Fort Worth begins steps to depose former Episcopal clergy

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."

See the Diocese of Forth Worth news release here and his letter to the clergy here.

Comments (4)

I'm starting to rethink my former opinions on this. I have been supportive of these depositions in the past, but I'm starting to wonder about it's usefulness.
Are we, by deposing these priests, not just giving them reason to feel they are martyrs of some sort, without actually having to make some sacrifice? I mean, they are deposed which can help them feel all the more victims, but they are, for all intents and purposes, still functioning as priests in an Anglican jurisdiction (sort of). Perhaps shouldn't TEC explore other options to handle this.
I'm not sure Title IV is really making much difference in these cases. In fact, by using it this way, we're almost setting a precedent for Title IV disciplinary actions to be meaningless.

I am tempted to agree, Matthew, but I think we leave ourselves exposed to legal liability if we don't depose these folks. I do think we need to do a better job of explaining what we are doing. This isn't the secular equivalent of a deportation; it's taking the passport of someone who has renounced citizenship.

It seems to me that part of the problem with deposition is that it effectively asserts that the person can no longer function as a bishop / priest / deacon when what we really mean is that the person can no longer function as a bishop / priest / deacon of the Episcopal Church / Anglican Church of Canada.

Malcolm French

I have such mixed feelings about this whole situation. I would like to always leave the door open to these priest, but I agree with Jim that there are legal liability issues. In addition, as long as they are ordained priests of the Episcopal Church, their actions and speech can be construed as to represent the Episcopal Church. Sadly, the news blurbs do not make it clear as to why this is happening.

Ellen Marie Lincourt

Add your comments

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Reminder: At Episcopal Café, we hope to establish an ethic of transparency by requiring all contributors and commentators to make submissions under their real names. For more details see our Feedback Policy.

Advertising Space