Bishop Edwin Gulick, provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, says that he will soon begin the required deposition process for the 72 clergy who left the Episcopal Church to join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. but has offered one more chance for these priests and deacons to clarify their intent to remain in the Episcopal Church or not.
In a letter released today, Bishop Gulick wrote,
"I want to begin by thanking you for your service as a priest or deacon in the Episcopal Church. . . I know that many of you have searched your hearts and conscience and have come to a decision to join with Bishop Iker to realign your allegiance with Anglicans in the Southern Cone. It is not my intention in writing you this letter to trespass upon your conscience in this matter or to offer any new arguments or words of persuasion. However, before I begin to exercise certain canonical responsibilities regarding the status of those who have left the Episcopal Church, I feel compelled to offer to meet with you, if you wish, for a conversation related to your own discernment and decision."
He outlines the situation of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican communion since the November, 2008 convention where many in the diocese of Fort Worth voted to leave the Episcopal Church. He then says:
"In fairness to you, I would like to be absolutely sure that your decision to leave the Episcopal Church is final and that your conscience and soul are at peace. If in fact that is the case, then any canonical action I am forced to perform as Provisional Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth will simply be declaration of a reality that exists. If on the other hand, there is still an open ended space for further discernment, I stand ready to be available to consult and pray deeply with you about your relationship with the Episcopal Church."
Bishop Gulick's actions in Fort Worth follow similar actions by Bishop Jerry Lamb in the Diocese of San Joaquin who earlier this week deposed 61 clergy who also left the Episcopal Church for the Province of the Southern Cone. Episcopal Life OnLine reported:
Lamb described the actions as "heartbreaking," on May 26, after finishing the last of the letters, which were to be mailed out to clergy who, along with former Bishop John-David Schofield, realigned themselves with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.
"I have known a few of these clergy personally and others by the stories I have heard about their ministry," Lamb said in a prepared statement.
"But, the fact is, they chose to abandon their relationship with the Episcopal Church. They declined to ask for a release from their ordination vows, and I had no option but to bring the charges of Abandonment of the Communion to the Standing Committee last year and take these final steps today. It is a sad day."