Bishop Iker Writes His Clergy on Possible Future Litigation after our Proposed Departure from Union with the General Convention of TEC
At the same time as these conversations were going on, a group of diocesan officials from Fort Worth were meeting with our counterparts in the Diocese of Dallas to see if a pastoral agreement could be worked out between our two dioceses, whereby parishes in Fort Worth that wanted to remain in TEC could do so as part of the Dallas Diocese. These meetings included the Bishops, Chancellors, Canons to the Ordinary, and Presidents of the Standing Committees of the two dioceses. We came up with a proposal whereby, under certain conditions, Fort Worth parishes and clergy could have “associate membership” in Dallas, including seat, voice and vote at their Convention, and their property could be placed temporarily in the name of the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, to be held in trust for their use.
This plan was then presented to the Rectors, Wardens and Chancellors of five Fort Worth parishes that we thought would like to pursue such an arrangement, at least on a trial basis. They were asked to discuss the proposal with their vestries, and then we would meet a second time for further exploration. Unfortunately, at that second meeting, the Chancellor of Dallas reported on conversations he had initiated with the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor, David Booth Beers, about the proposal under discussion. Mr. Beers stated that neither the PB nor the General Convention would support such a plan, and without their support, the Fort Worth parishes were unwilling to continue steps to implement the plan.
In the final meeting of the clergy discussion group in September, there was an open and honest exchange of views about where this left us. The differences appear insurmountable. No minds were changed as a result of these meetings, and no clear solutions were found that the group could propose. Although it was said that no one wants litigation, it appears that the two opposing sides in this controversy are headed in that direction.
RWF resumes: So while the leadership of the two Metroplex dioceses were doing everything they could to avoid costly and damaging litigation should our diocese vote--as expected--to end our union with the GenCon of TEC, the national leadership in New York (especially the PB and her lawyer) has determined that any attempt at a peaceful parting of the ways must be crushed. It is clear that 815 intends to pursue the same strategy in Fort Worth that they pioneered in San Joaquin last year.
PB Schori and her lawyer cannot tolerate the idea of the five possible "TEC loyalist" congregations of the DioFW officially leaving our diocese and re-affiliating with DioDallas. This would undercut completely 815's apparent plans to have those five loyalist parishes (together with a scattering of "loyalists" gathered from various parishes that will re-affiliate with Southern Cone along with the majority of our diocese) convene a "special convention" of the "true" TEC DioFW (the "church in exile," as they seem to think of themselves) sometime in the Spring. This "special convention" of their rump TEC "diocese of Fort Worth" will then invite in a retired bishop to take their helm and elect an entirely new, substitute "Standing Committee" to run their corporate affairs (n.b., every member of the current Standing Committee will likely re-affiliate along with the rest of our diocese) while lawsuits are filed attempting to take away the property of the diocese and it's approximately fifty congregations that will re-affiliate with Southern Cone. (Actually, it appears that the TEC loyalists will initially "cherry pick" just the most valuable assets of the diocese, such as Camp Crucis and the cathedral. But should they win in court on those lawsuits, I have little doubt that they will pursue more of our property later.)
It is shameful to think that PB Schori and her lawyer would undercut these talks, aimed as they were solely at fostering an amicable parting of the ways. How can they possibly justify this to themselves? Do they really think they can stop us from leaving by threatening to take away all of the property that we use to accomplish our missions and ministries? We have all been resigned to those lawsuits for a long time, and are confident that we can triumph in court if it comes to that. But these lawsuits need never be filed in the first place! PB Schori's tactics here are directly analogous to an abusive husband trying to keep his wife from leaving him by threatening to track her down and harm her and their children if she ever tries to go! "I love you so much that if you try to leave me I will have no choice but find you and destroy you." Charming.
No, 815 cannot possibly think they will keep us from re-affiliating by means of these tactics. They simply want our property. Please remember, our diocesan leadership was doing all it could to find a just and peaceful way for those parishes that want to stay loyal to GenCon and PB Schori to do so and keep their property. But PB Schori must have it all! The congregation and clergy of St. Vincent's Cathedral, it seems, simply must be kicked off our property and those assets sold off if we re-affiliate. This would be the inevitable outcome, after all, if 815 won our parish property in court. Virtually the entire congregation of St. Vincent's will support re-alignment. The TEC loyalists could not possibly keep our buildings operating if they ever won them in court. The school would surely be closed immediately and the buildings put on the market. How can those who support this litigious scheme possibly do so in good conscience? I cannot imagine. One can only hope and pray that common decency will carry the day in the end and the five parishes will refuse to participate in PB Schori and Canon Beers' litigation plans. Let us part on as good terms as possible, not in bitter court disputes!
Words fail me in describing how this sorry spectacle makes me feel.