The Day Has Come--Sad But Necessary--Fort Worth Will Vote on Constitutional Changes
Standing Committee sponsors proposed changes to diocesan Constitution and Canons
October 1, 2007
Today the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth announced its decision to sponsor five proposed amendments to the Diocesan Constitution and Canons for consideration at the diocese’s 25th Annual Convention on November 16 and 17, 2007. [RWF: The text of proposal D on page 7 of this document is what the Committee is proposing. It would replace the present "accession clause" that places our diocese under the authority of the General Convention of TEC.]
If adopted, the Diocese would take the first step needed to dissociate itself from the General Convention of The Episcopal Church and to begin the process of affiliating with another Province of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Since constitutional changes do not go into effect until they are approved by two successive diocesan conventions, the second, ratifying vote would come at the annual meeting in 2008. Under the proposals, the Diocese would reaffirm its position as “a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, consisting of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces and regional churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.”
EXPLANATION from the Very Rev. Ryan S. Reed, President, on behalf of the Standing Committee
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has always been a traditional, conservative diocese, adhering to the beliefs and practices of the historic catholic faith. This means it has often found itself in conflict with decisions of the General Convention, which has continued a series of innovations in liturgy, theology, and the sacraments. For 25 years, the diocese has attempted to differentiate itself from the actions of the General Convention and its ongoing effort to revise and redefine the historic teaching of the Church on faith and morals, as revealed in Holy Scripture.
To submit to and comply with the current direction of the General Convention would mean for us to embrace a distortion of the Christian faith that our forebears would not recognize as a continuation of “the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship.” It would mean driving an even deeper wedge between us and the rest of the Anglican Communion, as well as other Christian bodies, who do not condone recent actions of the General Convention, but rather view them as schismatic and sectarian. We cannot act against our conscience and in violation of the faith once delivered to the saints.
For 25 years, we have struggled to remain as a faithful remnant within The Episcopal Church, witnessing to our beliefs, which have been repudiated by our brothers and sisters in other dioceses. Over these years a great deal of subtle and overt pressure has been exerted in an effort to make this diocese conform to their innovations. Among these were visits in 2001 and again in 2002 from members of a task force established by the General Convention to bring us into compliance with the ordination of women priests. During the past year there has been an escalation of threats and intimidation as officials of the General Convention church have brought additional pressure to bear upon our diocese and others like us, demanding full compliance with and unqualified accession to the decisions of General Convention. Our freedom to continue to be who we have always been and to practice what we have always believed is rapidly coming to an end in The Episcopal Church.
Beginning in June 2006 with the election of a new Presiding Bishop, we have sought Alternative Primatial Oversight as an intermediate measure that would afford us a way of remaining a diocese of The Episcopal Church, but under the leadership of an orthodox Primate. We have worked through the structures of the church in pursuit of this goal, and we have waited patiently for some accommodation of our need. We were encouraged by the pastoral plan proposed by the Primates’ Meeting in February 2007, with the full support of the Archbishop of Canterbury. But the resounding rejection of this proposal by the House of Bishops and the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church has sent us a clear message: “We have no need of you and will provide no secure place for your future in this church.”
We have now seen the expiration of the September 30th deadline set by the Primates for a statement of unequivocal assurance from the Bishops of The Episcopal Church that our Province would abide by the provisions of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 concerning same-sex blessings and the ordination of practicing homosexuals. The statement from last week’s New Orleans meeting of the House of Bishops maintains the status quo and signals no change of direction for the future. Same-sex unions continue to be blessed in a number of dioceses across the church, and in the Diocese of Chicago a partnered lesbian is now an official nominee for Bishop.
We believe it is time for us to take action to secure our future as a diocese. We believe it is time to separate our diocese from General Convention religion and to join an orthodox Province of the Anglican Communion. However, we do not wish to compel any parish in the diocese to remain with us as we pursue this course of action. With Christian charity toward those who differ from the majority, we are offering an amendment to Canon 32 to provide a process whereby parishes may leave the diocese in an amicable and Christian manner.
It is important to note that the four Constitutional amendments to be voted on in November will be on a first-reading basis, and they will not have any force or effect unless ratified at our next annual Convention in 2008.
In closing, we wish to express our gratitude to the Committee on Constitution and Canons for its work in the drafting process, and we call the whole diocese to prayer as we undertake the challenges that are before us.