THINKING ANGLICANS

Fort Worth: Panel of Reference reports

Updated Tuesday

The Panel of Reference, established by Archbishop Rowan Williams in response to the request of the Primates and Moderators of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion in their Communiqué issued from Dromantine, Northern Ireland, in February 2005, has issued a report on the submission made to it some time ago by the Diocese of Fort Worth.

The Fort Worth (FWS) submission is by the Bishop and Standing Committee of the Diocese who are in theological dispute with ECUSA concerning the ordination of women to the presbyterate and the episcopate… and are concerned that the action of the General Convention of ECUSA in passing Canons which makes women’s ordination mandatory makes it impossible for the Diocese at some future date to receive confirmation of the election as their bishop of a man who disapproves of the ordination of women to the presbyterate and/or episcopate.

The report can be read in full here. (PDF format)
The Diocese of Fort Worth has published an html copy here.

The response of the Diocese of Fort Worth to this report can be read here. No doubt it will appear Has now been posted on the diocesan website later as well.

Note that this matter is separate from the more recent application of Fort Worth (and other dioceses) for “alternative primatial oversight”.

Updates
Episcopal News Service reported it this way: Panel of Reference tells Episcopal Church it should clarify stance on women’s ordination.
The Living Church has Panel of Reference Responds Favorably to Fort Worth Appeal and Bishop Iker: Ruling Gives Traditionalists ‘Moral High Ground’.
The Telegraph has Anglicans ‘can reject women priests’.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has Panel backs diocese’s gender policy.

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Robert Ian WilliamsGöran Koch-SwahneJim PrattFord Elmsdmitri Recent comment authors
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Marshall Scott
Guest

This is certainly interesting. I was doing reasonably well with the thought of open reception and the Dallas Plan (personally unsatisfied, but willing to consider the positions of Christians with whom I disagree), right up until I reached the last paragraph. Oh, I did have some questions about consents to the election of someone who agreed with Bishop Iker. Sufficient consents are not something that can really be promised. I can imagine the Presiding Bishop demonstrating openness and leading the discussion and seeking to model a culture in which openness of the ordination process to all those who feel that… Read more »

Lois Keen
Guest
Lois Keen

In what way is the place of the Diocese of Fort Worth in the Anglican Communion not secure, that the ABC is asked by the report to continue to work with Fort Worth and TEC to secure said place?
Lois Keen

Tobias Haller
Guest
Tobias Haller

I don’t know, Marshall. I read that last paragraph as echoing the language of the the first P of R report on New Westminster, which clarified exactly that dioceses are “in” the AC by virtue of being in a church that is part of the AC — ergo, the goal is to keep FtW in good standing within TEC. It is by endangering that continued membership in TEC that FtW is “insecure.” Or so it seems to me.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“The Panel recommends that it be made clear that it is legitimate for a diocese to ask of candidates for election as bishop that they abide by the particular policy of the diocese in relation to the ministry of women, and that theological views on the ordination or consecration of women should not be a ground on which consent might be withheld by the Province/House of Bishops.” Come off it—now *confessionalism* is to be established at the diocesan level, in perpetuity?? No wonder they’re chortling over on Stand Firm (my eyes! my eyes!) [Speaking of yuks: FW’s policy that they’ll… Read more »

Marshall Scott
Guest

Tobias, I agree. It seemed the last recommendation was vague in a way the New Westminster document wasn’t; but perhaps I need to go back and read that again.

As I said, I did think the rest of it liveable, with perhaps an implication that the Dallas Plan could fit within the framework of DEPO.

Prior Aelred
Guest

The panel of Reference has no authority in this republic nor this church nor the right to dictate to standing committees of dioceses or ordinaries thereof whether or how they can apply the Constitutions and Canons of this Church when making decisions regarding consents on elections to the episcopate. (IMHO)

Dave
Guest
Dave

Dear Marshall, I suppose it would mean that the TEC HoB and GC should make a binding anti-discrimination ruling. So that it is canonically illegal that potential Bishop’s views on women priests be used as a basis for excluding them as candidiates, or not consenting to them.

This is parallel, I think, to what was really necessary to fulfil the Windsor Report’s requests on appointment of Bishops, and blessing of homo-sexual relationships. I can’t imagine TEC being capable of agreeing to officially restrain itself on either issue!

Br. William Henry
Guest
Br. William Henry

Actually this is something I can live with. The same should be done for those ‘for or opposed’ to the ordained ministry of gay or lesbian folk -it seems a way forward. Its interesting to note that some conservative members of our US province are not pleased with the panel’s judgement for this very reason. They are afraid the same argument could be made towards our baptized who are of same-gendered attraction.

However, it was interesting to read such anti-female language in these 21st century eyes of mine.

Neil
Guest
Neil

I am not in a position to comment on the legality of the document, but would hope to read an outcry from commentators if indeed it would be impossible in the future not to appoint a man as bishop who opposes the ordination of women. One would have thought there were far more important tests of orthodoxy, and were TEC to elevate this issue to be of primary credal importance then this would be a disturbing (fatal) development. One which would put them at odds with most of Christendom.

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Ah, tell me yet again, please, just what is the egregious offense a competent, gifted, caring woman gives the ConsEvs? And let the good times roll.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“The Panel also recommends that the Archbishop of Canterbury continue discussions with the Diocese of Fort Worth and with the Episcopal Church with the aim of securing the place of Fort Worth in the Communion.”

Am I missing something here? As long as the Diocese of Fort Worth remains in TEC, it also remains in the Anglican Communion, no? Has anyone suggested throwing Diocese of Fort Worth out of TEC OR the Anglican Communion?

John-Julian, OJN
Guest
John-Julian, OJN

Aelred’s right! The sheer ignorance goes on and on and on. The Panel of Reference includes the following words in its recommendations: “… theological views on the ordination or consecration of women should not be a ground on which consent might be withheld by the Province/House of Bishops.” It is clear that the Panel of Reference does not understand the polity or canons of the Episcopal Church. Except in rare instances where the election of a bishop occurs 120 days before triennial General Convention, neither the “Province” nor the “House of Bishops” has anything to do with giving or withholding… Read more »

Lois Keen
Guest
Lois Keen

“However, it was interesting to read such anti-female language in these 21st century eyes of mine.” Br. William Henry. Yeh, really. Imagine being a woman and reading this language, yet again. Today is the feast (lesser) of Julia Chester Emery, Missionary, in the calendar of TEC. She was National Secretary of the Auxiliary of the Board of Missions of TEC from 1876 to 1916. She “invented” the United Thank Offering, by which the pennies, nickels and dimes of women and children brought millions of dollars into the mission coffers of the Episcopal Church (U.S.A.). She didn’t live to see women… Read more »

Ren Aguila
Guest
Ren Aguila

But what if canon law contradicts the long-standing tradition held by many churches concerning women’s ordination? Even if this were a step forward, as I agree with women’s ordination in principle, there must be a better argument than from legislation that seems to echo civil law more than it refers back to the Bible or what Vincent of Lerins said about the touchstone of faith. (I forgot the formulation.)
The point is, the liberal cause is not helped by arguments for canonical exceptionalism, which Tom Wright equated with George Bush’s own brand.

John Robison
Guest

Dave – I’m really confused.
I understand that Windsor has taken on an ever expanding set of meanings, but I don’t see how this touches on the report.

Ian Montgomery
Guest
Ian Montgomery

John Julian writes: What the Panel of Reference asks is quite simply impossible of implementation under the polity and canons of the Episcopal Church – something which seems constantly incomprehensible to other Anglicans across the world whose polity is different from ours. This may be true, though I question it as a truth. However this is clearly part of what the AC will understand to be part of its rules for being a part of the AC, in full communion. We are free to say that this ruling/opinion is not possible to implement under our polity and canons. The AC… Read more »

Columba Gilliss
Guest
Columba Gilliss

How could the whole requirement of consents be dropped from the Constitution?
I suppose the bishops could do one of their collegiality over all things and agree among themselves not to withhold consent but that would not bind, and might embolden, Standing Committees.
Columba Gilliss

Marshall Scott
Guest

Dave, Beloved Brother in Christ: I agree, both that it would be theoretically possible for General Convention to pass a change in canons that would specifically exclude considerations of orders for women from the standards for consent; and that it would be so unlikely to do so as to make that possibility virtually meaningless. That said, can I imagine folks reaching for some common ground? Yes. Can I imagine a bishop-elect saying, “Yes, I have this personal theological concern, but I will not make my personal concern diocesan policy”? Yes. Can I imagine a bishop-elect saying, “Our diocese will commit… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“ECUSA cannot be part of the AC as it cannot follow the AC rules. … To be in communion means following the rules of the communion. If we in the US choose not to be in compliance and are unable to persuade the Communion to change the rules then we are choosing not to be in the Communion.” First of all, have the courtesy to use the deignation that TEC has chosen fo itself. Would you kindly point me to ‘the rules?’ So far as I know, being a member of the Anglican Communion means being in communion with the… Read more »

Prior Aelred
Guest

Ian Montgomery —

Actually, to date there simply are no “rules of the communion” to follow (nor does the “Panel of Reference” have an authority to make its suggestions or recommendations binding).

If we were obliged to comply with the oddities that this group has come up with to date (with absolutely no appeals process), then I would not only be willing, but eager no longer to be associated with it.

John Robison
Guest
John Robison

Ama Columba – This is about forcing all of us to comply with the new masters of the Communion. You and I are expendable as we all bow to worship the new God that is Windsor.
I’m expecting to be told to happily accept my second place status as a good thing to preserve the communion, since God wants us all to be one big happy family.
Get ready to be told to set your Orders aside to make +Iker happy, since god wants us to be one big happy family.

Ian Montgomery
Guest
Ian Montgomery

From Cynthia G:
First of all, have the courtesy to use the deignation that TEC has chosen fo itself.

I might use tEC however as one of Scot heritage how am I now to refer to the Episcopal Church od Scotland. Perhaps I can use EC-USA? or better PECUSA/ PEC-USA. Frankly I think TEC is too grandiose a title to accept so this is my little protest as I seek to stay AC compliant.

Michael
Guest
Michael

The Panel tells TEC to clarify our its stance on the ordination of women – how ironic. Didn’t the Windsor Report actually uphold as a healthy and faithful model the process of Communion wide consultation exercised by TEC as it moved towards the ordination of women? Didn’t Windsor is not so subtle terms say “Hey, you consulted well in the past, and we found a way forward, why not this time? (you naughty, liberal, rebellious Americans – my own emphasis, pardon the cynicism)” How did we get here? And to roll another grenade under the door before I run a… Read more »

dmitri
Guest
dmitri

I don’t think this is such a setback. Although the consents from standing committees cannot be controlled in the way the POR seems to envision, this may still be a way forward not only on the WO question but also on gay inclusion. Why not a “Dallas agreement” for gay ordinations and blessings? No parish or diocese should be forced to accept an active gay person as a priest or be forced to offer blessings of gay unions. No gay personos should be denied access to the ordination discernment process or to the blessings of their union. So NH would… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Michael, Do you ever get the feeling that, for these people, the Spirit really isn’t at work at all? I mean, they cannot entertain the possibility that the Spirit led the people of New Hampshire, not exactly a bunch of hairy hippies, by all accounts, to choose Gene Robinson. Rather than see the actions of the Spirit in the selection of +KJS, for example, we have in another part of this site a statement by David Roseberry that her use of “Mother Jesus”, not exactly a huge innovation in theology, means “We’re in trouble.” Because he doesn’t, for some reason,… Read more »

Jim Pratt
Guest
Jim Pratt

I see this as a very reasonable decision, with the exception of the ambiguous last recommendation, which probably would better have been omitted. It upholds a very reasonable solution to the basic theological differences on the ordination of women. And it does point out a perceived flaw in the election/consent process: on what grounds may consent to an election be withheld? (we are seeing this in the South Carolina election). And perhaps for the sake of greater clarity and less politicization, TEC ought to look at that canon. Out of curiosity I looked at the canons of my province (Canada,… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Ian Montgomery wrote: “The AC is then free to say that ECUSA cannot be part of the AC as it cannot follow the AC rules. We are meant to be a communion of interdependent provinces, not a loose federation of historically connected independent churches. To be in communion means following the rules of the communion. If we in the US choose not to be in compliance and are unable to persuade the Communion to change the rules then we are choosing not to be in the Communion.” Only there is no such “rules”, no such “compliance” – precisely because if… Read more »

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

Fort Worth ruling is a precedent for liberals! Surely the Panel of Reference would have to be equally generous to those in a province, diocese or parish who are denied the ministry of women? Lets have an appeal from the Sydney “dissidents”, who do not follow the Jensen brothers agenda. Or lets have an appeal from Nigerian women…if ” dissent from women’s ordination is a recognised ” theological position in the Anglican Communion, why not appeal on the grounds that the opposite view is also an accepted theological position. Then we will have no provinces where there is a no… Read more »