On December 14th, The Archbishop of Canterbury released his 2007 Advent letter, in which he proposed that “professionally facilitated” conversation be started between the leadership of the Episcopal Church on one side, and the dioceses at odds with that leadership on the other.
Later that day, Bishop Jack Iker of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, one of the four dioceses that have taken action to separate - or prepare themselves to separate - from the Episcopal Church, released this statement in which he wrote:
[The Archbishop] then goes on to call for “professionally facilitated conversations between the leadership of The Episcopal Church and those with whom they are most in dispute” in the hope of somehow gaining “a better level of mutual understanding.” This hope is in vain. TEC does not negotiate with those with whom they are in dispute; they litigate. Numerous meetings have produced no acceptable solution for the minority to remain with integrity within TEC.
That same day, Episcopal Life Online posted this article on the Archbishop’s advent letter, and quoted Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as saying:
“While I have repeatedly offered to engage in dialogue with those who are most unhappy, the offer has not yet been seriously engaged. Perhaps a personal call from the Archbishop will bring to the table those who have thus far been unwilling to talk.
Having observed the actions and statements of Presiding Bishop Schori on one side, and Bishops Schofield, Ackerman, Duncan and Iker on the other, I was surprised to read that “repeated offers” had “not yet been seriously engaged,” so I contacted Bishop Iker and asked him about the Presiding bishop’s statement.
Greg Griffith: In this ENS article, the Presiding Bishop says, ‘While I have repeatedly offered to engage in dialogue with those who are most unhappy, the offer has not yet been seriously engaged.’ Why have you declined the Presiding Bishop’s invitation to discuss the crisis?
Bishop Iker: I seriously question the veracity of her claim that she has “repeatedly offered to engage in dialogue” with her opponents. I, for one, have never received any such offer or invitation from her - not by letter, not by telephone, not by email, nor by any other means. In fact, the only direct communication I have ever received from Katharine since she took office over a year ago was the very public, threatening letter that she sent me prior to our Diocesan Convention last month. She has had all kinds of time to make such an offer; it hasn’t happened. All I’ve received from 815 are threats and ultimatums.
Greg Griffith: Katharine Schori describes the people who received those “repeated” invitations - presumably you, in addition to Bishops Schofield, Duncan, and Ackerman - as “those who are most unhappy.” What do you think leads her to characterize you as ‘unhappy’?
Bishop Iker: In all honesty, I really resent being characterized by her as part of a group of “those who are most unhappy.” That is a put-down, pure and simple. To dismiss those who disagree with you as just a little group of unhappy people is hardly the way to invite respectful conversation. People who know me (as Katharine surely does not) would not characterize me as unhappy.
Greg Griffith: The lack of an invitation to talk aside, do you plan, if invited, to participate in further discussion? Can you envision any discussion the outcome of which would alter your future plans?
Bishop Iker: An invitation from Katharine at this point is going to be received as a token gesture and as too little, too late. Also, we must realize that the ground has shifted dramatically, as has the focus of what is to be discussed. A year ago, it was alternative primatial oversight. This was rejected. In March, it was the pastoral scheme from the Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam. This too was rejected. Now we are talking about the reality of dioceses separating from TEC and realigning with an orthodox Province. That being the framework for future discussions, I am willing to cooperate with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s proposal in his Advent Letter for “professionally facilitated conversations” that will “clarify options” before us. However, we would only enter into such discussions as equal parties with the 815 authorities, not as suppliants petitioning for some form of relief. A negotiated settlement for separation seems to be the best way to proceed.