The Bishop’s Committee of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, a mission congregation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, has informed Bishop Jack Iker that they wish to join the U.S. Anglican Ordinariate of the Roman Catholic Church when the Ordinariate begins functioning on Jan. 1, 2012. The Rev. Christopher Stainbrook, vicar of the church, intends to resign from the ordained ministry in order to seek admission to holy orders within the Ordinariate.
The Bishop’s Committee ”“ a body of elected lay leaders in the congregation ”“ discussed its decision with the Bishop and other key diocesan officers ”“ including the President of the Standing Committee, the President of the diocesan Corporation, and the Chancellor ”“ in a meeting Tuesday, Nov. 29. Approximately 90 persons worship at St. Timothy’s each Sunday. It is not known how many members of the congregation intend to join the Ordinariate.
St. Timothy’s, which was founded in 1956, became a parish in 1960, but had to revert to mission status in 1993, requiring significant financial support from the Diocese to continue operations.
Bishop Iker has asked that an open forum be held on Dec. 11 with the entire congregation, and, one week later, that a vote be taken to determine the will of the members. This will provide a benchmark number so that the Bishop can make provision for worship and pastoral ministry to that portion of the congregation that will be staying in the Diocese.
Bishop Iker said, “While we regret that many members of St. Timothy’s feel called at this time to leave our fellowship for the Roman Catholic Church, we respect their conscience and spiritual discernment in this matter. We live in a very conflicted time in the life of the Church, and it is important to maintain charity and patience with one another. We wish them well, in the name of the Lord.”
Notice of the intention of the Bishop’s Committee and plans for the open forum and vote are being communicated in a letter to the congregation. The text of the letter is below.
Dear Friends in Christ,
On Sunday, Dec. 11, and Sunday, Dec. 18, we will have two very important meetings for all members of St. Timothy’s Church. Please join us in the Parish Hall following the 9:30 a.m. Solemn Mass on these dates. All active members are strongly encouraged to attend these meetings pertaining to the future of our congregation. They are being held with Bishop Iker’s full knowledge and support.
The December 11th meeting will be informational and will focus on the petition of the Bishop’s Committee for St. Timothy’s to be admitted, as priest and congregation, to the Anglican Ordinariate in the Roman Catholic Church when it is established on Jan. 1, 2012. After this petition was sent to Bishop Iker last week, the Bishop’s Committee and Father Stainbrook met with the Bishop and key officers of the Diocese of Fort Worth on Tuesday, Nov. 29, to discuss the best way to address this concern. If approved by our members, the most likely possibility would be for the St. Timothy’s Ordinariate group to pay a use fee for the buildings until the property litigation is finally resolved by the courts.
The following representatives of Bishop Iker and the Diocese will be present on Dec. 11 to address our concerns and answer any question you may have: Dean Ryan Reed, President of the Standing Committee; Bishop Keith Ackerman, President of Forward in Faith; and Shelby Sharpe, lead attorney for the Diocese in the litigation.
To encourage attendance and foster fellowship, a lunch will be served prior to the open forum.
This meeting will be followed by a week for prayer, reflection, and the opportunity for clarification, before the December 18th meeting where all eligible members will have the opportunity to vote on whether or not St. Timothy’s should join the Ordinariate at this time, as proposed. The results will be presented to Bishop Iker for his consideration prior to being announced to the congregation.
We urge all voting members of St. Timothy’s to attend these two very important meetings. Eligibility for voting will be the same as at the Annual Meeting:
1. Attend church on every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation unless for good and sufficient cause prevented. [These causes are (a) serious illness or infirmity, (b) necessity to perform charitable service, (c) unavoidable obligations connected with one’s vocation, and (d) unavoidable difficulties with travel.]
2. Contribute to the financial upkeep of the Congregation.
3. Have been confirmed or received by a Bishop of this Church or of a Church in communion with this Church.
4. Have received Holy Communion at least three times in the preceding twelve (12) months.
5. Not be under ecclesiastical discipline or censure.
6. Be enrolled (via letter from another congregation or Confirmation register) as a communicant of this Congregation and be at least 16 years of age.
Do pray for God’s wisdom and guidance as we seek His will in this decision.
Faithfully in Christ,
Bishop Iker and Father Stainbrook