Thursday, May 17, 2007

Flying Chickens

Did you feel that? It was yet another gust of hot air emanating from the Diocese of Fort Worth.
Yes, our Executive Council voted almost unanimously—apparently one rector dissented—to announce once again that they are mad at The Episcopal Church and are thinking about three ways to leave it. Sounds like a song title, doesn’t it?
There was much fuss stirred up online [courtesy of Ruth Gledhill] about their meeting prior to the issuance of the statement but in the end it came down to nothing new.
First, a reality check: a diocese can’t leave TEC. Individuals can leave. Dioceses can’t leave. Plus, Texas is one of those states where laws “defer” to hierarchical structures of churches in regard to property, and TEC is nothing if not hierarchical.
Now, to the hot air. For instance, their claim that every attempt to find "an American solution to an American problem” has failed. No, a solution was offered and Bp. Iker rejected it, apparently because the primatial vicar would be appointed by and report to Bp. Katharine and thus have girl cooties all over him. (There was more than a little testiness in the statement about having heard nothing from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Big Daddy to whom they appealed to save them from the mean ol’ girl primate.)
They make their usual offensive and false charges against Bp. Katharine. There is the charge that she has “refused to accept the key recommendations of the Windsor Report,” as if that were akin to heresy instead of being what an editor of mine used to call “a bunch of words masquerading as a meaningful sentence.”
Then they charge that she has “failed to seek implementation of the essential requests of the Dar es Salaam Communiqué,” when the truth is, the House of Bishops hasn’t even taken up those requests yet. Unlike Peter Akinola, Bp. Katharine is not equipped with the powers of a despot. She has done what she said she would do – she has brought the Communiqué to the House of Bishops. She cannot force the bishops to bow to the demands of a group who has no authority to make such demands.
It is their last [totally predictable] charge that is at once the most outrageous and the clearest proof that they have no legitimate case to make--that she “has denied basic tenets of the teaching of the New Testament.” In reality, her Christology is in line with that of the Vatican, something that should trump the fact that it may not be in line with Jack Iker’s.
But they keep repeating this line as if saying it often enough will make it true. Well, an old friend of my father’s said of such attempts that, “You can put your boots in the oven but that don’t make ‘em biscuits.”
Anyway, here are what they say are their choices: to form a new Anglican Province of the Communion in North America; for the entire diocese to transfer to another existing province of the Communion, or to seek the status of an extra-provincial diocese, under the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The first is a non-starter, according to the ABC. The second and third are equally problematical. The mechanism for a “transfer” of an entire diocese does not exist. More pragmatically, Iker would have to face the wrath of several rectors here who vote with Iker at diocesan convention, but who also have to deal with the reality of their parishes, who have made it clear to their rectors that they do NOT want to split their parishes between those who have no problems with TEC and those who do.
What Iker and the majority of the Executive Committee—and others in this white-male-clergy-led schismatic movement—simply do not “get” is that in the end, it comes down to relationships: the relationship of individuals to God, and the relationships of lay people with one another. Members of parishes here—and in other schismatic dioceses—who have worshipped and worked together for years on parish rummage sales, on vacation bible schools, on altar guilds, on vestries, on parish picnics, on fundraisers for the church pre-school, who have cared for each other’s babies in the nursery in the midst of deep disagreements about the ordination of women, expansive language, and/or human sexuality are not ready to say they ‘have no need of one another.” They are not ready to not meet one another at the communion rail.
They are not ready to split their parish families apart.
So don’t believe everything you read about the Diocese of Fort Worth leaving TEC. Just because a chicken has wings doesn’t mean it can fly.