"While I do not wish to meet antagonism with antagonism, I must remind you that 25 years ago this month, the newly formed Diocese of Fort Worth voluntarily voted to enter into union with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. If circumstances warrant it, we can likewise, by voluntary vote, terminate that relationship."
The Bishop suggests that the decision of the Diocese of Fort Worth was voluntarily to enter into union with the General Convention. This is at the least an odd way to read the history, and at the most a complete misstatement of the realities.
The bishop is wrong.
It was the Diocese of Dallas that through resolution to the General Convention petitioned to divide into two dioceses and General Convention's ratification of that petition made of one diocese two, each in union with the General Convention. When the diocese held its first meeting following General Convention 1982 it named itself, but the Constitution and Canons of that Diocese were already in place for the "Western Diocese" and were reviewed by the chancellor of the Diocese of Dallas, the actual initiating body.
The abbreviated histories of both dioceses confirm parts of this story:
In "About the Diocese" from the Fort Worth diocesan website: "The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth formed in 1983 after the decision was made to divide the existing Diocese of Dallas into two dioceses."
The decision to do so was made by the then Diocese of Dallas. The Diocese of Dallas recalls, "Perhaps the most-remembered event, however, was the division of the diocese into the Diocese of Fort Worth and the Diocese of Dallas. Bishop Davies left Dallas to become the first Bishop of Fort Worth."
Article V of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church covers the establishment of new dioceses. The separation of the Diocese of Dallas and the Diocese of Fort Worth was approved at the General Convention of 1982 that also passed a resolution to amend Article V in an order to clarify what accession meant.
The 1982 General Convention passed the following resolution:
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That this 67th General Convention ratifies the division of the Diocese of Dallas to create a new Diocese which, until the new Diocese adopts a name, shall be referred to as the Western Diocese with the continuing Diocese to be known as the Diocese of Dallas."
The Resolution also noted that "Certificate of the Chancellor of the Diocese of Dallas that all aforesaid documents have been duly executed, are accurate, and are entitled to full faith and credit, and further that all of the appropriate and pertinent provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the USA and the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of Dallas have been fully complied with in respect of this submission."
It was at the 1982 General Convention that Article V (concerning New Dioceses) was changed. The primary change was from the crossed out words, "
After consent of the General Convention, when a certified copy of the duly adopted Constitution of the New Diocese, including an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of this Church, shall have been filed with the Secretary of the General Convention and approved by the Executive Council of this Church, such new Diocese shall thereupon be in union with the General Convention."
In either version of Article V, there is the requirement that the new Diocese accede to the Constitution and Canons of this Church.
So the process was (i) The Diocese of Dallas petitioned to split, (ii) the General Convention agreed to the division and gave it a temporary name, and (iii) The Western Diocese formed by the resolution of General Convention, took the name The Diocese of Fort Worth, and (iv) the new diocese, meeting in its first convention, completed the process and its canons were accepted by the Executive Council, which then acknowledged that the Diocese of Fort Worth was in union with the General Convention.
The point to this rather labored exercise is to point out that it is simply not true that "the newly formed Diocese of Fort Worth voluntarily voted to enter into union with the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. If circumstances warrant it, we can likewise, by voluntary vote, terminate that relationship." The Diocese was formed by act of General Convention on advise of the Diocese of Dallas under the name "The Western Diocese," and only then did it meet, give itself its name, and complete the division of the old Dallas Diocese.
This is a far cry from voluntary vote to enter into union and voluntary vote to leave. In actuality no diocese formed by the Episcopal Church votes to enter into union, it is in union by virtue of its formation by the Church. Had there been, say, a diocese of Venezuela, quite independent of the Episcopal Church that voted to petition to be admitted into union, then the General Convention would be presented with such a resolution from some member diocese or bishop and the process would move forward from there. In the case of division of an existing diocese, or the formation of a diocese in a place where there was none before, this is simply not the case.
The Bishop of Fort Worth, unlike the Bishop of Pittsburgh did not write a nolo contendre document, affirming or denying nothing. Rather Fort Worth declared something true that was not true.
It is hard to know which is worse.