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Monday, January 08, 2007

ENS: Analysis of Panel of Reference Recommendations

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EPISCOPAL NEWS SERVICE




Panel of Reference tells Episcopal Church it should clarify stance on women's ordination
Wording of canon on availability of ordination process called 'ambiguous'


Episcopal News Service
Issue:
Section:

By: Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted: Monday, January 08, 2007

The Anglican Communion's Panel of Reference has recommended that the Archbishop of Canterbury discuss with the Presiding Bishop the possibility of clarifying what it called the ambiguous wording of a 1997 amendment to the Episcopal Church's ordination canon "so as to ensure that the permissive nature of the ordination of women is maintained in any diocese."

"At the same time the apparent intention of the amendment to defend the interests of women candidates for postulancy, candidacy and ordination in a diocese that does not ordain women would be underscored," the panel's recommendation said.

The recommendations are part of a report issued by the panel sometime in December and posted on the Anglican Communion Office's website January 8. The panel's report is its response to a submission by the Diocese of Fort Worth which states that the diocese and its bishop, Jack Iker, "are concerned that the action of the General Convention of ECUSA in passing Canons which makes women's ordination mandatory makes it impossible for the Diocese at some future date to receive confirmation of the election as their bishop of a man who disapproves of the ordination of women to the presbyterate and/or episcopate."

The diocese has put in place a procedure known as the Dallas Plan to provide women access to the ordination process and provide for parishes that want to call a woman priest.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said, in response to the report, that "We recognize that women do have access to ordination under the Dallas Plan at present, which seems to address the intent of the canon."

No timeframe has yet been set for consultation during which the Presiding Bishop and the Archbishop of Canterbury will take up further discussion of the issues at hand.

The Diocese of Fort Worth has been at odds with the Episcopal Church and was the first of seven dioceses to ask for a relationship with an Anglican Communion primate other than Jefferts Schori, who had been elected the day before Iker and the diocese made its request.

The Panel of Reference also recommended that "the Archbishop of Canterbury continue discussions with the Diocese of Fort Worth and with the Episcopal Church with the aim of securing the place of Fort Worth in the Communion."

"We are gratified that our conscientious position has been vindicated by this impartial, international body of church leaders," Iker said in a statement posted on Forth Worth's website.

"It is clearly up to the leadership of The Episcopal Church to choose either to continue pushing faithful Episcopalians who disagree with the majority on this issue out the door, or to accept the constructive work of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Panel of Reference," Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan said in his capacity as moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes.

The panel's report says that "Bishop Iker is concerned that, assuming that a majority of the Diocese of Fort Worth continues to be opposed to the ordination of women, it may not be possible for the Diocese to secure the required number of consents to the election of a bishop who is opposed to the ordination of women, and that the Diocese is therefore under threat of not being able to have a future bishop who holds the same theological position as he does."

The 1997 Convention had made changes to the canons then numbers as III.8.1, III.16.1(d), III.16.2, III.17.3, via Resolution A052, to prevent the denial of the ordination process and subsequent authority and movement of clergy on the basis of gender. The Convention also passed Resolution A053, which states in part that "it is the mind of this Convention that, notwithstanding the legislative history surrounding the passage of those Title III canons relating to the ordination of women, and notwithstanding subsequent actions of the House of Bishops not in General Convention assembled, the provisions of the canons of the General Convention, insofar as they may relate to the ordination of women and the licensing and deployment of women clergy, are mandatory..."

The panel found that "there appears to be an element of ambiguity in relation to the wording of the 1997 amendment." The report said that then-Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold "understands that the amendment did not seek to change the then existing state of affairs by making it mandatory for a bishop actually to ordain a woman."

"Rather, it was simply intended to ensure that women wishing to test their vocation to ordained ministry would not be penalized by virtue of their belonging to a diocese in which the bishop does not ordain women," the report said.

After the 1997 Convention, Iker instituted the Dallas Plan under which he would designate the Bishop of Dallas as the alternative ecclesiastical authority for any parish wishing to engage the services of a woman priest as its parish priest. The Bishop of Dallas would have all episcopal oversight of the congregation.

"In addition, any woman within the Diocese who wished her vocation to the priesthood to be tested would be referred to the Bishop of Dallas," the panel's report explained.

No parish has asked for such oversight and the panel said it understands that women in the Diocese of Fort Worth who feel called to the priesthood have in fact been referred to Dallas and "some have become ordinands."

"Thus the Dallas Plan has cared positively for those who do not share the majority diocesan view," the panel said.

Iker told the panel that 25 percent of Episcopalians in his diocese disagree with his stance.

The panel's report said that Iker "is concerned that the amended canon could now be interpreted to mean, not that 'no one in any parish or diocese shall be denied access to the ordination process nor postulancy, candidacy or ordination on account of his or her sex' but that no one shall be denied access to these things 'in any parish or diocese'."

"Accordingly, Bishop Iker is concerned that under the present canons he may be subject to presentment, trial and deposition for not accepting women priests himself even if he is prepared to arrange for ordination candidates to be handled by the Diocese of Dallas," according to the report.

The panel's report bases its recommendations, in part, on the 1997 report of the Eames Commission on Communion and Women in the Episcopate to the Lambeth Conference that year, which refers to "an open period of reception" concerning the ordination of women.

"Ideally the Diocese of Fort Worth ought to be able to find a place within ECUSA without a sense of isolation or victimization," the report said.

"One solution would be for General Convention to clarify the wording of the 1997 amended canon so as to make it absolutely clear that it is to be understood in the form which leaves the ordination of women permissive, while ensuring that women postulants and candidates for ordination in a diocese that does not ordain women are not denied access to the process," it continued.

"No diocese should be compelled to elect a bishop who agrees with the ordination of women," the report said, noting that "the church has debated since the beginning what are the standards for giving or withholding consent and adding that a diocese that elects a man as bishop who is opposed to the ordination of women in the future would "need the goodwill of the other dioceses not to block that appointment by withholding consent."

The panel's recommendations are that

1. use of the Dallas Plan continue;

2. "it be made clear that it is legitimate for a diocese to ask of candidates for election as bishop that they abide by the particular policy of the diocese in relation to the ministry of women, and that theological views on the ordination or consecration of women should not be a ground on which consent might be withheld by the Province/House of Bishops;"

3. "the Archbishop of Canterbury should discuss with the Presiding Bishop the possibility of the clarification of the ambiguous wording of the 1997 amendment to the relevant canon so as to ensure that the permissive nature of the ordination of women is maintained in any diocese" while underscoring the "apparent intention of the amendment to defend the interests of women candidates for postulancy, candidacy and ordination in a diocese that does not ordain women;"

4. "the Archbishop of Canterbury continue discussions with the Diocese of Fort Worth and with the Episcopal Church with the aim of securing the place of Fort Worth in the Communion."

The Panel of Reference was appointed in May 2005 at the request of the Primates of the Anglican Communion. It is meant to "enquire into, consider and report" to the Archbishop of Canterbury on situations involving "groups in serious theological dispute with their diocesan bishop, or dioceses in dispute with their Provinces," as well as to make recommendations with his consent and report to him on any responses, according to the mandate Williams gave the panel.




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1 comment:

Weiwen Ng said...

"Panel of Reference tells Episcopal Church it should clarify stance on women's ordination"

Hmm ... perhaps the Episcopal Church should prayerfully consider the following: 1) demanding that qualified female candidates must have access to ordination in every Diocese, and 2) because Bishop Iker won't go along with this, depose him.

that would make our stance quite clear, I think.