Bishop Iker’s reasons for running away, perhaps mad.   A preludium pearl

Bishop Iker has written his diocese with the following inflammatory gobbledygook. For those who might be interested, I have conveniently provided his remarks in purple and my rebuttals in RED.

Bishop Iker begins: “what are the real issues that separate us from TEC? Allow me to provide a brief summary of just a few of them:”

First an editorial comment: TEC (The Episcopal Church) is not a monolithic entity and therefore everything that he lists proceeds from a wrong assumption – that TEC is a single voice, and a voice contrary to the Diocese of Fort Worth. What the bishop means is that the current voices of leadership – the PB, President of the House of Deputies, the legislative voice of General Convention, the majority of bishops and clergy, and all sorts of lay people including my mother, are a single power and one aligned against the Diocese of Fort Worth in the person of its Bishop.

OK. Now to the bishop’s bullet points:

• Our Diocese believes in salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. TEC believes there are many ways to salvation and that all religions lead to God.

Rot! Neither the BCP, the Baptismal Vows, or the Constitution and Canons say any such thing. There are members of this Church including some clergy and all sorts of lay persons who believe that salvation is not ours to determine and that at least some religions (Judaism for example) do lead to God. There are also some cranks. I suppose there are none in Fort Worth.

• Our Diocese believes in the authority of Holy Scripture in all matters of faith and morals. TEC believes the Bible needs to be revised and adapted to meet the changing culture and that it may mean different things in different social contexts.

Are we to suppose that the vows taken by the Bishop when he was deaconed, priested and bishoped, and which BTW every ordained person makes, are only taken seriously in the Diocese of Fort Worth? There are some clergy and some laity who believe that there is a difference between the words on the page and the Word of God.

• Our Diocese believes that the essentials of the Christian Faith have been revealed once and for all in the teachings of Jesus Christ and are not subject to change. TEC believes in a revisionist approach that says only the votes of successive General Conventions can determine doctrinal and faith issues for Episcopalians as times change.

Now the word revisionists comes out. Good, get it out. Now let’s think back. There are several doctrinal and faith decisions that have found their way into the life of the church by way of changes specifically ordered by The Episcopal Church, its parent church, the Church of England, and some by decision of General Convention. Does it help that faithful persons in the General Convention might also believe “that the essentials of the Christian Faith have been revealed once and for all in the teachings of Jesus Christ” and that that means changes are either not understood as being essentials or are quite in line with the teachings of our Lord? I thought not.

• Our Diocese believes that all ordained clergy are under the obligation to model in their own lives the received teaching of the Church that all its members are to abstain from sexual relations outside Holy Matrimony. TEC believes that active homosexuals and bisexuals should be ordained to the sacred ministry of bishops, priests and deacons.

Actually a large portion of TEC believes that homosexuals, like heterosexuals, are, in their lives, to be a wholesome example, something which possible even with the constraints of social and religious systems in which gay and lesbian persons cannot be married. No one “should” be ordained. But some are chosen.

• Our Diocese believes that marriage is the exclusive physical and spiritual union of one man and one woman for life. TEC believes same sex relationships are good and holy and should be blessed and celebrated.

Actually, no. (Remember the lack of single voice?) TEC is very mixed in its response to the questions of blessing same sex unions. But it seems most members of TEC believe that same sex relationships can be holy and good, just as can be heterosexual relationships.

• Our Diocese believes in the sacredness of human life from conception. TEC affirms abortion on demand.

No it doesn’t. Here is what TEC says from General Convention 1994 – A054: “That this 71st General Convention of the Episcopal Church reaffirms resolution C047 from the 69th General Convention, which states: All human life is sacred from its inception until death. The Church takes seriously its obligation to help form the consciences of its members concerning this sacredness. Human life, therefore, should be initiated only advisedly and in full accord with this understanding of the power to conceive and give birth which is bestowed by God. It is the responsibility of our congregations to assist their members in becoming informed concerning the spiritual and physiological aspects of sex and sexuality. The Book of Common Prayer affirms that “the birth of a child is a joyous and solemn occasion in the life of a family. It is also an occasion for rejoicing in the Christian community” (p. 440). As Christians we also affirm responsible family planning. We regard all abortion as having a tragic dimension, calling for the concern and compassion of all the Christian community. While we acknowledge that in this country it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion, as Christians we believe strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience. In those cases where an abortion is being considered, members of this Church are urged to seek the dictates of their conscience in prayer, to seek the advice and counsel of members of the Christian community and where appropriate, the sacramental life of this Church.”

• Our Diocese has endorsed from the very beginning the position of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 (1998) on sexuality, the recommendations of the Windsor Report (2004) on how to keep us together as a Communion, and the need for an Anglican Covenant that will define the limits of diversity. TEC has repudiated the Lambeth resolution on human sexuality, acted in defiance of the Windsor Report, and will only accept a future Covenant if there are no consequences for breaking it!

Well, it’s fine to endorse a resolution that has no power unless it is endorsed. It is quite another thing to be told that a resolution has been endorsed by others and therefore you must obey. Reviews are mixed regarding the Windsor Report and the Anglican Covenant, but there is clearly greater reluctance to give assent to a report whose recommendations have widely been ignored by Primates around the Communion, while at the same time being partially constrained by the moratoria it has asked of TEC. As to the Covenant, the ball is still in play.

• Our Diocese believes that the theological issue of the ordination of women as priests and bishops is a matter of conscience and must not be forced on anyone. TEC believes this matter has been decided for Episcopalians and that acceptance of it is mandatory in every diocese.

It is not a matter of conscience for TEC.  It is the norm.  Norms have the force of expectation and the expectation is that the Diocese of Fort Worth will honor the reality that women, even some women in Fort Worth, will believe they are called to ordained ministry and find ways for them to continue in discernment to that end. It is mandatory because it is the fact.

• Our Diocese has constitutional and canonical provisions that place all church property in the name of the Corporation of this Diocese, to be held in trust for the use of each local congregation. TEC claims that all church property belongs to them, a claim first made by General Convention in 1979.

No it doesn’t.  TEC claims that all church property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church.  Here is what the canon actually says: 1.7. Sec. 4. All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located.  The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons. Sec. 5.  The several Dioceses may, at their election, further confirm the trust declared under the foregoing Section 4 by appropriate action, but no such action shall be necessary for the existence and validity of the trust.  BTW, the Diocese of Fort Worth did not exist in 1979, but was formed in 1983.  Bishop Iker was not a bishop in 1979.  He was ordained bishop in 1993.  When the Diocese split from the Diocese of Dallas it understood what the Constitution and Canons were.  When Bishop Iker was ordained, he understood. They neither of them objected. What isn’t to understand about the canon?

• Our Diocese believes that heretical teaching by the church causes separation and division, that unity and truth must go together. TEC believes we should tolerate heresies and false teaching for the sake of remaining together.

So what’s the comparison?  That FW and its Bishop don’t tolerate heresy and false teaching, and TEC does? or is it that FW and its Bishop believe heresy and false teaching causes separation and division and TEC doesn’t.  The first maybe.  The second…nah.  Everybody belives heretical teaching causes separation and division.  About the first – if this is about FW and its bishop having a special hold on true teaching and orthodoxy which somehow TEC has lost – this is part of the same assumption that is refered earlier in the “editorial comment.”

• Our Diocese maintains that just as we voted to come into union with the General Convention in 1982, so we have the right to dissolve that union in 2008. TEC believes our affiliation with General Convention is irrevocable.

Actually the Diocese of Fort Worth petitioned General Convention to join the Union as part of its separation under canon from the Diocese of Dallas. GC voted to allow the formation of the diocese, which then met, named itself and submitted its Constitution and Canons which were received. Then it was admitted.  FW was a product of an already existing diocese dividing. And BTW, every diocese in formation becomes a diocese only upon admission.

• Our Diocese stands with the vast majority of Anglicans around the world. TEC is a declining body and very much out of the mainstream of orthodox Christianity, both here and abroad.

This is an issue that separates?  This is a reason for leaving?  What about staying and bending us back towards what you know to be true? So much for a mission to TEC. The Bishop gave up long ago any sense that TEC was going to go his way.  These are not the issues, these are reasons for running away.

Well, Bishop Iker. Go. Don’t go away mad. Who knows, you may find some joy elsewhere. Leave the keys.