Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Dallas Episcopal priest comments on the split in Fort Worth

Apparently it is the day to quote the Dallas News.  This article is from a Dallas Priest about Fort Worth.  Of course the dissidents are shocked, shocked I tell you that anyone would view the Fort Worth situation this way.  The have spent so much time secluding themselves from any opinion that they don't approve of that can't imagine that anyone wouldn't view the situation exactly as they do.  Wake up this is the way the vast majority of Episcopalians view this situation.

The Rev. Wylie Miller, vicar of the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Dallas' Pleasant Grove area, sent the commentary below. It addresses the breakup of the Fort Worth Episcopal Diocese into two dioceses - one, led by Bishop Jack Iker,has departed from The Episcopal Church and aligned with a conservative, Argentina-based province of the Anglican Communion; the other, recently reorganized under a provisional bishop, consists of congregations loyal to The Episcopal Church. Both claim to be The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (Iker notes that the Episcopal Church doesn't own the word "episcopal," which also refers to bishops), and a battle looms over who owns church properties. Now, Father Miller:

The decisions of the Diocese of Fort Worth are affecting all Episcopalians near and far. It is a sad, hard time, for so many who hold views on either side of the argument. We have had no break in the open warfare in this area for over six years. Most Episcopalians across the United States don't even hear of a continued disagreement or infighting. Many people worshipping in Episcopal Church have no idea what is going on in Fort Worth . For those of us in Texas it is an embarrassment; it is like walking through a sewer of negative publicity and negative feelings.

Personally, I have compassion for those on either side of this great divide in Fort Worth . Though I do not share the opinion of those who feel women are not called to sacramental ministry, nor do I share the conviction that pulling away from the Episcopal Church (TEC) is the right choice, I know that Bishop Iker has been wronged. Since the General Convention of 1997, actions have been taken that directly assault the right of Bishop Iker, his clergy, and lay delegates to act on their own convictions. In 1997, action was taken which reversed previous decisions to allow any bishop to maintain their own convictions regarding women priests. We were going to send in teams to Fort Worth to help them on their way to giving women their rights. One hundred women clergy from TEC signed a letter to the Presiding Bishop after that decision telling him that it was un-Anglican, inappropriate, and unnecessary. Only 4 dioceses out of 100 would not ordain women to the priesthood at that time, and Bishop Iker was sending women who felt called to the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. It marked the end of tolerance and sympathy to any traditionalist who did not agree with the majority.

Likewise, the votes to accept V. Gene Robinson's election to bishop of New Hampshire were inappropriate within our own church polity. Originally, the General Convention refused to consider the issue of blessing same-sex unions and simultaneously approved the election of a practicing homosexual who had left his spouse and was living with his new male spouse. It was a strange mixture of events without arguing appropriately and presenting the views to the Anglican Consultative Council. Events since have been more genuinely supportive of the Gay and Lesbian Community, mostly as a response to the way Traditionalists have voiced their dismay. The reactions of the Anglican Communion Network and some African Bishops have forced a quick and equally deep conviction of progressive Episcopalians in favor of the argument that no one chooses to be homosexual, but rather was born that way. I have no doubt that it is only a matter of time before the General Convention approves same-sex unions blessed by the Church, and approves ordaining practicing gay and lesbian people. I regret that in this area we have ignored the Windsor report and statements of the Archbishop of Canterbury to call gay and lesbian people to the table and hear their experiences and feelings as they approach or participate within the Church. We need to hear one another, listening to points of view we do not share. We cheat ourselves out of understanding the trials of others when we are unwilling to listen at length. Instead our people are taking stands on both sides of the arguments leaving no room for compassion, or appreciation of the other person's point of view.

I wish that those who are so adamant to pull away from TEC and align with the Southern Cone would realize the damage they do to people who simply want a place to worship God without controversy or involving themselves in any fight. The actions of the previous councils of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth affect us all, especially as we try to prepare people for membership in our parishes. Lay people struggle with whether to believe in a church of bishops, if bishops lead only to schism. People reject church experiences where there is fighting over anything, and rightfully so.

What I cannot agree with is the pretense that there are two Episcopal dioceses of Fort Worth. Bishop Iker needs to come to terms with the fact that his argument is an emperor without clothes. The historical position of all our bishops for centuries is that there cannot be two different ecclesiastical authorities over one geographical area. Bishop Iker knows that if an Episcopal priest failed to show up for services or at any diocesan function he would be compelled to remove that priest. Likewise it is the duty of the Presiding Bishop to remove any bishop who is not participating in the life of the Episcopal Church. There are priests in Texas who claim to be Anglican but not part of the Episcopal Church (TEC). I guess I could pretend to be Roman Catholic but it would not make it so. At the very best these congregations are "faux Anglican." The Archbishop of Canterbury has never approved a separate Province inside the US. He cannot without violating all historical precedents and furthering schism. I do not doubt that Bishop Iker is a good man who has done wonderful things in his ministry. How sad, it is most likely that history will record him now solely as a schismatic bishop.

Well said!!


The comments to the article read like a whose who of Episcopal Commentators.  Including this from Ann Fontaine

There was never any agreement by the that bishops could follow their own conscience on the ordination of women - it was an old boys club meeting of the Bishops that said bishops who were already in place would not be forced to go against their belief on women. It was not a decision of the Episcopal Church. Those who were elected after the decision were allowed to have their own views but could not discriminate against women. The Fort Worth Dallas agreement on assisting women with ordination did not work out in reality. Churches in Ft Worth could not hire ordained women. Thanks for the letter but it is filled with misinformation.

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