Letters Dimissory provide a way by which a priest or deacon is transferred from one jurisdiction to another. The way it works is clergyperson A wants to take a new position in a diocese other than the one in which he is canonically resident acquires a Letter Dimissory from the Bishop under whom he or she has been serving and either delivers it or asks his bishop to deliver it to the bishop of the diocese in which he or she hopes to be received. That bishop then receives the credential (or not) and informs the bishop who provided the letter that the clergyperson has been accepted into the diocese. That's it, more or less.
The thing is it involves three persons - the bishop of canonical residence, the priest or deacon, and the bishop where the clergyperson wishes to serve. People who are given letters dimissory are given them in relation to receiving diocese.
But that is not what has happened in Bishop Iker's more or less godly judgment.
Bishop Iker wrote the following statement on February 5th:
GODLY JUDGMENT of the BISHOP of FORT WORTH
FEBRUARY 5, 2009
FEBRUARY 5, 2009
The following clergy have signified a desire to no longer be canonically resident in this diocese, as they no longer accede to the diocesan Constitution and Canons. I certify that they have been clergyin good standing in this diocese and are eligible for transfer to another jurisdiction. It is my Godly Judgment that they are to be removed from the role of clergy of this diocese effective immediately.
The Rev. J. Frederick Barber
The Rev. Christopher N. Jambor
The Rev. Sam McClain
The Rev. James R. Reynolds
The Rev. William T. Stanford
The Rev. William J. Taylor, III
The Rev. Melvin A. Bridge
The Rev. James A. Hazel
The Rev. David A. Madison
The Rev. William R. Belury
The Rev. Bruce W. Coggin
The Rev. Vernon A. Gotcher The Rev. Bertrand N. Honea, Jr.
The Rev. Walter. W. Kesler
The Rev. Alex D. Moffat
The Rev. Courtland M. Moore The Rev. John D. Payne
The Rev. Gayland M. Pool
The Rev. Frank B. Reeves
The Rev. John H. Stanley, Jr
The Rev. Janet G. Nocher
The Rev. Sharla J. Marks
The Rev. Susan Slaughter
Dated at FORT WORTH, TEXAS, this 5th day of February in the year of Our Lord, 2009. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
Now there are several things wrong with this letter:
(i) Bishop Iker has essentially dismissed them from his pastoral charge without any indication as to where they land. So these are not letters dimissory. He doesn't claim they are. But what then is this "Godly Judgment"? That they are to be removed from the rolls of the diocese immediately because they do not accede to the diocesan constitution and canons. That sounds like either abandonment or the basis for trial. But neither option is taken. They are just dropped.
They have not indicated that they are going somewhere else, indeed I suspect they mostly contend that they don' t have to. They are staying put and it is Bishop Iker who has left the building. But there it is, they have been removed from the rolls because they do not accept the constitution and canons.
(ii) The letter indicates that these clergy indicated their desire to "no longer be canonically resident in this diocese." Is that true, or is it true that they indicated that they did not intend to go with the Bishop out of the Episcopal Church and into some other body? At any rate, rather than transferring their canonical residence to, say, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (Episcopal Church) he simply let them go... without any indication of where they might land. Pastoral care this is not.
(iii) There is a simple way to tell who has left and who is staying: The priests and deacons Bishop Iker states that he has removed from the rolls of the diocese were in the pension plan and continue in it. Bishop Iker and those clergy who went with him are not (or won't be soon). The people leaving loose continued coverage, those who stay retain it.
Bishop Iker at best has simply consigned these priests and deacons to limbo. Since we mostly don't believe in limbo, we must assume the worst: Bishop Iker has abandoned them.
But not to worry: He has no jurisdiction over these clergy since they are legitimate clergy in the Diocese of Fort Worth (Episcopal Church), were and are and continue to be. It is he and his followers that have left, having established an alternative Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.
Iker continues to make a mess of things.