"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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bishop Iker Writes His Clergy on Possible Future Litigation after our Proposed Departure from Union with the General Convention of TEC

Yesterday Bishop Iker sent out an Ad Clerum message which has now been published on Stand Firm. In his message the bishop reported sad news about talks that had been on-going in an effort to avoid costly litigation in the aftermath of our diocese's expected vote to depart from union with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and re-affiliate temporarily with the Province of the Southern Cone on November 15th (boldface emphasis added by RWF):

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of us who wish to remain with TEC but who are at church's that will go with our Bishop have made plans to worship elsewhere. The property is not an issue for most but for some who have buried their loved ones on the property, have given substantial memorials and have deep roots at a certain church's, the property is an issue.

There is no point in arguing canon law here as we will disagree. Obviously, both sides feel they are entitled to the property and frankly just like in a divorce where the parties can't agree, the law must step in.

As far as the church's who wish to stay with TEC moving under Dallas, why should they? There will still be an Episcopal Diocese of FW so I am not understanding why our Bishop is offering for them to move.

As ALL of us have heard more than once - the people can leave but the diocese stays.

11:23 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Your last sentence is, of course, the whole debate. No where in the Constitutions and Canons of the Episcopal Church does it say PB Schori's favorite mantra, "Individuals may leave, but parishes and dioceses may not." Our contentions is, of course, that PB Schori has simply made this up out of whole cloth. So yes, from my perspective, there will be an Episcopal diocese of Fort Worth after November 14th. It will be a part of the Province of the Southern Cone rather than in union with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

But to use your analogy of a divorce, isn't it always better in those tragic circumstances to have an agreed settlement between the parties rather than have a judge impose one after an acrimonious courtroom fight? I cannot help but think that, if Mr. Beers had kept out of the procedings we might have had just that. We need to go our separate ways without hurting one another any more than necessary. PB Schori seems determined not to let that happen. It is a shame.

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the Diocese of Fort Worth leaves the Episcopal Church for the Southern Cone, will it not become the "Anglican Diocese of Fort Worth" or some variation on that, as opposed to the "Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth"? It would certainly seem that the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth will properly remain with the Episcopal Church of the United States, while the new Diocese will be the Anglican Diocese of Fort Worth, a diocese of the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone.

Leaving the Episcopal Church and yet wishing to retain the "Episcopal" designation seems rather like wanting to have one's cake and eat it too. Isn't the whole point of this ghastly mess the fact that Bishop Iker wishes to sever all connections with the Episcopal Church of the United States?

10:38 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Anon, the title "The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth" is a corporate name. On November 16th it will have the same corporate name, the same officers, the same headquarters address, the same constitution and canons (as amended), etc, as it did on November 13th, even if we vote to terminate our relationship to the General Covention of the Episcopal Church at this diocesan convention. The GenCon of TEC did not create our diocese, nor can it force us to stay in communion with them. We will be precisely the same diocese the day after we "leave TEC" as we were before we terminated that tie, should we vote to do so next month. We will simply be united with a different set of partners in ministry than we were before--the Province of the Southern Cone will be our principal link to other Anglican dioceses and not the GenCon of TEC. We will be the same, just minor a handful of parishes and a few hundred--perhaps a thousand, I doubt more--individuals (sadly) who choose not to terminate their relationships with GenCon whe we do.

11:29 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Sorry, that should be "just minus a handful of parishes".

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TEC does not own the name "Episcopal." To name but a few, there are the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, the Episcopal Church of Scotland, the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, and the Episcopal Church of Brazil - and none of them are part of TEC. We will continue to be The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, but no longer under the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention of TEC.

Hope this helps clarify the confusion of "anonymous."


6:48 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Thank you, your Grace.

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I realize that TEC does not own the name "Epsiscopal" and that other church's use it. However, my comment still is correct that there will still be an Episcopal Diocese of FW under TEC. So, again, why would the bishop want those church's and people who remain with TEC to move under Dallas?

With no disrespect, it is as if our Bishop wants there to be only one Episcopal Diocese of FW. I am not sure why there is a desire to cling to the name Episcopal. It will be confusing.

However, Episcopalians under TEC will exist in FW.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It might be helpful to consider that around 1979, the Episcopal Church made a resolution specifically to declare that all buildings and properties were held in trust for "The Episcopal Church." This was in response to a Supreme Court ruling involving the Methodist Church, in which the Supreme Court noted in a brief that if the rules of the particular denomination had been more clear, the court's decision would also have been easier.

So the Presiding Bishop (having been duly elected to that office after receiving a plurality of votes on every ballot except perhaps one where she trailed by a handful at the 2006 General Convention) is not "making this up out of whole cloth." There is actually a resolution that the Episcopal Church agreed to about 30 years ago to deal with exactly this situation, and in response to national litigation in another denomination.

If it's useful to this conversation, I can try to locate the resolution, though it's a bit tough to "google" because it's from before the internet days.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, as I understand it, the name in question is "the Episcopal Church" and not the adjective, "Episcopal," which, of course, is simply a word for bishop that rose out of the colloquial greek word for shepherd from the greek parts "epi" and "scopos" for (loosely translated) "one who watches over."

The Episcopal Church is a legal and corporate entity, and it's to the trust of that entity that the buildings and property were entrusted in 1979 (ish -- I need to track down the exact date).

2:16 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

To the anon above, take a look at the "Dennis Canon." That is what you mean, I think. But it is not relevant to my remark. PB Schori constantly says "individuals may leave TEC but not dioceses and parishes." The Dennis Canon is about property. It claims that all property is owned by the diocese in trust for the national church. Whether or not it is enforceable in court will, no doubt, be litigated now. (We ar confident it will not control in DioFW, btw.) But it doesn't say anything at all about whether parishes or dioceses can "leave," i.e., terminates its relationship with GenCon.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please note: TEC is not a corporate entity. That is the fatal flaw in the TEC argument. It is nothing more than a voluntary association! Look up the legal records. A diocese can join it or leave it, at will.


10:07 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Indeed, your Grace. It is inherent in the official name of the organization: The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Societies of the Protestant Episcopal Church. "TEC" at the national level is a voluntary association of multiple independent societies (dioceses and missionary societies), nothing more. It most surely is not, at the national level, a "hierarchical church"! There is absolutely nothing in the C & C that says a member organization (i.e., The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth) cannot sever its ties to that national association and re-associate with whomever it pleases.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree in part with what Bishop Iker said, "Being in TEC is a voluntary situation." If this is true, then parishes within the diocese may voluntarily remain within the Episcopal Church AND the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Using Bishop Iker's arguement also paves the way for those parishes that wish to remain in TEC to do so "voluntarily" (because being in TEC is a voluntary situation) as part of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Whether or not the churches retain their property is irrelevant to the arguement because the church is the people, not the buildings. The churches in our diocese each have a signed document which the founding members of that church signed saying that they acceeded to the canons and constitution of the Episcopal Church and the diocese (because of the dates and jurisdictions they were in at the time of their founding, some will say Dallas, some will say diocese of Texas, and a couple say Diocese of Fort Worth, but they all basically mean the same thing).(even the newest mission, Saint Barnabas has such a document, as it is required by our dicoesan canons to be presented when the mission becomes part of the diocese). If a diocese's relationship to TEC is voluntary, so must the relationship of a parish to the diocese be, because the same accession to canons and constitution (of TEC and to the dicoese, not just an accession to the diocesan canons) is the required paperwork that grants a church membership into the diocese according to our own diocesan canons. So why the squabble over property? Surely if the arguement of the Fort Worth Diocesan chancellor is correct, each church should easily win in court to retain their own property, especially those churches that wish to remain in the Episcopal Church, because their founding members signed a document saying that they are members of the Episcopal Church, acceeding to its canons and constitution (Not to the canons of the Southern Cone or some other province). Accession to diocesan canons and constitution as well as Episcopal Church canons and constitution and a recognition of the authority of the Bishop of the Episcopal Church that presides over the diocese is the required paperwork (as stated in the Fort Worth Diocesan canon 22.2) for a church to become a member of the diocese. If you don't believe me, look it up on the diocesan website for yourself, it's there, along with many other canons that may become problems for you Southern Cone folks that you have also overlooked. If the chancellor's arguement is correct, there will be No more mandatory accession, no more mandatory church affiliation, no more mandatory diocesan affiliation after November 15th. In fact, the Fort Worth diocesan canons and constitution have not been changed and proposals are not in place to modify the requirement for new missions to accede to the canons and constitution of TEC in order to become member churches of this diocese. Amendments to this requirement have not been proposed by the committee on constitution and canons for the convention in November either. It looks to me like someone did not do their homework on that one. I guess the next Episcopal Church to become part of the continuing Episcopal diocese will be the mission in Crowley, because if the diocesan canons are not changed, all of the founding members will have to make a written vow to accede to the canons of the Episcopal Church and of the diocese in order to become part of the dicoese.

1:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Your Grace"? Is Bp. Iker now an archbishop?

9:01 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:21 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Anon, if you are a long time reader you will know that I tend to be rather Philorthodox. I initially picked up the practice of referring to bishops as "Your Grace" from my Orthodox priests friends. It seems especially appropriate to me to salute a great orthodox bishop like Bishop Iker with an Orthodox salutation!


But a quick search of the Internet seems to me to indicate "Your Grace" is also normal Anglican practice in the case of bishops, not just archbishops.


Hope this helps. God bless!

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems very high church to call a bishop "Your Grace," but keep in mind it was not too long ago that the custom in the Episcopal and Catholic Churches was to kiss the Bishop's ring and bow to him when he came into the church (in the procession) for his visitation. To each his own, certainly a matter of personal preference, such as whether a person calls their own mother Mama, Mom, Mother, Mommy, or Mum.

6:00 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Indeed, anon. We still kiss the bishop's ring around St. Vincent's. As you say, "to each his own." God bless.

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"ROCHESTER: State high court rules against breakaway Episcopalians.."

Setting a legal presidence..

"The convention also said that All Saints' real property and tangible and intangible assets were to be transferred to the trustees of the diocese. All Saints, however, maintained that it held legal title to the real and personal property.

The Rev. David Harnish, the All Saints rector, later claimed that the parish was under the authority of Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi.

Justice Theodore Jones Jr., writing October 23 for a unanimous court, ruled that the canons of the Episcopal Church include language making it clear that parish property is held in trust for the wider church. All Saints had claimed that it was not bound by the language, the so-called Dennis Canon, because it was adopted after All Saints was incorporated as an Episcopal mission in 1927 and after it became a parish in the diocese in 1947.

The court said it was unlikely that any of the parties to those documents intended to give the parish veto power over future changes in the canons. The court also found it significant that All Saints never objected to the applicability of the Dennis Canon (Canon 1.7.4) in the more than 20 years since it was enacted by General Convention.

Diocesan attorney Thomas Smith told Newsday October 23 that the diocese had sold the All Saints building and was holding about $450,000 in proceeds pending the outcome of the case. "The proceeds of the sale will be used for the mission of the diocese, of the parishes," he told the newspaper.

All Saints Anglican Church now worships in the chapel of Reformation Lutheran Church in Rochester.

This was the second appellate court ruling in a week that favored Episcopal Church contentions about the actions of groups of people who chose to leave their parishes. A California appeals court ruled October 21 that leaders of a San Diego Episcopal church did not have the authority to change parish bylaws and articles of incorporation after voting to realign with the Church of Uganda. Although former vestry members of St. John's Church in Fallbrook, California, in the Diocese of San Diego resigned from the Episcopal Church in July 2006 over doctrinal issues, they refused to relinquish the parish's property or assets.

Instead, the vestry members voted to change the parish's name and to amend the parish corporation's bylaws and articles of incorporation -- actions deemed beyond the scope of their authority, according to the Fourth District Court of Appeals decision."

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately for the Southern Coners, this handful of parishes wishing to stay in TEC hold more than a handful of the money of the diocese (at least 25% of the diocesan busget comes from these 5 parishes). We all like to talk about theological issues, but money talks. I'll put it this way,"If your church has 50 members, but only 5 of them pledge, and of those 5 each pledges $1 million annually, what would happen if the 45 who do not pledge want to go to the Southern Cone and the 5 that pledge wish to stay in TEC? The church would have 45 Southern Cone worshippers but no money to operate after a separation." Those wishing to remain in TEC are holding 25 % of the diocesan budget in their pockets right now. They will take that money with them when you leave to go to the Cone. This is the reason that the arguement ,"Nothing will change after November 15th," is absolutely false.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But they drew the line, and I will make sure that my money goes to the national church and not some other episcopal group that is an import to USA and foreign to our traditions. And that is exactly what they will become when they move to the southern cona.

But it looks like we will be getting this property and assets back just by looking at the recent rullings in the various other break-away communities. State supreme courts usualy review other state supreme court rullings when the same legal issue is present in their state. I have no doubt that Texas will recognise and agree with this:

"Justice Theodore Jones Jr., writing October 23 for a unanimous court, ruled that the canons of the Episcopal Church include language making it clear that parish property is held in trust for the wider church."

I just had to repost that part because it IS fabulous.

11:46 AM  

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