Comments: Fort Worth: Panel of Reference reports

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 call from God and seek the Church's counsel on that. She can't, however, impose or mandate such a culture. I don't know that anyone could "assure" Bishop Iker on that point.

But that last paragraph struck me as vague on one significant point. I appreciate that the recommendation is to include the Episcopal Church in discussions of Ft. Worth's place in the Communion (something that Bishop Iker himself seems to want to ignore), but think it's unclear the place of Ft. Worth *within* the Anglican Communion by being *within* the Episcopal Church. I know our difficulties are in process; but this seems all too close to presuming a result.

I also appreciate that the Committee respects Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori as the Primate of The Episcopal Church. I only with the last paragraph had been more clear on the proper relations between Canterbury, the Episcopal Church, and one diocese within the Episcopal Church.

Posted by Marshall Scott at Monday, 8 January 2007 at 7:12pm GMT

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

Posted by Lois Keen at Monday, 8 January 2007 at 7:44pm GMT

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.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Monday, 8 January 2007 at 10:09pm GMT

"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 let a priest-who-happens-to-be-Imago-Dei-made-female function in the diocese, without a proper license, for *up to 2 months* Whoop-De-Doo. >:-/]

Also noted that the Stand-Firm analysis underscored the role of the "_primates_".

Don't get me wrong: I'll NEVER favor "walking apart" from the Anglican Communion (y'know, the one based out of Canterbury?)

...but I DO counsel *resistance*: resistance to this (any trial-by-fire that +Gene Robinson faced, the next bishop of FW will have to face, just the same!), and any other NON-ANGLICAN ***impositions*** upon TEC and our polity.

Come, Lord Jesus! Grant us More Light!

Posted by JCF at Monday, 8 January 2007 at 10:48pm GMT

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.

Posted by Marshall Scott at Monday, 8 January 2007 at 11:05pm GMT

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)

Posted by Prior Aelred at Monday, 8 January 2007 at 11:38pm GMT

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!

Posted by Dave at Monday, 8 January 2007 at 11:41pm GMT

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.

Posted by Br. William Henry at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 12:06am GMT

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.

Posted by Neil at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 12:34am GMT

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.

Posted by drdanfee at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 1:38am GMT

"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?

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 2:42am GMT

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 consent. In the vast majority of cases, consent is given or withheld by individual bishops-with-jurisdiction and by the separate Standing Committees of each individual diocese.

And NO Commission or Agency or Panel or Report or Primate – indeed, no power on earth – has the legal or canonical right to dictate to individual bishops or Standing Committees whether or not they are to consent to the consecration of any bishop-elect.

And, canonically, no reason for withholding such consent need be supplied by any bishop or Standing Committee.

Further the Canon Law of the Episcopal forbids discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. "I, 17:Sec. 5. No one shall be denied rights, status or access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of this Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities or age, except as otherwise specified by Canons."

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.

The bishop of Fort Worth is quite free to leave the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church and put himself under the jurisdiction of an Archbishop of Transylvania or Tibuctoo or wherever, if he wishes. But neither he nor the leadership of the Diocese is free to declare the Diocese itself independent of the Episcopal Church only within which are they currently part of the Anglican Communion.

It is a simple case of "Go" or "Stay". There us no middle ground under law, polity, or canon.

Posted by John-Julian, OJN at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 8:55am GMT

"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 given seat, voice and vote in TEC's triennial General Convention. That didn't happen until 1970. But the great work of the Women's Auxiliary, by then called the Episcopal Church Women, and the money they consistently raised in spite of being voted out of having a say in the church they were supporting, continued year after year.

It was only a few years after women were given seat, voice and vote in General Convention that women were permitted to be ordained. Both decisions were in the end made by courageous men, who until then held all the votes, in 1970, and held the House of Bishops in 1977.

So, dear Panel of Reference, and Dear ABC Rowan, I give you, this day, Julia Chester Emery, Upholder of Missions.
The Reverend Lois Blanche Thien Keen
Connecticut U.S.A.

Posted by Lois Keen at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 12:50pm GMT

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.

Posted by Ren Aguila at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 1:06pm GMT

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.

Posted by John Robison at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 1:39pm GMT

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 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.

QED - we are now on some form of probation until a verdict is given.

Posted by Ian Montgomery at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 1:40pm GMT

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

Posted by Columba Gilliss at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 2:30pm GMT

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 to study this again with oppenness to change, looking at the witness and experience of other dioceses?" Yes.

Now, would those things bring God's justice? Perhaps, perhaps not. Would they be sufficient to permit enough consents for a bishop-elect who otherwise had evidence of the gifts of the Spirit in his ministry ("his" advisedly)? I don't know. Perhaps....

Posted by Marshall Scott at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 4:13pm GMT

"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 ABC. Period.
I would like someone also to explain his [I think] reference to "exceptionalism."

So far as I understand, each province has its own polity [ours is the Consitution and Canons], thus resulting in considerable variation in rules for marriage and divorce, which Prayer Book is used, ordination of women to no, some, or all orders, the place of glbt people in the church. Is that "exceptionalism?"


Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 4:23pm GMT

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.

Posted by Prior Aelred at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 4:47pm GMT

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.

Posted by John Robison at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 5:31pm GMT

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.

Posted by Ian Montgomery at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 5:50pm GMT

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 safe distance, let me ask: Does the diocese of Fort Worth really wish to limit movement of the Holy Spirit in its discernment for a new bishop by vetting the list before an election has even been called for. Are they saying, "Hey Holy Spirit, when +Jack retires 10 years from now, and we start to seek a new bishop, you better not send us someone who is willing to consider ordaining a woman."

Posted by Michael at Tuesday, 9 January 2007 at 8:38pm GMT

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 have to make accommodation for any parish that cannot accept Bp Robinson. Albany would have to refer gay couples and candidates to NH or to VT etc.

As an anglo catholic (who does welcome WO) I have been dismayed at the way Fort Worth and other AC people have felt the need to ally with extreme Evangelicals who do not share their ecclesiology at all. If they can be assured of continuance in TEC without having to accept women priests it might be a very good thing.

Posted by dmitri at Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 1:05pm GMT

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, understand that this is not a new thing, then the Spirit cannot have had a hand in her election, or is it because she's a woman? Maybe the left sees the Spirit in too many place, but I fear the Right sees the Spirit only in the words of Scripture.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 1:32pm GMT

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, i.e. Eastern Canada, not the entire Anglican Church of Canada). A bishop may object to an election only if the bishop-elect is (a) under 30 years of age, (b) not a priest or bishop of the ACC or a church in full communion (c) "deficient in learning, training or experience" (d) simony or other improper means of securing election (e) "is guilty of crime or immorality" or (f) "teaches or holds, or within the previous 5 years has taught or held, anything contrary to the doctrine or discipline of the Anglican Church of Canada." Any objection would trigger a hearing and decision by the provinical House of Bishops.

Like Dmitri, I welcome this a pointing a way forward on the question of homosexuality, honoring local option and local positions, while providing pastoral care and alternatives.

Posted by Jim Pratt at Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 4:18pm GMT

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 you are not the last vestige of the British Empire, then you can only be “a loose federation of historically connected independent churches”.

Nor is the Anglican Communion an “institution” – Communion is not a Noun but a Verb. To be in Communion does not mean following “rules” that don’t exist, but b e i n g in Communion, re Zizoulas: The Church as Communion.

I think this transition from Verb (the Verb) to Noun/the Law, is the explanation for the present unpleasanties.

I suggest you let the British Empire draw its last breath, and go searching for some real Communion.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 11 January 2007 at 9:43pm GMT

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 go area for women. A toe hold can be established in Tanzania, Nigeria, SE Asia etc.

This judgement is not a victory for the conservatives , it is an opportunity for the progressives.

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Monday, 15 January 2007 at 8:02am GMT
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