pastoral and organizational support.

"I know that this clarification of the bishop's status will be a relief to many Episcopalians in the diocese," Anderson said. "That clarity will help them in their ministry to each other and beyond in the continuing Diocese of San Joaquin. I look forward to being back in the diocese on January 26, and I hope that people will see this meeting as a chance for them to join with other Episcopalians who want to participate in rebuilding the diocese."

On the afternoon of January 11, the Presiding Bishop called Schofield at the diocesan offices in Fresno, California, to notify him of her action, Robertson said. Schofield was not in the office and Jefferts Schori left a message with a staff member, telling the bishop that he would receive copies of the certification and inhibition yet that day via email and fax, and by overnight mail on January 12.

"To everyone involved and everyone throughout the church, again, our focus has been and continues to be the mission of the church in spreading the good news of God in Christ, of feeding the poor, of helping the marginalized, and that work has not stopped and will not stop within the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin and throughout the larger church," Robertson said.

Schofield now has two months to recant his position or renounce his orders by way of Title IV, Canon 8, Sec. 2 or Title III, Canon 12, Sec. 7. He can also declare that the Title IV's assertions are false.

The two-month time frame refers the days remaining until the House of Bishops' next meeting March 7-13 at Camp Allen outside Houston in the Diocese of Texas. "The House of Bishops will review and vote on the findings of the review committee," Robertson said.

If a majority of the House concurs, the Presiding Bishop must depose Schofield and declare the episcopate of the diocese vacant.

Those remaining in the Episcopal Church would be gathered to organize a new diocesan convention and elect a replacement Standing Committee, if necessary. An assisting bishop would be appointed to provide episcopal ministry until a new diocesan bishop search process could be initiated and a new bishop elected and consecrated.

A lawsuit would be filed against the departed leadership and a representative sample of departing congregations if they attempted to retain Episcopal Church property.

The first section of Title IV, Canon 9 says that a bishop abandons the communion of the Episcopal Church if he or she takes one of the following actions:
open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of the Church;
formal admission into any religious body not in communion with thesame; or
exercising episcopal acts [which include primarily Holy Orders and Confirmation] in and for a religious body other than the Episcopal Church or another Church in communion with the Church so as to extend to such body Holy Orders as this Church holds them, or to administer on behalf of such religious body Confirmation without the express consent and commission of the proper authority in this Church.

In addition to Henderson, the 2007-2009 Title IV Review Committee consists of Bishop Suffragan David C. Jones of Virginia, Bishop C. Wallis Ohl Jr. of Northwest Texas, Bishop Suffragan Bavi E. Rivera of Olympia, Bishop James Waggoner of Spokane, the Rev. Carolyn Kuhr of Montana, the Very Rev. Scott Kirby of Eau Claire, J.P. Causey Jr. of Virginia, and Deborah J. Stokes of Southern Ohio.

Good News From Wichita Falls

The efforts of Episcopalians in Wichita Falls to Remain Episcopal has made front page news in the Thursday Wichita Falls Times Record. You can see the story here.

The headline reads "Meeting on neutral ground, Episcopals to hold gathering to address rumors."

NOTE: We "Episcopals" clearly have some education to do, but I remind everyone that reporters do NOT write the headlines for their stories. The copydesk does. All in all, reporter Jessica Langdon has done a good job of reporting the facts in this story.

Here's an excerpt from the story:


As the diocese that oversees the Episcopal churches in Wichita Falls tries to distance itself from the Episcopal Church as a whole, some members of the three congregations in the city are planning to meet on neutral ground to take a closer look at the future of their faith.

A group that calls itself North Texans Remain Episcopal is sponsoring a meeting Jan. 18, to give attendees a chance to ask questions and hear from the Rev. Thomas B. Woodward, an Episcopal priest who lives in Santa Fe, N.M., and who has served as a priest for 42 years.

Woodward has found constructive ways in his diocese to deal with conflicts, and will offer insight to members of the Wichita Falls congregations during the event, said Owanah Anderson. Anderson is part of the Remain Episcopal group and a longtime member of All Saints Episcopal Church.

“I’m a Remain Episcopalian,” said Anderson, who worked for the Episcopal Church’s national office in New York before coming back to Wichita Falls to retire. “I intend to remain an Episcopalian. I’m not going to transfer my allegiance to anything outside the Episcopal Church.”


Several issues, particularly those related to homosexuality within the church, have created a split among Episcopalians and prompted some of the dioceses to leave the larger congregation.
Members of all three churches in Wichita Falls — All Saints, Church of the Good Shepherd and St. Stephen’s — are collaborating on the meeting, which will take place at First Christian Church at 7 p.m. Jan 18. That church is separate from the Episcopal faith to ensure the meeting doesn’t raise problems for the churches, Anderson said.


In addition to Woodward, writer Katie Sherrod of Fort Worth and George Komechak, president of the Fort Worth Chapter of Via Media, will attend the meeting. Via Media USA is a group dedicated to protecting and promoting the Episcopal Church and its unity, life and faith, Anderson explained.

She encouraged everyone to attend the program and ask questions. One of the goals is to provide more information, she said.

“There are lots of rumors that the Episcopal Church is attempting to revise the Book of Common Prayer,” she said. “That is not true.”

There are also rumors about scriptural incorrectness, she said.

The Diocese of Fort Worth, which includes Wichita Falls and other North Texas areas in its Northern Deanery, is among three of 110 dioceses that do not ordain women, Anderson said. Headlines over the past several years have also put a spotlight on issues related to homosexuality.

“There are those of us who believe God loves all the people,” she said.

The meeting is designed to address rumors and to answer questions, she said.

Some of you will remember Owanah from her work with the Native American Ministries desk at the Church Center in the late 1990s. She retired in 1998. But she clearly has not retired from advocacy work. She has been a major source of common sense in her area of our diocese.

Note that the meeting is not being held in an Episcopal Church "to ensure the meeting doesn’t raise problems for the churches." This is true everywhere. With very few exceptions, rectors are afraid to allow Fort Worth Via Media or any other group who questions the bishop's plans to meet in their parishes for fear of retaliation from the bishop/Standing Committee.

I thank God for Owanah and others like her. Pray for us all, especially for our clergy.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What's At Stake

From Fort Worth Via Media:


2 P.M., JANUARY 19, 2008

A small group unhappy with decisions made by the majority within The Episcopal Church has been working to undermine the church for nearly two decades. The leadership of The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has been an active part of that effort. They have begun the process of unilaterally taking the diocese and its property out of The Episcopal Church and aligning it with another Province in the Anglican Communion, an action certain to result in expensive litigation. But many Episcopalians in the diocese have no wish to leave The Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Tom Woodward will talk about what is at stake for them on Saturday, January 19, at 2 p.m. in the Sid W. Richardson Hall, Lecture Hall 2, Texas Christian University, 2840 W. Bowie Street. His address will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

The Rev. Woodward has served The Episcopal Church as priest for more than 40 years. He worked as a chaplain at four different universities, and recently retired as rector of St. Paul's, Salinas, California (John Steinbeck's parish church) where he worked closely with the farmworker community and a sister congregation, San Pablo, with which St. Paul's shared its space. He and his wife, Ann, now live in Santa Fe, New Mexico where they are members of St. Bede's Episcopal Church.

He is passionate about the necessity for the Episcopal Church to resist efforts to denigrate or weaken it. He recently was awarded The Bishop's Cross in the Diocese of El Camino Real for leading similar efforts. He now writes regularly for The Episcopal Majority (, a web site that stands up for the Episcopal Church and against the distortions of those who call themselves "orthodox." That organization recently published his four part series on "The Undermining of the Episcopal Church," which will be available at the meeting. He is the author of two books published by Seabury Press and is currently finishing a third, "The Parables of Jesus from the Inside.” He has taught Scripture and courses on the performing arts for over two decades at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and in other seminaries and conference centers.

Admission is free, but reservations should be made at to insure adequate seating. For further information, please contact Fort Worth Via Media:
Lynne Minor, PR Chair, 682-429-7763
George Komechak, President, 817-229-7257

DIRECTIONS: The Sid W. Richardson Building is located one block north and one block east of the new TCU Bookstore at the NE corner of Berry and University. There are large parking lots NE of the Sid W. Richardson building. The closest one is east of the TCU Library, but there are others N and NE of there. On Saturdays, the only "Reserved" parking spaces are the ones that are marked "Reserved 24 Hours." The building is accessible for wheel chairs with ramps and an elevator.

Reactions of the Standing Committee Report

The Fort Worth Standing Committee's report on the Southern Cone has elicited reactions from around the church.

The Episcopal News Service has its report here. It includes a mention of Fort Worth Via Media's January 19 event feaaturing Tom Woodward.

Read Mark Harris' take here. His Pollyanna Assessment of an Invitation is an excellent analysis. Here is an excerpt:

"It would appear that the Standing Committee of Fort Worth is gladly and cheerfully headed down the path to accepting the invitation from the Province of the Southern Cone. They are glad for the invitation, glad that everything in the Southern Cone is orthodox and wonderful, glad to be rid of the Episcopal Church. Glad, glad, glad.

"You can read the whole of the report HERE, and HERE, and HERE.

"Or you can read a few corrections to the gladness of the day, here:

"They said in the report, "The leadership of TEC has threatened us with false claims of canonical power to correct and discipline us while condoning or even promoting in other dioceses false teaching and sacramental actions explicitly contrary to Holy Scripture."

"The fact of the matter is the leadership of TEC, that is the Presiding Bishop and her staff, have not threatened but rather have pointed out the implications of actually withdrawing from union with the General Convention. That was done prior to Fort Worth taking their first vote so that it would be clear to all that voting to leave the Episcopal Church was canonically invalid. The accusation that the leadership of the Episcopal Church is "condoning or even promoting....false teaching and sacramental actions explicitly contrary to Holy Scripture" is rot.


Could he make it more clear? The accusation by our diocesan leadership that TEC is "condoning or even promoting . . .false teaching and sacramental actions explicitly contrary to Holy Scripture" is "rot."

Please read it all.

A commenter on Mark's blog said...
" Fascinating. They expressly acknowledge that their diocesan "autonomy" within TEC is *limited*; indeed, they cite this as part of why they want to go to the Southern Cone's purportedly more autonomy-friendly polity.Yet they seem not to understand that this acknowledgment of having only limited autonomy in the first place *contradicts* and *undercuts* their claim to have sufficient autonomy in the first place to *leave*.Apparently, logical argumentation and consistency are not among the strong suits of that diocese's leadership."

Other reactions and observations also are interesting.

Jake puts the report in a wider context here. He reports on the Anglican Church in Canada's response to the Southern Cone poaching in its dioceses and parishes. They don't like it at all.


"In light of these provisions, as well as of ancient canons of the church, statements of successive Lambeth Conferences, the Lambeth Commission on Communion (the Windsor Report), and the 2005 and 2007 communiqués from the Primates, we believe that recent interventions by another province in the internal life of our church are unnecessary and inappropriate. Our concern was voiced publicly in recent statements by the Council of General Synod (Nov. 16, 2007) and in a joint Pastoral Statement from myself and the Canadian Metropolitans (Nov. 29, 2007). I have appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury in his capacity as one of the Instruments of Communion and as chair of the Primates' Meeting to address the very serious issues raised by this intervention and to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism..."


The continuing silence of the Archbishop of Canterbury on the incursions of the Southern Cone doesn't please the Canadians either.


"...It is in this context that we deplore recent actions on the part of the Primate and General Synod of the Province of the Southern Cone to extend its jurisdiction into Canada through the Essentials Network Conference. This action breaks fellowship within the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Communion.

We affirm the statement unanimously agreed to by the Council of General Synod which appeals to the Archbishop of Canterbury “to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism.” We too appeal to him in his capacity as one of the instruments of communion and as chair of the Primates' Meeting to address the very serious issues raised by this intervention.

The actions by the Primate of the Southern Cone are not necessary. Our bishops have made adequate and appropriate provision for the pastoral care and episcopal support of all members of the Anglican Church of Canada, including those who find themselves in conscientious disagreement with the view of their bishop and synod over the blessing of same-sex unions. These provisions, contained in the document known as Shared Episcopal Ministry, were adopted by the House of Bishops and commended by the panel of reference appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The actions by the Primate of the Southern Cone are also inappropriate. They contravene ancient canons of the Church going as far back as the 4th century, as well as statements of the Lambeth Conference, the Windsor report and the Communiqué from the Primates' Meeting earlier this year. Furthermore these actions violate Canon XVII of the Anglican Church of Canada which states that “No Bishop priest or deacon shall exercise ordained ministry in a diocese without the license or temporary permission of the Diocesan Bishop.”

Any ministry exercised in Canada by those received into the Province of the Southern Cone after voluntarily relinquishing the exercise of their ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada is inappropriate, unwelcome and invalid. We are aware that some bishops have, or will be making statements to that effect in their own dioceses..."


Please take time to read these articles. It will help make sense of the events unfolding here in the Diocese of Fort Worth.