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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

'Unwarranted Invasion'

Episcopal News Service

Fort Worth visit an 'unwarranted invasion,' Presiding Bishop tells Southern Cone primate

Episcopalians organize to counter moves to re-align Fort Worth diocese

From staff reports April 29, 2008 [Episcopal News Service]

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has advised Southern Cone Presiding Bishop Gregory J. Venables in an April 29 letter that his planned May 2-3 visit to address a special convocation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth "with the expressed purpose of describing removal to the Province of the Southern Cone is an unwarranted invasion of, and meddling in, the internal affairs of this Province."

"I write to urge you not to bring further discord into The Episcopal Church," Jefferts Schori told Venables, who was, according to reports, scheduled to be in Central California on April 29 to meet with church leaders who last year voted to disaffiliate with the Episcopal Church and align with his Argentina-based province.

"The actions contemplated by some leaders in Forth Worth are profoundly uncanonical," Jefferts Schori wrote. "They also prevent needed reconciliation from proceeding within this Province."

The full text of Jefferts Schori's letter, copied to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, follows.

Dear Gregory,

I write to urge you not to bring further discord into The Episcopal Church. Visiting a special convocation of the Diocese of Fort Worth with the expressed purpose of describing removal to the Province of the Southern Cone is an unprecedented and unwarranted invasion of, and meddling in, the internal affairs of this Province. I ask you to consider how you might receive such a visit to your own Province from a fellow primate. The actions contemplated by some leaders in Fort Worth are profoundly uncanonical. They also prevent needed reconciliation from proceeding within this Province.

I urge you to focus your pastoral ministry within your own Province. May your ministry there be fruitful. I remain

Your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori

During the past year, the Presiding Bishop and Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker have exchanged letters about the vote of Fort Worth's convention last November in which delegates gave the first of two required approvals of canonical changes to amend its constitution and remove accession to the Constitution and Canons of General Convention, as well as several canonical amendments that eliminate mention of the Episcopal Church.

Jefferts Schori has continued to emphasize the possibility of reconciliation between Iker, the diocese and the wider Episcopal Church, said the Presiding Bishop's canon, the Rev. Dr. Charles K. Robertson.

Meanwhile, a group called the Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians has been formed to help Episcopalians who are opposed to efforts to align the diocese with a province of the Anglican Communion other than the Episcopal Church.

An April 27 news release from the steering committee said the group began work immediately after the November 17 Fort Worth convention.

Since that time, Iker and the diocesan Standing Committee have said that "the structure and polity of the Province of the Southern Cone would afford our diocese greater self-determination than we currently have under the General Convention of The Episcopal Church."

The Southern Cone has about 22,000 members and encompasses Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Its provincial synod, meeting in Valpariso, Chile, November 5-7, 2007, agreed to welcome into the province "on an emergency and pastoral basis" Episcopal Church dioceses "taking appropriate action to separate from The Episcopal Church."

The Forth Worth diocesan convention is set to vote on the changes for a second time when the convention meets in November.

"In the wake of the first vote, many people immediately set to work to identify and empower those who intend to remain Episcopalians," the steering committee said in its release. Those people include members of Fort Worth Via Media, North Texans Remain Episcopal in the northern part of the diocese and Remain Episcopal of Granbury in the southwestern part of the diocese as well as by a group in the mid-cities area and a group of diocesan clergy, the release said. Another group, Steadfast Episcopalians, was recently organized explicitly to reach out to conservative Episcopalians.

"There were also individuals representing almost all parishes and missions who had self-identified as wishing to remain Episcopalian," the committee said.

"These groups and individuals realized they needed to work together" and so they formed the steering committee, according to the release. "The inclusion of individuals representing all points of view is crucial as we move forward in mission together," said Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop.

Walter Cabe is president and Courtland Moore is vice president. Margaret Mieuli is treasurer and Bruce Coggin is the committee's clerk. Other executive committee members are George Komechak, Kathleen Wells, Victoria Prescott and Fred Barber.

"The primary objectives of this combined group are to remain in the Episcopal Church and to continue the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth as a constituent part of the Episcopal Church," Komechak, who is also president of Fort Worth Via Media, said in the release. "Identifying additional persons in diocesan parishes and missions who support staying in the Episcopal Church is one of the Steering Committee's first items of business."

People who will remain Episcopalians can send information to Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians, P.O. Box 100846, Fort Worth, TX, 76185-0846. A website is under construction.

The committee has been recognized as a Texas non-profit corporation by the Secretary of State, and has adopted bylaws and a statement of mission and beliefs.

According to recent parochial reports, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is comprised of more than 18,100 active baptized members in some 55 congregations in north central Texas.

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