(The reasoning of the Presiding Bishop and her legal advisers appears to be that the Episcopal Church is like the USA wherein no state can withdraw; thus if a Diocese attempts to leave the Episcopal Church then it is brought before the central court and the rebels are punished and new officers installed! Certainly the Polity of the Episcopal Church from 1785 has been modeled loosely on Congress, but this present claim is a big stretch. --P.T.)
Fort Worth bishop receives notice of possible consequences if withdrawal effort continues
By Jan Nunley, November 08, 2007
[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has made public another letter of warning sent to a bishop actively seeking to withdraw his diocese from the Episcopal Church.
The letter to Bishop Jack Leo Iker of the Diocese of Fort Worth notifies him that such a step would force her to take action to bring the diocese and its leadership into line with the mandates of the national Church.
The first of the letters was sent to Bishop Robert Duncan of the Diocese of Pittsburgh on October 31. Letters to other bishops will follow.
Fort Worth's diocesan convention, meeting November 16-17, is set to consider the first reading of a constitutional amendment that would remove accession to the Constitution and Canons of General Convention, as well as several canonical amendments that eliminate mention of the Episcopal Church. Iker has indicated his support and approval of the amendments.
A similar canonical change was approved on first reading by the Diocese of Pittsburgh's convention November 2-3, despite a warning letter written by Jefferts Schori to Pittsburgh's bishop.
In December, the Diocese of San Joaquin is scheduled to hear the second and final reading of its constitutional accession amendment.
If these and related constitutional changes go forward, the Presiding Bishop could ask the Title IV Review Committee to consider whether the bishops who have proposed and supported them have abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.
If the Presiding Bishop presented materials to the Review Committee regarding potential abandonment by those bishops, and if the Committee agreed that abandonment had taken place, the bishops would have two months to recant. If they failed to do so, the matter would go to the full House of Bishops. There is no appeal and no right of formal trial outside of a hearing before the House of Bishops.
If the House concurred, the Presiding Bishop could depose the bishops and declare the episcopates of those dioceses vacant. Members of congregations in the diocese remaining in the Episcopal Church would be gathered to organize a new diocesan convention and elect a replacement Standing Committee, if necessary.
An assisting bishop would be appointed to provide episcopal ministry until a new diocesan bishop search process could be initiated and a new bishop elected and consecrated.
A lawsuit would be filed against the departed leadership and a representative sample of departing congregations if they attempted to retain Episcopal Church property.
Appointed to the 2007-2009 Title IV Review Committee are Bishop Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina (president), Bishop Suffragan Bavi E. Rivera of Olympia, Bishop Suffragan David C. Jones of Virginia, Bishop C. Wallis Ohl Jr. of Northwest Texas, the Rev. Carolyn Kuhr of Montana, the Very Rev. Scott Kirby of Eau Claire, J.P. Causey Jr. of Virginia and Deborah J. Stokes of Southern Ohio.
The text of the letter follows.
8 November 2007
The Rt. Rev. Jack Iker
The Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth
2900 Alemeda Street
Fort Worth, TX 76108
As you are undoubtedly aware, it is my view that recent amendments to your Diocese's constitution violate the Constitutional requirement that the Diocese maintain an "unqualified accession" to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church. I have now reviewed several proposed constitutional amendments that will be considered at your forthcoming diocesan convention. It is evident to me that several of these proposed changes would further violate the Church's Constitution, while some other proposed changes would undo the problems created by the earlier amendments. It is clear from your public statements and from what I understand your position to be regarding these matters that you endorse the first set of changes. Your statements and actions in recent months demonstrate an intention to lead your diocese into a position that would purportedly permit it to depart from the Episcopal Church. All these efforts, in my view, display a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between The Episcopal Church and its dioceses.
I call upon you to recede from this direction and to lead your diocese on a new course that recognizes the interdependent and hierarchical relationship between the national Church and its dioceses and parishes. That relationship is at the heart of our mission, as expressed in our polity. Specifically, I sincerely hope that you will change your position and urge your diocese at its forthcoming convention to adopt the proposed amendments that will bring the Diocese's constitution into agreement with the Church's Constitution and Canons.
If your course does not change, I shall regrettably be compelled to see that appropriate canonical steps are promptly taken to consider whether you have abandoned the Communion of this Church -- by actions and substantive statements, however, they may be phrased -- and whether you have committed canonical offences that warrant disciplinary action.
It grieves me that any bishop of this Church would seek to lead any of its members out of it. I would remind you of my open offer of an Episcopal Visitor if you wish to receive pastoral care from another bishop. I continue to pray for reconciliation of this situation, and I remain
Your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori