Many Daughters of the King are still concerned for the future of their order.
After the Presiding Bishop wrote a letter to the Episcopal Community of the Daughters of the King last week, Grace Sears, Secretary to the National Council of the Order, wrote an open letter in response.
In the meantime, a member of the executive committee of the Order is a founding member of a new group that appears to duplicate the Order of the Daughters of the King (DOK) in the new Anglican Church in North America. The Order of the Daughters of the Holy Cross (DHC)filed Articles of Incorporation in the State of Florida on June 16, 2009.
Sears' letter of June 19 appears not to have answered the specific concerns of DOK members who believe that proposed by-law changes will take the Order out of the Episcopal Church and change the essential character of the Daughters of the King itself. The Presiding Bishop echoed those concerns in her letter:
The proposed membership changes have the effect of forcing the Order, and its Episcopal members, to leave their historic affiliation with The Episcopal Church. It would, in my view, be far more appropriate to be clear about the historic character of the Daughters, and highlight the members' ability to welcome others as members of associate chapters.
The Presiding Bishop says that eliminating the Presiding Bishop’s role in ratifying the National Chaplain to the Daughters of the King would take away both a connection and a check that every recognized religious order in the Episcopal Church shares.
I would caution the members about the proposal to remove the requirement that the Chaplain to the Order be appointed by the Presiding Bishop, in favor of appointment by the President of the Board. The Chaplain has historically had a guiding role, of the nature of an episcopal visitor to a religious community (an order of nuns or monks). The Chaplain's appointment is a potential check on overly enthusiastic, narrow, or novel directions espoused by the Board. It is a way in which to keep the Order catholic in the true sense of that word.
Sears said that intent of the new by-laws would be to make the DOK "Episcopal Plus," with their intent being to accommodate the relatively small number of the former affiliate chapters whose members belong to Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches while allowing chapters that belong to breakaway Anglican congregations to keep their full membership status.
Other members and some bishops say that Sears’ letter does not directly address the Presiding Bishop's concerns nor has it answered the concerns of members of the Dughters of the King and others from around the Church.
The Rt. Rev. Neil Alexander, Bishop of Atlanta, wrote an e-mail to the members of the Order in his diocese. Calling the proposed change "a cheap unity" that will "give away our identity", he writes:
I have read the proposed by-law changes and the letter from our Presiding Bishop. Let me say, in agreement with Bishop Katharine, that the changes in by-laws, if enacted, will change forever the Daughters of the King as we know it, and it will have a disastrous effect on the future of the Order. The admission of persons who are in churches not in full communion with the Episcopal Church will change the character of the Order.
One of the things we have learned in the last few decades in the ecumenical movement is that IT DOES NOT WORK to blur the lines of distinction among us. True and faithful ecumenism is to be clear about one's identity, clear about who is in and not in one's own church, and then have a ministry of welcome to others. We are not in full communion with break-away churches and for the Daughters to try to solve the current crisis in the church by welcoming people whose purpose it is to destroy the Episcopal Church will shatter the Daughters. THIS IS A TAKEOVER by folks who want to destroy the Episcopal Church. They are using the Daughters of the King for their own purposes.
The Rev. Dr. Linda A. Hutton, Chaplain of Daughters of the King in the Diocese of Tennessee wrote a letter Friday, June 19th to members of the Order in her diocese:
It has been my great honor to serve as the Diocese of Tennessee Chaplain to the Daughters of the King for nearly three years. During the past two years, it has weighed heavily in my heart that the Order was being derailed from its mission and ministry by those who wished to restructure the order and remove its Episcopal identity. I have been a Daughter since 2002 when the Order was chartered at St. James Episcopal Church, Sewanee, Tennessee where I serve as priest in charge. It has been my delight to observe and be a part of such a powerful group of prayer, their deep commitment to our Lord, their responses to prayer requests, creative service projects, the commitment to study, and evangelism.
Due to the recent events many Daughters are hurting and confused by the proposed changes to the Order. I have met with many who have even come to the point of returning their crosses as a result of the changes being pushed by break-away churches that have left the Episcopal Church. I have kept up with all of the correspondence and the proposed changes to the by-laws which are deeply disturbing and if put in place will destroy the identity, character, mission, and ministry of the Daughters as an Episcopal Order.
I have read the correspondence from our Bishops and our Presiding Bishop regarding the proposed changes and I am in solidarity with their statements regarding opposition to the proposals. I too, believe the changes are an outright act to take over the Daughters that seek to destroy the Order in an attempt to ultimately destroy the Episcopal Church. These actions are not toward the up-building and strengthening of the Kingdom of God but quite to the contrary ultimately using the Daughters of the King as a weapon against the church.
The Rev. Pamela J. Breakey of the Diocese of Western Michigan also wrote in support of the Presiding Bishop's letter, which shows a common theme in many responses we have seen, namely the spiritual consequences of political wrangling and secrecy.
I am writing in response to the letter from The Episcopal Community of June 15 and our Presiding Bishop of May 29.
Please keep the Daughters of the King an Episcopal Order. To do otherwise will merely add to the divisiveness and pain in the church and undermine being in communion with one another. Please continue to have the Chaplain appointed by the Presiding Bishop rather than by the President of the Board. I want to be very clear about both of these issues.
A year ago, I wrote a letter which I enclose, as I was and continue to be concerned about the lack of transparency within the Order about these issues. I am deeply grieved that the National Council has not kept members informed about on going debate about how to respond to disagreements about the role of women, sexual orientation and interpretation of Scripture.
I am not one who throws around the word "evil" but I do believe that much of the divisiveness within our Communion today is indeed evil and spread by those with personal agendas and desire for personal power.
In 2008, Breakey wrote to Susan Benjamin, Province V Chair of the Daughters of the King, addressing the fact that the leadership of the Order has not provided a forum for the proper airing of these concerns, saying:
The last two or three mailings that I have received from DOK have alluded to controversy without naming it. I find this disturbing. Mold grows in the dark, and so do distrust, division and church conflict.
I expect more of DOK: that conflict will be named and that members will be advised of what is going on in a direct and straightforward manner rather than with veiled comments.
If the issue centers on chapters in parishes and dioceses that are leaving the Episcopal Church, I believe that the honorable thing to do is to allow those chapters to decide whether or not they will remain in communion with the rest of us who are committed to an inclusive understanding of the unity that God calls us to.
Having served a parish in the diocese of Pittsburgh and having led worship here in the Diocese of Western Michigan at a parish that had undergone a painful division when its clergy left the Episcopal Church, I am quite aware of the deep level of pain that division causes. But I think that it is critical that all Daughters remain committed to being in communion with one another no matter what our theological divisions may be.
With the choice of clergy leadership at the National level, it can appear that the DOK is taking a stand against inclusion. As a woman member of the Body of Christ, this makes me very uneasy.
Jamie Peabody, Diocese of East Tennessee President of the Daughters of the King wrote in another e-mail on June 20, 2009:
Many long standing, prayerful and loving women have worked their collective hearts out to come up with solutions to problems that outside forces have brought to bear to tear the Order apart. The latest example of one of these solutions was the Proposal for a Way Forward. Every denomination could have a place to stand under the DOK umbrella without their clergy damning Episcopal DOKs via damning their church. Catholic Bishops would no longer have to look the other way while their parishioners disobeyed their wishes of 20 years ago. All could truly feel welcome to explore just what it means to belong to an Order of women, Lay and Clergy, who decided to enrich their spiritual lives by vowing a daily rule of Prayer and Service to God for His church....
The proposed bylaws not only attempt to erase the heritage of this Order they turn it into little more than a loosely confederated society of women driven by clergy, who will continue fomenting discord as how to worship God.
Meanwhile, around the time that the Presiding Bishops letter was released, a new group has been incorporated in the State of Florida called “The Order of the Daughters of the Holy Cross.” (DHC) The founding officers are all current members of the Order of the Daughter of the King, and the registered agent, Jacquelyn Crosby of Tallahassee, who the membership chair of the Daughters of the King. According to the filing, the new group’s purpose is:
A women’s religious order for in the Anglican Church. Will bring together women for prayer, service, study and evangelism.
Crosby is a member of All Saints Anglican Church of Tallahassee, Florida. Her husband, The Rev. Gilbert T. Crosby, is the rector. Crosby was appointed to the executive board of the National Council and serves as membership chair. Her appointment at the 2006 Triennial was deemed by an independent parliamentarian retained by the Order to have been inappropriate because the DOK by-laws affiliate members to have vote at their National Council or serve on the executive council of the Order. After this finding, the situation was not rectified, but instead was deferred to the 2009 Triennial.
Crosby remains national Membership Chairperson of the DOK while also on the board of this new group.
The Order of the Daughters of the Holy Cross has a web site and they appears not to have published by-laws yet. Here is how they describe themselves:
To gather Anglican women and girls into a nurturing and empowering community to serve our Lord Jesus Christ as He unites and builds up His Body, the Church.
DHC does not define what they mean by "Anglican," so it is unclear if they are limiting their connection to ACNA or if they include any church that considers itself Anglican. Also, members may join individually or as part of a chapter, and a chapter may include up to three congregations. They plan structure that appears to mirror or at least closely mimic DOK.
The Daughters of the Holy Cross plan to institute their order on September 12, 2009 at Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville, Georgia which is about an hour away from the Daughters of the King offices in Woodstock, Georgia.
If the DHC is the manifestation of what Ms. Sears wrote “we expect to say a sad goodbye to long-time members whose congregations have left the Episcopal Church” then the purpose of the proposed by law changes becomes unclear. The need to remove any reference to the Episcopal Church in the DOK by-laws is troubling in light of the fact that the new group specifically states that it is for "Anglican" women without specifying if that is limited to members of ACNA congregations or to anyone calls themselves "Anglican." The effect of changing the DOK by-law is to weaken the focus of the DOK while the focus of the new DHC in the new denomination is clearly focused on their definition of "Anglican".
Sears says that there is no huge influx of breakaway Anglican members that is driving the proposed changes to DOK by-laws and the membership numbers certainly bear this out, but it also not an accurate description of what is happening. What appears to be happening is that the national leadership have made strategic decisions to change the character of the Order of the Daughters of the King so that their ties to the Episcopal Church are severed or at least reduced to the congregational level only. The leaders make the assumption that all groups called Anglican, not to mention all groups from churches “within the historic episcopate,” are equal.
The new bylaws would also make DOK accountable to no one but itself. If the proposed by-laws are accepted as written, there is no check against chapters being members of both the DHC and DOK, even if the chapter is outside the Episcopal Church. The practical effect is that it at once removes the DOK from the Episcopal Church in terms of oversight, while maintaining the presence of a re-defined DOK in the member parishes. This would serve to influence the life and work of Episcopal diocesan and local chapters who heretofore have not been involved in pan-Anglican controversies.
As Bishop Jefferts Schori said:
There is nothing wrong with claiming your relationships as faithful members of different strands of the Body of Christ, in support of a common vision, but the origin of that vision and the desire of the members to connect it to The Episcopal Church, or not, needs to be eminently clear. The Order is hampered in fulfilling its mission while it remains mired in these internal controversies.
The reality of this conflict has slipped under the radar for many local clergy and chapters. Like the parishes within which these chapters exist, most members of the Order of Daughters of the King are faithfully going about their business and don't attract a lot of attention. On the surface, the idea of equally including all chapters from any tradition seems "fair," especially since all chapters, even affiliate chapters, are assessed the same amount. While the proposed by-laws are on the DOK website, there has been very little open discussion about the purpose and implications of the changes.
Most Rectors have no reason to look deeply into this situation because they focus on the life of their local Daughters of the King chapter and that is where their attention ends. Most local DOK members and their clergy would be surprised to find out that sometime next summer it is possible for the Order, whose rule includes support for the ministry of the Rector, to have written the Episcopal Church out of their very governing documents.