Bishop Clarence Pope of Ft. Worth Announces He Will Become a Roman Catholic

Episcopal News Service. October 27, 1994 [94170]

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 follows."

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.