CONVERSATIONS about affiliating the three Forward in Faith (North America) dioceses — Fort Worth, Quincy, and San Joaquin — with an overseas province were “very far along”, the Bishop of Fort Worth, Texas, the Rt Revd Jack Iker, told Forward in Faith UK’s National Assembly in London last Saturday.
“Our plan is not only to disassociate . . . from the Episcopal Church, but to officially constitutionally reaffiliate with an existing orthodox province of the Communion that does not ordain women to the priesthood. These conversations are very far along, but cannot be announced until the province that is considering our appeal has made the final decision,” the Bishop said.
They had reached “the end of the road” in the Episcopal Church. None of them would be able to secure consecration of “orthodox” bishops-elect under the canons of the Episcopal Church, as they would need
the consent of a majority of the diocesan standing committees and of the Episcopal Church’s bishops — “and that is simply not going to happen”.
Rather than wait until an elected candidate was turned down, they had decided to secure their own futures by separating from the constitution and canons of ECUSA. The election of a woman as Presiding Bishop had made their position “untenable”; and they believed that their request for alternative Primatial oversight had been rejected: within the Episcopal Church, it was “dead”.
“The Primates put forward a very workable plan that we were willing to go along with when they met at Dar es Salaam,” Bishop Iker said; but the Bishops had overwhelmingly objected that, and had encouraged ECUSA’s Executive Council to do the same. Similarly, the Bishops had rejected the Windsor report.
“It is our contention that the Episcopal Church has decided to walk away from the Anglican Communion, and our Forward in Faith dioceses will walk with the Anglican Communion.”
“Messy” litigation would reach “another level of controversy when entire dioceses attempt to separate from the Episcopal Church”, Bishop Iker said. The “official structure” had made it clear that it would declare those sees vacant, depose the bishops, and call a convention in order to reconstitute what it called “continuing dioceses”.
The Common Cause Partnership into which the Forward in Faith bishops had entered, with the meeting in Pittsburgh, represented more than 600 congregations, and ten different jurisdictions and organisations. Fifty-one bishops had organised themselves as a college of bishops that would meet together every six months. They had adopted a timeline leading to a constitutional convention some time in 2009. Its purpose would be “to form an orthodox province of the Anglican Communion in North America”.
FiF dioceses would have full communion only with those those Common Cause partners that did not ordain women to the priesthood. “Co-operation with the bodies which do ordain women or receive women cannot extend to communio in sacris, but we will co-operate with them in every way possible in a state of continuing impaired communion.”
Further, leaders of the Anglican Communion Network and the Common Cause Partnership were “fully committed to undertaking a substantial theological study of the question of the ordination of women, once the structures are in place and we have relatively settled in. We will have a chance, in other words, to bring those who now accept this innovation to reconsideration of their decision in the future.”
In the new Common Cause Partnership or a restructured “orthodox” province in North America, FiF dioceses would be free first to maintain their own line of episcopal succession, to select, form, ordain, and deploy their own ordinands, to reject any decisions of the partnership which were contrary to their theological position, and to pursue their own ecumenical relationships.
To withdraw from the Episcopal Church, they needed to vote for secession at two successive annual conventions, the Bishop said. San Joaquin was to vote for the second time on 1 December. Quincy’s result would be known “before the day is out”. Fort Worth’s “first reading” would be on 17 November.