Another meeting has come and gone, with no clear results or final resolutions. Another “conversation” has taken place, where diverse views were exchanged, but no unified way forward could be discerned.
So where does that leave us? Well, it does not leave us in the same place as where we began! We have moved further along the path to the difficult decisions that ultimately must be faced, in every diocese and in every parish. Certain options have been discarded; others remain open.
I am grateful that the New York summit provided an opportunity to “clear the air” in face-to-face encounters among bishops who stand on opposite sides of the issues that so deeply divide us. It was helpful to say what was on my heart and mind and to hear directly from the other side as to how they see things. It was not always a pleasant exchange of views. At times the conversations were blunt and even confrontational. Nonetheless, what needed to be said was said and heard, in a spirit of honesty and love. That being said, it is my sense that the time for endless conversations is coming to a close and that the time for action is upon us. I am not interested in having more meetings to plan to have more meetings.
Our appeal for Alternative Primatial Oversight is still before the church, and provision must be made for the pastoral need we have expressed. The initial appeal from this diocese was made to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates and the Panel of Reference. (We soon withdrew our request for consideration by the Panel of Reference due to its apparent inability to act on any of the petitions that have been placed before it over the past year or so.) When six other dioceses made very similar appeals, we consolidated them into one joint appeal and submitted it to the Archbishop of Canterbury in late July.
After prayerful consideration and consultation, the Archbishop called for the New York summit, which took place on September 11-13, 2006, in hopes of finding an American church solution to an American church problem, but to no avail. We could not come to a consensus as to how to recognize and respond to the needs expressed in the appeal. So back to Canterbury it goes, as the principal Instrument of Unity in the Anglican Communion, but this time with a renewed emphasis on appealing also to the Primates of the Communion as a whole and not to Canterbury alone. The Primates Meeting is a second, very important Instrument of Unity in the life of worldwide Anglicanism. We ask for their intervention and assistance when they meet in February.
Some have balked at the terminology of our appeal requesting Alternative Primatial Oversight, pointing out that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church does not really have canonical oversight of any of our dioceses in the first place. While I can see their point, nonetheless the official job description for the PB is “Chief Pastor and Primate,” and it is this role that we seek to have exercised on our behalf by an orthodox Primate of the Communion, and not just someone other than the Presiding Bishop-elect of ECUSA. We require a Primate who upholds the historic faith and order of the catholic church and is fully compliant with the recommendations of the Windsor Report as the way forward for the Anglican Communion. Only in this way will we have an unclouded primatial relationship with the rest of the Communion.
Thank you all who prayed so fervently for us in our deliberations in New York City this past week. I am sincerely grateful for your encouragement and support. Your prayers were indeed answered - and are being answered still, in ways that are yet to be revealed.
Please note that a very important gathering of “Windsor Bishops” will be held at Camp Allen in Houston next week, from September 19-22, and that I will be present for those discussions. This is a much larger consultation that includes all Bishops who fully support the recommendations of the Windsor Report and believe that General Convention made an inadequate response to what the Report requested of ECUSA. The Archbishop of Canterbury is fully aware of the purpose of this meeting, and two Church of England Bishops will be present to share in our deliberations and then report back to the Archbishop on what took place. Please do pray daily for us as we consider next steps to be taken in pursuit of the unity and mission of the church.
The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth
Holy Cross Day