November 25, 2008

Tilting at the Windmills of His Mind

As has been amply reported, Bishop Iker of Fort Worth has been inhibited by the Presiding Bishop (following the due canonical process on the recommendation of the review committee and with the consent of the three senior bishops) for having abandoned "the communion of this Church" — "this Church" of course referring, as it always does in our Canons, to The Episcopal Church.

Surely there can be no doubt that Iker is out of communion with TEC — I mean, isn't that the point of removing all references to TEC from the diocesan constitution, and joining the Southern Cone? That the Church of the SC is a member of the Anglican Communion (for now) is irrelevant to the abandonment canon, since it refers not to the Anglican Communion, but to communion with TEC. (There can be churches in Communion with TEC, or the C of E for that matter, that are not part of the Anglican Communion, such as the ELCA in our case. Communion is not transitive, as anyone who has been involved in ecumenical discussion well knows.)

The Bishop and Standing Committee of what still calls itself "The Episcopal Diocese of Forth Worth" has issued a response to the PB's action. They make a good deal of fuss about the inhibition, which, as they rightly note, is of no actual effect to the extent that Jack has already hit the road (virtually, not in actuality, as he is still geographically in Fort Worth, not the Southern Cone.) All the inhibition actually states is that Iker is not to execute any episcopal functions in The Episcopal Church. Iker makes much of his indignation, but one wonders why, if he has no intention of trying to pretend to be still the bishop of a diocese of The Episcopal Church.

The strangest part of the FW response, to my mind, is the closing word of the Standing Committee. They accuse the Presiding Bishop of "border crossing." Clearly the "borders" involved here are the mental borders of allegiance, not the geographical borders of this earth, or the canonical borders of the provinces of the Churches of the Anglican Communion. It has already been noted that the Church of the Southern Cone is in express violation of its own Canons in attempting to take extraterritorial dioceses under its wings. And as is well established, there is no provision in the Constitution and Canons of TEC to allow a domestic diocese to become independent of this Church once it has entered into union with it. Even missionary and overseas dioceses of TEC can only become independent with the consent of the General Convention. And bishops cannot "resign" from the House of Bishops without the consent of that House. To think that a domestic diocese can simply, motu proprio secede from The Episcopal Church is an exercise in cowboy fantasy.

But then again, the whole thing is rather fantastic, isn't it?

Tobias Haller BSG

9 comments:

David |Dah • veed| said...

The FW faux diocese needs to hang onto the name Episcopal because ±Iker opposed a parish leaving his diocese with the property in the 90s for a more conservative denomination and testified, in still available court documents, that parish property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal diocese.

It is a word game because, in the soon-to-come lawsuits, it would be hard to lay claim to the property held in trust for an Episcopal diocese, when you say you are an Anglican diocese!

Tobias Haller said...

I think your analysis is correct, and that, as in Pittsburgh, the "Title" of the entity is related to the title to the property. This is, if I may observe, an exercise in simultaneous consumption and possession of one's cake.

KJ said...

It is fantastic, and I can only shake my head when pre-agreed upon and understood canon is received with surprise. I'm reminded of defendants standing before Judge Judy, surprised to learn that the law is not determined by the thoughts right inside their heads.

James said...

Good article as usual, Brother Tobias. But, the Episcopal diocese didn't make a fuss about the inhibition: the schismatic diocese did. Iker's group is not Episcopal and is not the "Episcopal Diocese." we have to keep stating that.

Tobias Haller said...

KJ,
I had a similar experience with the "Day Care Center from Hell" that rented space from my parish but refused to abide by the lease (or by many health and employment regulations, too). When we finally had to take legal action, the Day Care management simply could not believe that they were in the wrong. I will never forget the day we finally -- after almost three years of expert dilatory maneuvers by their attorney -- had our day before the judge. She was splendid -- and not unlike Judge Judy, she lit into the Day Care folks for their twisted analysis of the lease. It was a thing to behold.

James, you are correct, of course. That is why I was careful to put FW's self-assertion as to its identity in quotation marks. They are not, of course, a Diocese at all, but an assemblage of individual Christians now in some illegal manner allied with the Church of the Southern Cone -- which has no right to establish any Anglican presence at all in the United States. Iker's continued use of "Episcopal" is, like Duncan's, apparently designed to fool the judges. But I think it will be no more successful than the Day Care folks were here in the Bronx.

Geoff said...

It is a word game because, in the soon-to-come lawsuits, it would be hard to lay claim to the property held in trust for an Episcopal diocese, when you say you are an Anglican diocese!

I'm not sure I get the baggage that seems to surround the word "Anglican" in the US. Episcopalians are Anglican. It is just the name used by the churches of the Anglican Communion in countries like Scotland and the United States where "Anglican" was unpalatable for historical/political reasons. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is the Anglican Diocese thereof.

Tobias Haller said...

Geoff,
That is, of course, true - that the Episcopal Church IS the Anglican Province in the US and its overseas jurisdictions. But the only reason Iker & Co. have for holding on to the word "Episcopal" is to be able to retain title to property vested in "The Episcopal Diocese..." I don't know if they tried anything as shady as Wantland's failed incorporation of a rival "Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, Inc." of a few years back; or the more recent effort by Duncan's people to create "The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, Inc." -- but this is the same sort of name game.

This puts me in mind of the Nominalist / Realist debates: It isn't about being really Anglican or Episcopal, but about having the right name! At least to sway a court... and I think that unlikely. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but Iker and Co., appear to be capable of fooling themselves almost all of the time.

Kevin M said...

I find it so interesting that the separatists keep putting forward the argument that a pre-existent diocese decides to join TEC and, therefore, has the right later to secede. Of course, that's utter poppycock.

Take a look at the chronology of the formation of the Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth (Appendix B of the Vesty Handbook from Steering Cmte. N. Tex. Episcopalians: http://www.steeringcommitteente.org/handouts/vestryhandbook.pdf). You'll clearly see that Dallas proposed to divide the diocese; then General Convention ratified that decision, thus creating a diocese with defined boundaries. It was only afterwards that the diocese was called to convention, adopted an official name and a constitution, etc.

Basically, it was GC that created the Diocese of Ft. Worth; therefore, the diocese cannot leave without the approval of GC.

But of course, in their minds, reality is what they say it is.

David |Dah • veed| said...

Geoff, I realize that in our reality Episcopal or Anglican or basically interchangable, our province here in Mexico is the Anglican Church of Mexico (Iglesia Anglicana de México.)

As Tobias responds, I was pointing out that the FW separatists were retaining the name Episcopal for spurious reasons. ±Schofield's separatists use Anglican after departing, as do all of the South American dioceses connected to the Provincia Anglicana del Cono Sur de América.

BTW, we wanted the name Episcopal Church of Mexico when we became independent of TEC back in 1995. However, the Secretaría de Gobernación, which oversees the legal recognition of religious bodies (Asociación Religiosa) in Mexico under the Ley de Asociaciones Religiosas y Culto Público said that the name was confusing with the Roman Catholic Episcopal Conference, so they told us our name would be the Anglican Church of Mexico!