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December 17 - Presentment Issued

November 19 - Church Attorney’s Report Received

September 5 - Standing Committee Hires Church Attorney

August 13 - Standing Committee Press Release

Fort Worth To Investigate Charges Against Father Sam Edwards

A Statement of the Primates/Archbishops Council of Ekklesia

American Anglican Council Support for Bishop Iker

To the Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth

Bishop Iker's Letter to Christ Church, Accokeek


Dec. 17, 2001, corrected December 19, 2001

Press Release

Standing Committee Issues Presentment
Against The Rev. Samuel Edwards

FORT WORTH, Texas - Members of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth today took the following action regarding charges against the Rev. Samuel Lee Edwards. (For the actual presentment, click here) The charges were issued May 29, 2001, by clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, under Title IV, Canon 7, Section 1 of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

On the first charge, of a violation of Article III, which requires ordained persons to “conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church,” the committee found that no offense had occurred, and the charge was dismissed.

The second charge, alleging that Fr. Edwards had held or taught doctrine contrary to that of the Episcopal Church, was withdrawn by those bringing the charge, in correspondence dated Nov. 13, 2001.

On the third charge, the committee issued a Presentment accusing Fr. Edwards of violating Title III, Canon 16.2, which requires that no priest officiate more than two months within the limits of any diocese other than that in which he is canonically resident without license of the Ecclesiastical Authority.


In the preface to its finding, the committee stated:

The circumstances that give rise to the necessity of reviewing charges against our brother in Christ, the Rev. Samuel Lee Edwards make clear the unhappy divisions present in the Episcopal Church today. We find ourselves faced with this task because of the estimation made by the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese of Washington that Fr. Edwards is not a “duly-qualified priest” and is thereby considered unfit to be rector of the parish that has called him.

We strongly disagree with that assessment. We also understand that Fr. Edwards moved to Accokeek to take up duties as rector in the belief that he had been duly called. He does hold a view of the meaning, purpose and operation of Canon III.17.2 and .3 that differs from that held by the Rt. Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon, Bishop pro tempore of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. As the Review Committee which reviewed the charges brought against Bishop Dixon concluded, “Both parties apparently hold these views in good faith and with the support of their advisors and canonical commentators.”In the light of this unhappy division, we are charged with, and are committed to, upholding the canonical integrity of the Episcopal Church.

The committee's Presentment will be given to the Ecclesiastical Trial Court of the Diocese of Fort Worth, which will try the case. A Presentment is not a conviction; it is an accusation.

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth consists of 55 congregations serving 24 north central Texas counties. The major cities in the diocese include Fort Worth, Arlington, Hurst-Euless-Bedford, Wichita Falls Grand Prairie, North Richland Hills, Brownwood, and Stephenville. The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker has served as the third Diocesan Bishop of Fort Worth since 1995.

Contact: Suzanne Gill
Communications Officer
Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
2900 Alemeda Street
Fort Worth, TX 76116
817-244-2885 ext. 11
sgill@fwepiscopal.org


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Press Release:
Church Attorney’s Report Received.
At its regular meeting on November 19th, 2001, the Standing Committee of The Diocese of Fort Worth received the report of the church attorney regarding the charges against The Rev'd Sam Edwards and will formulate a response in writing by December 17, 2001.

The Very Rev. William Crary, Jr.
President, Standing Committee
Diocese of Fort Worth

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Press Release
FORT WORTH HIRES CHURCH ATTORNEY

September 5, 2001

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has engaged the services of William R. Cathcart to serve as the Church Attorney who is to conduct a confidential investigation of the charges brought against The Rev. Samuel L. Edwards in the Diocese of Washington.

He serves as the Chancellor of the Diocese of Oklahoma and is a senior partner in the law firm of Cathcart, Gofton & Dooley in Oklahoma City. Mr. Cathcart has been an Episcopalian for 42 years and an active member of All Souls' Church in Oklahoma City since 1967. He has held numerous positions of leadership at the parish level and has served on the diocesan level as a member of the Stewardship Commission, Vice-President of Diocesan Council, and Deputy to Provincial Synod (1990, 1993, 1996 and 1999). He has served as an Alternate Deputy to the General Convention of 1991 and as a Deputy to the General Conventions of 1994, 1997, and 2000. In Province VII, he has served as Chair of the Ordinances Committee and is currently a member of the Court of Review.

Mr. Cathcart is a highly respected attorney who brings to this position the experience and expertise that is required. His office address is:

Cathcart, Gofton & Dooley
2807 Classen Boulevard
Oklahoma City, OK 73106
Telephone: 405-524-1110
Fax: 405-524-4143

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Press Release: August 13, 2001

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth convened in special session today to consider charges against the Rev. Samuel L. Edwards, a priest of this diocese serving as Rector of Christ Church, Accokeek, Maryland in the Diocese of Washington. The charges were filed by the Rev. Canon John Frizzell and other clergy of the Diocese of Washington. They charge Father Edwards with "disobeying both the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church."

Specifically, the allegations state that Father Edwards does not "conform to the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of the Episcopal Church," because of his theological opposition to the ordination of women as priests and bishops. They allege that to hold such a position makes Father Edwards guilty of violating Title IV, Canon 1, Section 1(c) "Holding and teaching publicly or privately, and advisedly, any doctrine contrary to that held by this Church."

Additionally, they charge Father Edwards with violating the canonical provision which states that no member of the clergy may officiate in another Diocese for more than two months without a license from the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese.

The Standing Committee at today’s meeting elected to engage an independent Church Attorney to make a full investigation of the allegations and render a confidential report to the Standing Committee within sixty days of the receipt of their request for an inquiry. Within thirty days of receiving that confidential report, the Standing Committee must convene to consider whether or not a formal Presentment against Father Edwards is to be issued.

August 13, 2001

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Fort Worth To Investigate Charges Against Father Sam Edwards

The Bishop of Fort Worth, The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker, confirmed today that he has called for a special meeting of the Diocesan Standing Committee for Monday, August 13th, in order to consider certain canonical charges that have surfaced in the Diocese of Washington against The Rev. Samuel L. Edwards. Fr. Edwards is the Rector of Christ Church, St. John's Parish, Accokeek, Maryland, but remains a member of the clergy of the Diocese of Fort Worth.

One of the complaints was brought to Bishop Iker from The Rt. Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon, acting as Bishop of Washington. She accuses Fr. Edwards of performing services in the Diocese without a license to officiate. Other charges, which have not yet been forwarded to Fort Worth by Bishop Dixon, were filed by a number of priests resident in the Washington Diocese, accusing Fr. Edwards with violations of the doctrine and discipline of the
Episcopal Church.

Bishop Iker has pledged that a full and impartial investigation will be conducted of all charges against Fr. Edwards. If the facts warrant it, the case will be placed before the Ecclesiastical Court of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth for a trial.

The Bishop re-iterated that Fr. Edwards is a priest in good standing in his Diocese and is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

July 19, 2001

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A Statement of the Primates/Archbishops Council of Ekklesia
By Maurice Sinclair, Primate Southern Cone
July 3, 2001

As Chair of the seven member Primates' and Archbishops' Council guiding Ekkesia, I distribute this letter to make known our support for Bishop Jack Iker's initiative.

We greet you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are writing because we are concerned with the lack of evidence of provision for "sustained pastoral care" in ECUSA as expected in the Pastoral Letter issued from the Primates meeting at Kanuga.

As an immediate consequence we are writing to offer our strong support for Bishop Jack Iker in providing "Episcopal oversight and protection" for Christ Church/St. John's Parish, Accokeek, Md. Our support for his action is based first on our understanding that the canonical requirements of a valid call of the rector have been met. We are informed that The Rev. Samuel Edwards is a priest in good standing of the Diocese of Ft. Worth. In addition, we are given to understand that Bishop Dixon, who has been responsible for the oversight of Christ Church, did not publicly or officially indicate any canonically justifiable reason for not issuing him with a license to serve in the parish to which he was duly called, within the period required for such action to be taken.

We also understand that Fr. Edwards, though unable in conscience to accept women as priests or bishops, has declared that he is willing to acknowledge the institutional responsibilities and authority of Bishop Dixon within the life of the Diocese and in respect of himself and Christ Church. In addition, he has promised that should he at some future time find himself no longer able to fulfill that undertaking he would inform the Bishop and tender his resignation.

In light of the above we, the Primates/Archbishops Council of Ekklesia, urge that Rev. Samuel Edwards be accepted as Rector and licensed forthwith as such. The absence of other evidence of "sustained pastoral care" and oversight, has made Bishop Iker's action particularly appropriate.

In conclusion we would point out that time is running out for the restoration of conditions in which traditional Anglicans can in good conscience remain within dioceses led by bishops committed to the unauthorized experiment of an alternative sexual ethic and the imposition of women's ordination. ECUSA's failure in these areas has directly resulted in marginalizing traditional people, and it has created an environment in which extraordinary alternatives for care and oversight will occur at an increasing rate. In this difficult environment, our support for Bishop Iker, and those who seek to maintain the traditional practice of the faith, is resolute.

+++

Primates and Archbishops Council Guiding Ekklesia:

The Most Rev. Maurice Sinclair (Southern Cone), Chairman
The Most Rev. Drexel Gomez (West Indies)
The Most Rev. Peter Akinola (Nigeria)
The Most Rev. David Gitari (Kenya)
The Most Rev. Yong Ping Chung (SE Asia)
The Most Rev. K.J. Samuel (South India)
The Most Rev. Harry Goodhew (Sydney-Retired)

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American Anglican Council Support for the Provision Of Sustained Pastoral Care And Protection For Christ Church Accokeek
June 8, 2001

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - JUNE 8, 2001

The American Anglican Council (AAC) today announced its support for the recent action by the Bishop of Fort Worth, The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, to provide continued pastoral care for the Rev. Samuel Edwards and provide alternative pastoral care for the congregation of Christ Church, Accokeek, Maryland. The AAC is a network of Episcopal bishops, clergy and laity working for the reform and renewal of the Episcopal Church.

The AAC's support comes in response to the continued refusal by The Rt. Rev. Jane H. Dixon, Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Washington, to accept Fr. Edwards' Letters Dimissory, or transfer papers, from the Diocese of Fort Worth.

"Bishop Iker's action is a very understandable and logical response in light of Bishop Dixon's refusal to accept the Letters Dimissory of Fr. Edwards," said the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh and Chair of the AAC Bishops Advisory Council. "As any bishop would, Bishop Iker is trying to provide responsible pastoral care for his own priest and for an Episcopal parish that has legitimately called that priest."

Bishop Dixon's rejection of Fr. Edwards' transfer documents means that Fr. Edwards still remains under the canonical jurisdiction of Bishop Iker and the Diocese of Fort Worth. For this reason, Bishop Iker's assumption of authority over Christ Church is actually a necessary pastoral response to insure that Fr. Edwards and the congregation receive appropriate episcopal care, since the parish and Fr. Edwards have become completely alienated from Bishop Dixon. As an interim response, Bishop Iker's action does not solve the problem of long-term pastoral care for the parish, which needs to be addressed as soon as Bishop Dixon de-escalates the tensions.

"We join with Bishop Iker in expressing hope that his oversight of Christ Church will only need to be a temporary arrangement until an agreeable solution to this crisis is reached," added Bishop Duncan. "It is time for urgent mediation of this dispute and we ask Presiding Bishop Griswold to take action to put such a process into place."

Several AAC bishops, including Bishop Duncan, have already offered to help mediate the dispute, though their offers have yet to be embraced by either Bishop Dixon or the Presiding Bishop.

"It simply doesn't make sense to continue to allow the Accokeek crisis to tear apart our Church," said the Very Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, AAC President and CEO. "Let's work together to find a constructive solution to this dispute before even deeper wounds are inflicted. We do feel strongly, however, that any solution should include a more formalized system of sustained pastoral care for the parish."

Over the past several years the AAC has issued repeated calls for sustained pastoral care (also known as alternative episcopal oversight) in the Episcopal Church. In the Fall of 1999, the AAC introduced to the House of Bishops the Jubilee Initiative, a common-sense plan for sustained pastoral care. This plan would allow a parish that holds irreconcilable theological disagreements with its own bishop to seek pastoral care from a more theologically supportive Episcopal Bishop from another diocese. A similar arrangement has been in place in England for years. Many now argue that if such a system had existed in the Episcopal Church, the current crisis in Accokeek could have been easily avoided.

"The ironic thing in the Accokeek case is that Bishop Iker's action, in a crisis situation, has essentially instituted sustained pastoral care in the Episcopal Church," said Canon Anderson. "While the AAC will continue to work for a constructive and mutually agreeable way for sustained pastoral care be implemented in our Church, it does appear that the concept is now a reality."

Contact: Bruce Mason 202-296-5360 bmason@americananglican.org

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To the Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
May 29, 2001

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In light of the events of this past Sunday at Christ Church in Accokeek, Maryland, I am writing to explain to you my own position in this situation and to ask for your prayers. For your additional information, I have attached the letter I sent to the Vestry and Rector of the congregation, in which I grant their request for "Episcopal oversight and protection."

1. If we are one Church, then the standards for serving in one diocese should be the same in all dioceses. As a priest in good standing in the Episcopal Church and in this diocese, Fr. Sam Edwards has the right to accept a call to a parish in any diocese of this Church, and I believe I must defend that right just as I would for any of you. He has assured Bishop Jane Dixon in writing that he and his parish have no intentions of leaving the Episcopal Church and that should they ever consider doing so, he would resign first. Yet she refuses to accept this assurance.

2. The ministry that I have agreed to extend to this congregation is not a canonical or juridical one, but a pastoral and spiritual one. Though there are canonical provisions to deal with the breakdown of the pastoral relationship between a vestry and their rector, no such provision is provided for the breakdown of the relationship between a vestry and their bishop. It is because such a breakdown has occurred between the vestry at Accokeek and the acting bishop of the Diocese of Washington that I have agreed, at the request of the vestry, to give the parish my episcopal care and support. By doing so, I hope to create a holding ground that will keep both the congregation and their priest within the Episcopal Church. My only desire is to find a creative solution to the present impasse, which will stop all persecution and heal the divisions between the parish and their canonical diocesan authority. If, as I sincerely hope, Bishop Dixon invites me to function there on her behalf, this will do much to unify the congregation and present a workable way for all of us to move forward. I am working with other bishops and church leaders, including our Presiding Bishop, to find a way through this controversy, and I am hopeful that we will succeed.

3. Accokeek is a microcosm of the problems facing our communion. We must get it right here, because it symbolizes so much of the tensions that are present throughout the Church. We must not allow a woman bishop to refuse to accept a traditionalist priest into her diocese, because of his convictions. We cannot silently stand by as a revisionist bishop, who has endorsed the gay agenda for our Church, attempts to prevent an orthodox priest, who rejects this agenda, from having his rightful place in the diocese where he has been duly called to ministry.

4. The 1998 Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meetings of 2000 and 2001, and our own House of Bishops have expressed support for the concept of "sustained pastoral care," including appropriate episcopal ministry, for congregations that are alienated by changes in the life of the Church. My decision is in pursuit of this aim. We are breaking new ground, and this requires courtesy, sensitivity, and patience on all sides. I am hopeful that in the days ahead, my new relationship to the parish in Accokeek will provide a helpful example to the whole church as to how we can continue to live together with the highest degree of communion possible, in spite of
theological differences.

I know that this new situation may raise many other concerns for you. Please feel free to contact me if I can assist you in addressing any of them.

Faithfully in
Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth

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May 26. 2001


The Rector, Wardens and Vestry
Christ Church, Saint John's Parish
600 Farmington Road West
Accokeek, MD 20607

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Greetings to each of you, in the name Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Savior. May His grace and peace be with you always.

I am writing in response to your letter of May 22, 2001, in which you request that St. John's Parish be placed under my "Episcopal oversight and protection." After a great deal of prayer and reflection, I have decided to agree to your request, effective immediately. The Rev. Samuel Edwards, who has served as a priest in good standing under my oversight for the past eight years, will continue to serve as your duly called Rector. This arrangement will continue for as long as the current circumstances make it necessary.

I am taking this step because the Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Washington, acting as Bishop pro tempore, in refusing to accept your Vestry's call of Fr. Edwards as your Rector, is denying you that "sustained pastoral care" which, in their Pastoral Letter of 2001 from Kanuga, the Anglican primates committed themselves to secure.

Bishop Jane Dixon's actions appear to be contrary to the canons of the Episcopal Church, and also violate the spirit of the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution III. 2, on "The unity of the Anglican Communion," which reads in part: "[This Conference] calls upon the provinces of the Communion to affirm that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans; and therefore calls upon the Provinces of the Communion to make provision, including appropriate episcopal ministry, as will enable them to live in the highest degree of Communion possible."

The failure in the Diocese of Washington to find a way to respect recognized theological positions shared by many throughout the Anglican Communion is in danger of breaking the peace and unity of the Church, and is depriving you of necessary pastoral care. This I pray may now be rectified by my intervention.

I also pray that this new pastoral arrangement between us may only be temporary and that in due course a graceful accommodation may be made by the Diocese of Washington whereby your call to Fr. Edwards may be ratified canonically.

As together we look forward to a resolution of the controversies afflicting you, please know that in addition to my oversight and protection, you have my deep felt love and prayers. God bless you.

Faithfully in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth

cc: Archbishop George Carey
Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold
Bishop Jane Dixon

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