The Daughters of the King is an Episcopal Order (for now)

The Presiding Bishop has written a letter to some members of the Order of the Daughters of the King expressing concern that the historically Episcopal order may sever their Episcopal ties.

The Daughters of the King was founded in 1885 by Margaret J. Franklin and describes itself as “a spiritual sisterhood of women dedicated to a life of Prayer, Service and Evangelism. We have made a commitment to Jesus as our Savior, and we follow Him as Lord of our lives.” There are chapters in most dioceses and in every Province of the Episcopal Church and they include members who are Roman Catholic, Lutheran and members of other Anglican Churches.

It is on this latter point, that has raised the question of whether the Daughters of the King will remain an Episcopal Order.

One of the ways that the deep Episcopal ties to the Order was expresed was through the appointment of the National Chaplain to the order, an equivalent to an Episcopal Visitor– was appointed by the Presiding Bishop. The current National Chaplain is the Rt.Rev. John W. Howe, Bishop of Central Florida. The proposed by-laws would allow the Executive Council of the Order to appoint their own National Chaplain.

Traditionally, to be a full, voting member of the DOK, a woman had to be a member of the Episcopal Church. There were associate members of other Christian churches–mainly Roman Catholic and Lutheran, but also of other Anglican churches, including Anglican-related churches not a part of the Anglican Communion or in Communion with the Episcopal Church. In a move described as making the Order more inclusive and fair, the General Assembly voted in 2004 voted to seat “Delegate from Anglican and Roman Catholic chapters …with voice and vote.”

Whether through the consequences of good intentions or by design (or some combination) this has drawn the Daughters of the King right into the middle of the Anglican Controversies, although on a stage not normally visible to most Episcopalians. By allowing Lutheran and Roman Catholic associates to become full members (rather than encouraging these members to form Lutheran and Roman Catholic Orders specific to their own contexts as other religious communities and orders have done), they have opened the door the formerly Episcopal parishes now associated with Anglican-related breakaway groups and denominations to lead the group with its resources out of the Episcopal Church and into a situation where the leadership would only accountable to itself.

A groups of Daughters has gathered to try and keep the Order within the Episcopal Church. Calling themselves The Episcopal Community of Daughters of the King, they are working to call attention to the situation and preserve the Daughters as an Episcopal order rather than an independent, non-denominational and self-contained organization.

It was to this group that the Presiding Bishop wrote:

I applaud the expressed intention of some to present these changes as an avenue of reconciliation. I applaud the intention, but find it short-sighted. The members of the Daughters of the King may do wonderful work at personal reconciliation, but they are incapable of resolving the issues that have caused some to depart The Episcopal Church. The proposed membership changes have the effect of forcing the Order, and its Episcopal members, to leave their historic affiliation with The Episcopal Church. It would, in my view, be far more appropriate to be clear about the historic character of the Daughters, and highlight the members’ ability to welcome others as members of associate chapters. There is nothing wrong with claiming your relationships as faithful members of different strands of the Body of Christ, in support of a common vision, but the origin of that vision and the desire of the members to connect it to The Episcopal Church, or not, needs to be eminently clear. The Order is hampered in fulfilling its mission while it remains mired in these internal controversies.

I would caution the members about the proposal to remove the requirement that the Chaplain to the Order be appointed by the Presiding Bishop, in favor of appointment by the President of the Board. The Chaplain has historically had a guiding role, of the nature of an episcopal visitor to a religious community (an order of nuns or monks). The Chaplain’s appointment is a potential check on overly enthusiastic, narrow, or novel directions espoused by the Board. It is a way in which to keep the Order catholic in the true sense of that word.

You will all continue in my prayers — for faithfulness. clarity, and charity. May your ministry be a blessing to the larger world.

Proposed By-Law changes to be voted upon at this summer’s Triennial meeting would make the following change to their by-laws from this:

Article III. Members

Section 1. All members must be women communicants of the Episcopal Church, or of other Churches in communion with it, or of Churches with the Historic Episcopate but not in communion with it.

To this:

Article III. Members

Section 1. All members must be women communicants of the Episcopal Church, of other Churches in communion with the Episcopal Church, or of Churches with the Historic Episcopate but not in communion with it. Every member of the Order is referred to as a Daughter in these bylaws. All members paying full dues are entitled to equal membership status (right to vote and hold office).

Rationale: All Daughters promise to follow the Rule of Life. “No taxation without representation.”

Karen Potts, in an essay called “Who will you follow?”, says the the proposed changes have been “what we have been doing for years, but it isn’t.”

What this doesn’t say is that affiliate membership will be abolished if this proposed change is made. Abolishing affiliate membership will have this result: The Order will become separated from The Episcopal Church.

We are historically an Order of Episcopal Daughters. We began in the Episcopal Church, and this is the foundation of the Order. In order to preserve our historical integrity, we must retain this option.

The rationale is inane. “All Daughters promise to follow the Rule of Life” is not a reason to abolish affilate membership. It is merely a statement of what all Daughters do. The second part of the Rationale is a ridiculous allusion. “No taxation without representation” alludes to King George III’s punishing his subject, the colonists. Daughters of the King became members of the Order through their own free will.

Florence Krejci wrote about her experience of the changes in the Order and her concerns:

The ensuing conflict has been anything but loving; it has sometimes been unworthy of Christian women. If, as the saying goes, one can preach a better sermon with one’s life than with one’s lips, few observers would have wanted to join a church to which those preachers belonged! I wonder sometimes if the harsh words that have been aimed at sisters represent a speaker who has forgotten that doing so is equivalent to doing it to Jesus our King: “Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these my brethren, you have done it to me.”

We say in our study that we are being intentional about living our baptismal covenant; well, that covenant includes seeking and serving Christ in all persons and loving our neighbors (read “sisters”) as we love ourselves.

Is it too late for us to step back and take another look at what we want to result? Are we all trying to maintain and protect power and status in an arena where that makes no sense? Whatever happened to the example of servant leadership that our Lord gave us on the first Maundy Thursday?

Let’s permit the Episcopal bylaws to serve the Episcopalians and others to be written to satisfy members of other denominations, rather than trying to make one set fit all needs; let’s choose our governing body to serve the Episcopal order and not worry about what governance other Daughters want to have.

It appears that the attempt to dilute the historic Episcopal nature of the Order into the an ecumenical organization exploits well meaning Catholics and Lutherans in the service of breakaway former Episcopalians who are neither in communion with the Episcopal Church nor the Anglican Communion.

In response, the leadership of the Daughters of the King has threatened legal action against the Episcopal group and prohibited them from using the title or insignia of the Order on their publications. The only written response to their concerns on the DOK web site does not answer the concerns of the Episcopal group directly but accuses them of a political agenda. The Executive Councils statement reads in part:

Is the Episcopal Community duplicating the efforts of the officers in your diocese or province? If so, it may be counterproductive. Secondly, if we are an Order, rather than an organization, should we not honor those we have elected (even when we disagree) and work with them rather than bypass them? Exclusion does not promote unity for all our members. Finally, are the efforts of “The Episcopal Community” rooted in a divisive political agenda promoted by disaffected members, or a sincere effort to strengthen the Order?

The Presiding Bishop alludes to the heart of the issue. The Daughters of the King by themselves cannot solve the deep, core issues at the heart of the controversies between those who have left the Episcopal Church (some DOK chapters have migrated to their new denominations with their congregations). If the proposed changes take effect, then it will have the effect of bringing the “Anglican Wars” into congregations that heretofore have neither been involved or interested in choosing up sides.

It is a shame to see a group of women who have dedicated themselves to following Christ through a rule that calls them to “With heart, mind and spirit uphold and bear the cross” “for His Sake” become a wedge for division in the service of those who have left the Episcopal Church.

Here is the website of the Daughters of the King.

Here is the website of The Episcopal Community of the Daughters of the King. And here is the resource page describing the proposed changes to the bylaws, their consequence and how to respond.

Here is the Presiding Bishop’s letter to the Episcopal Community.

Here is Florence Krejci’s essay “The Bylaws of our Order: One Daughter’s Perspective.”

Here is Karen Potts essay “Who Will You Follow?”

Here is the DOKs Executive Council statement concerning the Episcopal Community of the Daughters of the King.

The current by-laws are here and the proposed by-laws are here.

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