In late January, I asked 12 of the senior, most respected priests of the Diocese to begin meeting together as a clergy discussion group to assist me in addressing the tensions and conflicts involved in the life of our Diocese as we move toward a Diocesan Convention vote in November to separate from the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. I am sorry to report that after several meetings over the months, they have been unable to agree on any proposed remedy for the divisions that face us.
Canon Hough served as moderator for the discussions. The other participants were the three clerical members of the Standing Committee: Dean Ryan Reed, Fr. Christopher Cantrell and Fr. Thomas Hightower; along with four rectors known to favor continued affiliation with the General Convention and four known to be for realignment. They are Fr. Fred Barber, Fr. Chris Jambor, Fr. Sam McClain, Fr. Bill Stanford, Fr. Bill Crary, Dr. Bill Dickson, Fr. Tim Perkins, and Fr. Stuart Smith. I am deeply grateful to each of them for their willingness to engage in this difficult task.
At the same time as these conversations were going on, a group of diocesan officials from Fort Worth were meeting with our counterparts in the Diocese of Dallas to see if a pastoral agreement could be worked out between our two dioceses, whereby parishes in Fort Worth that wanted to remain in TEC could do so as part of the Dallas Diocese. These meetings included the Bishops, Chancellors, Canons to the Ordinary, and Presidents of the Standing Committees of the two dioceses. We came up with a proposal whereby, under certain conditions, Fort Worth parishes and clergy could have “associate membership” in Dallas, including seat, voice and vote at their Convention, and their property could be placed temporarily in the name of the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, to be held in trust for their use.
This plan was then presented to the Rectors, Wardens and Chancellors of five Fort Worth parishes that we thought would like to pursue such an arrangement, at least on a trial basis. They were asked to discuss the proposal with their vestries, and then we would meet a second time for further exploration. Unfortunately, at that second meeting, the Chancellor of Dallas reported on conversations he had initiated with the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor, David Booth Beers, about the proposal under discussion. Mr. Beers stated that neither the PB nor the General Convention would support such a plan, and without their support, the Fort Worth parishes were unwilling to continue steps to implement the plan.
In the final meeting of the clergy discussion group in September, there was an open and honest exchange of views about where this left us. The differences appear insurmountable. No minds were changed as a result of these meetings, and no clear solutions were found that the group could propose. Although it was said that no one wants litigation, it appears that the two opposing sides in this controversy are headed in that direction.
Pray, brothers and sisters, for the Church in this time of conflict and tension. May God preserve us from rancor and animosity in the midst of our disagreements and divisions.
The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth
October 13, 2008