Tim Carson, senior minister at University Christian Church, has written an opinon piece in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about what's going on in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. University Christian Church is one of the largest in the city of Fort Worth.
Fort Worth Episcopalians engaged in struggle that’s not new in Christian history
By TIM CARSON
Special to the Star-Telegram
The good bishop has it wrong. Or so I think. Which bishop, you ask? That’s the point. Which bishop indeed?
As one who is not a part of the Episcopal side of the Christian family, I look on as a concerned outsider. But perhaps that is the best vantage point to hold in the midst of a family squabble (See: "Reorganized diocese elects new bishop," Feb. 8).
There is no doubt that the unity of the whole church includes both sides of this unhappy family, because our unity — not uniformity based on sameness — is based on God’s love manifested in our common life in Christ.
But after making this most basic of Christian affirmations, we must say that this dispute, as so many others, is not new to Christian history. In fact, it is not new to any other of the living religious traditions, either.
More than once in Christian history, disagreements and conflict have eventuated in schisms, some of which led to competitions for ecclesial authority.
Will the Holy See find its home in Italy or France? Is the center of authority lodged in Rome or Constantinople? And a favorite one for Anglicans: Is it Rome or Canterbury?
And now the runoff du jour: Will the real Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth please stand up, and with it, its bishop?
In a recent advertisement in the Star-Telegram, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Jack Iker stood up, waved his hand and said, "It’s me!" He has withdrawn from the established Diocese of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. and now claims that his newly founded diocese — in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury — is the one that has been here all along.
And, therefore, it only seems right to the good bishop that all of the assets and congregations should stay with him, even if he cashes in his chips, leaves the mother ship and affiliates with an African one.
Such a lively revisionist sense of history!
I have the true faith, so I really have been here all along, here with my true church. Even though I was appointed by the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A., and have withdrawn to go another direction, I am the continuing strain of the real constituted authority.
We now pause for a moment of sanity.
Bishop Iker: You just decided to leave. You were done with all that crazy Episcopal Church U.S.A. stuff. You followed your star, fine and good. But please don’t pretend that you’re the one staying and others — here all along — are the ones forming a new diocese. They are the ones continuing.
So go in peace. Take the souls who feel likewise along with you. But following the council of Jesus, take nothing more than your staff, sandals and bag on the way to your promised land.
Be blessed while you do it, but don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Or lay claim to their property and resources. No fair initiating the divorce and then expecting to the get the house as a part of the property settlement. You’ll need to find an apartment.
Other church bodies have faced this.
I know we have in my own communion. But the rule of thumb is — and one by and large supported by civil courts when it comes down to that nasty action — that the ones leaving don’t take the assets with them. They go out empty-handed because it’s their choice. Especially good church bylaws and rules of order prohibit this from happening.
It just so happened that I dropped by the convention of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth on Feb. 7.
I have to say, there were lots of Episcopalians there worshipping and acting like church. Their presiding bishop was there, as was the newly appointed provisional one. The worship included much confession, affirmation of our basic unity, prayers for healing and encouragement to be the whole church in the world. From the spirit in the place, I’d say that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
As I went forward for communion, I was served the bread by a male priest and the cup by a female priest. I have to say, it seemed just about as whole and healthy as a family can be around the table.
But what do I know? I’m not even an Episcopalian.