Friday, November 16, 2007

This crash was inevitable

Here I am, in Venice, Italy -- taking time with my husband to rest, read, and feed our souls.

Call me a coward, but my spiritual and physical health could not take the toxicity of two days of our diocesan convention. Even reading e-mailed reports from home fill me with grief.

Many friends and observers have reported that there was an armed police officer at the opening Eucharist, standing within feet of the altar. He patrolled the church aisles prior to the start of the service, apparently making sure no lavender storm troopers were there.

And, as my friend Marvin Long said, we ain't done crashin' yet.

How did it come to this?

The truth is, this crash was inevitable. It has been years in the making.

Our diocese was born out of negativity. It was carved out of the Diocese of Dallas, its founding principle being opposition to the ordination of women. The resentments and piques of its founding bishop were imported into its DNA.

All three of its bishops have defined themselves by what they were not, ie. the national church. Theirs has been a leadership of us versus them, the "us" being them and their cronies, and the "them" being anyone who disagreed with them. All three have worked out of a theology of scarcity -- if God loves you, then there's less love for me; if God approves of your interpretation of scripture, God must disapprove of mine.

From the beginning, the concept of a loyal opposition has never never been recognized. Disagreement is disobedience, and, according to some, proof of complicity in heresy. In recent years this has escalated into blatant statements that those who disagree with Bishop Iker "don't love Jesus."

Both of Bishop Jack Iker's predecessors have left The Episcopal Church. Donald Davies formed his own breakaway church and Clarence Pope left three times for the Roman Catholic Church, and this last time it seems to have "stuck." Jack Iker has acted as if he had one foot out the door since he was consecrated as bishop coadjutor, although he, like Clarence, reassured us he had no intention of leaving The Episcopal Church. [Clarence told us this right up to the first time he left.]

Bp. Iker has surrounded himself with mostly young, white, male priests who treat him like a rock star and who seem to have serious "father" issues as well as a constantly outraged sense of entitlement being thwarted. Many of them seem to think it is their birthright to be a bishop one day, and the fact that The Episcopal Church at large doesn't share their wizened sense of who is worthy of inclusion enough to confirm them in this belief is cause enough to leave it.

Many of these priests control their parishes by telling them horror stories about the national church, and then assuring them that "father" will keep them safe from the bad ol' presiding bishop. They define who is "good" and worthy of inclusion in God's love and grace by telling their followers who is "bad" and not worthy of God's love and grace. Lots of energy is spent on excluding people.

Bishop Iker believes that women are not "proper matter" for ordination. He forbids the use of supplemental liturgies, any use of the New Zealand Book of Prayer [especially it's "heretical" version of the Lord's Prayer], and even the mildest forms of inclusive language. My husband was once called an apostate by another priest because he, in a reading at a clergy retreat, used God as a second reference instead of "his," as is "God and God's people."

When it became clear to Bp. Iker that he was losing traction on the issue of women's ordination -- it just wasn't that hot an issue with most of the people in the pews -- he borrowed a page from the Republican Party's book of wedge-issues-good-for-fear-mongering-and-fundraising and took up the issue of homosexuality. Here in the heart of the Baptist Bible Belt, it was a guaranteed way to make people afraid of a national church that was not only baptizing gays and lesbians, but also ordaining them. Iker and his cronies constantly warned that "the national church" would soon be forcing him to not only ordain women, but also to ordain homosexuals and put them in charge of the churches here.

The ugliness and mean-spiritedness began to go off the scale in the last few years, culminating in this last diocesan convention.

Those of us who have no wish to leave The Episcopal Church can only watch in grief and dismay. There was no hope of stopping this crash, because it's been happening in slow motion for decades. Bp. Iker and his predecessors have been building toward this day for years. I could have told you the vote -- at least 80 percent for, 20 percent against every measure the bishop favored -- long before convention convened.

So now we enter a time of terrible uncertainty, a time when pressures will increase exponentially on those few clergy who ain't leaving, and on lay people who are trying to understand all the ramifications of what their leadership is telling them.

In a sad way, I guess I'm glad we've finally reached this point. Maybe once the flames of all Bp. Iker's and his followers rage has burned out, and all the court cases are settled, those of us Episcopalians left can start over.

A new diocese will rise from these ashes. But getting from here to there is going to be a long hard painful journey.

I pray God will give us the strength, wisdom, and fortitude to overcome our history and create a new healthy place where all people can grow in God's love and grace.

Please pray for us.


Anonymous said...

i'm sorry, katie, that you've had to go through this mess with -iker and his minions for so long. our then bishop of kansas voted against -iker's election as bishop. do know that you and your fellow episcopalians are in my daily prayers.

Socialworker said...

Katie, please know that those of us who love the Episcopal Church (warts and all) are praying for you and for all in the Ft. Worth Diocese. It is hard to watch now, but God will triumph. "All will be well..all manner of things will be well."
Love and peace,
Anna Rae

Kirstin said...

I'm in DioCal; my best friend's in San Joaquin. Praying, for you and with you.

We are watching, and praying, and working. I know you feel isolated--but you are not alone.

Rory said...

Over here in the Diocese of the Rio Grande we have our own challenges, but nothing like what faithful Episcopalians have experienced in Ft. Worth.

You & your fellows are on my prayer list!

Anonymous said...

I applaud you and others for your HOPE for a loving and inclusive church in the future, no matter how long it takes! Having been in and around your area, I have many memories of what it feels like! It is hard for many to believe. In my current diocese, however, under the former bishop, I was also reprimanded for calling God "God" rather than HE!! It is unbelieveable! I was also kicked off of the Dioc. Education Committee for advertising the Via Media film series! It's true! Free speech was not an option! Continue enjoying Italy! I hope to see your new book soon. Is it out yet? Faithfully, Ann

Anonymous said...

The prayers of many faithful Christians are with you as you face the evil hatred coming from Mr. Iker. May the peace of the Risen Lord sustain you and keep you safe. Always remember: God will take care of his people...Iker will answer for his sins one day...

Anonymous said...

Katie, we've added "those faithful Episcopalians in the dioceses of Pittsburg, San Joaquin, and Ft. Worth" to our prayers of the people each Sunday. You all have a long road ahead of you. We'll keep praying.

Jeff in Mobile,AL

Anonymous said...

Did we see the same convention? I missed the mean-spiritedness and rage you speak of; I also marvel at the degree of delusion that someone can write about the 'evil of Mr. Iker' and somehow believe her/himself to be loving and inclusive. I think you place the mean-spiritedness and rage on the wrong side. Just my view from the barrio, not Venice.

Anonymous said...

dear katie-

I can understand your disagreement with the positions of the Diocese of Fort Worth, but why resort to personal attacks? It only weakens your position and soils those who look to you for leadership.

one of those deranged young priests who has father issues and wants desperately to be a Bishop,
John Jordan+
Curate, St. Vincent's Cathedral

BooCat said...

Dear Katie,
You and all faithful Episcopalians in Forth Worth are ever in my prayers.

For John Jordan+,
The "ole masser" on the platation always felt he was treating his slaves with loving kindness. Get a clue. Women in the Episcopal Church do not wish to be subjected to some sort "sharia law" at the hands of a privileged anointed class. We are equal members of God's creation.

Brian said...

Prayers for you and the faithful Episcopalians in Ft. Worth. I am hopeful that you will be able to begin rebuilding a welcoming Diocese soon! Please keep us updated.

Brian in Dallas

Suzer said...

I have no doubt that with folks like you around, the faithful Episcopalians left after the schism will have wonderful leadership and fellowship together, and will be able to build anew what the Liturgical Baptists have left behind. Many, many prayers for you and all those who wish to remain Episcopalians in diocese which are being rent asunder by the power hungry.