Saturday, November 15, 2008

Statement of delegates who will remain in TEC

Delegate Summary Statement

26th Annual Convention of the
Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth

My name is Dr. John Burk. I am a delegate from All Saints, Fort Worth.

I have been asked to present remarks on behalf of many of your fellow delegates who will remain as members of the Episcopal Church. We thank Bishop Iker for graciously designating a place on the agenda for us to make this summary statement of our continuing opposition to the propositions that are before the convention today and for including this statement as part of the formal record of the convention. As a result, those of us who adopt this statement will not present statements when debate opens on the individual propositions.

Specifically we will vote against, and we urge you all to vote against, the propositions which purport to amend our diocesan constitution and canons and the resolution regarding membership in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Those of us who will remain in the Episcopal Church respectfully but profoundly disagree that passage of these propositions will in fact “remove” the Diocese itself, as well as church property in the diocese, from the Episcopal Church.
1. The propositions are invalid because they are inconsistent with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, such as the requirements that each diocese maintain an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and for church officials to act consistently with their fiduciary duty to the Episcopal Church, including recognition of the express trust interest of the Episcopal Church in church property.

2. The propositions violate the fundamental conditions under which the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was created from within the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas and by which the new diocese assumed the use of and control over Episcopal Church property. These conditions include conformity with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, as our diocesan officials expressly acknowledged in the primary convention of the diocese in 1982 and as they have judicially admitted on behalf of the Diocese in the declaratory judgment entered in 1984 and again in the Holy Apostles litigation in the mid 1990s.

3. The propositions would violate the interests of generations of Episcopalians who, long before this diocese existed, sacrificed to contribute time, talent, and treasure to build up the body of Christ through the ministry of the Episcopal Church, not some other church, in this area.

4. The propositions that seek to remove the geographical definition of the Diocese would violate the historical understanding of a diocese as having geographical boundaries and would apparently permit the cathedral and diocesan center to be located anywhere, even outside of north central Texas.

5. Clergy delegates voting in favor of these propositions may expose themselves to discipline, including inhibition and deposition, for:
- Abandonment of the communion of the Episcopal Church;
- Violating the Constitution or Canons of the Episcopal Church and this Diocese; and
- Violating their ordination vows, including the vow to “conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.”

6. Clergy and lay delegates voting in favor of these propositions may violate their fiduciary duty and other legal and canonical duties as church officials in the Episcopal Church.

7. Regarding the Proposed Resolution for Admission to the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone,
- Such an action would violate the Constitution of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, in which Article 2 restricts membership to Anglican dioceses in the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay;
- Such an action directly violates the recommendation of the Windsor Report against boundary incursions; and
- The resolution violates Canon 30 of our own diocesan constitution which prohibits use of church property by another church.

8. We believe that the proposed budget significantly underestimates the “shrinkage” which will result from the expected passage of the other propositions today.
Under the circumstances it seems unrealistic to assume that all the congregations in the diocese would continue to pay assessments at or above the levels paid in the prior year. Since individual giving will predictably follow changes of church membership, and since assessments are calculated using the prior year receipts but are actually paid from the current year cash receipts, the expected schism within our diocese, joined with the current economic downturn, will drastically reduce the overall revenue to the diocese.

9. Regarding the Report for the Corporation for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, we strenuously object to the continuing inadequacy of the annual reports submitted by the Corporation and the lack of transparency of its deliberations and actions. We continue to object to the attempted effort by the Board of Trustees to amend the Corporation’s articles of incorporation and bylaws to remove any obligation of the Corporation to comply with diocesan constitution and canons, including its trust provisions, and to bypass canonical procedures to determine who is the bishop of the Diocese. We consider these actions to have no legal effect. By their votes, we believe that the trustees violated their fiduciary duties to the diocese and its individual parishes, missions, and congregations, violated diocesan Article 14 and Canons 17.2 and 18, and violated the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

10. Regarding the report on church schools, we are concerned that the report continues to be incomplete and fails to acknowledge the critical financial condition of certain of our church schools.

11. We also incorporate by reference any additional comments made in opposition to these provisions on their first reading at the annual convention in 2007.

For these and other reasons, we consider the propositions presented today to be illegal, extracanonical, and of no effect, under canon law or secular law.
We ask that individual delegates signify in writing their votes on these propositions, to become a part of the official journal of this convention, particularly on the proposed changes to Article I of the Constitution, in the same manner as was done when the delegates adopted the unqualified accession at the primary convention of this diocese on November 13, 1982. We believe that it is essential that all church officials publicly and honestly confirm whether they are members of the Episcopal Church, because those who are no longer members of the Episcopal Church may no longer exercise authority on behalf of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

For those in our diocese who decide to resign their membership in the Episcopal Church and thus their church offices, we will expect that they will immediately discontinue exercising any possession or control over Episcopal Church entities or property, including use of the names “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth” and “Corporation for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth,” or continuing to speak for any parish or other church entity of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. While we fully respect your individual right to move your church membership from the Episcopal Church to another church, we cannot recognize your continuing authority to act on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth if you do leave the Episcopal Church.

Do we each agree with every action ever taken by the Episcopal Church? Clearly not. But we will remain in the Episcopal Church, as the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, and as Anglicans in this place, professing our belief in the Creed every Sunday while striving to live out the Gospel imperatives of loving God with our whole heart, mind, and strength and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

At some point in the future, some of you may discover that you no longer wish to follow the path you take today and decide to return to the Episcopal Church. Please know that we, as the continuing presence of the Episcopal Church in this area, will joyfully welcome your return to worship with us as Episcopalians in the body of Christ.

We prayerfully urge you to oppose these propositions. Their passage will put our diocese into schism and result in a loss of your needed voice and energy in the Episcopal Church.

Thank you again, Bishop Iker, for this opportunity to lodge our respectful objections to the actions which likely will be taken here today and to do so efficiently to avoid exacerbating our differences on these important issues.

I/we adopt this statement which was read by a representative delegate during the 26th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth:

Delegate Name Clergy or Lay? Parish, Mission, or Congregation


Ann said...

Prayers for those who remain - be of strong courage. Thanks for your work in Ft Worth.

June Butler said...

Wonderful and courageous statement. May God be with you as you continue your journey in the Episcopal Church.

Counterlight said...

In the midst of the anger and turmoil arises new opportunity. I look forward to a better and happier future for the Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, though the present is so sad.

austin said...

I cannot imagine a conservative voice being given such a respectful hearing in my home diocese. And as for letting us go with our churches...the bishop would rather see them razed for parking lots. How fortunate you are to have Bp. Iker.