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Texas Supreme Court rejects TEC appeal: The Church of England Newspaper, March 28, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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The Texas Supreme Court has rejected the petition of the Episcopal Church in the Texas property cases, denying a rehearing of its dispute with the Diocese of Fort Worth and a parish in the Diocese of Northwest Texas that had seceded from its diocese.  The 21 March 2014 ruling sends the disputes back to the trial courts with instructions to adjudicate the case without reference to church canon law, looking only at civil property law. “We are greatly relieved by the finality of the Court’s ruling,” said the Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth. “TEC’s rehearing strategy has delayed us from moving on with this case by more than six months and at the cost of several thousands of dollars to oppose it. My advice is that TEC cut its losses and get on with their life without the Diocese of Fort Worth. Their litigation strategy has failed.”

No decision today from Texas Supreme Court on Fort Worth case: Anglican Ink, June 28, 2013 June 28, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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The Texas Supreme Court did not hand down its expected decision in the Diocese of Fort Worth case today, leaving the breakaway diocese under the leadership of the Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker and the loyalist faction led by provisional bishop the Rt. Rev Rayford High on tenterhooks until September.

In a statement released on 28 June 2013, Bishop Iker said, “Today the Texas Supreme Court did not announce a decision in our direct appeal, and since decisions are not issued in July or early August, we do not anticipate a ruling until the end of August at the earliest. We continue to wait patiently upon the Lord, prayerfully trusting in His loving care and protection.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Swimming the Trinity: Get Religion, July 3, 2012 July 3, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Fort Worth, Get Religion.
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Do not let the small mistakes in this article about the ordination of six former Anglican clergy as Catholic priests for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter distract you — this article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram entitled “6 former Episcopalclergymen are ordained in Catholic Church” is one of the few I have seen that “gets religion” and understands the big picture being covered in this story.

And that story is — these priests are entering the Catholic Church, not leaving the Episcopal Church.

Yes, I know the six priests in question have left the Anglican world for Rome — “Swimming the Tiber” in church parlance — (but as the Trinity River runs through Fort Worth I have changed the phrase somewhat). But the real story is about a journey to something — not a rejection of their past.

Before I go to deep into this article, let me say up front that I am acquainted with some of these priests — and have known the leader of the ordinariate, Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson for 10 or so years. And, I am a priest of the church where these men began their ministries and I have written about the journey these men have taken for a number of church-related publications over the past few years. The bottom line is that I come to this story with some degree of knowledge.

This knowledge can be obscure enjoyment at times — as there are one or two points I found to be distracting in this article. Let’s get them out of the way and turn to the lede:

KELLER — Under a huge dome with images of winged angels, six former Fort Worth-area Episcopal clergymen — including a father and son — lay facedown at a marble altar Saturday and were ordained as priests in the Roman Catholic Church.

In what officials called a historic moment, Fort Worth Catholic Bishop Kevin Vann and other white-robed priests in the diocese laid hands on the priests at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller to welcome them.

It was the first ordination class under Pope Benedict XVI’s new Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, created Jan. 1 to allow Episcopal priests to be ordained as Catholic clergy and for Episcopal congregations to join the Roman Catholic Church.

The tone of the article was respectful and the story arc supportive of the Catholic Church. And, yes, they were all once Episcopal priests — but not since 2008.

It would have been better to say that they left the Episcopal Church when the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth left the Episcopal Church in 2008. As an aside, the national Episcopal Church as since created a second Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth for the small number of clergy and congregations that opposed the decision to leave and litigation is presently before the Texas Supreme Court to determine which is the true Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

When the six left the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth to become Roman Catholics in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s offer of an Anglican ordinariate they left the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) — the conservative rival to the Episcopal Church.

I would also add that the story is not as clear as it could be on the point of the “first ordination class”.  For readers who have not been following the ordinariate story, they might have assumed that this ordination to the priesthood was the first ordination for the ordinariate — which is not true. The first ordination took place on 2 June 2012 in Mobile. The Fort Worth six were part of the first batch or class of new priests to be ordained, not the first priests to be ordained.

Those minor quibbles aside, I was impressed the Star-Telegram presented the issues properly by allowing the subjects of this story to explain themselves. And what the subjects of this story told the Star-Telegram was that their decision to enter the Catholic Church was not motivated by anger with the innovations in doctrine and discipline made in recent years by the Episcopal Church. They had entered the Catholic Church because they had become convinced by the truth claims made by the Catholic Church.

Steenson and the six men ordained opposed many of the changes in the Episcopal Church, including the ordination of gay priests and bishops.

All emphasized, however, that those issues were not central in their decisions to convert.

“Hopefully we understand that this is not just about being opposed to something,” Steenson said.

“If you were just opposed to something, you don’t want to join the Catholic Church. It’s a lot more than that.”

The Rev. Mark Cannaday said his ordination ends a long journey.

“My decision had nothing to do with current issues,” he said, adding that he has been drawn to elements of Catholicism for many years.

The younger Hough said: “For me, it’s not running away from something or saying the Episcopal Church is falling apart. My decision was going toward truth. To me, the current issues in the Episcopal Church are symptoms of a greater problem, and that was authority. There was no authority to say this was or was not part of Christian practice.”

A very common mistake made in the reporting about the Anglican ordinariate is the supposition that those who join the Catholic Church do so in protest to the actions of their former church — be it the Episcopal Church or the ACNA.

The Episcopal Church is not a monolithic nor uniform body. Those who are opposed to the recent actions of the church can be found inside the Episcopal Church or outside in the new Anglican Church of North America or other continuing Anglican groups. Some join other Protestant denominations while many simply stop going to church.

Becoming a Roman Catholic, as Msgr. Steenson noted, is a very different thing than being opposed to gay bishops or gay marriage — it is a conscious decision that the Catholic Church is the true church. (I should add that some ex-Anglicans have entered the Orthodox Churches — and while there is no Orthodox ordinariate, the faith journey is very much the same.)

As Fr. Christopher Stainbrook noted, becoming a Roman Catholic was “just a natural progression” for him.

It could be argued that the article might have been improved by the addition of voices from the Episcopal or Anglican churches commenting on the decision to leave. If this had been a contentious decision it might have made sense to do so.

However, Bishop Jack Iker of the ACNA-affiliated diocese has ruined this particular story angle by being gracious and affirming of the decision made by his six one-time priests. I’ve interviewed him a number of times on this issue — and many others — and he won’t bite. I may be cynical but adding more affirming voices to the story from the priests’ former church would be a bit to happy-clappy for me. Now if I could have found someone to say something unkind, that would have been different.

Perhaps I am too close to the story to have an objective mind on this point — what say you GetReligion readers? Would it have improved the story to have spread the circle wider to add non-Catholic voices? Or do you agree with me that the article did a fine job in stating the “coming home” theme and adding more would have not improved the story?

First printed in GetReligion.

Episcopal Church polity under scrutinty by the courts: The Church of England Newspaper, May 13, 2012 p 7. May 21, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation.
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Seven bishops of the Episcopal Church have filed a legal brief with the Texas Supreme Court urging it to reject the theory that the General Convention or the presiding bishop holds metropolitan authority over the church’s dioceses.

In an amicus brief filed on 23 April 2012 prepared by the Anglican Communion Institute in the case of the breakaway Diocese of Fort Worth, seven bishops and three leading Episcopal scholars argued the trial court misconstrued the church’s constitutions and canons by holding that the Episcopal Church was a hierarchical body with ultimate power vested in the General Convention.

The 29-page brief stated that attorneys for that national Episcopal Church sought “to establish an alternative authority to that of the diocesan bishop” in their pleadings, which they said was contrary to the church’s Constitution and Canons.  Attorneys for the national church have argued the Episcopal Church possesses a unitary polity, where dioceses are creatures of the General Convention.

The ACI disagrees, citing the church’s history and constitution and canons.  Its friend of the court pleading follows upon their 22 April 2009 paper endorsed by 15 Bishops entitled Bishops’ Statement on the Polity of the Episcopal Church that stated the “fundamental structure of the Episcopal Church from the outset has been that of a voluntary association of dioceses meeting together in a General Convention as equals.”

Signing the document were the Bishops of Albany, Springfield, Western Louisiana, Dallas, the Suffragan Bishop of Dallas and the retired Bishops of Central Florida and Texas, along with the Rev. Christopher R. Seitz, the Rev. Philip W. Turner, and the Rev. Ephraim Radner from the ACI.

Canon lawyer Allan Haley observed the amicus brief filed in the Fort Worth case “must be both an embarrassment, and also no small irritant. After all, if the “Church” is at the top of the ‘three-tiered hierarchy,’ why can’t the “Church” keeps its bishops and clergy in line?”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Fort Worth Bishop Clarence Pope dead, Anglican Ink, January 8, 2012 January 8, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, Roman Catholic Church.
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Bishops Pope, Jack L. Iker and A. Donald Davies of Fort Worth

The second Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. Clarence C. Pope, Jr., has died.

On 8 Jan 2012, the Diocese of Fort Worth announced that Bishop Pope (81) had “died in his sleep overnight” at a hospital in Baton Rouge where he was being treated for pneumonia.

“His wife, Dr. Martha Pope, and members of their family were with him over the past week. Please keep all the family in your prayers,” the diocese said.

Read it all inAnglican Ink.

No left behind fears in Fort Worth: Anglican Ink, December 5, 2011 December 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican Ink, Anglican Ordinariate, Fort Worth.
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St Timothy's Fort Worth

The vicar of the Fort Worth congregation that is set to depart for Rome believes his entire congregation will accept the pope’s offer of the Anglican Ordinariate.

The Rev. Christopher Stainbrook, SSC told Anglican Ink “we don’t think there will be any remnant which wishes to remain a part of the ACNA Diocese of Fort Worth.”

On 2 December 2011 the Rt. Rev. Jack. L. Iker announced that the vicar and bishops’ committee – the term for a vestry in a mission congregation supported by a diocese – had petitioned the Vatican for the congregation of St Timothy’s to be received en masse into the Roman Catholic Church under the provisions of the Anglican Ordinariate.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Fort Worth parish heading to Rome, Anglican Ink, December 2, 2011 December 2, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican Ink, Anglican Ordinariate, Fort Worth.
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Fr Christopher Stainbrook, SSC

A Diocese of Fort Worth mission congregation will put to a vote of its members Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to enter into full communion with Rome through the Anglican Ordinariate.

On Dec 2, Bishop Jack Iker announced that the congregation of St Timothy’s Church in Fort Worth will hold a meeting on 11 Dec 2011 to discuss the petition of the vestry and its vicar, the Rev. Christopher Stainbrook, SSC to enter the ordinariate.  The congregation will vote on the proposal the following Sunday.

Not all of the members of the Anglo-Catholic congregation are expected to support the decision to enter the Catholic Church, however.  The 18 Dec 2011 vote will allow Bishop Iker the opportunity to gauge the degree of support the move has in the congregation, and permit him to plan for the pastoral and sacramental care of those not going over to Rome.

The Vatican has set 1 January 2012 as the start date for the Anglican Ordinariate in America.  Created in response to requests from Anglicans seeking union with the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Ordinariate was formed in November 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI following the promulgation of Anglicanorum coetibus.  While Anglicans had always been welcomed as individual converts to Roman Catholicism, the Anglican Ordinariate provideda way for groups of Anglicans to enter in “corporate reunion” with Rome.

If St Timothy’s enters the ordinariate it would become Roman Catholic, but would retain elements of its Anglican liturgy and heritage.  The congregation would not become part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, however, but would join the new American branch of the ordinariate.

Two U.S. congregations have already been received into the new ordinariate.  In September an independent congregation in Fort Worth joined followed last month by the members of the Diocese’ of Washington’s St Luke’s Episcopal Church in Bladensburg, Maryland.

The creation of the American ordinariate follows the formation of the first personal ordinariate, Our Lady of Walsingham, established on 15 Jan 2011 for England and Wales.  Led by the former Church of England Bishop of Richborough, Monsignor Keith Newton, it has approximately 1000 members in 42 congregations.  Plans for ordinariates for Canada and Australia are also underway.

Fr. Stainbrook has also announced that he will resign as vicar and will step down from the ministry of the Episcopal Church and intends to seek holy orders within the Ordinariate.  While he trains for the Catholic ministry, however, the ordinariate will assign a new priest to serve those going over to Rome.

Late last month the leaders of the congregation sent Bishop Iker a copy of their petition to be received by Rome.  The bishop and diocesan leaders met with Fr. Stainbrook and his vestry – known as the Bishop’s Committee due to the congregation’s status as a mission – on 29 Nov and told him they were unanimous in their decision to withdraw.

St Timothy’s has an average Sunday attendance of approximately 90 and is a mission congregation of the diocese.  Founded in 1956, it reached parish status in 1960, but reverted to mission status in 1993 and has received “significant financial support from the Diocese” a spokesman noted.

Those eligible to vote are the members of the congregation who “attend church on every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation unless for good and sufficient cause prevented”; contribute to the “financial upkeep” of the congregation; have been confirmed; have received Holy Communion at least three times in the preceding year; are not under ecclesiastical discipline; and are enrolled members of the congregation 16 years of age and older.

A diocesan spokesman noted the forum and vote are intended to provide the diocese with a “clearer picture of the congregation’s wishes, once we have clarified what is and isn’t possible.”  Under the terms of a supersedeas bond agreement filed by the diocese in its on-going litigation with the national church, Fort Worth may not alienate any properties until the suit is resolved.  The diocese is determined to abide by the terms of the bond and cannot sell, give or lease St Timothy’s to the ordinariate, the spokesman added.

Bishop Iker said, “While we regret that many members of St. Timothy’s feel called at this time to leave our fellowship for the Roman Catholic Church, we respect their conscience and spiritual discernment in this matter. We live in a very conflicted time in the life of the Church, and it is important to maintain charity and patience with one another. We wish them well, in the name of the Lord.”

First published in Anglican Ink.