"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Some Questions for Ms. Sherrod

Katie Sherrod, a supporter of Via Media's efforts to claim the mantle of the diocese of Fort Worth should our convention later this year vote to ratify our decisions of last November, has blogged on her opinions. Do read her comments here. (Hat tip to Apostolicity.)

I have asked her a few questions. Perhaps you can do the same?

Dear Ms. Sherrod,

I truly do not understand how you can be so vehemently opposed to the efforts of Bishops Iker and Stanton to reach an agreement for the peaceful separation of the parishes presently within the dioFW in the event our diocesan convention this year ratifies the decisions of last November. Every effort is being made to allow those parishes steadfastly dedicated to remaining in full communion with PB Schori to do so, without acrimony and litigation, without blackening the name "Christian" in the eyes of the world any further than the present crisis already has. Why is this not a good thing to be encouraged?

If, for example, the people of Trinity Fort Worth or St. Martin's Southlake cannot bear to part from the General Convention of TEC, clearly our diocesan leadership wants to let them go with their property and a blessing. Why are you so adamantly determined to deny that same benefit to the people of St. Vincent's Bedford or St. Laurence Southlake? (Both of these "traditionalist" parishes, I can assure you, are steadfast in their determination to follow our bishop--85%+ of their members would concur with a decision to affiliate with Southern Cone, I have no doubt.) Why are you not doing everything in your power to make this separation respectful, peaceful, and just?

Do you truly believe that the Kingdom of God would be best served by using the secular courts to take away the buildings of these orthodox parishes from the people whose money built them and hand them over to whatever tiny remnant Via Media can cobble together as their "continuing" TEC dioFW, should the 80%+ majority of our diocese depart for the Southern Cone later this year? Does an uncompromising vaunting of Mr. Beer's interpretations of the Constitution and Canons of TEC and the laws of Texas, if it means 80% of the people of our diocese have to leave their property behind for Via Media's tiny remnant to sell off, truly help to win the world for Jesus Christ? Such a court-assisted property seizure for the benefit of the Via Media minority (unlikely as I believe it to be) would deeply impair the on-going ministries of our majority "pro-Iker" parishes, you must admit (St. Vincent's School cannot pack up and move to a high school gym, even if our Sunday worship can!). Would the pugnacious course you seem to advocate truly glorify God or show the degree of charity Christ wishes Christians to have for one another better than an amicable, agreed separation? Ought we not pray that Bishops Iker and Stanton are successful in their negotiations, and that PB Schori will see the wisdom in a friendly parting of the ways rather than extended litigation?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Major Events in the Diocese and Elsewhere

Bishop Iker has published a letter on the diocesan website in which he describes several interesting recent events.

1. The Rt. Rev. Sam Hulsey, the retired bishop of Northwest Texas (i.e., Lubbock, Amarillo, and surrounding towns), hosted a meeting at his home in Fort Worth of those who are intent on remaining within TEC if our diocese votes to depart from membership in TEC's General Convention later this year. It was apparently attended by only two or three rectors, some retired priests, and a couple of deacons. Such will probably be the nature of the rump "replacement" diocese that PB Schori seems intent on creating if we depart.

2. Bishop Iker received another threatening letter from the presiding bishop.

3. Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh was officially charged with "abandonment of the communion of the church" but the three senior sitting bishops within TEC refused to concur in his inhibition, so the matter was "kicked upstairs" to a House of Bishops' meeting that will take place later in the year (interestingly, not the next HOB meeting in a couple of months). He remains uninhibited for now.

4. And finally, one bright spot. As Bishop Iker reports, "BISHOP STANTON OF DALLAS AND I had a very good meeting yesterday at St. Vincent’s, where we discussed how to make provision for any parishes in this Diocese that may choose to remain in TEC if the Diocesan Convention votes to separate from The Episcopal Church. We were joined by our Canons to the Ordinary, the Presidents of our respective Standing Committees, and the Chancellor of the Diocese of Dallas. You will be hearing more about this in due course."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bishop Schofield Inhibited by PB Schori; the Orthodox Anglican World Begins to Respond

Well, the other shoe has finally dropped for Bishop Schofield of San Joaquin. That diocese departed from TEC last December at their diocesan convention and became a constituent diocese of the Province of the Southern Cone. Yesterday PB Schori of TEC announced that she had inhibited Bishop Schofield, meaning that he cannot perform any episcopal sacramental acts in a TEC church. The story may be found on ENS.

But naturally the good people of San Joaquin responded by saying, essentially, "You cannot do anything to our bishop because he has already left your organization, and so have we!" As found on Stand Firm, their statement reads:

As a point of clarification, there is no confusion on the part of the Bishop of San Joaquin or the clergy, people, leadership, and convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin of their status. The claims of the Episcopal Church to have oversight or jurisdiction are not correct. The fact is that neither the Diocese nor Bishop John-David Schofield are part of The Episcopal Church. The Bishop is a member of the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone as of December 8th, 2007. The Diocese is a part of the Southern Cone. Neither the Presiding Bishop or the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church have any further jurisdiction. Bishop Schofield is no longer a member of the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church.

Following is a statement from The Most Reverend Gregory Venables (Archbishop of the Province of the Southern Cone of South America) dated January 11, 2008:

“As of December the 8th, 2007 Bishop John-David Schofield is not under the authority or jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church or the Presiding Bishop. He is, therefore, not answerable to their national canon law but is a member of the House of Bishops of the Southern Cone and under our authority.
Un fuerte abrazo.

Bishop Iker of Fort Worth has taken the same position on the pretended powers of PB Schori over Bishop Schofield in a statement released today:

It comes as no surprise that the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church has initiated canonical actions against the Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield to remove him from office. However, the matter is complicated by the fact that Bishop Schofield and the Diocese of San Joaquin, by constitutional action of their Convention, are no longer a part of The Episcopal Church. They now function under the authority of the Province of the Southern Cone. Disciplinary actions cannot be taken by this Province against a Bishop who is a member of another Province of the Anglican Communion.

The House of Bishops of TEC can indeed prevent Bishop Schofield from functioning as a Bishop in congregations of The Episcopal Church. However, they cannot invalidate his consecration as a Bishop in the Church of God, nor prevent him from functioning as such in congregations that welcome and affirm his ministry as their Bishop.

The Bishop of San Joaquin has my friendship, my support, and my prayers during this time of turmoil in the life of our church.

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

DioFort Worth Report on the Southern Cone

Our bishop and standing committee here in Fort Worth were tasked by our 2007 Diocesan Convention to investigate the viability of the Province of the Southern Cone's offer of safe haven for our diocese should we ratify proposed constitutional changes in 2008 that would terminate our relationship to the General Convention of TEC. The report is positive. The entire report may be found on the diocesan website, but here are some highlights (with emphasis added by me).

At its November 2007 Synod, the Province adopted a resolution to extend the offer of membership to traditional dioceses electing to leave revisionist provinces. In December, the Province received the Diocese of San Joaquin in California. Archbishop Venables has also received several retired TEC and Canadian bishops into the Province. It was in that context that he recently declared: “Christianity is specific, definable and unchanging. We are not at liberty to deconstruct or rewrite it. If Jesus was the Son of God yesterday then so He is today and will be forever.”

We have now had opportunity to review the Constitution and Canons of the Province of the Southern Cone; an English-language edition of those documents is being edited and will be released shortly. Based on our review, we have concluded that the structure and polity of the Province of the Southern Cone would afford our diocese greater self-determination than we currently have under the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. This autonomy would be evident most specifically in the areas of property ownership, liturgy, holy orders, and missionary focus.

While nothing will change in the day-to-day operations of the churches in the Diocese of Fort Worth, we expect a significant change in attitude and focus of the clergy and people of the diocese. Becoming a member Diocese of the Province of the Southern Cone would allow the Diocese of Fort Worth the opportunity and freedom to continue to practice the “Faith once delivered to all the saints” without being constantly distracted by the controversies and divisions caused by innovations hostile to traditional Christian norms. Instead, it would allow the Diocese to concentrate on the call of Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel and make new disciples, while at the same time assuring our continued place in the mainstream of Anglicanism, an assurance The Episcopal Church is unable to give.

Presented by
The Bishop and Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
January 9, 2008

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Sermon for the Feast of the Epiphany

Each year in the weeks before Christmas you are bound to find it if you browse the higher cable channels —a television program that investigates what portions of the traditional Christmas story, if any, are actually “true.” “The star of Bethlehem” and the magi who followed it will undoubtedly be discussed in detail. Magi, you will be told, were Persian astrologers, pagan star-gazers who tried to read the signs of the times in the sky. And then a researcher or two will present theories about how the “star” the magi saw in the west was actually an extraordinary conjunction of planets in the night time sky, or a comet, or perhaps a distant supernova.

Personally I don’t know which, if any, of these astronomical theories about the “star of Bethlehem” may be correct. It is, of course, possible that the “star” the magi followed was a purely miraculous sign that had nothing at all to do with astronomy as we know. God may have specially created an extraordinary light in the sky over Bethlehem to point the way as the day of Christ’s birth drew near. But I will admit that I find the astronomical theories intriguing.

Just think about it. If the “conjunction of the planets” theory is correct, it would mean that from the day God created our solar system His divine plan included placing the planets in their exact orbits, hurtling around the Sun at just the right speeds, so that untold years later those planets would appear to come together in the earth’s sky at the precise moment when God’s only begotten Son would take on flesh and be born of the Virgin Mary. If the sign of the magi was a distant supernova, it would mean that eons ago a star we’ve probably never heard of exploded billions of miles from here just so its light would reach us in the year that God came to be with us. When you think of it in those terms it gives an entirely different cast to the words of Isaiah, doesn’t it? Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.”

That enigmatic star and the Eastern wise men that followed it to the Holy Family were all part of what St. Paul calls this morning “the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.” But while the fullness of the mystery was hidden, hints about the divine plan of salvation had been given from the very beginning, when Eve was told on that last day in the Garden that her “seed” would one day smite the head of that ancient serpent, the devil. Its mystery had unfolded over the ages in the covenant of the rainbow with Noah, the covenant of circumcision with Abraham, the covenant of Sinai with Moses, and the covenant of the Kingdom with David. At each step along the way it appeared that the saving will of God was becoming more and more constricted, drawing down in scope from the entire human race, to the descendants of one man, to one chosen nation and one royal family.

And at its completion God’s mysterious plan for salvation was in fact constricted, reduced down to a single point of radiant intensity--one moment in time, one particular place, in the form of one little baby boy. But, ironically, it was only through the constraints of the Incarnation that God’s great work of redemption could be opened up to the whole world. With the birth of the Father’s only-begotten Son into the world the words spoken by the prophet Isaiah so long ago had come true. The nations did indeed stream to His light, and kings to the brightness of His dawning. With the birth of Jesus it was now possible to have a personal relationship with the One who is the Salvation of our God. It was possible to know Him, and love Him, and worship Him, and serve Him as the magi did on behalf of all nations.

St. Paul tells us today that, “This was according to the eternal purpose which [God] has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in him.” And the means by which God would restore our access to Him through faith were foreshadowed that fateful day in Bethlehem when the magi came to pay homage to the Baby “who was born king of the Jews.” For as the wise men opened their treasure chests before the Child and His Mother their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh symbolized far more than respect for the sovereignty of an earthly king. The Church has taught from its earliest days that the gifts were themselves an epiphany of the mystery of our salvation at its deepest level.

The gift of gold, of course, was most certainly fit for a king, as Isaiah and the Psalmist remind us today. In offering frankincense, on the other hand, the magi present to Jesus an offering fit for God. The Law given to Moses at Sinai commanded perpetual sacrifice of just such incense to the glory of the Lord. The gift of frankincense to the Babe of Bethlehem was, therefore, a tacit recognition of His deity, deity in no way inferior to that of God the Father worshipped in the Temple at Jerusalem on altar of incense. Finally, we have the mysterious offering of myrrh. Myrrh was an aromatic substance used in ancient ointments, known for a sweet fragrance but a bitter taste. One of its common uses was the preservation of corpses. Seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes would one day anoint the body of Jesus as He lay shrouded in a borrowed tomb on Good Friday. Thus in the magi’s offering of myrrh to the infant Lord, they recognize the genuineness of His humanity. Though He may be worshipped with incense as God, Christ also shares our mortality. The myrrh reminds us that He became one of us so that He could share our fate in the grave. In its bitterness the pain of the cross is foreshadowed. But in the beauty of the myrrh’s fragrance the sweet gift of salvation imparted to us through His sacrifice is made manifest. The myrrh reminds us that He became one of us so that through faith we may share His destiny, eternal life in the presence of God.

That is the Good News of Christ Jesus first manifested to the nations with the visit of the wise men to the city of David. But the feast of the Epiphany is broader in scope than the witness of the magi alone. It commemorates the showing forth of God’s plan of redemption in its fullness, the dawning of the Light to all people everywhere. Thus we celebrate today not only the visit of the magi but, as St. Paul says, we rejoice that “the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” The apparent narrowing of God’s saving purpose in earlier days is shown to be an illusion by the Incarnation. Now to all who receive the King, who believe in his name, he gives power to become children of God.

But even the breaking down of barriers between nations and races and peoples accomplished through the saving work of Christ does not exhaust the meaning of the Epiphany. For the manifestation of God’s glory in Christ Jesus shines forth on a stage far greater than even the entirety of the human race. We must us not forget the astronomical implications of that star over Bethlehem. St. Paul tells us that through the Church and its proclamation of the Gospel “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places”! Our praise of God today for the manifestation of Christ, the Light of the Nations and the Glory of His people Israel, reverberates throughout the cosmos! For the whole history of the universe has played itself out, to borrow the words of St. Paul, “in accordance with the eternal purpose that [God] has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.”

All creation had been in subjection since the Fall of the first Adam. Now, with the manifestation of the second Adam at Bethlehem--the coming of the True Man in whom the image and likeness of God now shines forth without spot or blemish--all things in heaven and on earth and under the earth rejoice. May God give us grace always to join in that great chorus of praise and thanksgiving for the Epiphany of our God.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Bishop Schofield's Courage in Leading San Joaquin out of TEC is Applauded

Thirty-one bishops of the Anglican Communion have signed onto a letter of support for Bishop John-David Schofield of the diocese of San Joaquin, saluting the courage of the diocese in their decision and the bishop's "tenacity and faithfulness" in shepherding his flock through their departure from TEC and realignment with the Province of the Southern Cone.

Authored by Bishop Iker of Fort Worth, the text reads (with emphasis added):

Dear Bishop John-David,

We, Episcopal colleagues from across the Anglican Communion and across the world, write to salute you on the courageous decision of the Diocesan Convention of San Joaquin to take leave of The Episcopal Church and to align with the Province of the Southern Cone. We know that decision was to a large extent the result of your tenacity and faithful leadership, and for that we give thanks to God. It has been said that you are isolated and alone. We want you and the world to know that in this decision for the faith once delivered to the saints, we stand with you and beside you. May Christ abundantly bless you and your diocese with all the gifts of the Spirit and with joy in believing.

[RWF resumes]: It is signed not only by Bishop Iker but by the following bishops as well, including the highly influential bishop of Rochester in England (n.b., I have added designations for their provinces if not within the Network):

The Most Rev. Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney [Australia]
The Rt. Rev. Matthias Medadues-Badohu, Bishop of Ho [Ghana, West Africa]
The Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester [C of E]
The Rt. Rev. Gerard Mpango, Bishop of Western Tanganyika [Tanzania]
The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh [Network]
The Rt. Rev. Ross Davies, Bishop of The Murray [Australia]
The Rt. Rev. Keith L Ackerman, Bishop of Quincy [Network]
The Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith, Bishop of Springfield [Network]
The Rt. Rev. A. Ewin Ratteray, Bishop of Bermuda [West Indies]
The Rt. Rev. Michael Hough, Bishop of Ballarat [Australia]
The Rt. Rev. John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham [C of E]
The Rt. Rev. Martyn Jarrett, Bishop of Beverley [C of E]
The Rt. Rev. John Goddard, Bishop of Burnley [Co of E]
The Rt. Rev. Keith Newton, Bishop of Richborough [C of E]
The Rt. Rev. Robert Forsyth, Bishop of South Sydney [Australia]
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Burnham, Bishop of Ebbsfleet [C of E]
The Rt. Rev. Lindsay Urwin, Bishop of Horsham [C of E]
The Rt. Rev. Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes [C of E]
The Rt. Rev. Henry Scriven, Assistant Bishop, Diocese of Pittsburgh [Network]
The Rt. Rev. Bill Atwood, Province of Kenya
The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, Convocation of Anglicans in North America [Common Cause/Nigeria]
The Rt. Rev. David Anderson, Convocation of Anglicans in North America [Common Cause/Nigeria]
The Rt. Rev. John Gaisford, lately Bishop of Beverley [C of E]
The Rt. Rev. Edward MacBurney, lately Bishop of Quincy [Network]
The Rt. Rev. Roger Jupp, lately Bishop of Popondota [Papua New Guinea]
The Rt. Rev. David Silk, lately Bishop of Ballarat [Australia]
The Rt. Rev. Nöel Jones, lately Bishop of Sodor and Man [C of E]
The Rt. Rev. Edwin Barnes, lately Bishop of Richborough [C of E]
The Rt. Rev. William Wantland, lately Bishop of Eau Claire [Network, now assist. bishop of Fort Worth]
The Rt. Rev. Donald Parsons, lately Bishop of Quincy [Network]

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