Diocese of Fort Worth responds to request from St. Timothy’s Committee

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

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Cono Sur [formerly Southern Cone], Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

16 comments on “Diocese of Fort Worth responds to request from St. Timothy’s Committee

  1. Charles52 says:

    This was one of the first Episcopal parishes I visited when exploring the Episcopal Church in the early 70s. I remember that the Prayers of the People included a petition for “Paul, Our Patriarch”, a reference, of course, to then pope Paul VI. I thought that an odd prayer and the form of petitions, as opposed to the LBP, odd as well. Of course, it’s now standard in the BCP 1979 and Roman Rite. I also went to an ordination there in the 80s with a friend who wanted to see the bishop in a sedan chair. However, they confined themselves to flabella.

    The parish is now a mission, but at one time the staff included two vicars as well as the rector, with housing on the property; they were considering a move to the suburbs, as that neighborhood had changed, but it fell through. Had they ever built their permanent church on the property (they worship to this day in what was meant to be a parish hall), it would have been a truly wonderful site.

    Both the Anglican Diocese of Fort Worth (Bp. Iker’s group) and the RC Diocese have vital parishes in this general part of town, but they are heavily oriented to Hispanic culture. It would be nice if St. Timothy’s could reach out to the heavily African-American community around them, as well as preserving their Anglican roots. But I suppose that’s not realistic.

  2. Henry says:

    What–you mean we are not immediately going to file lawsuits to keep the property??? You mean we are willing to work with the congregation to meet everyone’s needs??? Wow…what a concept! I continue to be so very thankful for +Iker!!!

  3. Connie Sandlin says:

    I like Iker.

  4. Charles52 says:

    Bp. Iker showed true Christian charity to those parishes that remained with TEC, and there is every reason to suppose he will do the same in this case. The lawsuit by TEC complicates the matter, of course.

    It’s also significant the Bp. Iker has a good relationship with our RC Bishop Vann, who is the new ecclesiastical delegate to the Anglican Use, and, I believe, assisting Cardinal Weurl with the Ordinariate. Which is to say that a happy outcome of all of this business remains a real possibility. Real ecumenism and charity at work.

    Local factoid : St. Mary the Virgin parish in Arlington, the first to come into the Anglican Use as a community, was founded by folks who got their formation at St. Timothy’s, but got tired of the drive. So it’s kind of a circle closing.

  5. wvparson says:

    I wonder whether TEC will now go after the RC church for the St. Timothy’s property?

  6. Martin Reynolds says:

    The RC Church have made it clear in the past that they will not accept any property over which there is questionable title, nor will they become a party to any legal battle to gain possession.

    It will be interesting to see how this works out.

  7. montanan says:

    This is quite gracious of +Iker. The argument used to keep property with the congregation in most of the separations – that the congregation has paid for the property, the upkeep, etc. – doesn’t apply to congregations which have been in mission status. In those cases the Diocese has done so – and could make a great case for keeping it. Maybe that is why the letter says:
    [blockquote]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.[/blockquote]

  8. Sarah says:

    RE: “It will be interesting to see how this works out.”

    Looks fairly simple to me — the congregation gets to remain in the property for a use fee until the litigation goes one way or the other. It’s usually pretty easy when Christians operate like Christians.

    If the current leaders of TEC win, the congregation gets booted. If not, the congregation stays.

  9. Martin Reynolds says:

    I thought I had posted last night but must have been mistaken.

    I am sorry if I have missed the simple answer here, that would not be the first time!
    But my question is to whom will the Roman Catholic diocese pay the rent?

  10. Charles52 says:

    Martin Reynolds –

    A parish of the Ordinariate is not part of the local diocese; an Ordinariate answers directly to the CDF in Rome. Presumably, St. Timothy’s will continue to pay a use fee to the Episcopal (Iker) diocese until the lawsuit is settled. If the diocese prevails, I’m sure some arrangement will be worked out; if TEC prevails, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. In neither case would I expect the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth to take title, unless it’s on an interim basis while the Ordinariate systems are put in place.

    This raises an interesting question. Catholic bishops hold title to all property in the diocese while they hold that See. Will the same arrangement obtain in the Ordinariates?

  11. Martin Reynolds says:

    Yes, it is difficult, isn’t it to talk about the new Ordinariate without confusing the structures, for although you are correct in saying there is no diocese the norms say it is “juridically comparable to a diocese.” and you rightly use the word “parish” to describe the group seeking “corporate reunion” yet these are not parishes as we have known them.

    Here in the UK these “parishes” have all had to leave their buildings and begin worship in locations that are often some distance from the geographical area they once served. It would seem that many are made up of people who did not in the first place live within the parish boundaries of the church they have left, it is often the case that the more catholic or evangelical the worship is in the parish church the more eclectic the congregation.

    Just how these “parishes” are to be recognised or described apart from the worshipping community is yet to be discovered. That too promises to be interesting.

    You suggest “St. Timothy’s will continue to pay a use fee to the Episcopal (Iker) diocese”, I think this assumes a continuity that cannot be. If this group of people is accepted as a potential Roman Catholic parish within the American Ordinariate then after suitable preparation and through the sacraments of Confirmation and Ordination and with a new prayer book they will cease to be who they are. That new Roman Catholic parish may want the continuity you suggest but I would argue that as a RC parish they have new responsibilities and obligations.

    As I remember the receipt of rent for a building has been seen in the past as a prima facie evidence of title, if this remains true then the Roman Catholic Church will consider carefully the consequences of paying the (Iker) diocese. I am equally convinced that if the local TEC bishop were to make overtures to the local RC bishop or the (yet unnamed) “ordinary” then Canon Law would make the continued use of the present building unlikely.

  12. Charles52 says:

    Mr. Reynolds –

    The situation you describe may obtain in the U.K., but not in the U.S., not by canon or civil law. Rent here implies nothing about title or ownership, but merely conveys to the renter the right to use the property for a specified period. The use fee is not, btw, my notion, but a comment on the parish website. The complication here is between the Iker and TEC dioceses, not between the Iker and RC dioceses.

    And yes, I use the term “parish” generically, to mean a worshiping community. At least in St. Timothy’s case, parish boundaries have been relatively irrelevant for many years.

  13. Connie Sandlin says:

    Despite Ms. Schori’s claims that she only objected to another Anglican entity using TEC property, her lawyers are hard at work in Fort Worth to prevent conversion of St. Timothy’s to use by a Roman Catholic congregation: http://anglicanink.com/article/threat-lawsuit-blocks-ordinariate-vote

  14. Henry says:

    So sad…as usual, +Iker is trying to be pastoral and TEC only cares about the property!

  15. NoVA Scout says:

    No. 13: I think the problem is that if the Episcopal Diocese in Ft. Worth has a claim to the property, it wouldn’t do for the Iker Episcopal Diocese to give it away to someone else while the matter is before the courts. The court order referred to clearly is intended to prevent that (for obvious reasons). What the Episcopal Diocese is doing is simply reminding the parties of their obligations under that order. The real story here is not that the Diocese would object to the Iker Diocese alienating the property, it is that the Iker Diocese would jump out so quickly to start a process to get rid of it while it is subject to dispute.
    Moreover, I cannot imagine that the Roman Catholic hierarchy would be all that keen to take a property whose ownership is sub judice. Best to get that cleared up first, wouldn’t one think?

  16. Charles52 says:

    Except, of course, that the proposal was not to “give it away”, but to rent the property to the congregation until the lawsuit is settled. If you know the area, as I do, you realize the property has no commercial and little residential value, so TEC has saddled Bp. Iker with an empty building, as noted above.

    I’m curious what Catholic parish has stepped up and offered space. There isn’t one in the immediate neighborhood and the closer ones are all pretty filled up with their own congregations. Of course, St. Timothy’s has not been tied to it’s geography since the 60s (they tried to move to southwest Fort Worth), so it could be anywhere.