Diocese of Ft. Worth Convention Defeats Proposal to Leave the Episcopal Church

Episcopal News Service. October 27, 1994 [94173]

Delegates to the 12th annual convention of the Diocese of Ft. Worth soundly defeated resolutions that would have taken the diocese out of the Episcopal Church, enable parishes to leave and take their property with them, and give parishes the option of sending money to the national church.

The resolutions were brought to the convention by the Rev. Samuel Edwards of Ft. Worth, executive director of the Episcopal Synod of America (ESA) and Ft. Worth delegate Bob Randolph, an ESA member.

Urging delegates to pass a resolution that said the diocese would no longer be subject to the canons and constitution of the Episcopal Church, Edwards told delegates, "We need to begin disengaging from a morally corrupt national organization structure."

Randolph invoked the specter of "the homosexual and radical feminists" who "control and manipulate" the agenda of the national church. "It is wrong to finance the immoral and pagan agenda, which is continuing in New York," he said.

Even though he is critical of the national church, Bishop Jack Iker opposed the resolutions as "too drastic a step." Instead, he argued that it is time to "stop being sidetracked by in-house issues and endless controversies and get on with the real work of the church -- taking the message of the Gospel to all the world." Paying tribute to retiring Bishop Clarence Pope, Iker reminded delegates, "The Ft. Worth diocese is a strong bastion of traditional Anglicanism."

The convention did adopt the Affirmation, a statement written by bishops of the church's Province VII, and signed by over a hundred bishops, that affirms traditional church beliefs on sexuality and marriage. It was adopted by the House of Bishops at the Indianapolis General Convention during debate on the proposed pastoral teaching on sexuality.

While many are hoping Iker will be more open and conciliatory in his leadership of the diocese, he took a strong stand on issues during the convention. In his sermon at the opening Eucharist he said that he "will carefully listen and respond to the concerns of all.... but there are limits beyond which I will not go." He added that "the General Convention cannot authorize anything contrary to the Bible. I am unable to ordain women priests, license or otherwise enable them to function in my behalf."

Repeating some of the strong comments he made during debate at the House of Bishops, Iker said that he would not allow the General Convention or "any radical feminist lobby.... dictate the governing of this diocese." And he added that "the so-called liberal coalition that so manipulates and controls the agenda" at the Episcopal Church Center in New York "is not going to be imposed on the agenda and mission of this diocese." He also announced that "any bishop who ordains a practicing homosexual or blesses a same-sex union will not be permitted" to function in the diocese. And he will not permit inclusive or expansive language liturgies in the diocese.

"I was grieved by what he said," Katie Sherrod, vice president of the Episcopal Women's Caucus, told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. "It was very contentious and contradicted what he said about reconciliation."

Brenda Seaver of Ft. Worth, president of the Council of the Laity which was critical of Pope's leadership, said that she hopes that Iker can heal wounds. "My hope is that under Bishop Iker we can respect each other in the diocese even though we don't agree on everything."