St. Andrew's Episcopal Church

An Exchange of Letters

TEC provisional bishop writes to Fort Worth congregation • The Rector and Vestry respond

  On Feb. 8, The Episcopal Church's appointed bishop wrote the following to the members of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, a parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, under the pastoral leadership of the Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker:
 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

I am writing as your bishop to give you an update on developments in the Episcopal Church and in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Events of the past two years have caused a great deal of confusion about the diocese and The Episcopal Church. Sadly, many have been misinformed. My hope is that this letter will be helpful to you as you seek to clarify issues.

First of all, let me clearly state that The Episcopal Church welcomes everyone, no matter where you are on your spiritual journey. The mission of The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is to restore the world to unity with God and one another through Jesus Christ, just as our Catechism says in our 1979 Book of Common Prayer (page 855). We look forward to you joining us in that work.

Some Episcopalians have been told that if The Episcopal Church prevails in the current litigation that The Episcopal Church will take your place of worship away from you. Let me state plainly – that is not true.

You will continue to worship at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Your parish will continue to operate under the Canons of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and The Episcopal Church.

Individuals who choose to leave The Episcopal Church cannot continue to control Episcopal Church property, just as if you leave your place of employment, you cannot continue to occupy the property of your former employer and use their name.

The Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church (church law) hold that all property is held in trust for the use and benefit of the local diocese and The Episcopal Church. That Canon was passed by General Convention in 1979 and was thus in effect when the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was fanned out of the western half of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. The canon exists because no church buildings belong only to the current occupants of those buildings. Instead those buildings belong to generations of Episcopalians who worshipped there in the past and who will worship there in the future.

The Episcopal Church is working to protect the assets built up over 170 years in this part of Texas by generations of Episcopalians for the use of The Episcopal Church so they will be available for use by the great-great-grandchildren of those Episcopalians and for generations beyond. The Episcopal Church will not allow anyone to take away those assets from you or your descendants.

These are the reasons for the lawsuits-to protect your church and the rich heritage of Episcopalians in North Texas, Indeed, in 1994 Bishops Pope and Iker appropriately used this remedy when they authorized litigation in the 153rd District Court of Tarrant County involving the Church of the Holy Apostles in western Fort Worth.

In the Holy Apostles case, the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the minority of loyal members at Holy Apostles sued the former rector and members of the vestry who had left The Episcopal Church to join another Christian body but attempted to keep control of the church property, funds, records, and other property of the parish. To his credit, Bishop Iker used the remedy of litigation to preserve that beautiful property for the continued ministry of The Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, and the parishioners of Holy Apostles.

The Episcopal Church has a rich history in this part of North Texas. It has been the Anglican presence since 1838, when our geographic territory was included as part of other missionary districts 01 dioceses of The Episcopal Church, including most recently the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. In June 1982, the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas sought the division of its own territory into two dioceses, a process that had to be approved by General Convention. In September 1982, General Convention approved the division of Dallas into two dioceses, with all or part of 24 counties in Texas, including Tarrant County, to become the "Western Diocese," conditioned upon receipt of assurances "that all of the appropriate and pertinent provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention .. . have been fully complied with.. . " As a deputy from Oklahoma, I voted in favor of that motion heartily. The name ultimately selected for the "Western Diocese" was, of course, the "Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth."

Part of what was agreed in 1982 was that the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church take precedence over the canons of any diocese. The courts in Texas and across the United States are clear that diocesan canons cannot be inconsistent with Episcopal Church Canons. Therefore, efforts of some prior to 2008 to amend articles of incorporation or canons to disclaim affiliation with The Episcopal Church or its interest in property were void. Even a super-majority of members or delegates to diocesan convention cannot unilaterally change the character of the diocese or of any of its parishes or missions.

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and St. Andrew's Episcopal Church are hosting some wonderful events in the next few weeks. More details about these events may be found in other articles in this newsletter, but I want to highlight two of these events.

The first is the annual meeting for St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. The congregation is meeting at Trinity Episcopal Church, 3401 Bellaire Drive South, Fort Worth, TX 76109, on Sunday evenings for worship from the 1928 Prayer Book. On Sunday evening February 13, 2011, following Evening Prayer, St. Andrew's will hold its Annual Parish Meeting when details of finances and other business will be conducted.

The other event is an opportunity to meet the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori at Southcliff Baptist Church, 4100 Southwest Loop 820, Fort Worth, TX, 76109, on Tuesday February 1 5th, beginning at 6:00 pm. Following a brief presentation at 7:00 pm Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori will lead conversation through questions and answers. Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend both of these events.

Again, I want to encourage you to attend the evening worships services at Trinity Episcopal Church, 3401 Bellaire Drive South, Fort Worth, TX 76109, every Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m. We celebrate Holy Communion on the first Sunday of the month and Evening Prayer on the other Sunday evenings. We are continuing the tradition of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church and The Episcopal Church in welcoming everyone.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

In Christ,

Wallis Ohl

 

On Feb. 12, the Rev. Dr. R. William Dickson, Rector of St. Andrew’s, responded:

  An open letter to the members of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Fort Worth February 12Ih, 201 1 Last week TEC continued its harassment of the Diocese and our parish in particular. Bishop Wallis Ohl, who is currently masquerading as the Bishop of Fort Worth under the orders of TEC, sent an absurd letter to St. Andrew's parishioners inviting them to attend their own Annual Meeting later in February. TEC persists in this charade in an effort to confuse the courts and assume control of our churches and our assets. However, be assured that the leadership of St. Andrew's and the Diocese are neither confused nor intimidated. After more than 100 years, St. Andrew"~ remains a bulwark of the Fort Worth Diocese under the godly episcopal oversight of the Right Reverend Jack Leo Iker, sound financially, strong spiritually, and conducting traditional orthodox worship and ministry for Fort Worth families. The conduct of TEC is an abomination; have no fear. Very Sincerely. (on behalf of) Rector and Vestry, St. Andrew's, Fort Worth
 

Read the letters as PDF files: Bishop Ohl's letterEnclosure with letter • Dr. Dickson's reply