Monday, November 17, 2008

Matters Episcopal(ian)

For the fourth time in recent months, a diocese of the Episcopal church has voted to secede from the Anglican Communion's Stateside branch.

In a Saturday vote, the diocese of Fort Worth joined TEC's local churches in Pittsburgh, Western Illinois and California's Central Valley in departing the 2.1 million-member fold, realigning itself with the more conservative Argentina-based province of the Southern Cone.
"The time has come for a new path," Jack Iker, bishop of the Fort Worth diocese, said in an address to delegates and visitors gathered at St. Vincent’s Cathedral in Bedford for the diocese’s annual meeting. "The Episcopal Church you once knew no longer exists. It’s been hijacked."

Supporters of the alignment say it is temporary, pending the formation of an orthodox Anglican province in North America.

The Fort Worth Diocese, covering 19,000 members in 24 Texas counties, is the fourth to split from the Episcopal Church, which has 2.1 million members and is part of the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion. It follows dioceses in Pittsburgh; San Joaquin, Calif.; and Quincy, Ill.

"We’re delighted, we’re ecstatic, we’re so excited to move forward now," said Cora Werley, spokeswoman for Remain Faithful, a local orthodox laity group that supported Iker’s stance. "We have an incredible gospel to spread. Now we can do it without all this hanging over us."

Others, saying they will remain with the Episcopal Church, expressed resignation and sorrow.

"It’s certainly no surprise," said Walter Cabe, president of the Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians, an umbrella group of conservatives and liberals who opposed the split. "But more than ever, we have a great deal of respect for rectors and parishes who have identified themselves loyal to the Episcopal Church regardless of pressure."

The Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, president bishop of the Episcopal Church, issued a statement that said the church "grieves the departures of a number of persons from the Diocese of Fort Worth."

"We remind those former Episcopalians that the door is open if they wish to return," the statement said. "We will work with Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth to elect new leadership and continue the work of the gospel in that part of Texas. The gospel work to which Jesus calls us demands the best efforts of faithful people from many theological and social perspectives, and the Episcopal Church will continue to welcome that diversity."
In his Saturday remarks, Iker also said that the split marked the end of the traditionalist "Anglo-Catholic" project in America.

While the Fort Worth secession echoed the other departures in form and substance, a unique angle of the Texas story bleeds into the Romish beat: in August, a group of senior clergy from the Episcopal diocese met with the local Catholic ordinary, Bishop Kevin Vann, to investigate the possibility of a mass Tiber-swimming.

With prominent Anglican Use parishes existence in Houston, San Antonio, Arlington and Corpus Christi, Texas has long been the national hotspot for the pastoral provision.