Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The undermining of the Episcopal Church continues

There is news busting out all over cyberspace about a group of Episcopal Church bishops and rectors calling themselves Communion Partners and a group grandly named the Anglican Communion Institute Inc. who are working to establish as fact their "belief that Episcopal Church polity legitimately arises out of the autonomy of dioceses who gather in voluntary association at The Episcopal Church in General Convention. In this view it is the diocese and not The Episcopal Church that is the "basic unit" of The Episcopal Church. In this argument TEC is not a metropolitical entity, but rather a free association of dioceses."

In this world view, a diocese would have full right to sign on to an Anglican Covenant, thus maintaining its purity without having to leave the Episcopal Church for an entity such as ACNA -- the Anglican Church in North America, the "province' Duncan and Iker et al are trying to set up to replace The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada in North America.

But while these Communion Partner bishops and rectors say that this is a way to keep dioceses and parishes from leaving the Episcopal Church, they also have to know that this argument will be used against the Episcopal Church in the litigation now going on in the dioceses of San Joaquin, Fort Worth and Pittsburgh.

In their way of thinking, the as-yet-unfinished Anglican Covenant has morphed from a document spelling out ways a communion might live together in spite of differences over human sexuality [its original purpose in The Windsor Report] into a document that vouches for signatories' orthodoxy.

Remember the attorney Mark McCall who wrote a piece defending the idea that the Episcopal Church is not hierarchical? Well, he and the Communion partners are in bed together, as revealed in a string of emails reported both on Mark Harris' blog and on Thinking Anglicans. The Episcopal Cafe is also on the case.

Please take the time to read these reports, for they give details about how the undermining of the Episcopal Church continues and how many bishops who pledged to uphold the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church are willing to do just about anything to avoid having to acknowledge the authority of Katharine Jefferts Schori. Indeed, my initial impression on reading the string of emails was, "This is a bunch of men saying 'She's not the boss of me!"

All the writers of these emails are men, but there is one female bishop signed on as a Communion Partner. That would be, to the surprise of no one, Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, also known to many in the Anglican Communion as an honorary man. Both bishops of the Diocese of Dallas are Communion Partners. [Side note -- Now do you see why it wasn't ever a good idea to fold our diocese in with the Diocese of Dallas?]

It is interesting that none of this passionate discussion of the autonomy of dioceses arose until a woman was elected presiding bishop and primate. But this goes beyond misogyny. This is serious meddling in legal cases that directly affect us here in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

As Thinking Anglicans Simon Sarmiento writes:
"The arguments being put forward by Communion Partners about the autonomy of TEC dioceses apply also of course to those dioceses which now claim to have left TEC. And the ACI is clearly aware that the forthcoming CP statement could be used in the litigation which is ensuing in relation to those dioceses (San Joaquin, Fort Worth, Quincy, and Pittsburgh). "

So please take time to read all this reporting. It will give you a better understanding of how some of our former bishop's friends in the Episcopal Church continue to further his schismatic cause as well as an understanding of some of the political forces that will be in play at General Convention this summer.

Note -- these guys LOVE acronyms. So here's a glossary:
PV -- Pastoral Visitors -- a kind of ecclesiastical SWAT team suggested in drafts of the Anglican Covenant that would be sent into any province that misbehaved to try to straighten it out.
CP - Communion Partners.
ACNA -- Anglican Church in North America -- the "province" of which Duncan will most like be made archbishop and to which Iker hopes to adhere his group.
ACI -- Anglican Communion Institute.
CO- Colorado.
Beers is a reference to David Beers, the chancellor for the presiding bishop.
Any place name with a plus sign in front of it is a reference to a bishop, as in +SC, which is a reference to Mark Lawrence, the bishop of South Carolina. +Salmon is the retired bishop of South Carolina. +O'Neil is the bishop of Colorado, the target of some interesting manipulation in these emails. + Wimberly is the retired bishop of the Diocese of Texas, + Hathaway is the retired bishop of Pittsburgh, +MacPherson is the bishop of Western Louisiana.

And as you read, ponder this question asked in a comment on Thinking Anglicans:
Once again, I fail to see how an entity--such as a diocese--that owes its very existence to its creation by a larger entity--the national church--can claim that it is an autonomous entity. Have these bishops and rectors even READ the canons and charters they pledged to uphold when they were ordained and consecrated?

And here's a statement from Integrity about these political machinations:

Integrity applauds the “outing” of both the “Bishops’ Statement on the Polity of the Episcopal Church” and the email trail between the framers and signers of a document clearly designed to continue to undermine the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church.

Though couched in ecclesiastical language, the statement is an entirely political document. It attempts to lay the foundation for an unprecedented power grab by anti-gay bishops who will assert that they are not bound by the Episcopal Church’s governing body: General Convention.

These bishops seek to increase their own authority, while diminishing the role of the laity and clergy in the governance of the church.

“We have been given a look at ’the men behind the curtain’ manipulating a schism driven agenda while professing to work transparently for reconciliation”, said Integrity President Susan Russell.

“To quote one long-time ally’s response to these documents, ‘This is stunning. It is remarkable to think about the plotting that is going on. In many ways I am just too naïve.’”

“This statement – and the email trail leading up to its creation – should be required reading for all who will be making decisions in good faith at our upcoming General Convention,” said Russell. “We cannot afford to be naïve about the forces working to divide this church and distract it from its call to live out the gospel in the world. And we must not accept the false choice between unity and justice being presented by the very people working behind the scenes to create disunity and foment schism.”

The argument that dioceses are independent of the Episcopal Church is novel, and a creature of convenience. It seeks to camouflage the desire of anti-gay bishops and theologians to punish the Church for consecrating an openly gay bishop and permitting the blessing of same-sex relationships in some dioceses.

The authors of these emails profess to be loyal Episcopalians, but they openly express their hope that this statement will be used in litigation by individuals who have left the Episcopal Church to join forces with virulently anti-gay bishops in other parts of the world and are attempting to take the Church’s property with them.

A number of the bishops who have reportedly signed on to this statement are members of the "Communion Partners Bishops’ Network." When founded, this group pledged to work transparently and in cooperation with the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in attempting to reconcile those of differing theological views. These emails make clear that the group instead was working surreptitiously to undermine the Bishop of Colorado, and seeking to set up a system of episcopal oversight controlled entirely by the Communion Partners.

The work of reconciliation in the Anglican Communion was thoroughly compromised by a theologian and a bishop named in this correspondence who used their positions on important Communion-wide bodies to advance the agenda of the Communion Partners network. The Rev. Ephraim Radner, who is copied on these emails and whose name appears on the statement, helped draft the proposed Anglican Covenant. Bishop Gary Lilibridge, who the emails suggest offered advice on drafting the statement, was a member of the Communion’s Windsor Continuation Group.

Both bodies produced documents that create significant impediments to the full inclusion of LGBT Christians in the Church, while the proposed covenant removed obstacles to the inclusion of anti-gay churches, dioceses and parishes in the councils of the Communion.

The emails concerning the Diocese of Colorado make clear that this group will use the proposed Anglican Covenant as a tool for moving individual congregations out from under the authority of their diocesan bishops. This strategy can be employed not only in the Episcopal Church, but across the Anglican Communion.

"It is time for The Episcopal Church to "just say no" to the forces working to divide it and get on with bringing people into the work and witness of the gospel," concluded Russell. "Our Lord promised us that the truth will set us free. Our prayer is that knowing more now about the truth of what is going on behind the scenes of the Communion Partners Network will indeed set us free to get with the work of being the church in the world for ALL God's beloved human family."

--Posted to Walking With Integrity at 4/22/2009 01:59:00 PM

Saturday, April 18, 2009

All the mommies

This week my 4-year-old grandson Gavin had a visitor come to his Montessori preschool. It was the mother of his classmate Paxton.

"Paxton's mommy drives an airplane!" Gavin exclaimed when he got into the car. "She flies to Asia, Russia, New York and Mexico."

And indeed she does. She's a pilot for Delta Airlines, and she told the children all about the cockpit, the check list, and the stars on a captain's uniform. She also gave them balsa wood airplanes with "Delta" on them and Delta pencils that change color when rubbed vigorously by small hands.

Gavin chattered about this most of the afternoon as we put the small wooden plane together and flew it in the front yard, the living room, and the back yard. When part of the tail broke off, Gavin took to running with the plane in his hands, making airplane noises and telling me that "Now Paxton's mommy is doing a loop! And now she's flying over the ocean!"

For Gavin, a woman as an airline pilot is an interesting piece of information that makes for a fun afternoon of pretend. For me, it was a yet another satisfying resolution to years of advocating for women's equality in the workplace.

The mommies of Gavin's friends include stay-at-home moms, lawyers, teachers, physicians, sales executives and women who work in all manner of professions. One woman he considers a personal friend is a state senator.

This is the new normal.

But it is a hard-fought-for and hard-won normal.

The mommies of these mommies worked and lobbied hard so that their daughters and their daughter's daughters would have opportunities that were denied to us and to our mothers.

I remember the exact second I became a feminist. It was the moment the nurse handed me my newborn daughter. I held her and said, "Hello baby. I'm your mommy."

And this little squinched-up bundle of humanity opened the most amazing blue eyes I have ever seen and looked directly at me. Our eyes met and it felt like a bolt of electricity went through my body. This was my little girl.

From that moment on, I knew I would do whatever I had to do to insure her life was filled with all good things. I wanted her to be able to be all she was capable of being.

Well, it seems other mommies of other baby girls were having similar experiences. We were part of the Women's Movement. The media and other women derided us as "women libbers" and "bra burners" and, of course, man haters.

The media is only now realizing that it was never about hating men. It was always about loving women and women's abilities, about allowing them to explore all life can offer if they are willing to work hard enough to reach their goals.

For me, the definition of feminist is a person who believes that women and men are made in the image of God. And as such, both women and men are deserving of respect and opportunity.

I adore my grandsons. I want the same opportunities for them that I want for their female friends. I want little Paxton to have as many opportunities as I want for Gavin. She is as much the future of our country as is he.

So hooray for Paxton's mommy, and for all the mommies -- of whatever race, creed or color -- who are working hard to keep the promise of a nation where all are created equal. If we keep this up, we may yet make that promise come true for all women and men, all girls and boys.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Let justice roll down

On Tuesday, April 14, 2009, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Episcopal Church filed suit in the 141st District Court of Tarrant County, Texas in part to recover property and assets of the Episcopal Church. The defendants are former members of the corporation’s board and the former bishop of the diocese, all of whom have left the Episcopal Church.

The petition seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, damages, an accounting, and attorney fees and costs. The petition can be seen here.

This lawsuit is necessary because of actions and decisions of these former diocesan leaders that sought to alienate property and assets of the Episcopal Church and deprived Episcopalians of their use and benefit. Despite courteous demand, the defendants and others continue to use the name and seal of the Diocese and maintain possession and control over diocesan property, including the Diocesan Center, Camp Crucis in Hood County, and significant funds, including endowed funds given for the use of the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church is a party to this litigation and has been very supportive of local efforts to maintain continuity of worship, ministry and mission by and for Episcopalians in North Texas. The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick Jr., provisional bishop, supports the litigation, as does the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, and the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Recent court decisions in the dioceses of Los Angeles, San Diego, Rochester, Long Island, Colorado and elsewhere have been decided in favor of the Episcopal Church and against those who have sought to leave the Episcopal Church and take its property with them.

The Episcopal Church is an autonomous Province of the Anglican Communion in the United States, Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and parts of Europe.

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth covers 23 counties in North Texas.

The Episcopal Church has a long history in this part of North Texas. Since the mid-19th century, long before the plaintiff diocese was formed, its geographic territory was part of other missionary districts or dioceses of the Episcopal Church. In 1838, The Episcopal Church formed its “Missionary District of the Southwest,” which included the state of Texas, under the jurisdiction of Missionary Bishop Leonidas Polk. In 1850, the General Convention admitted the Diocese of Texas as a part of The Episcopal Church. In 1874, the General Convention divided the Diocese of Texas into the continuing diocese of Texas and the Missionary Districts of North Texas and West Texas. In 1895, upon action of the General Convention, the Missionary District of North Texas became the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Dallas. In 1982, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was created by General Convention from the western part of the Diocese of Dallas. It continues to carry out the work of the Episcopal Church under the direction of Bishop Gulick.


Pastoral Letter from the Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick Jr.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, heir and steward of the legacy of generations of faithful Episcopalians, has this day brought suit to recover that legacy. We deeply regret that the decisions and actions of former diocesan leaders have brought us to this difficult moment.

Even before 1850 when this area was part of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, faithful Episcopalians were preaching the saving gospel of Jesus Christ as part of the Episcopal Church in North Texas. After the General Convention created our diocese in 1982, that work continued. Today we, with our Presiding Bishop, remain committed to preaching the gospel as we celebrate the sacraments, care for those in need, and strive for justice and peace. This litigation is designed to move quickly to confirm the historical right of Episcopalians to lead the diocese as stewards of its property as we in humility and hope continue the mission of the Episcopal Church here.

Please pray for patience while the legal proceedings go forward. These first steps are crucial in confirming the continuing diocese’s unbroken historic connection with the Episcopal Church and the church property. We will then proceed to deal more directly to recover and restore specific parish property. Be assured, however, both the Presiding Bishop and I are aware of your pain and frustration, as well as being committed to addressing your local concerns thoroughly.

We bid the prayers of all faithful Episcopalians and other Christians as we protect our legacy and fulfill the trust and dreams of those who have gone before.

Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20,21

The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick, Jr., D.D.
Bishop of Kentucky and Provisional Bishop of Fort Worth

Statement from the Office of the Presiding Bishop concerning actions in Fort Worth today.

The Episcopal Church, with the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, filed in court today for a declaratory judgment as the rightful owners of all diocesan property, real and personal, including funds and endowments. We feel sorrow that the former diocesan leaders took such actions that led us to this time. However, this is a necessary step in order for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, comprised of Episcopalians of the full theological spectrum, to continue its gospel work in Texas. In other court venues, the courts have ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church and we anticipate a favorable outcome in this case and to a continuation of The Episcopal Church's mission priorities.

"Let justice roll down like water, and righteousness as a mighty stream."
Amos 5:24

Monday, April 13, 2009

Taking stock

The beginning of the Easter Season seems a good time to take stock of where we in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth are as we go about the task of beginning a new chapter in our history.

St. Augustine said, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are Anger and Courage: Anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

Hope's two beautiful daughters have been in evidence here for a long long time.

Many people were long angered and dismayed by the direction our former diocesan leadership chose, and many people courageously spoke up in favor of inclusion of all the baptized, something viewed with distaste and even hostility by our former leaders.

The long faithful work of these folks has paid off, and today the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth moves into the Easter season -- for the most part -- full of hope, energy, and excitement.

But inevitably there are some of us who remain stuck-- stuck in the anger, stuck in the fear.

And no wonder. It is hard, after all the years of being ignored or worse, abused, to unclench one's fists and jaws. Change is hard when you know only one way of being "church." It is made even harder by years of deliberate isolation of the diocese from the larger church.

For the clergy it can be hard because they were expected to be "in charge" and certainly in control of "their" lay people.

For the laity it can be hard because they were expected to sit down, shut up, pray and pay and do what "father" said.

Building a healthy diocese in which the bishop, clergy and laity work together to the mutual good of all and to the end of carrying out God's work in this part of North Texas is our goal. We want a diocese in which transparency and shared ministry is the norm, not the exception. We want a diocese in which all the baptized are welcome and valued and yes, loved.

But if birth is hard, rebirth is harder.

Our old default settings may not have been fun, but they ARE familiar. There can be a kind of strange comfort in that. Fear is the enemy of change, and it whispers seductively of the ease of just letting things go on the way they were.

Plus, many people could easily slide into anger every Sunday as they yet once again haul in an altar and all the things they carry in the trunk of their cars to set up for Sunday Eucharist in a rented space while their own buildings are occupied by non-Episcopalians. The miracle is that so few do revisit that anger.

Indeed, our displaced parishes are among the healthier places in the diocese. They have left fear behind along with most of their parish possessions. They are too busy doing ministry to waste time whining. They do expect to back in their buildings eventually, but they are not making that the center of their lives. They report a sense of liberation, of excitement, of energy and of endless possibility.

They are teaching the rest of us many things, among them patience. They know that time is our best friend right now.

Wounds take time to heal. It takes time to build trust. It takes time to learn new ways of being.

Bishop Ted Gulick is understanding this more with every day he spends in the diocese. And while he is tending to the wounds, he is not encouraging anyone to dwell on them. He takes seriously the harm done here, but even more seriously the work of becoming healthy.

He is loving us, teaching us, partnering with us in learning change.

He wants us all out there living the gospel message, not inside licking our wounds.

Yes, there is still much work to do. But all in all as we enter the Easter Season, I'd say the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is doing well and getting better every day.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


The Lord is Risen! Alleluia!

One of my favorite things in a bronze sculpture by David Newton. It is the moment of Resurrection -- we look on as Death loses its grip on Jesus.

In this piece, Resurrection doesn't look easy. But then, maybe it never is.

There are many things trying to keep us from entering into new life,

fear being the strongest. Easter reminds us that it is worth the effort.

After church, my family gathered for a meal cooked by my talented son-in-law and then, of course, multiple Easter egg hunts.

Curran and Gavin looked for the eggs hidden by their father and me.

There were a few debates about who saw which egg first.

Gavin was astonished to discover candy inside some of the eggs!

Molly dog supervised the hunts, and then walked the garden with me as the day wound down.

Bouganvillea bloomed inside the greenhouse as Rose of Sharon sprouted baby leaves outside.

The beloved Texas Bluebonnets lit up the grass.

Dwarf cannas caught the late sun.

Pincushion flowers leaned on one another.

A late but much appreciated daffodil showed up.

The Spiderwort's lovely flowers once again redeemed its unfortunate name.

Geraniums by the fountain glowed as the sun sank in the sky.

Clematis went from purple to pink as the light changed.

And the Chapel Garden choir greeted the vesper light.

May your Easter season be filled with beauty, courage, and laughter.