2/16/2011

Presiding Bishop speaks in Fort Worth: gathering the beloved

Many members of the Diocese of Fort Worth and some members of the community of people who have left the Diocese to form a Diocese in the Southern Cone came to Temple Beth-El in Fort Worth to hear The Presiding Bishop speak.  Some 600-700 people gathered and Bishop Katharine guided them into a conversation about affirming themselves as beloved of God. From that she responded for over an hour to questions and comments of hope and expectation, hurt and puzzlement.

The time together is part of a larger effort by the Diocese of Fort Worth to explore possibilities of reconciliation and a way to move beyond the difficult days leading up to and following the break and the exit of Bishop Iker and many of the members of the diocese.

The most difficult questions concerned the deep hurts and continuing puzzlements about the need for legal procedures following the separation.  Legal proceedings in civil courts present all sorts of difficulties for Christians and no matter the necessity everyone recognizes that it is not the preference in the lives of the people of God in community.

This gathering was a sign of what is possible when people gather beyond the powers of death and begin to know for themselves that they are beloved of God and can love God present in others, including those with who they have been estranged. 

30 comments:

  1. "Legal proceedings in civil courts present all sorts of difficulties for Christians and no matter the necessity everyone recognizes that it is not the preference in the lives of the people of God in community".

    Then why engage in them?

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  2. Then why engage in them?

    It's hard to sit out the dance when the other dancer is sodetermined.

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  3. "Then why engage in them?"

    And if the shoe was on the other foot, and a congregation full of godless liberal heathens took their parish church out of their diocese, My! the lawyers would be working overtime! (and probably for higher fees).

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  4. No one likes litigation; it is expensive and uncertain. It is, however, one of the most important way 21st century Americans resolve differences. Mostly, it has been those who have left TEC and taken church assets with them who argue that civil litigation is “un-Christian.” Not only do they engage in litigation, however, in many cases, they have initiated it. I’m sick of hearing their self-righteous, disingenuous crocodile tears. Civil courts are a civilized mechanism for working out otherwise irreconcilable disputes. They are, as it happens, largely run by Christians, unlike the Roman courts Paul warned us about. If Christians would stop stealing from other Christians, then civil litigation would be unnecessary. As it is, civil litigation is a necessary evil.

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  5. Well David , Why?

    For years Iker and a tight\knit group has been maneuvering, by amendment of Canons, to manipulate this schism. You can be absolutely sure, that if his legal counsel had not advised him that civil statutes in the State of Texas would support this attempt he wouldn't have gone forward. All said I believe that this has been healthy for Fort Worth. It will provide the Diocese with a more spiritual rather than secular leader to foster progressive Anglicanism rather than oppressive Catholicism.

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  6. The estimates I hear are 4 years and 4 Million more.

    Hopefully not.

    If TX Supremes rule neutral principles, we are talking six dioceses (TX, W-TX, Dallas, Ft Worth, RG, N-TX) all able to function independently with impunity, should they so choose.

    Like South Carolina.

    I suppose we shall learn something should +Lawrence be deposed shortly and yet refuse to step down or leave, keeping the property.

    I wonder if that would effect the thinking in Texas? Somehow I doubt it. It sounds like the strategy is to press the matter all the way to the end.

    Jim

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  7. I should add: one thing to be thankful for. Judge Chupp ruled that the property not be handed over to TEC during the appeal. That would have meant lots of empty churches -- something he said he wanted to avoid.

    Jim

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  8. This gathering was a sign of what is possible when people gather beyond the powers of death and begin to know for themselves that they are beloved of God and can love God present in others, including those with who they have been estranged.

    I am thankful that so many could participate personally in this event. Shout out to our Jewish brothers and sisters for use of their facility.

    I hope there will be more such gatherings to affirm what Christians have in common rather than what seems to divide them.

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  9. We seem to get an Anon in every post now, first Joe, then Sam and now Jim. I cannot help but wonder if they are the same Anon. I guess that Father Mark would know from their IP address.

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  10. Dear Daaveed—what you may not realize is that, from an outsider’s perspective, this is a blog where ‘we’ is used reflexively, as meaning, those of us who agree about the progressive agenda – even to the degree of sharing strategic plans.

    In such a shared universe, it is imperative that the ‘anonymous’ postings, with names, operate as they do. This allows the outsider the ability to hear and learn just what the new TEC is like. How will it deal with dioceses that do not go along with the new TEC? What is the intention of Title IV? What will happen to clergy who do not go along? Many of us are now entirely on the outside. The new TEC agenda is novel and as such, it can be helpful to try and understand how widely the different strategies for its implementation, and so forth, are shared. Is this a monolithic new TEC? If not, what are its permutations?

    You and the ‘we’ here are in the ascendancy. As the Telegraph commentator said the other day, ‘that which cannot be named’ is no longer the 'closeted Gay’, but the traditionalist. In the new TEC this kind of Christianity is barely tolerable. Given the sea-change many of us have experienced, it is very helpful to be able to hear the testimony of those here who are now on the vanguard, and to learn just what the new TEC will be like and how it will deal with those who for reasons of conscience and conviction cannot sign on.

    So, thank you for speaking honestly and forthrightly about your convictions. It helps those of us who do not share them think and pray about where we can now see the future, in Christ’s Body.

    Fr Mark runs a very frank blog and that has its special importance for those of us now on the outside.

    This is in the best of the older 'liberal' tradition.

    Jim

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  11. PS--also, post-modernity had majored in identifying the persons behind the stories. That has had its own salutary side, but at present, it is useful to be able simply to hear the facts being set forth. Uncluttered facts: the nature of the new TEC; who is proposing what; how long will X take; how will dissent be managed; are there divisions within progressives on these matters, and what form do they take; and so on.

    It is very helpful to be able to hear this expressed without thinking about names. I suppose this is why people have funny pictures by their monikers, like a sad globe, or Counterlight's emblem, or a rabbit, etc.

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  12. Jim: as has been observed before, I would only recall that the cases in Texas (as in South Carolina) are far from over, and will like as not be determined in the Federal courts, if not the Supreme Court itself.

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  13. Counterlight, that hasn't been the experience so far in Fort Worth. At least five parishes have remained in TEC with no objection from Bishop Iker et al. Of course, the people in these parishes are neither godless nor heathens, and in this ultra-Republican part of the country, few of them are likely to be all that liberal. If hordes of godless, heathen liberals did try to take over a church, one would expect any bishop to repel their efforts.

    Marshall Scott: for what it's worth, I don't see these cases going to federal court because they are matters of state, not federal, property laws. Of course, people on both sides--including the Anglican Curmudgeon--disagree, and I could be proven wrong

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  14. Paul Powers' post underlines the extent to which the term "traditionalist", as used by Anonymous/Jim, has been shanghaied by secessionist elements to cloak a political and primarily anti-gay agenda in religious terms. Many, many "traditionalists" - a spectacularly nebulous term, for sure - remain, perfectly content, in TEC. I know traditionalist (and, for the record, married & heterosexual) Episcopalians in South Carolina who drive a 90 mile round trip, Sunday after Sunday, so that they can attend service in a church in the diocese of Upper SC, where they are not subjected, week after week, to the barrage of irrelevant anti-gay homilies that are standard fare in their small parish in the diocese of SC.

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  15. Daaveed--The Rabbit's comment is a very good case in point. He says that a traditionalist is in reality a secessionist. Then he proceeds to speak about a traditionalist who is not intending the 'secede' at all. He says the sermons in SC are anti-Gay irrelevance.

    I find it helpful to try to understand how widespread this kind of thinking is. We have a new TEC in front of us, and Rabbit is one of its advocates.

    Marshall: I said 4 years, 4M. And that is within the State of Texas.
    SC not over in legal terms? How so?

    Jim

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  16. Is it secessionist to declare the Constitution of TEC to be undercut by Title IV?

    I'd have thought secession implied a desire to split away. This is not at all what is being said in Dallas, CFL, W-LA or SC. The Bishops of these Dioceses feel Title IV infringes on the rights of clergy, and gives the PB an authority otherwise not provided in the Constitution.

    see now:
    http://www.diosc.com/sys/images/documents/220_prop_res.pdf

    Again, it is helpful to try to understand how the objection to this view of matters takes its bearings. What Rabbit calls 'secession' a neutral reader would call 'loyalty to the Constitution.'

    Jim

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  17. "He says that a traditionalist is in reality a secessionist." I said no such thing, Jim. I assumed, mistakenly evidently, that this would be clear to any moderately intelligent individual with English as their first language.

    What I said, and what your two posts demonstrate in spades, is that the secessionists have attempted to frame dialog in such a fashion as to try to corner the market where the term "traditionalist" is concerned.

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  18. Paul:

    I could also be wrong, certainly. I think, though, that petitions will go to the Federal courts because, first, both sides are arguing in one way or another about "free exercise" made manifest in ecclesiastical structures; second, the establishment of a trust relationship made explicit in the Dennis Canon is based on a Federal decision; and third, because resolving differences among various states is part of the purpose of a Federal court system. Again, I think it likely petitions will be made however things go at the state level, just as the departing congregations in California have made petitions to the Federal courts when things didn't go their way. What we wait to see is whether the Federal courts take the petitions; and if they do, how they rule.

    That's why I think things are not resolved yet in South Carolina, Texas, or Virginia. I think, Jim, it will be more than four years, if not perhaps four million. And while it's been some time since I read it, as I recall the ruling of the Appellate Court in California (upheld in the state Supreme Court) stated that "neutral principles" didn't require overturning the established processes for making decisions in hierarchical churches, or their trust relationship.

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  19. Mr Rabbit

    What does 'secession' have to do with traditionalists in TEC who manifestly do not seek to secede?

    Or is the main point to introduce rhetorical excess and so cloud the discussion?

    The 'traditionalist' term was used of those in TEC who live in dioceses like SC, CFL, Dallas, W-LA and others, and of those who are in non-traditionalist dioceses.

    No one is 'secessionist' unless you are just throwing around terms.

    Jim

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  20. Marshall--that's fine and you are of course entitled to your opinion. I thought you were claiming that I thought everything was settled. By no means.

    My wager in TX would be on a verdict of neutral principles. I am also pleased that Judge Chupp recognised that lots of empty churches makes no sense pro temp as the legal procedures play out.

    Will federal courts agree to hear cases if/when state courts rule as in SC? I have no idea. They could equally say, this particular TEC association does not have sufficient clarity in its own documents for us to be able to rule one way or the other.

    And I also think there are those in power in TEC, including legal experts, who believe this too. That is why things like Title IV -- in its final form -- are set forth. But if Title IV is judged unconstitutional by dioceses and also evokes concerns of chancellors, it may be that the Constitution itself will have to be amended in time.

    Jim

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  21. The rhetorical excess is not mine, Jim.

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  22. Mr Rabbit, that's a relief!

    I am glad that you agree that a traditionalist can be precisely the opposite of a secessionist, viz., someone who defends the integrity of the Constitution of TEC.

    grace and peace--Jim

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  23. I fail to see how regaining property that is rightfully ours is not Christian. Afterall, we are Christians and not doormats. And, if the conelonialists do not think suing is "Christian" then why not simply give our property back?

    BTW, anybody care about the hurt, the pain and the emotional trainwreck that Iker, Schofield and Duncan wreaked during their tenure? Where was everyone then? Why were we isolated and left to be subjected to the brutality of these "men of God"?

    Finally, those of us left in these diocese are not rightly called survivors but rather the resilient members of the Episcopal Church upon which our new foundation will be built.

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  24. Fred--surely you are not saying that the churches of the Diocese of SC belong to a 'national church' rather than to those in SC?

    The ox can be gored from different angles.

    I suspect that is why there is a scramble now to try create a national church hierarchy, precisely so as to eliminate any confusion. At issue will be whether this is genuinely Constitutional.

    Jim

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  25. "...and in this ultra-Republican part of the country, few of them are likely to be all that liberal. If hordes of godless, heathen liberals did try to take over a church, one would expect any bishop to repel their efforts."

    According to my on-the-ground sources, there are plenty of godless liberal heathens in Fort Worth (including evil-spawn-of-Satan gay ones), and in Fort Worth's churches already. They're just underground and communicating with each other by samizdat down there in the Republican soviet.

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  26. Liberals? Yes. Gays? Of course. Godless heathens? Perhaps a few, but they're far from being in the majority of those who have chosen to remain in TEC here.

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  27. Marshall Scott: I agree that in at least some (if not all) of these property suits, one side or the other is likely to seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court (at least in civil matters state court decisions aren't subject to review by the lower federal courts). However, the U.S. Supreme Court only accepts a very small percentage of petitions (if I remember correctly, it's in the single digits), so it's questionable whether they will accept any of the property disputes. One reason it might would be to clear up some confusion from Justice Blackmon's suggestion in Jones v. Wolf that a hierarchical church could put property into a trust by amending its constitution (which he made without citing any legal authority). The Court often takes cases to resolve splits of authorities between the various federal courts of appeals, but splits of authorities between the various state courts isn't considered a basis for Supreme Court jurisdiction unless the federal constitution or statutes are involved.

    Your estimate of four more years of litigation strikes me as optimistic. In at least some of these cases, a reversal by the highest appellate court that considers the case will result in the case being sent back to the trial court for a re-trial. That's assuming that the parties don't reach a reasonable settlement (keeping in mind that what's reasonable in one case may not be in another).

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  28. Thank you Mr Powers. Very helpful.

    Do you think that an amended Constitution will have to be in the works (so that a genuine hierarchy can be introduced) or will the PB's chancellot (and legal team) simply decide that as they see the outcomes of these various cases?

    Jim

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  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  30. Anonymous Jim: I think it's a safe bet that future General Conventions will consider constitutional and canonical changes designed to strengthen TEC's legal position in the event of future litigation. You'll have to ask someone else about what specific proposals are being considered.

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