(ENS) In a letter to the church's bishops, Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning
announced August 18 that former bishop of Ft. Worth Clarence Pope "has made the
decision to return to the Episcopal Church."
Browning said that he had been in conversation with Pope, who with his wife
joined the Roman Catholic Church last February, "for several months about this and I
am delighted at his decision. This church is his home, his family, and with joy we
welcome him home."
A notice by Bishop Jack Iker, Pope's successor, said, "As the date drew near
for his re-ordination [as a Roman Catholic priest], Bishop Pope began to have serious
concerns about this, and this eventually led to his decision to return to the Episcopal
Church." According to Iker, Pope has "withdrawn his letter of resignation from the
House of Bishops, which was to have acted upon at our next meeting in Portland,
Oregon, in late September."
In his announcement, Browning said, "The question of his status was to have
been on the agenda for the Interim House of Bishops meeting in September and we
will no longer need to discuss it."
Abandoning a constituency
"I felt like it would be going back on all that I have been," Pope said in an
interview with the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. "I also felt I had abandoned a
[traditionalist] constituency that needed me. I felt very guilty about that. It became
very clear I needed to reverse course," he said.
"I was finding myself more and more compromised in my thinking and I
simply had to come back home to where I belong," Pope said. He told the Dallas
Morning News that he "felt very keenly about the holy orders that I had taken and I
didn't feel I could undergo another ordination." He told another reporter, "I firmly
believe myself to be a Catholic priest and bishop," adding that he believed it would be
"a sacrilege" for him to be ordained again.
Pope said that Cardinal Bernard Law, who had welcomed him to the Roman
Catholic Church in a ceremony last February, was "saddened" by his decision but was
aware of his uncertainty as he approached the date for his re-ordination. "The cardinal
appreciates my position," he told a reporter.
Iker said that "some will respond with a degree of surprise, others with a
degree of cynicism, and some are likely to question his judgment at having reneged
"I think it was a mistake for him to go, and I think it was a mistake for him to
come back," said Dr. Ed Luke, vice president of the Council of the Laity, a group in
the diocese formed to counteract the conservative policies of Pope and Iker. "I hope
he realizes that the Episcopal Church has continued to move forward in his absence,"
said the Rev. Cynthia Black, a priest in Michigan who is president of the Episcopal
Women's Caucus. "It won't be long before women will be able to be ordained in all
dioceses in this country," she said in reference to recent proposals that could open the
ordination process in the four dioceses -- including Fort Worth -- that still do not ordain
women to the priesthood.