Fort Worth set to disassociate from Episcopal Church

The Bishop of Fort Worth, in his address to the Forward in Faith International meeting on October 20, 2007, states that there is no future in the Episcopal Church (TEC) for the dioceses of Fort Worth, San Joaquin and Quincy. Forward in Faith is an organization that does not believe women can be priests or bishops. However, Quincy is reported as backing off from his assertion that all three will be taking steps to separate from TEC.

According to Bishop Iker,

Our plan is not only to disassociate, then, from The Episcopal Church, but to officially, constitutionally re-affiliate with an existing orthodox Province of the communion that does not ordain women to the priesthood. These conversations are very far along but cannot be announced until the Province that is considering our appeal has made their final decision public.

Regarding Common Cause, Iker states that they will only be in full communion with those who do not ordain women and who do not receive women into the priesthood. Common Cause has committed to a theological study on the ordination of women. Forward in Faith will encourage those who do ordain women to reconsider their decision.

Although he claims 51 bishops for Common Cause, most belong to churches not members of the Anglican Communion. A list of 40 attending the Common Cause meeting is here.

The podcast of Bishop Iker's speech is here.

The text of his speech follows:

Bishop Jack Iker’s Address to the Forward in Faith International
Assembly in London – October 20, 2007

Thank you very much for that welcome. Madam Chairman, members of the Assembly, it’s a privilege to have this opportunity to briefly report on the state of affairs of Forward in Faith in North America.

I bring you warm greetings and assurances of our prayers and best wishes from all the members of Forward in Faith there, especially our national council and our president, Bishop Keith Ackerman. I ask you to keep Bishop Keith in your prayers. As some of you may have heard, he has had some illness over the past year, some of it most recently related to high blood pressure, and he’s not able to be here to make this presentation himself, not because of his health but because he is presiding at his diocesan synod at this very time.

I’d like to make my report to you in two parts. First, I want to speak about the situation with the Forward in Faith dioceses and our relationship with The Episcopal Church. And then the second part of my report will deal with the Common Cause Partnership and the role that Forward in Faith plays in that new venture.

There are three Forward in Faith dioceses in the United States, and the three bishops of those dioceses have come to a common conclusion that we have no future in The Episcopal Church. Our conventions in those three dioceses, Fort Worth, Quincy, and San Joaquin, will be taking constitutional action to separate officially from TEC. Because it is a constitutional change, it must be passed at two successive annual conventions.

As you may know, the Diocese of San Joaquin passed on first reading their secession clauses last year, and they will take the second vote on the first Saturday of December. The Diocese of Quincy, which is in session now, will be taking their vote today, and before the day is out we should hear the results of that vote. And then my own Diocese of Fort Worth will be voting for our first reading on November 17th.

A fourth diocese in TEC is expected to take the same action to separate from The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Pittsburgh. In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, as you know, a diocese that ordains women to the priesthood, they are led by the Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network and the Chairman of the Common Cause Partnership.

But for the Forward in Faith dioceses it cannot be any clearer that we have come to the end of the road in The Episcopal Church, and there is no future for us or for those who hold our theological position in TEC in the years ahead.

The acceptance of women priests is now mandatory in every diocese. This means that none of the three existing Forward in Faith dioceses will be able to secure the consecration of a new, orthodox Bishop-elect. I think each of the three dioceses will elect an orthodox successor, but in our system we have to have the approval of the majority of the Standing Committees of the other dioceses and a majority of the bishops of The Episcopal Church to proceed with the consecration, and that simply is not going to happen. Therefore, rather than waiting until it becomes time to attempt to replace an orthodox bishop and have it turned down, we’ve decided to take our affairs into our own hands and to secure our own future by separating from the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church and governance by the dictates of the General Convention.

As you know, the election of a woman to the office of Presiding Bishop in The Episcopal Church makes our situation clearly untenable. The day after her election an appeal was made on the floor of the House of Bishops for an arrangement called Alternative Primatial Oversight, something that had not been used before because there had been no need of it before, but a way forward that would allow Forward in Faith bishops, priests, laity to remain in The Episcopal Church while under the spiritual coverage and primatial leadership of an orthodox primate of the Anglican Communion.

Without rehearsing what has gone on over the last year and a quarter about that appeal, I can simply say we believe that the appeal for Alternative Primatial Oversight has been rejected. The primates put forward a very workable plan that we were willing to go along with when they met at Dar es Salaam, but the bishops of The Episcopal Church overwhelmingly rejected that, encouraged the Executive Council to do the same and have made no alternative suggestion. APO, as far as we are concerned, as a part of The Episcopal Church, is dead, therefore we must seek a primatial relationship outside ECUSA.

The second thing that hangs over us, of course, is not just a female Presiding Bishop but the overwhelming rejection of the requests of the Windsor Report made of The Episcopal Church whereby we can move towards reconciliation in the life of the communion. It is our contention that The Episcopal Church has decided to walk away from the Anglican Communion and our Forward in Faith dioceses will walk with the Anglican Communion.

Our plan is not only to disassociate, then, from The Episcopal Church, but to officially, constitutionally re-affiliate with an existing orthodox Province of the communion that does not ordain women to the priesthood. These conversations are very far along but cannot be announced until the Province that is considering our appeal has made their final decision public.

Realignment is taking place in the Anglican Communion. It took place in the United States first with parishes that could not in conscience remain in The Episcopal Church and affiliated with overseas dioceses, and now it is taking place as four dioceses believe that realignment calls for us to leave The Episcopal Church structure officially and become a part of another Province.

What will be the response of The Episcopal Church? We believe it will be very much like the response they have made to congregations that have made the decision to leave. They’ve taken them to court. They’ve sued them in civil courts. They’ve deposed the priests, declared the parishes vacant and have claimed title to the property. It’s a messy affair. It’s being worked though the courts, but it will reach another level of controversy when entire dioceses attempt to separate from The Episcopal Church. The official structure has made itself clear what they will attempt to do in those cases. They will declare those sees vacant, depose the bishops and call a convention of those faithful to the General Convention teaching and practice to reconstitute what they call continuing dioceses.

The second part of the report I want to make to you has to do with the Common Cause Partnership. This began in discussions that started, I suppose, two or three years ago in what was called the Common Cause Roundtable. It reached a new level at the end of September, when we formed a College of Bishops.

The Common Cause Partnership has its origins in two things. One, a resolution of the Lambeth Conference in 1998 ( Resolution 4.11) which spoke about the place of the
continuing churches in the Anglican world. It called upon bishops of the Anglican Communion “ to initiate and maintain dialogue with such groups with a view to the reconciliation of all who own the Anglican tradition.” Secondly, it has an origin in an appeal from the primates of the Global South who said to bishops in the United States, “There are too many different conservative groups, too many different bodies. You need to come together and speak with a unified voice so that we can speak to one group rather than several different groups.” So Common Cause is an effort to bring together those who own the Anglican way in united voice to speak to the rest of the communion. It’s a gathering the fragments, planning for a united witness in the future.

The significance of the agreement entered into in late September of this year is that Anglican bishops from ten different jurisdictions and organizations took the first steps toward establishing “a new ecclesiastical structure in North America,” which comes from the Communiqué from the Global South primates issued in Kigali in the year 2006.

Meeting in Pittsburgh at the end of September, representing over 600 congregations, 51 bishops organized themselves as a College of Bishops that will meet together every six months for consultation. We have adopted a time line leading to a constitutional convention sometime in 2009, the purpose of which would be to form an orthodox Province of the Anglican Communion in North America.

Members of the Common Cause Partnership, in case you don’t know, include the Anglican Communion Network, Forward in Faith, CANA (the Convocation of Anglicans
in North America, an initiative coming out of the Nigerian province), AMiA (the Anglican Mission in America, an initiative coming out of the province of Rwanda), APA
(the Anglican Province of America), and the Reformed Episcopal Church (which broke from The Episcopal Church in the 19th century). Of those organizations only some of the dioceses in the Anglican Communion Network ordain women to the priesthood.

New participants in the Common Cause Partnership have been added by the recent consecrations of American bishops to serve Kenyan and Ugandan congregations located in the United States. Other participants come from the Anglican Communion Network in Canada.

In closing, I’d like to say three things which are of particular interest to Forward in Faith in the United Kingdom as Forward in Faith in North America participates with our Common Cause partners. The first is to say that we will be in full communion with only those Common Cause partners which do not ordain women or receive ordained women into the priesthood. Our cooperation with the bodies that do so cannot extend to communio in sacris but we will cooperate with them in every way possible in a state of continuing impaired communion.

The second point is to say that leaders of the Anglican Communion Network and the Common Cause Partnership are fully committed to undertaking a substantial theological study of the question of the ordination of women, once a structure is in place and we have relatively settled in. We will have a chance, in other words, to bring those who now accept this innovation to reconsideration of their decision for the future.

And third, and last, in the new Common Cause Partnership or in a restructured orthodox Province in North America, Forward in Faith dioceses will be free, first, to maintain our own line of episcopal succession; secondly to select, form, ordain and deploy our own ordinands; third, to reject any decisions of the Partnership that are contrary to our theological position; and fourth, to pursue our own ecumenical relationships.

So there are some challenging months and a couple of years ahead of us in Forward in Faith. We ask for your prayers as we try to take a bold and courageous stand to uphold and maintain the catholic faith and order of the Church and to pass on a secure future to our children and our grandchildren.

Thank you very much,
The Rt. Rev. Jack Iker
Diocese of Fort Worth

Comments (3)

Rather tortured. If it's all about the role of women why the alliance with Pittsburgh? You get the sense that he's really holding his nose on that one, especially before this FiF audience. He comes right out and says that the purpose CC serves for him is that it gets him more attention from the Global South. Funny that Akinola says that someday the Church of Nigeria will admit women to the priesthood.

Amazing. He hasn't even GOTTEN to human sexuality yet. He's still fighting the battles of the '70s.

Well, John, I think the answer is clear: the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and so we can work together, with caveats:

"Our cooperation with the bodies that [ordain women] cannot extend to communio in sacris but we will cooperate with them in every way possible in a state of continuing impaired communion."

And,

"We will have a chance, in other words, to bring those who now accept this innovation to reconsideration of their decision for the future."

So, with three bishops we can do our own thing (although it's unclear whether this will actually be three dioceses, since Quincy chose in convention to pause, at least for now); and even if soon we are able to do our own thing, the age of "impaired communion" is far from over.

Marshall Scott

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