In a two-page letter to the clergy of the Diocese of Ft. Worth, Bishop
Clarence Pope announced October 25 that he is leaving the Episcopal Church
and will seek to be "received into full communion with the Catholic Church."
"My love for the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism is very deep,"
Pope said. "I owe much to this church and especially for introducing me to an
understanding of catholic sacramental principles and the disciplined life which
Pope said that he "thrilled to the possibilities for our communion as the
Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission took up their work and
made such wonderful progress in finding a way forward toward organic
reunion between Rome and Canterbury." He said that he "grew more and
more to believe that full communion with the Holy See was not just desirable
but essential to full catholic life."
His hopes were dashed, however, when "one by one the provinces of
the Anglican Communion began to take decisions concerning the Sacred
Ministry which greatly increased the problems of institutional reunion with the
Holy See." When the Church of England voted in November of 1992 to
ordain women to the priesthood, Pope said that he "became very aware that
the pilgrimage I had longed to take corporately would now have to be taken
alone." He said that he waited until his successor had been elected and
consecrated and then he moved aside. "That has now all taken place and in
Bishop Iker we have a strong leader who has already taken the reins of
leadership in a very forceful way."
Pope said that he had "an exceptionally good visit with the presiding
bishop about my pilgrimage," that they shared memories going back 44 years
to their seminary days together at Sewanee. "Ultimately it will be his
responsibility to take whatever action is necessary when I am received into full
communion with the Catholic Church." He concluded that he does not want
his action viewed as "a repudiation of what I am or that it brings into doubt
the validity of any sacramental act I ever performed as a priest or bishop. My
journey is a spiritual progression toward what I have come to believe is
fullness and I ask your prayers as I assure you of mine."
Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning responded in a brief statement, "It
saddens me that this breach has occurred. I pray that this new chapter in his
life will be an occasion of grace."
In a pastoral letter to be read in all churches in the diocese, Iker said
that he was "personally saddened" by Pope's decision but added that he was
"sympathetic to the concerns which have brought him to this point in time. It
should be stressed that this is a personal decision of Bishop Pope's and
indicates no change of direction for the Diocese of Forth Worth." The recent
diocesan convention rejected proposals that the could have moved the diocese
out of the Episcopal Church (see story on page 13).
"I still believe that we have an important role to play within the
Episcopal Church and, by God's grace, I intend to lead us in this vocation
with courage and enthusiasm," Iker concluded.