Nearly eighty percent of the clergy and lay delegates to the 26th diocesan convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth on Saturday voted to leave the Episcopal Church to join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, joining other dioceses and individuals who have left that church following intense theological and moral controversies.
Among the diocese’s voting clergy, 72 voted to leave the General Convention of the Episcopal Church while 19 voted against, VirtueOnline.org reports. Among the diocese’s voting lay delegates, 102 voted to leave while 25 opposed the proposal.
Similar numbers voted to join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, whose archbishop, Gregory Venables, sent a message to the diocese, saying:
“In spite of the tragic circumstances which have made your costly decision necessary we rejoice with you at the opportunity to serve God together in His ongoing and glorious mission to extend His Kingdom.”
Dr. John Burk objected to leaving the Episcopal Church, saying the proposal was invalid because of its inconsistencies with the constitution and canons of that body.
“The propositions would violate the interests of generations of Episcopalians who, long before this diocese existed, sacrificed to contribute time, talent, and treasure to build up the body of Christ through the ministry of Episcopal Church, not some other church, in this area,” he said.
Judy Mayo, a lay woman, favored the resolution, saying children are “bombarded by the world’s values” and the Episcopal General Convention “makes things more and more confusing for both straight and gay people.”
“A husband wearing a dress and skirts to teach Sunday School in church, another pastor wants to perform same-sex unions. Young people crave a safe haven. Bible churches have something steady and secure to hold onto. In The Episcopal Church (TEC) we have shifting sands, relationships of every sort are accepted. We are on a collision mode. The Diocese of Ft. Worth is held in trust for the diocese not beyond to the TEC. The notion of a national church is mythical,” she said, according to VirtueOnline.
Episcopal Bishop of Fort Worth Jack Iker addressed the delegates:
“This past year has been a tense and at times contentious period in the life of our diocese. Every one of our congregations has engaged the controversies that are before us, some more than others. Most of our churches have hosted forums and conducted study groups on why we are doing what we are doing. Differences of opinion remain in our church family, but we cannot avoid the decision that is before us. Some can no longer remain within the structures of The Episcopal Church, and others cannot bring themselves to leave TEC, even though they may disagree with the direction it is headed.”
“Some have encouraged us to stay and fight as the faithful remnant in TEC, to work for reform from within. I can only reply by quoting the saying that ‘the definition of insanity is to keep on doing the same thing, expecting different results.’ The time has come to choose a new path and direction, to secure a spiritual future for our children and our grand-children.”
Urging the separation to proceed “without rancor or ill will,” he continued:
“This diocese stands for orthodox Christianity, and we are increasingly at odds with the revisionist practices and teachings of the official leadership of The Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church we once knew no longer exists. To contend for the faith as traditional Episcopalians has brought us to this time of realignment in the Body of Christ.”
Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, responded to the vote in a Saturday statement, saying:
“The Episcopal Church grieves the departures of a number of persons from the Diocese of Fort Worth. We remind those former Episcopalians that the door is open if they wish to return. We will work with Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth to elect new leadership and continue the work of the gospel in that part of Texas. The gospel work to which Jesus calls us demands the best efforts of faithful people from many theological and social perspectives, and The Episcopal Church will continue to welcome that diversity.”
On November 8 the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, Illinois, while meeting at its annual synod, also voted to leave the Episcopal Church and join the Province of the Southern Cone on a temporary basis. According to the Episcopal News Service, the vote to leave the church passed among clergy by 41 to 14, while laity approved by 54 to 12.
Fort Worth and Quincy join the dioceses of San Joaquin and Pittsburgh in seceding from the Episcopal Church.