Bishop Jack Iker recently published his Ten Reasons to leave the Episcopal Church. What follows is Bishop Iker's list with responses from John S. Morgan. The quotes are from my four part series, "The Undermining of the Episcopal Church," published by The Episcopal Majority. The series can be found on this blog as well as www.episcopalmajority.blogspot.com.
BISHOP IKER: Our 26th annual convention is approaching, and a momentous decision is before us as a diocese. At last year's convention, your clergy and elected delegates voted by majorities of around 80 percent each to remove language in our Constitution that affiliates us with the General Convention of The Episcopal Church (TEC). This year, clergy and delegates will be asked to ratify that decision to separate.
RESPONDENT: Friends of mine recently returned from The Province Seven Synod meeting. They listened to the goings on of a vibrant, healthy church. They listened to glowing reports of the effectiveness of the small indaba groups that replaced the rancorous and divisive legislative promulgations of previous meetings, returning the Lambeth Conference to the kind of fellowship, prayer, and mutual learning arena for which it was originally intended. No wonder that Bishop Iker, illegally removed Fort Worth from Province Seven. Their role in disputes within dioceses, their view of the larger church, their serving as a springboard to higher office in the church, was yet another type of awareness of the larger church that had to be curtailed.
Have you ever seen in Forward in Mission a description of an interpretation of Scripture that did not support the party line? An advertisement of a visit to the diocese from the president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church? Have you ever seen any constructive or positive information about the Episcopal Church in Forward in Mission? Do you know that the Episcopal Church mails out an award winning monthly newspaper? That the Episcopal Church provides a service where-by Forward in Mission could be bundled with Episcopal Life and mailed to all communicants of our diocese? Do you know that outreach by the Diocese of Fort Worth is among the lowest of any diocese? Information has always been tightly controlled by the diocese. This is the reason that you may have only a one sided view of your national church. Perhaps this is why you have questions and uncertainties now.
BISHOP IKER: "Why now?" someone might ask. "Why is this the time for our diocese to separate from the General Convention of The Episcopal Church and realign with another Province of the Anglican Communion?" Here are a few of the thoughts that come to mind:1. This is God's time – our kairos moment – and it has been coming for a long time. We believe that God the Holy Spirit has guided and directed us to this particular time and moment of decision. Some might well ask, "Why has it taken us so long to take definitive action, given the past 30 years of the shenanigans of The Episcopal Church?" We have explored every avenue and exhausted every possibility. Now is the time to decide to separate from the moral, spiritual, and numerical decline of TEC.
RESPONDENT: If God the Holy Spirit has guided and directed the diocese to this particular time and moment of decision, where will he lead? Temporarily to the Southern Cone in violation of both the Constitution of the Southern Cone and that of the Episcopal Church? Eventually to pursue the formation of an orthodox, but presently nonexistent, Province in North America as Bishop Iker wishes or to the Roman Catholic Church where four of the senior priests of the diocese want to go, asserting that a critical mass of priests in the diocese are with them?
The Book of Common Prayer (September 1979) says on page 513, Ordination: Bishop: "When the reading of the testimonials is ended, the Presiding Bishop requires the following promise from the Bishop-elect" "In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I, N.N., chosen Bishop of the Church in N., solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church." "The Bishop-elect then signs the above Declaration in the sight of all present. The witnesses add their signatures."
Does a bishop who remains in office yet fails to resign when first he realizes he is unprepared to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church represent the kind of moral and spiritual decline mentioned above by Bishop Iker?
BISHOP IKER: 2. Actions of the General Convention have brought crisis and division to the whole Anglican Communion, not just TEC. More than 20 of the Provinces of the Communion have declared themselves to be in a state of broken or impaired communion with TEC because of the ordination of a homosexual bishop living in a sexual relationship with another man and the blessings of same-sex unions in many places throughout this church. We need to dissociate ourselves from the bishops and dioceses that are violating the teaching of Scripture by doing these things.
RESPONDENT: The above sounds like the pot calling the kettle black. This diocese has declared itself to be in a state of broken or impaired communion with numerous Episcopal groups and individuals – with any diocese that ordains women; [inclusive partners in the Anglican Communion Network] with anyone who has ordained a woman; with anyone who participated in the Ordination of Gene Robinson.
Father Woodward says, "This is not all about sex and human sexuality. It is about our understanding of the sacramental nature of all of life. When that kind of understanding and faith gets squeezed into codes and rules, it is no longer faith. St. Paul, at his best, noted that we are to work out our salvation by fear [respect] and trembling; he sensed the complexity and the richness of our faith. He knew, as our church has known, that our faith is rooted in a living relationship with an ever-present God, not in a rule-book or set of codes."
BISHOP IKER: 3. The heresies and heterodoxy once proclaimed by just a few renegade bishops – like James Pike and John Spong – are now echoed by the Presiding Bishop, who is the chief spokesperson for TEC and speaks on behalf of our church to the rest of the world. She does not reflect the orthodox beliefs of Episcopalians in this diocese. The greatest problem we face with Katharine Jefferts Schori is not that she is a woman, but that she is not an orthodox bishop.
RESPONDENT: Neither Bishop Spong nor James Pike represents the center of the Episcopal Church, nor does their teaching represent a replacement for the Catechism of the Episcopal Church.
Father Barber says, "The Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, has taken a lot of grief over a brief answer she gave in a Time interview.
When asked if belief in Jesus is the only way to get to heaven, she responded, 'We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.' ++Katharine gave that answer in July of 2006, and it has been a favorite quote of the conservatives in our church who say that we cannot stay in a church where the chief pastor has such thoughts.
Personally, I would be astounded if the past several presiding bishops did not agree with her thinking. And let me go further, I believe that most priests and most lay people in the Episcopal Church would also agree with her. And, you would find a good number of Christian, orthodox theologians who would find her statement acceptable."
Archbishop Venables of the Southern Cone, when he was speaking in our diocese, made a statement regarding people's religion, that, at the death of a person when he doesn't know about that person's religious convictions, he leaves it "up to God" to determine what happens to that person's soul. That sounds similar to what Katharine said, that it is God who decides. Does not even Archbishop Venables reflect the orthodox beliefs of Episcopalians in this diocese?
BISHOP IKER: 4. If we do not act now, we will lose our momentum and lose our God-given opportunity. Many laity and clergy who have been standing with the Diocese, as a beacon of hope, will give up and leave for other Anglican bodies. We will never be stronger than we are right now! We will never have another chance to act with such a strong majority. The Episcopal Church many of us were born into or became members of many years ago no longer exists! It has been replaced by a liberal, revisionist sect that does not deserve our allegiance or support any longer.
RESPONDENT: Father Tom Woodward says, "As Episcopalians, we are part of a wonderful whole, with a full spectrum of witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ." "We have liberals, moderates and conservatives and everything in between, all celebrating a common faith. May we never be reduced to commonality – for the same reason I would never go to a circus which had only thirty-five elephant acts. I want the trapeze artists, the clowns, the jugglers and lion tamers. We have them all in the episcopate and in our congregations."
"Beware, when church leaders want to claim the whole of church for themselves, whether of the right, left or middle. Beware, especially, when those who believe they, alone, are the orthodox begin talking about the real orthodoxy as 'the faith first handed down to the saints.' Up until thirty five years ago, 'the faith first handed down to the saints' meant no women on vestries, no women allowed in church without a hat or head covering, no remarriage after divorce no matter what the circumstances, separate churches for Black people, no use of birth control measures, and a thoroughgoing marginalization of gay and lesbian people and others."
"That quasi-fundamentalist approach to Scripture, so often found in the 'orthodox' rants is one, but only one of many strains of Anglican approaches to Scripture – and a recent strain at that. Many in The Episcopal Church believe that approach does not honor Holy Scripture, tending to take a dynamic revelation and reducing it to a dictated document, tied to an ancient culture."
"Change and reassessment of our understanding of Scriptures and our tradition has not been an enemy of the Christian Church over the past several decades. Our task as the Church of Jesus Christ is to hold onto the core of the Gospel handed down to us by the faithful of previous generations, while letting go of the parts of that tradition which contravene and contradict Jesus' commandment of Love." "All anyone has to do is to visit our seminaries, listen to the preaching and teaching of our clergy, read through the Catechism at the back of the Book of Common Prayer and the liturgies of the Prayer Book. It all hangs together, even though it is not lock-step uniform."
BISHOP IKER: 5. TEC is not turning back and matters will only get worse. General Convention is out of control and beyond reform. The Deputies seem to think that they can do whatever they want as long as they can muster a majority vote, even if what they propose is contrary to Holy Scripture. We will not accept majority votes of the General Convention that compromise the Christian ?faith. The more they change the teachings of the church, the less tolerant they are of dioceses such as ours. By the time I retire (in the next 7 to 13 years), this diocese will be unable to elect an orthodox bishop to succeed me.
RESPONDENT: When the Bishop says, "this diocese will be unable to elect an orthodox bishop to succeed me," he is talking about the cart that drives the horse. The realignment is all about Bishop Iker's fear that standing committee consents from other dioceses will not be granted to a bishop, compatible with his views on women's ordination, who would succeed him.
The General Convention is composed of a House of Deputies AND a House of Bishops. The House of Deputies is divided into two groups: The priests and the laity.
Before ratification of any resolution, it is required that it passes BOTH houses – bishops and deputies. Many resolutions require the assent of all three groups before adoption, the bishops, the priests and laity. Bishop Iker seems to think that the bishops, the priests and laity, sent by every diocese to represent the entire Episcopal Church can do whatever they want… even if what they propose is contrary to Holy Scripture.
Although the bishop says he will not accept majority votes of the General Convention that compromise the Christian faith, what he really means is that he knows more than all of the other bishops and other priests and laity who were called upon by all of the dioceses to represent the Episcopal Church.
What he really means is that he will not accept majority votes of the General Convention that compromise his interpretation of what might constitute the Christian faith.
BISHOP IKER: 6. TEC is coming after us, and they are the ones that brought on this crisis. In October 2006 the chancellor to the PB wrote a letter to our diocese demanding that we change our Constitution to remove the clause that says that we will not accept General Convention dictates that are contrary to the Bible and the apostolic teaching of the church. In addition, we were instructed to remove provisions stating that all church property in this diocese is held in trust for the use of our congregations and to state instead that our property ultimately belongs to TEC. If we don't make such changes, the letter asserted that the Presiding Bishop would have to determine what actions she must take "in order to bring your diocese into compliance."
RESPONDENT: Bishop Iker is the one that brought on the crisis. As a requirement for being constituted as a diocese, agreement was given in written form that the diocese would give unqualified support to the canons of the Episcopal Church. Such an agreement is required of all dioceses.
The Constitution of The Diocese at its inception read:
The Church in this Diocese accedes to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, and recognizes the authority of the General Convention.
In November of 1997 it was revised to read:
The Church in this Diocese accedes to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, and recognizes the authority of the General Convention of said Church provided that no action of General Convention which is contrary to Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Teaching of the Church shall be of any force or effect in this Diocese.
The bishop says In October 2006 the chancellor to the PB wrote a letter to our diocese demanding that we change our Constitution to remove the clause. The diocese was told to remove the clause which puts it in conflict with the national canons.
BISHOP IKER: 7. At this time there is nothing in the Constitution or Canons of TEC that prevents a Diocese from leaving. Oh, I know that General Convention officials claim that dioceses cannot leave TEC, but you will not find that anywhere in the Constitution and Canons as they presently stand. So we have this window of opportunity to do what we need to do, for you can be sure that the next General Convention will close off this option by adopting amendments that will make it even more difficult to separate in the future.
RESPONDENT: The constitution in 1789 and the canons adopted in the second session have this provision:
Constitution: Article 2
". . . If the Convention of any state should neglect or decline to appoint clerical deputies, or if they should decline or neglect to appoint lay deputies, or if any of those of either order appointed should neglect to attend, or be prevented by sickness or any other accident, such state shall nevertheless be considered as duly represented by such deputy or deputies as may attend, whether lay or clerical. And if through the neglect of the Convention of any of the churches which shall have adopted, or may hereafter adopt this constitution, no deputies, either lay or clerical, should attend at any general convention, the church in such state, shall nevertheless be bound by the acts of such convention."
BISHOP IKER: 8. The vast majority of our younger clergy, those ordained in the last 10 years or so, are in favor of the decision to separate and realign. They are the voice of the future of this diocese; they are the leaders who will take us into the next decade and beyond. You will notice that most of the clergy leaders opposing this move are already retired or on the verge of retiring. This is not their battle; they have had their time to lead. Now it is time to let this next generation step forward and lead, as we prepare a future for our children and our grandchildren.
RESPONDENT: But, young or older and more experienced, just where will the Diocese be going? The Bishop says temporarily to the Southern Cone and then later to a new North American Province.
But the Reverend Canon Charles A. Hough, III [Canon to Bishop Iker for 15 years], The Very Reverend William A. Crary, Jr., The Reverend Louis L. Tobola, Jr., and The Very Reverend Christopher C. Stainbrook don't want to end up in the Southern Cone and they do not want to end up in the Anglican Communion
These priests said in their very recent secret communication with the Roman Catholic Bishop Vann of Fort Worth:
We believe the Anglican Communion shares the fatal flaws of The Episcopal Church" · "…it is apparent that the Archbishop of Canterbury is incapable of providing decisive leadership." · "…we have concluded that the difficulties we have faced in The Episcopal Church for the past thirty years will not be remedied by the Anglican Communion."
Where do they want to go?
"Our best guess is that approximately 59 clergy are willing to pursue an active plan to bring the Diocese of Fort Worth or a significant portion of it into full communion with the Holy See, if this be God's will."
How do they think the laity will react?
"We also recognize that it will take time to bring the laity on board with this proposal. While the clergy have come to recognize the truth which it held by the Holy See, we have much work to do with the laity."
Anyone can join the Roman Catholic Church. So you want to realign; you better read the fine print. There isn't much room for lay decision with this group.
BISHOP IKER: 9. We have international support for making the move at this time. Not only has the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone made provision for us to join them on a temporary basis as full members and partners in mission, but several Global South Primates are standing with us and have expressed their willingness to support us in this bold move. They have stuck their necks out for us and offered their encouragement, assistance and support. We must now have the courage of our convictions and act! What a joy and relief it will be to be part of a Province where we are not always under attack and on the defensive. We will then aggressively pursue the formation of an orthodox Province in North America in conjunction with the Common Cause Partnership.
RESPONDENT: You can find the Constitution of the Southern Cone at: www.fwepiscopal.org/downloads/PSCconstitution&canons.pdf
The Anglican Church of the Southern Cone….is composed of the Anglican Dioceses that exist or which may be formed in the Republics of Argentinia, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay…"
4 AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION
For any changes or amendment to this Constitution, the following procedure is to be used:
4.3 The proposed change shall be submitted to the Anglican Consultative Council for consideration and then to each Diocesan Synod for approval.
No such proposed change will be sent to The Anglican Consultative Council. The Anglican Communion is VERY territorial. Nor does the Episcopal Church permit a diocese to withdraw from the Episcopal Church without consent from the General Convention.
We don't know if the ABC will recognize a non-geographic province in North America.
BISHOP IKER: 10. Most importantly, this decision is about the truth of the Gospel and upholding the authority of the Holy Scriptures. We believe in God's full self-revelation in Jesus Christ, not in the speculation of humanist Unitarians who have been elected to high offices in our church. Many leaders of TEC are teaching a false Gospel and leading people astray. Now is the time for us to take a bold, public stand for the biblical faith and practice of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.
RESPONDENT: Holy Communion service is celebrated throughout the Episcopal Church much as it is in Fort Worth. The same creeds are recited and similar Biblical gospels and Epistles are read.
Most of the Bishops, priests, and laity who have been elected to high offices in the Episcopal Church would take offense to being described as "humanist Unitarians" and Bishop Iker has no intention of welcoming any of them to visit this diocese so you can see for yourself.
Father Woodward says, "…all the while accusations have been hurled at us, the Episcopal Church has continued to reverence Holy Scripture, to teach the Christian faith in its fullness, to celebrate the sacraments handed down through the ages, to represent the moral and spiritual vision and life of Jesus Christ in the world we live in, and to embrace the entire creation as the focus for our mission and ministry. What occurs in our congregations and in our dioceses is what has happened decade after decade, generation after generation and century after century. How awful that our faith and life as Episcopalians is now being characterized as "pagan" by a movement that reflects the very worst of Biblical fundamentalism, Puritan moralism, and a recent wave that distrusts ambiguity, doubt, mystery, and the presence of the Holy in human experience."
"In the End, It is the Trashing of the Incarnation"
"We are being victimized by a sophisticated kind of "bait and switch" in which codes and rule books are being substituted for a faith based on the Incarnation. The attack is upon our understanding of life as sacramental."
BISHOP IKER: Now is the time to decide. Our cause is right, and the choice is clear. Let us act together, decisively, and with courage, faith and charity.
The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
Respondent: John S. Morgan