Friday, January 30, 2009

Sam Hodges story on HB 729

Sam Hodges of the Dallas News has done an excellent story on House Bill.
Bill pushed by Corsicana Episcopal congregation would alter law on church land disputes
10:29 PM CST on Thursday, January 29, 2009
The Dallas Morning News

A small congregation south of Dallas is causing a stir within its denomination and beyond by trying to rewrite Texas law regarding certain church property disputes.

Leaders of St. John's Episcopal Church in Corsicana enlisted state Rep. Byron Cook, a Republican from that town, to introduce legislation that would strengthen the hand of congregations that leave a denomination in a doctrinal dispute and then end up in court with the denomination over who owns the local church property.

The bill has prompted comment on blogs that follow turmoil within the Episcopal Church, which has seen churches and even dioceses, including the one based in Fort Worth, vote to leave over such controversies as the denomination's acceptance of an openly gay bishop.

Some Episcopal Church officials are weighing in negatively on the bill.

"Our [Episcopal] Church strives for unity, and this bill is divisive," said the Rev. Andy Doyle, bishop coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, which covers the Houston area.

Officials affiliated with other denominations also express concern.

"Our constitution says that congregations hold property in trust for the presbyteries [district governing bodies], and we would prefer that denominational rules and processes would be respected by the civil courts," said the Rev. Judy Fletcher, executive of the Synod of the Sun, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) regional governing body that includes Texas churches.

Though the bill directs courts to find a "just and right" division of property, having "due regard" for all parties, the effect would be to shift from a traditional deference to church hierarchies, experts said.

"The congregations would say it puts them on a fairer plane. Denominations would say it stacks the deck against them," said Robert Tuttle, a church law specialist who teaches at George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C.

Jon Nelson, a lawyer who represents Fort Worth-area Episcopalians remaining loyal to their denomination, questioned the measure on church-state separation grounds.

"When you have a hierarchical church that has determined ownership of property, I don't believe a state Legislature has the ability to change that," he said. "If it attempts to do so, I believe the legislation is unconstitutional."

But Nelson said the bill should worry a range of religious groups.

Read it all here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

PB recommends provisional bishop

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori has recommended the Rt. Rev. Edwin F. "Ted" Gulick Jr., bishop of Kentucky, to be the provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. If elected by the special meeting of the convention of the diocese, Bp. Gulick will be installed during the meeting. Bishop Gulick will serve part time as he continues to serve as bishop of Diocese of Kentucky.

The special meeting of the convention of the diocese has been called for Saturday, Feb. 7, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 3401 Bellaire Drive S., Fort Worth, 76109, because the former bishop and some diocesan leaders have left the Episcopal Church and the diocese.

Delegates also will fill other diocesan vacancies, including members of the Standing Committee, deputies to General Convention and trustees of the Corporation for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

Because of previous commitments, Bp. Gulick may serve only until mid year. If so, another provisional bishop may be elected to serve until the diocese is ready to elect a bishop, most likely in one to two years.

Information for members of the media wishing to cover the Special Convention is here.

Information on Bp. Gulick can be found here.

The opening eucharist will be at 10 A.M. Saturday, Feb. 7, at All Saints Episcopal Church, 5001 Crestline Road, Fort Worth, 76107. Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will celebrate and preach.
The special meeting of the convention will begin at Trinity at 1:30 P.M. Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will call the convention to order. A brief press conference with the presiding bishop and Bp. Gulick will follow the convention.

At 5 P.M. Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will lead Evensong at Trinity.

Following Evensong, she will bless the new Family Life Center at St. Christopher Episcopal Church, 3550 Southwest Loop 820, Fort Worth, TX, 76133. A reception will follow.

At 10 A.M., Sunday, Feb. 8, the presiding bishop will celebrate and preach at St. Stephen Episcopal Church, a parish meeting temporarily at Oak Crest Woman’s Club, 1616 Precinct Line Rd., Hurst, TX.

Bp. Gulick, 60, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lynchburg College in 1970 and a Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1973. He also holds honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from Virginia Seminary and the University of the South and received an honorary doctorate degree from Bellarmine University in 2008. He is married to Barbara Lichtfuss, who teaches middle school students at the Anchorage Public School. They have three adult children and three grandchildren.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Texas House Bill 729

There has been an Internet flurry over Texas HB 729 Relating to property rights of certain religious organizations which has been introduced by Rep. Byron Cook, R. Corsicana. As far as I can tell, Episcopal Cafe was the first Episcopal source to raise a red flag about this.

The text of the bill can be found here.

The Cafe pointed its readers to Capitol Annex, a "weblog dedicated to Texas News & Politics", which reported:

The legislation, House Bill 729 by State Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), would direct Texas courts to divide church property “in a manner that the court considers just and right.”

The bill is narrowly crafted only to apply to schisms as a result of doctrinal differences and then only to divisions that result in a unit of an organized denomination’s church or diocese seceding from its ultimate ruling body.

Although evidently geared to address the property concerns of Episcopal Churches who have abandoned the Anglican Communion or the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the U.S., the bill is drafted to apply to any religious organization that qualifies as such under the Texas Tax Code so long as the religious organization is organized “into orders or ranks each subordinate to the one above it,” and specifically mentions churches, synagogues, and mosques.

People in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth assumed it was filed at the urging of our departed leadership, who have left the Episcopal Church and are attempting to take our property with them. This impression was bolstered by the use of the phrase "property concerns of Episcopal Churches who have abandoned the Anglican Communion or the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the U.S." "The General Convention Church" is the way the schismatics refer to the Episcopal Church.

However, Vince Leibowitz, who wrote the piece for Capital Annex, replied in the Comments at the Cafe that

"I'm very sorry about any confusion that caused. I searched for a very long time to figure out what the appropriate terms for both the umbrella body that the Fort Worth Diocese left and the new body they joined.
" I'm a United Methodist, so the nomenclature of the Episcopal Church is a bit foreign to me.
"Can you clarify for me what the proper names are?
"I am not a religion writer; I cover the Texas Legislature, but I found this bill very interesting in light of what happened in Fort Worth."

Jim Naughton of the Cafe replied:

"Sure, Mr. Leibowitz. We are simply called The Episcopal Church. Bishop Iker and his allies are attempting to sow confusion by continuing to call themselves The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, even though they have voted to separate from The Episcopal Church and join the Province of the Southern Cone, which is another member of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The bishop and his allies take what might be characterized as a states rights approach to church politics. Those of us who remain in the Church do not believe that dioceses have the right to enter and leave at will, and certainly don't believe that if they leave they get to take the name and property with them."

And Paige Baker commented:

"Mr. Leibowitz--Since you live in Texas, I suspect you are probably familiar with the crime of cattle rustling?
"This is like trying to take cows with someone else's brand and rebrand them so that they look like they are yours.
"Not cool. Not legal. Not Christian."

So it does not appear that the language of the report is indicative of anything other than confusion over proper nomenclature.

Here's what we do know - Rep. Cook was in the news most recently for filing to run against House Speaker Tom Craddick, so we know he's got guts. He was named one of the ten best legislators by Texas Monthly. He's also apparently friends with the Rev. Canon Ed Monk, SSC, of St. John's Episcopal Church, Corsicana in the Diocese of Dallas. I've been told that it was Canon Monk and the senior warden of St. John's who urged Rep. Cook, a Southern Baptist, to file the bill.

Here's something interesting about St. John's. They are listed on a website called Angelfire.
This is a web site for people who want to worship in "safe" parishes, safe meaning places uncontaminated by Episcopalians who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender and Episcopalians who favor the inclusion of such folk.

The site describes itself this way:

If you are looking for a place to worship that upholds tradition, the 39 Articles of Religion or the The Affirmation of St. Louis and the Creeds and believe the Bible is the word of God and that marriage is between one man and one woman then check the list below for a church that worships in the Anglican style. If you know of any other traditional/orthodox Churches to add to the list please send the following information to

Grannie Kay ain't babying anybody. She writes:

DO NOT send me only the URL to your web site and expect me to go hunt for your information. We have done the best we can to make sure the churches listed are "safe" but it is your responsibility to check them out and ask the hard questions. May God go with you on your quest.

The Angelfire site links to Apostasy, which says:

The Episcopal Church has chosen apostasy, abandoning both the principles of the Anglican Communion and the Christian Faith. She has ordained women for the past 30 years, has elected a woman as her primate and has consecrated a man in an active same gender relationship to the office of bishop. Thousands of laity are leaving weekly. Congregations have left to be under the authority of foreign bishops and entire dioceses are disaffiliating with the Episcopal Church and are coming under the jurisdiction of the Southern Cone. Churches are being sued for leaving and upholding Tradition and Scripture. The Episcopal Church has even attempted to sue laity as well as rewriting the canons to better control laity with threats of excommunication.

The Anglican Church of Canada approved rites for blessing same-gender relationships. TEC allows them but denies that doing so is "approved". The Archbishop of Canterbury has presided at Holy Eucharist to gay persons in liberal Churches in England without the permission or knowledge of the diocesan bishop. All this has brought the whole Anglican Communion to the brink of schism. What's next?

Our purpose is to discuss the effects this has on us, and the various possibilities for the future of TEC, the Anglican Communion and ourselves.It is time to leave the Episcopal Church. Where will we go? How do we start a new church if there is not already one nearby? We pray for God's blessings and guidance as we go forth."

St. John's is clearly hanging its hat with folks who have left or are planning to leave the Episcopal Church.

So it would appear that this bill arose out of a parish in the Diocese of Dallas that is looking to leave the Episcopal Church and take its property with it. It will be interesting to see what Bishop Jim Stanton -- who has his own history with schismatic organizations -- will have to say about this.

So far, the bill has no cosponsors nor is there a companion bill in the Texas Senate. That may be because the bill has serious Constitutional issues around the separation of church and state. Its passage would affect many other denominations in addition to the Episcopal Church, including
Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Methodist churches.

I don't see many Texas legislators wanting to make that many constituents angry. So it will be good for Episcopalians to write their representatives about making sure this bill dies an early death. And urge your Presbyterian, Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Methodist friends to do the same.

And watch the Dallas Morning News for more on this story.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Diana Butler Bass to speak in Fort Worth

Mark your calendars!

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and Brite Divinity School at TCU, are pleased to announce that Diana Butler Bass will speak at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11 at the Dee J. Kelly Alumni and Visitor Center, 2820 Stadium Drive, on the TCU campus.

Diana Butler Bass is an author, speaker, and independent scholar specializing in American religion and culture.

She holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Duke University and is the author of seven books including the best-selling Christianity for the Rest of Us, released by Harper One in 2006. It was named one of the best religion books of the year by Publishers Weekly and Christianity Century, and also won the Book of the Year Award from the Academy of Parish Clergy. It also was featured in a cover story in USA TODAY.

Dr. Bass, currently Senior Fellow at the Cathedral College of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., regularly consults with religious organizations, leads conferences for religious leaders, and teaches and preaches in a variety of venues.

The doors of the Kelly Center will open at 5 p.m. A light supper will be served. Dr. Bass will sign books from 5 to 5:45 p.m., prior to her talk. Preregister at or or by calling 817-294-2946.

There is a $10 fee for the event, which can be paid upon registering. If you prefer to register by mail, the address is Diana Butler Bass Event, PO Box 100846, Fort Worth 76185

Monday, January 26, 2009

Seeking shelter

A story from one of the parishes of the continuing Diocese of Fort Worth.

All Saints/Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
Wichita Falls, Texas

Third Sunday after Epiphany 2009

Homily by Dr. Mildred Gore Lancaster

They tell me that one of the things that priests do when they prepare a homily is to look for a common thread that runs through the readings. I am guessing that one of the ways that they find a common thread is through looking at the scriptures in light of whatever is going on in their faith communities. This week, even a child could see the threads in light of what is going on in our faith community.

The two threads that I found are 1) discerning what God wants us to do, and 2) giving up comfortable, beloved places and ways of doing things, leaving them behind, and following Him.

First we have the story of Jonah. God originally says to Jonah, “Go to Ninevah and tell them to repent or I will destroy them.” Jonah didn’t want to go because he hated the Ninevites and wanted them destroyed. He hopped a boat to escape from God, but when God caused a great storm, the angry sailors threw Jonah overboard. However, instead of letting Jonah drown, the story goes that God had a big fish swallow him up and deposit him on the land three days later. God then said, “Jonah, I told you to go to Ninevah and warn the Ninevites.” This time, Jonah did as he was told, but he didn’t like it. The story goes on, but for me, I think for us, the important things are 1) that God spoke to Jonah, and 2) God made Jonah get up from his comfortable life and go elsewhere and do something new.

Likewise, in the reading from Corinthians, the message for me, I think for us, is that times are changing quickly, and we have to be ready to move. Something new is afoot. And for us as AS/GS, something new is certainly afoot.

Finally, in the Gospel reading, Simon and Andrew were fishing when along came Jesus and said, “Follow me.” And Simon and Andrew threw down their nets and followed. Then Jesus saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee mending their nets in the boat, and he called them to follow him, and they left their nets and their father and followed Jesus.

So the two messages I hear in these three readings are that God speaks to us and that sometimes God tells us that we have to get up, and leave places we love, and follow him.

So what do those messages say to us today as AS/GS?

First, they say that we have to listen for God’s voice, and then they say that once again, we have to get up and leave what has become comfortable and go somewhere else to something new.

Let’s talk about listening for God’s voice. The stories go that in the Old Testament days, God spoke to the prophets in an audible voice from the sky. Certainly, Jesus spoke in an audible voice. But in these days, we have to use discernment to hear God’s voice. We listen not with our outer ears, but with our minds and our hearts. We pray, we contemplate, we read the Bible, we study, we talk together with others whom we trust, and together we use reason to discern what God is saying to us.

And in that way, God has spoken this week to the people of AS/GS. And what he has said to us is this: “It is now time to leave this place at First Presbyterian that I have given you for a while.”

We heard God’s voice when we received an email from a fellow Episcopalian this week telling us that a small but vocal minority of members of this lovely church have formed a committee to have us “evicted.” In fact, they are scheduled to meet before The Session (the Presbyterian’s version of a vestry) day after tomorrow. Their concern is that we welcome gay people to be full members of our faith community.

And they are right; we definitely welcome gay people as full members of our faith community. And we welcome straight people, black people and white people and people of every hue between, tall people and short people, people who listen to Fox News and those who listen to NPR. We welcome the literati and the illiterate, single teenage moms and traditional families, Norwegians and Nepalese, people who speak only English and people who speak no English at all. We welcome every single person whom God has made to God’s table.

After we received this email, the members of the AS/GS vestry quickly convened by email and telephone to try to discern what God would have us do. By our corporate reason, we discerned God’s voice telling us that it is time to move. Who knows better than we, the members of AS/GS, the heartache of a church divided, and we do not believe that God wants us, by our presence, to cause division in this church.

Now please understand that this is a only a small group of people who want us to leave. Dr. Butterworth, the senior pastor, tells us that as many people love us being here and have gone to him to tell him so, as there are people who want us to leave. And understand that he and the assistant pastor are deeply saddened about this turn of events. They both told me that they had hoped that we would never hear about the people objecting to our presence, and that the problem would quietly go away. But it has not gone away, and we do not believe that God wants us to cause a division in this church.

So we believe that God is speaking to us and telling us that it is time to go.

“But where?” That is the question that the vestry members were asking each other Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday; the telephone lines and email were burning up. Some of us were panicky. All of us were immensely sad, as I know all of you are, both at the knowledge that we had caused pain in this dear congregation, and at the prospect of leaving this lovely worship space that we have so quickly grown to love. But we discerned that we had heard God’s voice, and that if we followed, he would provide for us, although we did not know how.

And provide for us is exactly what God did.

You may remember that last week in our Order of Service, newsletter, and announcements, our Verger, JD, urged us to go to the ecumenical Service of Prayer for Christian Unity Friday night at Trinity Lutheran Church. JD and Don and I went to represent AS/GS, and lo and behold, the pastor giving the sermon told the congregation that she was the chaplain at United Regional Health Care. After the service, we were going to ask her about using the chapel at the 11th street campus (the old Bethania) when another pastor told JD that it had been dismantled when the nuns left.

When we got to talk to the hospital chaplain, Susan Lanford, she confirmed that 11th Street no longer had a chapel, but said that the 8th Street campus, the old General Hospital, did. We told her that we were AS/GS Episcopal Church who were remaining in The Episcopal Church USA, and that we had lost our buildings to the people and priests who had left our denomination. We told her that two Lutheran churches and the Christian Church had refused us a place to worship, and now we needed to leave First Pres because our presence was creating conflict in their congregation. We asked her if we could temporarily use the hospital chapel to worship. She lit up like the Star of the East on Epiphany. She said that she was delighted to have us worship there. She said that this is what the Service of Prayer for Christian Unity was all about. We asked her whom we had to see to get permission to use the chapel, and she said, “You’re looking at her. I’m the person in charge of the chapel, and you may begin using it and continue using it as soon, and as long as you wish.”

We were speechless. Then we asked her, “By the way, what’s your denomination?” She said, “Southern Baptist.” I nearly fainted.

A Southern Baptist woman pastor, in a Lutheran parish, at an ecumenical service, giving a bunch of homeless, rejected Episcopalians a place to worship. Who but God could conceive of such a thing? Who but God could cause it to happen?

And if JD hadn’t publicized the event, if the three of us had not gone to the service to pray for Christian unity that bitter cold night, if our minds had drifted off during the two seconds that Susan Lanford introduced herself as the hospital chaplain, if we had heard her say that she was Southern Baptist and so had not dared to ask her to use the chapel, if she had been the typical Texas Southern Baptist pastor, if, if, if, we would not have asked, and she would not have given us her blessings to use the chapel.

When we got back home that night, by telephone and email, we spread the word among the vestry, who discerned that this gift was from God. That this was a message from God that said, Go to a new place and do something new. Follow me.

But that’s not all. God continued speaking to us, and in an even more direct and personal way.

On Saturday morning, our Verger JD went to see the chapel and discovered something amazing. Later, our Senior Warden, Owanah, and I went to see the chapel and discovered something amazing.

Oh, yes, we fell in love with the chapel immediately. It had a movable altar, a place to kneel at communion, little primitive stain glass windows, and even a small organ. We loved it and felt that God was calling us there. But any doubts we had were blown away when we were leaving. On the wall at the back of the chapel near the door was a beautiful crucifix. We stopped to admire it. And to read the brass plate below it. That was when we knew that God was speaking to us, that He was telling us that it was time to leave First Pres, and that this chapel was where He would have us go. How did we discern this? Because the plaque underneath the crucifix had the following words: Given in memory of Sydney Gaines, December 1990, by All Saints Episcopal Church.

Our name and our crucifix on the wall. Our name and our crucifix on the wall. Our name and our crucifix on the wall. How much more clearly could God speak to us?

So like Jonah, and the Corinthians, and like Simon and Andrew, James and John the sons of Zebedee, if you, too, discern that God has spoken to AS/GS, and if you, too, discern that he has told us that it is time to go and that he has prepared a place for us, then we of AS/GS will be obedient, and go we shall with joyful hearts and love for the members of this dear congregation of First Presbyterian who gave us shelter for a while on our journey.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lefty Brandon, photographer

I have known Lefty Brandon for a long time. He is married to Jeanie, a delightful woman whose friendship is one of the joys of my life.

Lefty is a quiet man, which means that knowing him is like slowly unpacking a box full of presents. Over time, wonderful things keep appearing. While I've known he is a gifted musician for many years, I've only recently learned how gifted a photographer he is.

So here, on this chilly Sunday afternoon, are some of Lefty's photos. You can see more of his photos here.
He selected these photos, but I've arranged them in this order, because, even though they were not all taken in Texas, they were taken by a Texan, and they speak to me of life in Texas.
It begins and ends with the sun.

It is sustained by precious water.

It is fed by the fruits of the earth.

It is awed by the majesty of Creation.

It is capable of creating great beauty.

It values the creatures who work with us.

It delights in small pleasures.

It is visited by wonderful beings.

It can find loveliness in bleak places.

It is learning to embrace progress while also valuing the past.

It still honors hard work.

It loves our nation.

It knows that everything depends on this -

the Living Water.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Never Mind -- Wantland is just like the rest of them

You know, even when you TRY to give them the benefit of the doubt, the schismatics just are so over-the-top that you just have to laugh.

So much for Wantland leaving with dignity. He's as rude as the rest of them, and as confused. He somehow thinks he can leave the Episcopal Church and still be part of it. No wonder Spellcheck always offers Wasteland, Wetland and Wonderland as correct spellings for his name . . .

You can read it all here.

From the Assisting Bishop

On Friday, Jan. 23, 2009, the Rt. Rev. William C. Wantland, Assisting Bishop of this diocese, received the following letter, dated Jan. 15, from the Most. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church:

In a letter to me of November 15, 2008, the Rt. Rev. William Wantland stated that as a result of the Diocese of Fort Worth's recent attempt to realign with the Province of the Southern Cone, "I am . . . now canonically affiliated with the Southern Cone and its Primate, The Most Rev. Gregory Venables." Bishop Wantland then declared that "I am no longer a member of the Episcopal Church." These statements make clear that Bishop Wantland has chosen to leave the Episcopal Church and that he no longer wishes to carry out the responsibilities of ordained ministry in this Church. Accordingly, I have, with the consent of my Council of Advice, chosen this day to accept Bishop Wantland's voluntary renunciation of his Orders in the Episcopal Church and have removed and released him from our ordained ministry.

Bishop Wantland has issued the following reply:

Dr. Schori:
This will acknowledge electronic receipt on this date of a letter apparently not mailed to me, but dated January 15, 2009, purporting to "accept" my letter to you dated November 15, 2008 as a Renunciation of my Orders.

As you must know, my letter specifically declared that "I am not resigning my Orders". Nowhere do I renounce or resign my Orders. My letter to you in no way comports with the provisions of Canon III. 12. 7. Further, I specifically requested status in the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church in conformity with Rule XXIV of the House of Bishops. This request has been totally ignored by you.

I can only conclude that either you (1) do not understand the plain and fairly simple language of either the Canons or my letter to you, or (2) have deliberately violated the Canons for your own purposes and contrary to your obligation as a Christian not to bear false witness. Further, as you acknowledge in your cover letter that I have transferred to another Province of the Anglican Communion, you therefore have absolutely no jurisdiction over me or my ministry, and your purported action of January 15, 2009, is simply null and void.

I would request a response, indicating whether you lack a basic understanding of the English language, or choose to engage in illegal activites. There is no other possible rational interpretation of your actions.

Faithfully,The Rt. Rev. William C. Wantland

In memory of her -- Florence Li Tim-Oi

Many years ago the Fort Worth Chapter of the Episcopal Women's Caucus put on a symposium at St. Stephens Presbyterian Church called In Memory of Her. It was at a Presbyterian church because no Episcopal church would allow the Caucus to meet in their building.

The title came from Mark 14:3-9, the story of the woman who anoints Jesus. The last line says, "And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."

Of course, despite Jesus' praise of her, we have no idea who this woman was, which is true of so many women in scripture whose names have been left out or lost over time.

The point of the symposium was to talk about some of these unnamed women and to talk about the theological basis for the ordination of women -- a topic that no one ever talked about in the Diocese of Fort Worth. It was the forbidden subject, and those of us who insisted on talking about it were held up to ridicule, scorn and attempts at public shaming by clergy and other leaders in the diocese.

One of the women we walked about at this symposium was Florence Li Tim-Oi, the first priest who was a woman in the Anglican Communion [1944]. Like the woman in scripture, her name and her acts of courage during World War II had been forgotten by most Anglicans -- if they ever heard of her in the first place.

Largely because of the efforts of the national Episcopal Women's Caucus, Li Tim-Oi is now included in the Church Calendar.

Please read it -- in memory of her.


Daily Reading for January 24 • Ordination of Florence Li Tim-Oi, First Woman Priest in the Anglican Communion, 1944

A hundred years ago a baby was about to be born in the fishing village of Aberdeen on Hong Kong island. Its gender was not known. Boy babies were highly prized. At that time, in that culture, a bowl of ash could be at hand to smother unwanted new-born girls. The baby who was born on 5 May 1907 was wanted. Her Christian father, a doctor turned headteacher, valued his new daughter and called her Tim-Oi, “Much Beloved.” That decision began a chain of events which has changed the Church.

Tim-Oi completed her primary schooling at 14, but her five brothers and 2 sisters meant there were no funds for further schooling until she was 21. She left school aged 27. While a student she joined an Anglican church, and at her baptism took the Christian name Florence, because her birth-month, May, is a month of flowers, and because she admired Florence Nightingale.

In 1931 she was at the ordination in Hong Kong cathedral of an English deaconess. The Chinese preacher asked if there was a Chinese girl also willing to sacrifice herself for the Chinese church. She prayed: “God, would you like to send me?” That call never left her. In 1934 she started a four year course at Union Theological College in Canton, where her New Testament tutor was Geoffrey Allen, later to be Bishop of Derby, England. Her family couldn’t afford the college fees which were paid by the Anglican church. While at college she led a team of students rescuing the casualties of Japanese carpet bombing, and narrowly escaped being a casualty herself.

Time does not allow to tell her full story: of her licence to preside for two years at Holy Communion in the absence of a priest in Macau; of the bishop brought up in a Tractarian [High Church] vicarage who was not happy with lay celebration and ordained her a Priest of God on 25 January 1944, because God had clearly shown that He had already given her the gift of priesthood.

After the War, pressured by what I call a “Purple Guard,” to the dismay of the Bishop, she resigned her licence as a Priest, but not her Holy Orders. She was put in charge of a parish near Vietnam, and there she started a large maternity home to ensure that new-born girls were not smothered at birth. Her witness to the value of every child, girl and boy, made many friends for Jesus—making friends for Jesus was her mission in life. But also she showed that “It Takes ONE Woman” to change the culture of her community.

From “Memories of Li Tim-Oi” by Canon Christopher Hall, Lambeth Palace, 30 April 2007;

Chinese script for Florence Li Tim-Oi, priest

Friday, January 23, 2009

Wantland leaves with dignity

William Wantland is stating the obvious -- he has left the Episcopal Church and thus can no longer function as a bishop in our church. Jack Iker continues his stomping around trying to bully people into believing that he's STILL the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

At least Wantland retains his dignity.

You can read the ENS story here.

Presiding Bishop accepts two bishops' voluntary renunciation of orders
By Mary Frances Schjonberg, January 23, 2009
[Episcopal News Service]

Episcopal Church bishops William Wantland and Henry Scriven have renounced their orders and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has accepted their renunciations.

Jefferts Schori said that Wantland, the retired bishop of the Diocese of Eau Claire, had written to her November 15 to say that he had "canonically affiliated" with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. She said that Wantland declared in his letter that he was no longer a member of the Episcopal Church.

Jefferts Schori said that Wantland, who was serving as an assisting bishop in the Diocese of Fort Worth, sent his letter "as a result of the Diocese of Fort Worth's recent attempt to realign with the province of the Southern Cone." That action took place at the diocese's convention November 15.

Wantland's statement, the Presiding Bishop said, made it clear that he has left the Episcopal Church "and no longer wishes to carry out the responsibilities of ordained ministry in this Church." Thus, she said, she accepted his voluntary renunciation with the consent of her Council of Advice on January 15 and released him from his orders.

The Presiding Bishop had declared on December 5 that then-Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker's statements after the convention's action meant that he had renounced his orders in the Episcopal Church. Iker objected to that characterization.
Read it all at ENS.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Uncomfortable truths

There has been complaints from some white people about the closing section of Rev. Joseph Lowery's Benediction at the Inauguration.

Lowery opened his prayer with words from the hymn known as the Black National Anthem -- Lift Every Voice and Sing.

He closed it with another cultural reference, this one to a poem used by Southern slaveholders.

My friend Louie Crew, retired English professor and a son of the South, wrote this in response to complaints from white people on the House of Bishops/House of Deputies list. He gave me permission to share it:

Lowery counterstated a vicious and threatening poem that overseers and owners said during slavery.

Black, go back. Brown, stick around.

These lines were known by almost every one of my African American students when I taught for nine years of the 1970s in black higher education in Georgia and in South Carolina.

The slave overseer invited "brown" to "stick around" because of visual evidence that another overseer had his way sexually earlier with brown's mother or grandmother.

The poem is a lurid sexual overture by a white predator. Lowery's prayer recalled this legacy of slavery and lanced some of the poison -- straight from Lowery's lips to God's ear, and to the ears of anyone who has ear to hear!

White people will almost never "get it" if we play back every such statement to see how it would feel if reversed. We whites have not been slaves and have never been victimized in this way.

He then added this in a subsequent note:

By "we whites" I was not referring to all white people anywhere and everywhere, but to whites on the HoBD discussion list, and less so, to all whites in the audience gathered on the Mall before Lowery. I seriously doubt that any of them have recent ancestors who have been slaves, and certainly not slaves of black people.

Someone on this list suggested that Lowery was unfairly asking white people to seek what is right and that whites would be accused of racism were to say the same to blacks.

Of course I know, and hope others know, that ethnic slavery has been around for a long time, and that no race is completely free of the such history.

. . . Suggesting that "everyone does it" gives comfort to those who say "don't get so worked up over it."

I hope not one of us on this list is so morally insecure as to be unable to join Lowery in his hearty three-fold "Amen."


Another friend of mine, historian Joan Gundersen of Pittsburgh, also wrote about the poem and a song based on it:

When I heard the statement at the end of the prayer, I knew I had heard it many times before. Lowery was drawing on the lyrics of a blues song by Big Bill Broonzy (1898-1958), an iconic figure in the black community, and the one of the most important blues singers in Chicago in the 1930s and 1940s. The song was a major hit and was called "Black, Brown and White." The lyrics are below.

Black, Brown And White

This song can be found on the CD: "Big Bill Blues" (Vogue). The recording date was September 20, 1951 in Paris.

Black, Brown And White

(B. B. Broonzy)

This little song that I'm singin' about

People you know it's true

If you're black and gotta work for a living

This is what they will say to you

They says if you was white, should be all right

If you was brown, stick around

But as you's black, m-mm brother, git back git back git back

I was in a place one night

They was all having fun

They was all byin' beer and wine

But they would not sell me none

They said if you was white, should be all right

If you was brown, stick around

But if you black, m-mm brother, git back git back git back

Me and a man was workin' side by side

This is what it meant

They was paying him a dollar an hour

And they was paying me fifty cent

They said if you was white, 't should be all right

If you was brown, could stick around

But as you black, m-mm boy, git back git back git back

I went to an employment office

Got a number 'n' I got in line

They called everybody's number

But they never did call mine

They said if you was white, should be all right

If you was brown, could stick around

But as you black, m-mm brother, git back git back git back

I hope when sweet victory

With my plough and hoe

Now I want you to tell me brother

What you gonna do about the old Jim Crow?

Now if you was white, should be all right

If you was brown, could stick around

But if you black, whoa brother, git back git back git back

This is what a review of the Dec. 1, 1957 opening night of Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago said of Big Bill Broonzy:

"That night Big Bill Broonzy gave us a demo of his powerful guitar playing. Big Bill, black and handsome, could stir a roomful of uptight humans into a bowl of instant throbbing rhythmic jelly."

I find it interesting that I have not heard outrage expressed by anyone except white people. The "yellow" and "red" folks to which he referred have not appeared to be upset. Perhaps that is because Native Americans remember that many of their ancestors were enslaved -- and often branded like cattle -- by white people and Asia Americans remember the horrors their ancestors faced in building America's railroads and working in its mines under slave-like conditions.

Joseph Lowery learned during the Civil Rights Movement that those people who are brave enough to remind us of ugly realities and of work still undone are rarely popular, especially if the person doing the reminding is a member of the group who has suffered from those ugly realities. More than one of Lowery's companions was murdered for speaking uncomfortable truths, the most high-profile of them being Martin Luther King Jr.

From left: Kenneth Hagood, Dr. King, Rev. Joseph Lowery, and Dr. Edward Hart in front of Willard Straight Hall, Cornell, April 14, 1961.

And while murder may have become more rare, tellers of uncomfortable truths still are subject to public outrage and shaming, of accusations of unfairness, rudeness and other bad behaviors. This is particularly true if they are bold enough to do this reminding while we are in the midst of congratulating ourselves on what huge progress we've made -- as we were on Tuesday.

And make no mistake, we have made huge progress. Tuesday was a day for all America to be proud.

But glorious as it was, yesterday did not erase all the pain that came before and the pain is still being experienced by those Americans who are still seen as "the other." If we forget that, all the progress will become empty accomplishments, and all the applause like a clanging gong.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Here is Joseph Lowery's benediction.

Part of the prayer is directly from Lift Every Voice and Sing, a song right out of the Episcopal Hymnal. The Rev. Dr. Lowery is a Civil Rights icon, considered the dean of the movement. He and Martin Luther King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957.

He ended his prayer with a nice twist on the old school-yard chant - to the old schoolyard rhyme: If you're white, you're all right/If you're brown, stick around/If you're yellow, you're mellow/If you're black, get back.

Dr. Lowery prayed instead for the time when "Black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, and the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what's right."

And the people said, "Amen. Amen. Amen."


It is accomplished.

Once more time, the United States of America has had a peaceful transition of power. This time, the power not only was handed to a new generation, it was handed to black man.

It is almost beyond grasping how significant this is.

Barack Hussein Obama is the 44th president of the United States.

I lost count of how many times I had tears in my eyes.

Even the stand full of dignitaries looked more like America -- it wasn't the sea of white male faces we are used to seeing.

I rejoice to see this moment in history I thought would be much longer in arriving.

I rejoice that my grandsons are a bit puzzled as to why the grownups see this as such a big deal. Their surprise is that Obama is the first African American president. Their friends are a rainbow of colors and religions and diversity is woven into the ordinary moments of their life in a way it was not in mine, or even their mother's.
They do not believe the world that matters is all-white. And that gives me hope.
Here is what I wrote on Nov. 4, having just spent 10 days in Africa:

I believe that white Americans can only dimly grasp the hold Obama has on the imagination of the world inhabited by people of color. It is strongest, I think, in those parts of the world where people of color were colonized by white people. His achievements appear to be somehow helping to balance out centuries of oppression, humiliating occupations, and patronizing and demeaning laws and regulations imposed on them in their own lands by colonial masters.

Win or lose, they have taken him into their hearts.

If he wins, for the first time the majority of the world's people will see a president of the United States who looks like them instead of like those who have historically oppressed them.

If he wins, President Obama will enjoy an advantage in working with the governments of all these nations that no white person has ever enjoyed.

I cannot remember a time when so many people wished so much good for an American presidential candidate, or when people around the world held a candidate as close in prayer as they do their own families. Who knows what will come of this unprecedented outpouring of good will?

We are entering uncharted waters here, but the weather signs are more promising than they’ve been for most of my adult life.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Iker diocese examined

Someone named William L. Fisher has written a blog in which he analyzes that legal status of the Jack Iker Diocese of Fort Worth.

The Iker diocese is so taken with it that they have sent it out to their clergy and convention delegates and to former clergy and delegates. Suzanne Gill sent it out under the heading A Texas Lawyer Looks at the Diocesan Corporation and writes "On Dec. 26, lawyer William L. Fisher published a blog post that provides a clear analysis of our Corporation's structure under Texas law and its practical effect on diocesan operations both before and after the November 2008 convention."

Fisher describes himself as having spent time in law, but the State Bar of Texas web site has no mention of him.

The "Find a Lawyer" field at the bottom of the home page lists even disbarred and retired lawyers. I do not see any listing for a William Fisher or a William L. Fisher.

I'm just sayin'.

His other blog entries make it clear that he is an out and proud conservative politically and spiritually. He's also very worried over Americans who are Muslims.

Here is his post from Wednesday, August 16, 2006:

[Note: It's hard to know where his friend's piece ends and Fisher's opinions start, because Fisher doesn't use quotation marks."]
Can a Good Muslim be a Good American?

After I forwarded that question to a friend that worked in Saudi Arabia for 20 years, he responded with this reply.

Theologically - no. Because his allegiance is to Allah, the moon God of Arabia.
Religiously - no. Because no other religion is accepted by his Allah except Islam (Koran, 2:256)

Scripturally - no. Because his allegiance is to the five pillars of Islam and the Koran.
Geographically - no. Because his allegiance is to Mecca, to which he turns in prayer five times a day.
Socially - no. Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him to make friends with Christians or Jews.

Politically - no. Because he must submit to the mullah (spiritual leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and Destruction of America, the great Satan.
Domestically - no. Because he is instructed to marry four women and beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him (Koran 4:34).
Intellectually - no. Because he cannot accept the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the Bible to be corrupt.
Philosophically - no. Because Islam, Muhammad, and the Koran do not allow freedom of religion and expression. Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist. Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.
Spiritually - no. Because when we declare "one nation under God, the Christian's God is loving and kind, while Allah is NEVER referred to as heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in The Koran's 99 excellent names.

Therefore after much study and deliberation... perhaps we should be very suspicious of ALL MUSLIMS in this country. They obviously cannot be both"good" Muslims and good Americans. Call it what you's still the truth.

If you find yourself intellectually in agreement with the above statements, perhaps you will share this with your friends. The more who understand this, the better it will be for our country and our future.

This religious war is bigger than many of us know or understand.


And the depth of ignorance about Islam is even bigger. The bigotry of this entry is breathtaking.

Fisher also sincerely believes God speaks to him. He wrote This I Believe in 2008:
"The inspiration for writing this came to me one day as I was praying for my adult children. As I prayed for God to speak to my children, He spoke to me. In seeking God’s help in sending someone to cross the path of my children, who would say the words, or live the Life of Faith as a model for them, He showed me that I am the spiritual head of my family, and it is my responsibility first. So, I embarked on this adventure of sharing my faith with my children. I have always tried to live out my faith in front of my children, and now it seems it’s time to write out what I truly believe as well."
So read it if you want. It's worth every penny you pay to see it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Many and tender mercies

The western edge of Fort Worth marks the transition from the Cross Timbers section of the state to the rolling prairie. As you leave the cityscape behind, the land begins to stretch out before you like a languorous cat, all smooth hills and soft lines.

And as the land begins its long slow flattening out between Fort Worth and the Cap Rock out toward Midland, the sky gets just gets bigger and bigger.

This morning as the sun began warming up toward a beautiful day, I drove west to Willow Park to worship with the Parker County Episcopalians, a group that includes people from the parishes of St. Francis Willow Park, All Saints Weatherford and Holy Apostles, Fort Worth.

They worship in the McCall Elementary School, a new building on the edge of town. Across the street from it is nothing but prairie and blue sky, a view that is beautifully framed by the floor to ceiling windows of the cafetorium where they have Eucharist.

As we listened to the readings, outside those windows a large hawk slowly and with great majesty rode air currents back and forth like some great ship quartering a blue-and-white sea.

The hawk was oblivious to the history being made inside the school. Maurine Lewis was preaching and celebrating -- the first time a priest who is a woman has celebrated the Eucharist in Parker County.

Litany for
The Episcopal Church in Parker County
Give us grace to deal mercifully with each other, always reflecting your many and tender mercies.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Grant us courage to faithfully hold open a place for the rejected, the suffering, and those who question, search and disagree.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Help us to keep our own faults ever before us, that we may judge ourselves rather than others.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Steer us from the easy path of abandoning difficult relationships.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

May we have the strength and courage to remain alongside each other with open hearts and generous spirits.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Teach us to listen truly and to gaze deeply, that we may see your image revealed in those with whom we disagree.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Show us how to be still, so that your presence in each one of us can reconcile us all.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

All photos except the first were taken by Douglas A. Kerr.

The prayer that began the Inauguration festivities

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire
Opening Inaugural EventLincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009
Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


I am so proud to know Gene Robinson. Here's what he said in his blog today.

Washington Tales from Closer to the Center

"It's very early on Sunday morning. The quiet outside belies the exuberance that promises to explode today here in Washington.

"This new "chapter" in my "Canterbury Tales from the Fringe" blog needs to be renamed, of course. It could be "Mr. Robinson goes to Washington," or "Oh my God! How did I ever get to this moment?" Instead, I'm calling it "Washington Tales from Closer to the Center." After the experience of being on the fringe in Canterbury this summer, I am struck that the new President of the United States is including me in a way the Anglican Communion was not able to this summer. Funny, isn't it, and sad, that the culture is modeling for the Church the inclusion meant for all of God's children."


"I am, to say the least, overwhelmed by the possibilities of this day. Not just offering a prayer for the nation and the new president, but helping to kick off the beginning of a new era of hope in this nation. The hope that then-candidate Barack Obama talked about -- and which was often decried by others as hopelessly (literally) labeled as unrealistic and maudlin -- is about to become reality. The future won't be perfect, of course, and the new president won't be either. But what a new beginning!

"I am also overwhelmed and humbled by the task ahead of me. This prayer has weighed on my heart for several weeks now. My words will be the first heard by the crowds who will have been standing, waiting, for six hours to witness this event. I figure they'll be ready to listen, and grateful that the event has finally begun, or maybe they'll start chanting "Springsteen" or "Bono" and wishing the clergy guy would just get out of the way. Either way, I will attempt to get the crowd to pause for a moment before the fun begins, and join me in a prayer that we can all pray together."

Pray for the Obama family. Pray for our nation.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Loving one another

One of the challenges as we reorganize the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is learning to live together in love while respecting our differences.

We've had little experience of that here, since our previous leadership esentially held the view that anyone who disagreed with their views on scripture, liturgy, the ordination of women, human sexuality, etc., was a heretic. An atmosphere of tolerant love was not encouraged here.

So, here's a little reminder that living together in love is possible, even among those whose differences would appear insurmountable.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jekyll and Hyde?

On November 17, 2008, the vestry of Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Worth, sent this letter to Jack Iker, who was at that time still the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, informing him that the parish intended to stay in the Episcopal Church.

All the letters can be seen here.

To their pleased surprise, they received the letter below from Iker, wishing them well, and offering them his "support, cooperation, and respect." He even added a nice hand-written note offering his condolences on the death of Jim Barlow, a beloved member of the parish.

But then this last letter arrived. By now Jack Iker is no longer the bishop of Fort Worth. In fact, some of us are wondering if Jack Iker is still Jack Iker, or if he has become the episcopal version of Jekyll and Hyde.

This is getting beyond weird folks.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The engine's runnin' but ain't nobody drivin'.

Below is a letter from Jack Iker to the Presiding Bishop. If ever there was any doubt that Jack Iker and his followers are delusional, this letter removes it.

If you can't read the letter below, you can find it here. Or click on the letter. When a friend first read it to me over the phone, I thought it was a joke someone had posted on the 'net, a parody of a letter.

But no, as near as I can discern, it's for real, although it reads like something written by someone channeling Lewis Carroll.

It's almost not fair to respond to this, because it is such a slow moving target.

But oh, why not.

First of all, Jack Iker is no longer the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. He AND the Standing Committee all very publicly left the Episcopal Church. So it does not matter one teeny bitty bit bit that they haven't invited the presiding bishop here.

It's like a neighbor of mine used to say, "If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around."

Jack Iker is no longer a person of some influence.

He and the former members of the Standing Committee have no authority over Episcopalians OR their dogs any more. This letter is one more meaningless act by irrelevant people who apparently aren't sure exactly what church they are members of.

For instance, after having left the Episcopal Church in November, Iker cites the Episcopal Church's own Canons in his scolding of the presiding bishop for "boundary crossing." Uh, Jack, that's just laughable.

As to the claim of a "rival" diocese being created, let me say this one more time, very slowly.

We are not creating a "new" or a "rival" diocese. We ARE the diocese. You left. We did not.

Then there is the whole paragraph taking Bishop Katharine to task for an uncanonical invasion of "his" diocese and asking her to "reflect" on how she responded "to such a visit to your own Province from a fellow last year." That would be Gregory Venables' visit to Fort Worth.

Does Iker not realize that in characterizing Venables' visit last year as "such a visit to your own Province from a fellow primate last year," he is admitting that Venables' visit was uncanonical? That he and Venables, unlike the Episcopal Church, conspired to violate one of the sacred Windsor Report recommendation?

No, he does not, because as my friend Mollie Ivins once famously said of George W. Bush, if you put his brain in a bee, it would fly backwards.

Now he is accurate that "Actions contemplated by some people in Fort Worth are profoundly uncanonical," but those "some people" would be Iker and the former members of the Standing Committee.

I mean, Iker even violates the illegal canons he and his followers came up with in their effort to make their illegal actions appear legal. His own specially crafted Canon 32 sets in place a process that is to be initiated by petition from a rector and the vestry.

Instead, Iker himself is invoking "Canon 32" proceedings against All Saints and St.Christopher, just as he did Christ the King. They are, of course, ignoring him, as they would any letter from a delusional crank.

He then laments that these uncanonical actions "prevent needed reconciliation talks from proceeding within this diocese."

Reconciliation?!? I know of no parish or individual who has gotten a letter seeking reconciliation or even mediation. Instead he fulminates and threatens, as bullies always do.

And don't you just love it that he copied the other Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury? Could it be any more embarrassing?

Cowboys in West Texas have a saying about things like this -- the engine's runnin' but ain't nobody drivin'.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The whisper of the honeysuckle

Our weather in Fort Worth has been variable, to say the least. One day it's 80 degrees, the next it's 20, then up to 50, down to 30, back up to 70, and so on, until it is a miracle we aren't all sick all the time.

Today it was sunny and just nearly warm -- as long as you were in the sun. But the wind made shady spots too cold to be comfortable for long without a jacket.
Then, as the day lengthened toward another chilly night, the winter honeysuckle released its fragrance, sending sweetness out onto the air like a whispered message of hope.

The spiritual weather has been variable as well. It's mostly sunny, with some shady spots too cold to remain in for long in comfort.
In some parts of the diocese, it's partly cloudy -- in others, partly sunny.
In the intact parishes, those congregations who have their rectors, their buildings, their altar linens, their stained glass, their kneelers, etc., things are more often than not sunny and warm.
For the displaced congregations, fast moving pressure systems can change things quickly.
Worshipping in a temporary space, where you have to haul in an altar, linens, prayer books, hymnals, etc. for every service because there is no place to store things on site; worshipping, in some cases, with a different priest every week; worshipping without those loved ones who have chosen to leave the Episcopal Church -- all this means that the emotional weather can get heavy indeed.
Waves of grief can be followed by gusts of anger which in turn can be followed by sweet breezes of optimism -- all in the space of an hour or less.
Weariness makes everyone more susceptible to heart sickness. So people work to ward it off by doses of love and humor.
Most of the time it works.
Other times, one sits alone, waiting for the whisper of the honeysuckle.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Good news continues

The good news in Fort Worth continues, in spite of our previous bishop's continued interference in our parishes.

The latest example of his interference is Christ the King Episcopal Church.

The rector there left the Episcopal Church, along with Iker and many others, in November. When the Episcopalians at Christ the King, who are a majority on the vestry, fired him because he is no longer an Episcopalian, he was very angry. In spite of advice to the contrary, the vestry did not change the locks on the doors, preferring to err on the side of being loving.

The next morning the fired rector changed the locks. Iker then notified the vestry he was calling them in for a meeting so they could respond to charges of uncanonical actions. Yes, the ironies abound.

Since Iker is no longer the bishop, the vestry did not have to respond to his "demands." But since the rector has changed the locks, the Episcopalians of Christ the King are now getting organized to meet elsewhere. Iker then announced he has "fired" the Episcopalians on the vestry -- which is, of course, a meaningless act by an irrelevant man.

Iker and the former rector continue to spread misinformation among the members of Christ the King.

In the meantime -- and this is the wonderful good news that's come out of this affliction -- the vestry of St. Stephen's in Hurst, a parish also temporarily displaced, has voted to send $200 a month for a few months to Christ The King to help them get started in their alternative worship space, and one of their members is going to go to CTK's annual parish meeting on Sunday to share what St. Stephen's has learned in the months since November.

How wonderful it is that one displaced parish is helping another in outreach like this.

Christ the King is not the only parish making plans to continue to worship as a parish while non-Episcopalians occupy their buildings. At least three other parishes are doing the same. These are in addition to those already working reorganize the diocese.

Once we have a provisional bishop in place, I suspect many other parishes will begin to take action.

Yes, there is grief aplenty here as families have split and parishes have split. But the Holy Spirit is on the move and her presence is palpable. There is a joyousness and optimism in our gatherings now that is contagious.

Shield the joyous.

Special Convention called

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued the call for a Special Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. You can see the document here.

In short it says that because our diocese no longer has a bishop and no longer has a Standing Committee -- because they all left the Episcopal Church -- it falls to her to call the convention. At this convention delegates will elect a provisional bishop to serve until we are organized enough to elect one under more normal circumstance; bring the diocesan constitution and canons back into order, and pass other such business necessary to reorganize our diocese.

You can read the ENS story here.

What you won't read there, because there is simply no way for a reporter to document it, is the incredible sense of joy and liberation being experienced here, as happy Episcopalians reach out to one another and to others, sharing their love of God and of one another in ministries new and old.

Yes, we mourn the unnecessary pain caused by those who foster division, but people are energized in their faith and full of hope as we move toward a new day in our diocese.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Just ignore him

Jack Iker is having a hard time grasping reality.

From: Bishop Iker
Sent: Thursday, January 08, 2009
2:19 PM
Subject: AD CLERUM
To Rectors, Vicars, and Priests-in-Charge,

It has come to our attention that TEC in the New York office has sent the 2008 Parochial Report forms to each of our congregations. In previous years these reports have always been sent to the Diocesan Center and distributed from our office to our congregations.

Please disregard what they have sent you. The Diocesan Center in Fort Worth will soon be mailing you a packet with the appropriate Parochial form which is to be completed and returned to this office by March 31, 2009, according to Diocesan Canon 27. It is the Bishop's directive that only these forms from the Diocesan Center be used.

It is unfortunate that TEC continues to be disruptive in the life of our diocese.

The last line is his. I did not make it up.

Here's what you do, folks.

Ignore him. Be nice, but ignore him.

The reason the parochial report packets have been sent directly to the parishes is that our diocese does not have a bishop any more. Nor do we have a Standing Committee. They have all left the Episcopal Church.

Jack Iker is not a bishop in the Episcopal Church any more. He has no authority over the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. He has no authority over its people, its priests, or its property.
He certainly has no authority to issue "directives."

So ignore him. Nicely. But ignore him.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Fantasy World of Jack Iker

News Flash:

The Episcopal Church prevailed in a decision announced today by the California Supreme Court in cases where the majority of members of three Episcopal congregations voted to leave the Episcopal Church for oversight by bishops in another Anglican province and tried to take the property with them.

These are cases of parishes versus a diocese, whereas ours is a diocese versus the national church, but I would say this case is more helpful to Episcopalians than it is to those who are no longer Episcopalians.

Here are two key excerpts from that decision:

"Applying the neutral principles of law approach, we conclude that the general church, not the local church, owns the property in question."

And this comment on the recent claim of those leaving the Episcopal Church that the Dennis Canon -- which states that property is held in trust for the national church -- was never actually enacted:

"Defendants also suggest that the Episcopal Church did not properly adopt Canon I.7.4 under its own rules. It is a bit late to argue that Canon I.7.4 was not effectively adopted, a quarter of a century later, and, in light of the consistent conclusions of the out-of state cases that that canon is, indeed, part of the Episcopal Church's governing documents, the argument seems dubious at best. But, in any event, this is one of those questions regarding "religious doctrine or polity" (or, as we phrased it in Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. v. Superior Court, supra, 32 Cal.4th at page 541, "religious doctrine and internal church governance") on which we must defer to the greater church's resolution. (Jones v. Wolf, supra, 443 U.S. at p. 602.) Over the years, the Episcopal Church has consistently taken the position that Canon I.7.4 was effectively adopted."

You can read the whole decision here and the Episcopal News Service story here.
Now, off to fantasyland.

Our former diocesan leadership continues to harbor the fantasy that they are the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, which name they continue to use even after very publicly leaving the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church is apparently so "tainted" they had to remove their pure selves from it. So why do they want to keep the name? The answer is simple -- they want the name because they want the property. So they continue to promulgate the lie that they are still Episcopalians, continue to illegally occupy property that belongs to the Episcopal Church, and continue to harass Episcopalians.

Here are some excerpts from the latest Ad Clerum issued today from the former bishop's office:

"FR. ZEKE ROGERS HAS RESIGNED his position as an assistant priest at All Saints' Church in Fort Worth, where he has served for the past 11 years. Also resigning are Matt Maples, the parish youth minister, and three members of the vestry over a controversy regarding required loyalty oaths to The Episcopal Church."

Oddly enough, All Saints Episcopal Church wants to make sure it has Episcopalians on its vestry and Episcopal priests on its staff. So it asked vestry members, candidates for the vestry and convention delegates and all its staff members to reaffirm that they will uphold the Canons and Constitution of the Episcopal Church. The three vestry members declined to do so, as did the youth minister and Zeke Rogers. So they did the honorable thing and resigned.

When you have people openly taking property that is no longer theirs, it makes sense to ask candidates for decision-making jobs where their loyalties lie.

"A CANON 32 EPISCOPAL ORDER has been issued by the Bishop in a controversy between the Rector and Vestry of Christ the King Episcopal Church in Fort Worth. Five vestry members have been removed for numerous violations of the canons of the diocese, including withholding of assessments and loan repayments to the diocese, seeking to remove the rector against his will and without the consent of the Bishop, and attempting to hold vestry meetings without the rector's knowledge or presence. Please pray for a spirit of unity and peace in the parish during this difficult time."

It's hard to know where to start with this piece of fantasy writing.
1. Canon 32 is an illegal canon passed by those intent on leaving the Episcopal Church and taking its property with them.
2. The rector of Christ the King stated very openly after the Nov. 15 diocesan convention that he is no longer an Episcopal priest, so the vestry of Christ the King Episcopal Church fired him. Since they have no bishop -- he having renounced his orders upon leaving the Episcopal Church, there is no bishop with which to consult, nor is there a Standing Committee, since all its members have left the Episcopal Church. Having no rector -- theirs having left the Episcopal Church -- they could not ask permission to have a vestry meeting.
3. The former bishop of Fort Worth announced he was firing those vestry members who are still Episcopalians, even though Jack Iker is no longer in the Episcopal Church and so has no authority to fire anybody.
4. Christ the King is withholding no assessments or loan repayments to the diocese. They are awaiting the reorganization of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, at which time the Episcopal parish of Christ the King will resume its assessments and loan repayments.

And don't you love them asking us all to pray for "a spirit of unity and peace in the parish during this difficult time?" The mendacity takes one's breath away.

"PLANS ARE UNDER WAY for a new diocese to be formed at a special meeting scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 7, at Trinity Church in Fort Worth. The organizers are those who opposed the vote of our Diocesan Convention by an 80% margin to withdraw from the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Six of our 56 congregations have indicated that they wish to remain in TEC."

There is no NEW diocese being formed. The EXISTING Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is reorganizing. The action taken at the diocesan convention was illegal. There is no canonical way for a diocese to unilaterally leave the Episcopal Church. People can leave, and indeed, our bishop and all members of the Standing Committee and many clergy and lay people have done so. But all parishes of the diocese are still in the Episcopal Church, even though the buildings may be being used illegally by people who are no longer Episcopalians.

Here's the bottom line.
You can't leave the Episcopal Church and then claim to still be part of it. And you can't claim property that does not belong to you and then whine if the rightful owners go to court to get their property back.

While we wish him well in his new venture, Jack Iker is no longer the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. He has no authority AT ALL over any Episcopalians, our property, our money, or our clergy.