40 days of convincing

The Bishop of Fort Worth has told the clergy, lay leaders and convention delegates of his diocese that he would like the members of convention to pray and study before they vote to take the diocese out of the Episcopal Church using materials developed and copyrighted by The Falls Church and Truro Church Virginia, both of which have left the Episcopal Church to join CANA, the Convocation of Anglicans in America.

Called “Forty Days of Discernment” the material purports to offer a balanced view allowing people to choose whether to stay in the Episcopal Church or vote to join a new entity. In fact, the material makes a step by step case for separation by assuming that the teachings and actions of the Episcopal Church are entirely of human origin, separated from faithfulness to Christ and ignorant of scripture. The supporting materials only point to conservative and separatist websites, blogs and other writings.

Bishop Iker wrote:

As the date approaches for our momentous Diocesan Convention vote in November, many parish clergy have attempted to make certain that their parishioners understand the issues surrounding the proposal that we separate from the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. In several places parish forums have been held, where outside speakers have been brought in to present the opposing sides on the question of realignment. Some of you have preached sermons on this subject, written articles for your parish newsletter, and even in a couple of places brought in General Convention authorities to speak to your people. In addition, several different groups have been formed in the Diocese, including Remain Episcopal, Via Media, and Remain Faithful, which have attempted to educate, organize, and motivate the laity to take sides on the question: “Should we remain with TEC or with the Diocese?” Legal counsel has been engaged, lawsuits are being anticipated, various steering committees have been formed, and outside assistance from the “815” church headquarters in New York is being sought.

An important factor that has often been forgotten in all of the controversy is the need for prayerful discernment that seeks, above all else, to know what God’s will is for us at this particular time in our life together as a diocesan family.

As your bishop and chief pastor, I am inviting and urging that every congregation in this Diocese enter into an intentional 40-day period of prayerful discernment to be concluded the week prior to our Convention on November 14 and 15. This means that our start-up day would have to be either September 28 or 29. Furthermore, I am proposing that we all use the same materials and process that will lead us in this venture.

The Bishop’s letter assumes, of course, that no one–especially those opposed to separation–has spent time in prayer and discernment. He also assumes that a diocese can unilaterally separate “from General Convention of the Episcopal Church” when what is in fact being proposed is the creation of new, self-identified entity that would leave their diocese (which was after all created by that same convention) and the Episcopal Church behind.

Katie Sherrod writes in her blog:

I am very glad Bishop Iker isn’t going to “force” us all to participate in this, given that he has no power to force anyone except clergy to do so.

But as usual, he makes no effort to be even-handed. Just look at how he phrases the question: “Should we remain with TEC or with the Diocese?”

Many of us plan to do both, bishop, since you can’t “take’ the diocese anywhere.

The question should be “Should we remain with the Episcopal Church, or leave it for some other entity?” The diocese stays right here, and will reorganize itself, elect a new bishop, and get on with God’s work in this part of Texas.

The materials the bishop mentions have been produced and copyrighted by The Falls Church and Truro Church Virginia, both of which have left the Episcopal Church to join CANA, the Convocation of Anglicans in America. They claim Martyn Minns, former rector of Truro Church, as their bishop, he having been consecrated by Peter Akinola, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

I guess I should be glad that at last, Bishop Iker is encouraging discussion of the issues here. But you know, somehow, I just can’t bring myself to trust that anything produced by this group wasn’t created to produce the outcome they want — acquiescence to Bishop Iker’s desire to leave the Episcopal Church.

Because that is the intent. To leave the Episcopal Church. That’s what “separating from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church” means.

Citing the “40 Days” materials themselves, Mark Harris points out that the “thought experiment” at the end of the period

…is in reality a blatant effort to steer the participant into the third option. The first is totally discredited, as it assumes TEC to be the land of heretics and theological poison. The second option is little better, offering lots of suffering and little return except for a long period of attempting to regain control of TEC. Only the third is presented in any positive light at all.

In reading through the whole of the 40 Days of Discernment it is clear from the outset that the “problem” is presented as being the result of TEC’s failure as a church, and who indeed wants to related to a failure? This is not an aid to clear thinking, it is an insult to clear thinking.

Diocese of Fort Worth: A Pastoral Request

Desert’s Child: Thanks, but no thanks.

Preludium: Forty Days of Discernment: A Setup Job.

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