Admiral of Morality: Episcopal Church Warns Secessionist Dioceses

Monday, October 30, 2006

Episcopal Church Warns Secessionist Dioceses

The Chancellor of the Episcopal Church, Mr. David Booth Beers, has sent letters warning at least two dioceses that have expressed interest in separating from the wider Church, that they must undo recent changes to their constitutions or face action by the Presiding Bishop "to bring your diocese into compliance." The chancellor may have sent letters to other dioceses, The Living Church Reports.

The dioceses, Fort Worth and Quincy, Ill., told The Living Church that they were "shocked" at the timing of the letter.

But at recent conventions, Fort Worth (Texas), Pittsburgh, Quincy (Ill.) and San Joaquin (Calif.) have amended their constitutions to further weaken their allegiance to and participation in, The Episcopal Church.

The changes not only qualify each diocese's accession to General Convention, reserving the right of the diocese to reject bylaws which in their view contradict scripture and/or historic church teachings, but in the case of Quincy, call outright for "realignment" from The Episcopal Church.

The constitutional changes also clearly suggest that the dioceses are preparing legal justification to assert that were some bylaw or doctrine not agreeable to them, they would then no longer be bound by or part of, The Episcopal Church.

The Diocese of Fort Worth constitution, for instance, reserves to the diocese, a creation of The General Convention, the authority to reject whatever action of The General Convention it deems "contrary to Holy Scripture and the Apostolic teaching of this Church."

At its upcoming Convention in November, its "Resolution 2" proposes that Fort Worth refuse to consent to its further inclusion in Province VII of the Church.

At a special convention in September, the Diocese of Quincy passed a resolution "withdrawing diocesan consent to be included in Province V of the Episcopal Church; and suspends requirements that the diocese send deputies to the Provincial Synod or General Convention."

At its Diocesan Convention earlier this month, Quincy resolved: "that the Diocese of Quincy reaffirms the commitment made by our 126th Synod (2003 Resolution RM-3-D), to move forward with the realignment of the Communion in order to preserve a faithful, orthodox Anglican Province within the United States, working together with all bishops, dioceses, congregations, and Provinces of the Anglican Communion who uphold the primacy and authority of Holy Scripture and the historic faith and order of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church."

The bishops of the Dioceses reporting receipt of the letter are well known as opposing recent events in the life of the Episcopal Church, as sanctioned by The General Convention. Jack Iker, Bishop of Forth Worth, is a trustee of the American Anglican Council, which works to have the Episcopal Church "expelled" from the Anglican Communion so that a minority of the Church, may set up their own church.

Keith Ackerman, Bishop of Quincy, recently told a meeting of "conservatives" in England: "You want the creation of a third province. This is extraordinarily important. I don't want a 10th another province in the US as part of The Episcopal Church. I want a 39th province of the Anglican Communion and that is what we are working diligently for in the American Church. "

The Chancellor of The Episcopal Church, the legal advisor to the Presiding Bishop, is a litigation partner in the law firm of Goodwin & Proctor, Washington, D.C. He is scheduled to chair the "Legal Issues Confronting Parishes and Dioceses" workshop at the meeting of The Episcopal Majority on November 3 in Washington, D.C

Quincy and Forth Worth join 4 other dioceses requesting some form of oversight besides The General Convention and Presiding Bishop-elect Katherine Jefferts-Schori. They are Central Florida, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin (California), South Carolina and Springfield (Illinois). The bishops of Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin will not ordain women to the priesthood. Dallas recently announced it had withdrawn its request for alternative oversight.

NB: Curiously, or perhaps not, given their generally sympathetic reporting of the activities of the secessionist dioceses, The Living Church refers to the sent letters as "threats," casting the mutineers as victims of a bullying new Presiding Bishop. What is more curious, as Father Jake notes on his blog, is that Iker of Forth Worth proclaims "shock" that the Church objects to the unwarranted changes in Fort Worth constitution that undermine the intergity and standing of the Church vis a vis the diocese. As Jake notes, perhaps this first wave of letters is just that, only the first wave signalling the arrival of a new Presiding Bishop who, fresh from Canterbury, is prepared to act boldly and swiftly in the name of Christ and His Episcopal Church.

Jim Naughton at The Daily Episcopalian notes: "Folks who don't think that dioceses have the right to decide which of the Church's canons they will comply with think it is shocking that it took so long for these letters to be written."

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