FORT WORTH: Effort to let parishes join Diocese of Dallas fails

Episcopal News Service. October 14, 2008 [101408-01]

Mary Frances Schjonberg

Diocese of Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker has announced that a group of priests has not been able to develop a plan for the future of diocesan congregations that do not want to leave the Episcopal Church.

Iker reported in an October 13 letter posted on the diocese's website that a plan suggested by Fort Worth and Diocese of Dallas bishops, chancellors, canons to the ordinary, and presidents of the standing committees had also failed because it conflicts with the Episcopal Church's Constitution and Canons. The plan would have allowed Fort Worth parishes and clergy wishing to stay in the Episcopal Church to become "associate" members of neighboring Dallas, including seat, voice and vote at the Dallas convention. According to that plan, those parishes' property would have been placed temporarily in the name of the Dallas diocese "to be held in trust for their use," according to Iker's letter.

Fort Worth intends to decide during its November 14-15 diocesan convention whether to realign with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. In late September, Iker released the proposed realignment resolution, along with a list of 10 reasons he believes the diocese ought to approve the resolution.

Iker reported October 13 that, after the Dallas membership plan had been presented to the leaders of five Fort Worth parishes most likely to take advantage of it, the Chancellor of Dallas reported that he had consulted the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor, David Booth Beers. Beers told him Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori would not support such a plan and that he did not believe the General Convention would support it either. Canon 10 in Title I of the Episcopal Church's Canons governs the formation of dioceses and contains no provision for parishes to individually leave one diocese and join another. "Without their support, the Fort Worth parishes were unwilling to continue steps to implement the plan," Iker reported. The group of priests, Iker said, met in September where there was "an open and honest exchange of views about where this left us."

"The differences appear insurmountable," Iker said. "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."