Although this feels like insider baseball, details like this matter. Check to make sure your diocesan mailing lists and hyperlinks go to the real Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. It's a problem the diocese faces daily.
For immediate release
Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
3550 Southwest Loop 820
Fort Worth, TX 76133
St. Vincent’s School Accreditation
The question has been raised as to why St. Vincent’s School in Bedford, which recently denied admission to a 4-year-old girl because her parents are lesbians, is accredited by the Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools (SWAES) – a fact displayed prominently on St. Vincent’s web site.
These questions were raised because some news stories initially referred to the school as St. Vincent's Episcopal School. While this is indeed a private school, it is not an Episcopal school. Clergy at St. Vincent's Church left The Episcopal Church in 2008, and have, in fact, been deposed by The Episcopal Church, which means they can no longer function as clergy in our church. There is still a St. Vincent’s Episcopal Church, composed of members of St. Vincent’s who chose to remain in The Episcopal Church. It is a mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and is under the supervision of the Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, provisional bishop of Fort Worth.
The confusion is compounded because even though the St. Vincent’s clergy and former bishop Jack Iker have left The Episcopal Church, they continue to use our name and to occupy Episcopal Church property. The Episcopal Church is in litigation over these matters in the 141st District Court in Tarrant County, Texas.
St. Vincent’s School is indeed accredited by SWAES, but only until the end of this school year. This arrangement was made to give the school time to secure other accreditation, a process than can take up to two years. SWAES did this because the association wanted to deal compassionately with faculty and students caught up in the aftermath of the 2008 decision of individuals to leave The Episcopal Church.
The letter below from Connie Wootton, executive director of SWAES, to SWAES board members, explains the process SWAES employed with St. Vincent’s. This letter is shared with Ms. Wootton’s permission. [There is one error in her letter. Our diocese has eight parishes, not five, that stayed with The Episcopal Church and retained their buildings. We also have twelve other parishes whose buildings are currently occupied by non-Episcopalians. These parishes temporarily worship in alternate spaces, ranging from a theater, a wedding chapel, and a storefront to parish halls in Presbyterian or Christian churches. All other congregations remain as missions of the diocese.]
For more information, contact Katie Sherrod, Communications Director, Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, 817 909 0070.
Dear SAES Board Members,
The purpose of this email is to inform and/or update you regarding SAES’s relationship with St. Vincent’s School in Bedford, TX. St. Vincent’s Church is one of the 50 (out of 55) parishes that followed the lead of the former bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth in severing all ties with the Episcopal Church of America as we know it.
Realizing that the school and SAES no longer held compatible philosophies, SAES and the St. Vincent’s Board reached a mutual agreement in June, 2009, in which SAES agreed to accredit the school until June, 2011, or until alternate accreditation by another association could be secured—a process that typically takes from 18 – 24 months with ACSI (Assoc. of Christian Schools International), the particular association with which the school planned to work.
The reason I personally felt strongly about carrying the school until accreditation could be secured elsewhere was the need to support St. Vincent’s faculty and students, many of whom had no interest in church politics. SAES also had enjoyed a long and positive history with the school, and being accredited by an association officially recognized by the Texas Education Agency is a big deal in Texas, particularly regarding recognition of faculty service and student achievement.
A few days ago, a 4-year-old student was denied admission to St. Vincent’s School because she has lesbian parents, according to a quote by a spokesman for St. Vincent’s School. The issue subsequently was addressed on a televised news program. Because SAES was listed on the school’s website as the accrediting association, Fran Barrack and I began to receive emails over the weekend demanding to know how an Episcopal association could sanction such action in one its schools.
I talked with the new head of school this morning to find out exactly where the school stands in the process of securing ACSI accreditation. A subsequent conversation with accreditation personnel at ACSI revealed that the school still needs SAES accreditation through the end of this school year.
Although I feel we need to complete our part of the original agreement, I requested, and the head of school agreed, to remove any reference to SAES, NAIS or TEA on the school’s website, effective immediately. In turn, SAES will continue to include the school on our list of accredited schools with TEA through June, 2011.
If you have questions or concerns regarding this issue, please do not hesitate to call or email me.
Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools
1420 4th Ave., Suite 29
Canyon, TX 79015
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth website is here.
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