FORT WORTH: Gulick unanimously elected provisional bishop

Episcopal News Service. February 7, 2009 [020709-01]

Pat McCaughan

About 400 delegates and overflow visitors who filled the 116-year-old Trinity Church and its parish hall on Fort Worth's south side for a February 7 special organizing convention celebrated being "called to life" anew and getting back to the business of being the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

About 19 clergy and 62 lay delegates representing 31 congregations unanimously elected the Rt. Rev. Edwin "Ted" Gulick, bishop of Kentucky, as provisional bishop by a voice vote in clergy and lay orders. Gulick, who will serve as provisional bishop until at least mid-year while continuing to serve the Diocese of Kentucky, received a standing ovation and sustained applause.

"I cannot tell you how moved I am by your trust and how awed I am by this responsibility," Gulick told the gathering. He offered thanks to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, as well as to the people of the Diocese of Kentucky.

Jefferts Schori, in her first visit to the diocese as Presiding Bishop, convened the afternoon convention meeting after preaching at a rousing 10 a.m. Eucharist at All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Worth. Immediately after the vote, she installed and seated Gulick as provisional bishop and left the podium to a standing ovation and a long round of applause.

Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies, congratulated the reconstituted diocese's "historic election" in a letter read to convention by the Rev. Canon Courtland Moore. "Your faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and the community you have created, with God's help, has brought you through difficult times together to this place and time," she said.

Despite difficult times, delegates look to future in hope

Dr. Walt Cabe, a co-chair of the Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians, said the diocese is moving forward in hope despite a difficult legacy. "There was an incredible outpouring of joy and uniform enthusiasm," he said of the day's events. "For all of us on the steering committee it is very gratifying to see the breadth of involvement and support that has already taken hold here."

Delegates and visitors filled the 350-seat Trinity Church for the convention, themed "Called to Life: I am the Resurrection and the Life", the first such meeting since a November 15, 2008 gathering split the traditionally conservative diocese.

About 80 percent of delegates at the November convention approved a plan by former Bishop Jack Iker to realign with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone but continued to occupy diocesan and church property. Five "intact" congregations remained with the Episcopal Church (TEC) within their own property; new faith communities formed and remnants of other congregations met in alternate spaces. About 6,000 congregants continued with The Episcopal Church (TEC), under the auspices of the Steering Committee of North Texas Episcopalians, which represented several organizations of continuing Episcopalians.

Cabe called an advertisement by former Bishop Jack Iker in Saturday's Fort Worth Star Telegram "a very welcome statement" even though it referred to the continuing diocese as "a new diocese in North Central Texas" and characterized his own group as the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. The ad, which ran in the local religion section, listed about 50 congregations that had realigned with the Southern Cone.

"This diocese, organized in 1982, continues in the historic faith and order of the Church. We remain a diocese in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury," according to the ad, signed by Iker.

"Any time Bishop Iker recognizes there are loyal Episcopalians who intend to reorganize and continue our ministry to those committed to the Episcopal Church, we're pleased to see that," said Cabe, who was elected to serve on the diocesan standing committee.

But he declined comment about a January 22 letter he received from Iker's attorney, Geoff Mantooth, asking the steering committee to stop using the Episcopal shield in its correspondence and publications because such use constitutes "a trademark infringement."

"For many years the Diocese has used ‘The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth' as a trademark for religious services and publications," according to the letter. "It has come to our attention that the Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians … is using both marks in advertisements and elsewhere."

On December 5, Jefferts Schori announced that she had accepted Iker's renunciation of his orders in the Episcopal Church. She said that Iker made what constituted a written renunciation on November 24 when he issued a news release saying he was a member of the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Iker has denied that he made such a renunciation. Jefferts Schori had inhibited Iker, barring him from exercising ordained ministry, three days before he issued the news release.

In recent weeks, Iker has "released" four congregations that are continuing with TEC, saying they could remain in their properties, a move Cabe called "ironic." In early January, Iker had also written to the Presiding Bishop suggesting she not visit or interfere in the affairs of his diocese.

Delegates elect diocesan officers; vote resolutions

Many visitors like Donna Neal, who attended St. Simon of Cyrene, an historically African American congregation, said she isn't a delegate but, "I just had to be present at the convention. We've been through so much, it's been painful," she said of the split in her congregation, about half of whom realigned with the Southern Cone. The continuing congregation now numbers 33 and is meeting in a home, she said.

Cabe welcomed visiting dignitaries, including Bishop Larry Benfield of Arkansas; retired Bishop Sam Hulsey of Northwest Texas; Bishop Suffragan Rayford High of Texas; and Bishop Suffragan Paul E. Lambert of Dallas, as well as Max Patterson, president of Province VII.

Convention delegates approved a $632,466 budget, which included $200,000 from the national church; the balance was pledged by the continuing congregations. In addition to administrative costs, the budget includes funding for Hispanic ministries. Cabe said he didn't have details about the cost of the special convention.

Unanimously approved by voice vote were resolutions to fill vacancies in diocesan offices created by the departed diocese; to bring the diocesan constitution and canons into conformity with TEC; and to introduce transparency in diocesan activities. The full text of resolutions and complete election results may be found here.

Gulick took a moment to direct comments to vocational deacons "out of personal sadness" after being informed that diocesan canons precluded their voting. "We will have ample time to reconsider this canon at subsequent diocesan conventions," he said.

Delegates also elected four lay and four clergy deputies and several alternate deputies to General Convention. Gulick appointed representatives to various diocesan commissions and committees. At a meeting with representatives of the press following the convention he said he will be back in the diocese early next week in office space provided at St. Christopher's Church in Fort Worth.

Earlier in the day Jefferts Schori preached and celebrated before an overflow crowd of about 400 at All Saints Episcopal Church and parish hall in the Arlington Heights section of Fort Worth.

Recalling the difficulties of the diocese, she said "I'll warrant that there's a lot of anger and rage in this part of the church right now. I suspect that it's been the norm here for a long time. Given the stories I heard in San Joaquin last week, I would guess that leadership here has looked like control and fear-mongering, and intimidation has been used to keep people in line. But … we were created for peace.

"I want you to think about where the rage in Fort Worth comes from. At a very basic level, it has something to do with feeling that there is no home for you in this place, that you are not valued or welcomed. The great tragedy is that some believe they will find that home by leaving."

She encouraged the gathering to continue "to recognize the joy you're finding here this day. You will need that joy, buried deep in your hearts, the next time you have an encounter with the old violence and rage that's settled into this system. I want you to think about how to practice peace."

Jefferts Schori also officiated at a 5 p.m. Evensong service and blessed the newly-created Family Life Center at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, a place for family and youth activities.

Gulick: 'the Episcopal Church is open for business'

"The Episcopal Church is open for business," Gulick said in a pastoral letter that he requested be read to congregations on Sunday morning. "Our business is the proclamation of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ." He told a gathering of media representatives that he intends to spend 10-12 days in each diocese each month.

When asked about his voting record on affirming episcopal elections, he replied: "I have voted to sustain every election since 1994. My criteria was, was the election canonical and in good order. I tend to trust God's people."

When asked about possible litigation to recover diocesan property and assets, Jefferts Schori said, "It's far too early to talk about that. It's a matter for diocesan leadership to work out with my office."

Gulick also told the gathering "in the interest of transparency" that the Fort Worth diocese will pay about half his salary. He asked for prayers for the Diocese of Kentucky, which recently suffered severe damage from winter storms. "These traumatic events always seem to affect the poor the worst and first," he said. Many local counties have nearly total unemployment because there is no power."

He was installed as the seventh Bishop of Kentucky in 1994, and has said he intends to retire in 2010. During his tenure, membership in Kentucky's 36 congregations has increased by 30 percent, to about 10,600 active members. The diocese extends across the western half of Kentucky, encompassing urban and rural congregations.

Gulick may serve as provisional bishop only until mid year, at which time another provisional bishop may be elected to serve until the diocese is ready to elect a bishop, most likely in one to two years.

He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Lynchburg College in 1970 and a master of divinity degree from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1973. He is married to Barbara Lichtfuss, who teaches middle school students at the Anchorage Public School.

The Diocese of Fort Worth was originally organized in 1982 and encompasses a geographic area of 24 North Central Texas counties. Major cities in the diocese include Fort Worth, Arlington, Hurst-Euless-Bedford, Wichita Falls, Grand Prairie, Keller, Brownwood, and Stephenville.