Members of the Diocese of Fort Worth told Executive Council about their mission, ministry, and shared stories of hope, healing, and reconciliation. They described the long journey ahead to rebuild their diocese.
ENS has the story:
While much reconciliation and renewal work has been accomplished among Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth, the Executive Council heard Feb. 17 that much more work remains to be done.
Members of the council's Governance and Administration for Mission committee learned about the efforts to rebuild the diocese from Victoria Prescott, senior warden at the Episcopal Church in Parker County community; Walt Cabe, St. Alban's senior warden; and diocesan Provisional Bishop Wallis Ohl.
That evening, the entire council attended a reception with Fort Worth Episcopalians at St. Alban's Episcopal Church in its meeting place at Theater Arlington in Arlington, Texas. Council members heard about the mission and ministry of the continuing diocese during one-on-one conversations and also at presentations made during dinner that evening at the Arlington Museum of Art near the theater.
GAM committee members heard that clergy, laity and congregations who did not "carry the banner" of former diocesan Bishop Jack Iker and other leaders of the diocese were, in Ohl's word, "isolated and shunned as much as possible."
Council member and Fort Worth lay leader Katie Sherrod told GAM that "we were described by Jack Iker as self-appointed vigilantes."
"The word vigilante in Spanish means witness and so we owned it proudly," she said....
......St. Alban's is one of 20 congregations in the reorganized diocese and Ohl said that each one has people -- he called them "refugees" -- who were members of congregations where the majority of members and clergy chose to depart. They worship in homes, women's clubs, space rented from other churches and in unusual places such as Theater Arlington where the set on the stage changes every five weeks. It reminded the St. Alban's members of the permanence of the worshipping community in the midst of the constant changes in their lives, the Rev. Melanie Barnett Wright, priest in charge, told the council as she stood on a chair in the theater's lobby. On Sundays the lobby becomes the place for adult Sunday school and coffee hour, she said.
Cabe said there are also "dozens of people" who remain in congregations that are loyal to the Southern Cone-connected diocese because they "stayed with the building," but "who say we're just waiting for you to come back."
Prescott told the story of a 90-year-old hoping for the property litigation to be settled so that she can eventually be buried out of the church she had belonged to since she was a toddler. "When you hear the pain in her voice you realize that it goes so much deeper than a political stance," she said.
In some instances, there have been joint funerals with Anglican and Episcopal clergy to accommodate those divisions, Cabe said.
During both sessions, Fort Worth Episcopalians reiterated their desire to welcome everyone, including those who left in the split. Sherrod admitted that it can be hard "trying to see the beloved in those faces" because of all that was said and done at the time.
The financial health of the reorganized diocese is such that this year it will give between 32 percent and 33 percent of its income to help fund the work of the wider Episcopal Church, Ohl said. The current churchwide budget asks the 110 dioceses to contribute 21 percent of diocesan income this year and 19 percent in 2012.
"We will be at least 20 percent for 2012, I guarantee it," Ohl told the committee, adding that diocesan members are committed to the plan because of the financial assistance the wider church gave remaining Episcopalians and because the former leadership refused to support the Episcopal Church financially.