Bishop Iker’s address (cont.)
It is also good news to be able to report to you that confirmations and receptions in the Diocese have been up by 22% in the past year and that again this year the proposed assessment formula allows for a ½ percent reduction on income over the first $50,000. We have come a long way in reducing our assessments, and I call to your attention a blue sheet in your packet (at the end of the financials) that will show the progress we have made. When I came to the Diocese in 1993, the assessment was 15.5% on the first $50,000 of income, 17.5% between $50,000 and $100,000, and 19.5% of everything above $100,000. At the conclusion of this Convention, it will be 10% on the first $50,000 and 16% on income over that amount. This means more dollars for ministry and outreach on the local level, but it requires careful and prudent budgeting on the diocesan level, where 29% of our income goes directly to missions. Without such support from the Diocesan budget, many of our smaller congregations simply could not survive.
I am also happy to report to you that the Executive Council, which has the canonical authority to set the assessment formula on an annual basis, has voted that any new congregations coming into the Diocese in the future will be assessed only 10% of their income, if they are located outside the original 24 country boundaries that composed the Diocese in 1982 at our formation. This will broaden the financial base of the Diocese and reduce the financial obligation placed upon new churches that may wish to join our fellowship in the years ahead. It is a sound stewardship decision.
The proposed Budget provides for a 2% cost of living increase for all mission clergy and the diocesan staff. I hope that each parish will do the same for their priest and for any lay staff employed by the congregation.
In closing this address, I want to comment briefly upon the recent decision of Archbishop Robert Duncan to appoint a Theological Task Force on Holy Orders, to conduct a study of the ordination of women in the Anglican Church in North America. As you know, while the Constitution stipulates that women may not be consecrated as Bishops in ACNA, the Canons leave it up to each diocese to decide if women may or may not be ordained as priests and deacons. The fact is that a majority of the Dioceses that compose ACNA do not permit the ordination of women to the priesthood, though the common perception is otherwise. Given this difference, it was discussed in the early days of forming ACNA that a full theological study of women in Holy Orders would have to be undertaken in the near future. It is an issue that continues to divide us.
At the July Assembly of Forward in Faith the following resolution was adopted:
Be it resolved that FIFNA, in Assembly at Belleville, IL, on July 11, 2012, does hereby call the ACNA
College of Bishops for a voluntary moratorium on any further ordinations of women to the Priesthood
until a comprehensive theological inquiry is undertaken and completed on the question of the ordination
of women as it relates to the wider question of the nature of faith and order of the church (ecclesiology).
In August our Standing Committee endorsed this resolution and notified the other ACNA Dioceses of this request for a moratorium. Other Dioceses have done the same in recent months. However, for many of these Dioceses, they are also theologically opposed to ordaining women as deacons, and they have requested that the moratorium include such ordinations to the diaconate as well as to the priesthood. I am in the distinct minority of Bishops who are opposed to women priests, but have permitted the ordination of women deacons. It was an issue in the Diocese when I became the Coadjutor Bishop in 1993, and it remains an issue among us still today, especially among the clergy.
Therefore, I am announcing today a moratorium on the ordination of women deacons in this Diocese, at least until such time as the Theological Task Force completes its study. In no way does this affect the continuing ministry of the current women deacons in the Diocese, now or in the future. They have my continuing support, respect and appreciation. Nor does it have any affect on women who are currently postulants or candidates for ordination. It only applies to women aspirants from this date forward.
I realize that some will be pleased by this decision, while others will be disappointed. I care deeply for all of you and simply request that we be patient and loving toward one another in the midst of our differing views on this issue that is before us.
Please do pray for the members of the Task Force as they begin this difficult work. I will keep you apprised of the progress of their study in the months ahead. We continue to believe that ACNA, though imperfect, is the best way forward for orthodox Anglicans on this continent. Other Provinces of the Anglican Communion recognize that we are the voice of biblical, historic Anglican belief and practice in North America, and when they invite Primates to attend global meetings or the installation of newly elected Primates, it is Archbishop Robert Duncan who is invited, not the Presiding Bishop of TEC.
Thank you all for your faithfulness and prayers as we continue to stand firm in the faith and zealous in our witness to the Gospel. It is a joy and an honor to serve with you as Bishop of this Diocese. As we face the challenges and opportunities of the coming year, let us do so with faith and with hope in the Lord, as we “lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, till all the world adore his sacred name.” (Hymn 473)