Ft Worth: All Saints’ Sues Bishop Jack Iker – the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth receives 4th lawsuit

With three suits pending in two Texas counties, members of the minority that chose to stay in The Episcopal Church (TEC) two years ago have launched another assault on much the same grounds as the first three. Today All Saints’ Episcopal Church on Crestline Road in Fort Worth has sued Bishop Jack Iker personally, in federal court.

There can no longer be any doubt that this litigation is intended to harrass, intimidate, bankrupt, and divert the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, its Corporation, and its leadership – particularly Bishop Iker – from carrying out the mission of the Church.

Ironically, only this weekend Bishop Iker made several comments in jest to a gathering of clergy and laity of the Church of England in London, saying that he had “not checked the Internet today” to see whether he had been sued again.

In dispute now is the right of the Bishop to recognize a parish in the Diocese as All Saints’ Episcopal Church. In November 2008 Bishop Iker was under threat of arrest for trespassing if he so much as set foot on the property of All Saints’ on Crestline. Thus, it was impossible for him to know the will of the majority of the parish so that he could decide whether to release the property to All Saints’, as he soon did for four other parishes that chose to stay in TEC. Instead, in January 2009 he met with concerned members of All Saints’ at another location, in the presence of the parish’s attorney.

They expressed concern about a loyalty oath being required of vestry candidates and other signs that their voices were being disregarded by some parish leaders. The Bishop told them they could try to stay the course, leave as a body, or leave individually to join other parishes. Less than 10 days later approximately 100 parishioners walked out of their annual meeting and organized themselves for worship and ministry in another location.

Title to the property where the church sits is held by the diocesan Corporation, yet never since then has Bishop Iker attempted to interfere with the activities at the Crestline campus. Neither has he attempted to interfere with three other diocesan congregations which occupy diocesan property but identify with TEC.

Moreover, in other cases, where a TEC-loyal minority has split from a parish to worship elsewhere, the Bishop has never attempted to stop a congregation from using the name of the diocesan parish from which it split.

Clearly, this suit is but the latest attempt to demonize Bishop Iker and ignore the decision by an overwhelming majority of delegates to two diocesan conventions – where the Bishop himself has no vote – to separate from TEC. Over and over, the complaint speaks of the Diocese, its Web site, parishes, assessment income – even the worhsip services themselves – as if they belong to Bishop Iker personally.

The fact is that the TEC-ledminority lost, but it has not been gracious. Its leadership is embittered. The suit’s claims of “unfair competition” and “public confusion and harm” are frivolous and would be laughable if not for the fact that litigation and personal animosity damage the cause of the Gospel.

It is time for this wasteful mockery of Christian doctrine and of the civil court system to stop. However, if the minority continues to bring trumped-up charges, we will continue to defend ourselves. To that end, we can also announce the following:

In the case pending in the 141st District Court (Tarrant County), there is no hearing date set at this time. On Oct. 8 the Diocese filed a Motion to Enforce Appellate Mandate and Strike Amended Pleadings. This asks the court to require that the plaintiffs abide by the June 25 appellate ruling, that individual members of the minority group have no authority to bring litigation on behalf of the Diocese.

In the suit filed against Bishop Iker in federal court on Sept. 21, the Diocese’s response, filed over the past several days, includes:

An Original Answer on behalf of Bishop Iker, denying every allegation in the suit. The Answer seeks dismissal of the suit on grounds that the plaintiff’s attorney lacks authority to represent the Diocese and that Bishop Iker does not use or claim the seal or diocesan name personally.

A Complaint in Intervention filed by the Diocese to dismiss the suit against Bishop Iker on the basis that the suit was filed without authorization by those with authority to make such decisions for the Diocese. It seeks all attorneys’ fees and expenses for having to intervene.

A Complaint in Intervention filed by the diocesan Corporation, whose marks have been registered without authorization, asking the court to cancel the registrations, enjoin the minority from their use, and sanction the minority lawyers. In addition, it asks the court to award a sum for damages and the full amount of attorney’s fees incurred.
No hearing is scheduled in the suit at this time.


Archbishop of Canterbury criticises European burqa bans

SPEAKING IN Nagpur, India, on 18th October, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams said that he deplored attempts by governments in Europe to prohibit Muslim women from publicly wearing the burqa, a garment that covers the entire body.

“Governments should have better things to do than ban the burqa,” Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, told an interfaith meeting organized by the National Council of Churches in India at its headquarters in Nagpur, during a visit to India.

France’s constitutional court on 7 October approved a law banning full-face veils in public, which would prevent women wearing garments such as the burqa.

In March, Belgian lawmakers voted a similar measure to ban the wearing of clothes or veils that do not allow the wearer to be fully identified. The newly-formed government of the Netherlands has also announced it plans to introduce measures to ban face-covering veils.

“I believe that the State ought not to be addressing issues like these. Instead, it should leave such concerns to the religious communities,” stated Williams at the 14 October meeting in Nagpur. He described the French ban as, “a sign of being overanxious”.

More than 100 church leaders, led by the NCCI’s president, Methodist Bishop Taranath Sagar, and Bishop Purely Lyngdoh, moderator of the Church of North India, attended the meeting alongside Muslims and Sikhs, and members of the Hindu community.

“We are glad that the archbishop spoke out clearly on the burqa controversy. He is very objective and respects other faiths,” A. Majid Parekh, a Muslim leader in Nagpur, told ENInews after listening to the Anglican leader.

Archbishop Williams told ENInews that the controversy generated by bans on the burqa, the Sikh turban and the Christian cross in some European countries, “shows the extension of secularism too far”. He said, “This ought to be resisted.

The communities should have the right to decide on such issues.” Williams said he had protested when a British Airways employee was told she should not wear her necklace cross visibly while at work.

He told the meeting that attacks against migrants in Europe were not the result of Christian prejudice against non-Christians but a “crude nationalist prejudice against migrants and outsiders”.

On the link between religions and terrorism, the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion said that terrorism is a product of “bad” religion. “The positive affirmation of faith in God and respect for one another is the solution for it,” he stated.

Archbishop Williams was in Nagpur to mark the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Church of North India as a union of six Protestant churches, including Anglicans.

by Anto Akkara
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Archbishop of Chutzpah: Immigration debate seems to assume, as a prerequisite, the suspension of all common sense.

I have for some time marveled at the chutzpah of the Mexican government lecturing the U.S. on how it should handle illegal immigration.

Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum on the debate over illegal immigration, it is difficult not to be slackjawed at the Mexican audacity. Earlier this year, Mexican President Felipe Calderon lectured the U.S. and Arizona on the floor of Congress over our handling of illegal immigration. Crushing poverty and crime forces millions to flee Mexico, with the tacit approval of their government, and to enter illegally into the U.S.—and they lecture us. Like I said, chutzpah.

Frankly, I have never seen anything else like it. Until now.

The Anglican Church careens down a path ever more divergent from traditional Christianity. The traditional-minded among the Anglicans begged their Church and their leaders for a safe-haven. They begged for a place within the Anglican communion in which they could pretend some Catholic sensibilities and retain at least some traditional Christian doctrine. In a word, the Anglican Communion told them “Nuts!”

The clear message to Anglo-Catholics from their Church, “We don’t care about you. We don’t want you. Get lost”

So then these Anglo-Catholics did something many Mexicans do not, they asked for and received permission to immigrate to the Catholic Church.

So now the Archbishop of Canterbury, who heretofore had used his backbone so sparingly that some understandably thought him an invertebrate, wants a say in the conversion process.

In a surprise announcement, Dr Rowan Williams said he wanted to establish a new joint group of Roman Catholic and Church of England figures to oversee the conversion process.

The proposed group would be designed to enable smooth and less painful transition for those who want to leave the Church of England to become Roman Catholics in protest at the ordination of women bishops.

In a related story, a number of foxes have proposed to form a committee overseeing hen-house migration.

Sometimes ‘chutzpah’ doesn’t cut it.

Pat Archbold

National Catholic Register.


Majority of Baltimore congregation votes to join Roman Catholics

A majority of the members of Mount Calvary Episcopal Church, Baltimore, voted Oct. 24 to separate from the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and become an Anglican-use parish within the Roman Catholic Church.

Mount Calvary parishioners voted on two resolutions, according to a diocesan press release, one to leave the Episcopal Church and the second to seek entry into the Roman Catholic Church as an Anglican-use parish. Of 45 eligible voters, 28 were present at the meeting and cast written ballots for both resolutions, the diocese said.

The first resolution passed 24-2 with two abstentions. The second measure passed 24-3 with one abstention.

The Rev Canon Scott Slater, canon to the diocesan ordinary, observed and validated the tallying of both votes, the diocese said. The president of the Maryland Standing Committee was also present. “I am saddened that members of this small congregation have found a need to leave the Episcopal Church, of which Mount Calvary has been a part since 1842,” Bishop Eugene Sutton said after the decision. “For those who are leaving I wish God’s blessing upon them.”

The diocese said that Sutton made a formal visit to Mt. Calvary on Oct. 10 after the vestry decided to put the departure to a vote. Sutton celebrated the Eucharist and hosted a meeting with members that he called “an honest, open discussion.” Mt. Calvary’s rector, the Rev. Jason A. Catania, and the Rev. David Reamsnyder, also affiliated with the congregation, have written to Sutton saying they intend to seek ordination in the Roman Catholic Church, Catania said in the November issue of the congregation’s newsletter, Crux Fidelis.

“I will regret no longer being part of the same ecclesial community with a great many people who are dear to me, clergy as well as laity,” Catania wrote, adding that the “small number of members of the Mount Calvary family who do not feel called to embark on this journey” will continue to be welcomed and cared for by the congregation.

Catania said the departing members of Mount Calvary will become the first Episcopal Church parish to exercise the invitation offered in October 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI to groups of former Anglicans who wish to convert to the Roman Catholic Church. An apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, allows such converts to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of Anglican spirituality and liturgy. More information about the Anglicanorum Coetibus is here (http://episcopalchurch. org/81840_ 116538_ENG_HTM. htm).

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore told the Baltimore Sun newspaper that Mount Calvary members would be welcomed. Sean Caine said that the departing members must submit a written request, which Archbishop John Myers of Newark, New Jersey, the Vatican’s ecclesiastical delegate of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for admitting married former Anglican clergy to the Catholic priesthood in the United States, would have to accept. Catania said in the Diocese of Maryland press release that the clergy, vestry, and people of Mount Calvary hope that “this transition can be accomplished with efficiency and with all due sensitivity to all involved.”

“We are grateful for those members of the leadership of the Diocese of Maryland who were present to observe the meeting, and we look forward to working with the diocese as we begin this journey seeking to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” he said. The diocese said in its release that its leadership “will work with the remaining parishioners of Mount Calvary to discern the future ministry of the parish and its urban community.”

The Diocese of Maryland consists of 22,000 households in 116 congregations in 10 counties and the city of Baltimore.

by ENS staff


Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity

An international coalition of Anglicans has been created to campaign against the proposed Anglican Covenant. Campaigners believe the proposed Covenant constitutes unwarranted interference in the internal life of the member churches of the Anglican Communion, would narrow the acceptable range of belief and practice within Anglicanism, and would prevent further development of Anglican thought. The Coalition’s website ( will provide resources for Anglicans around the world to learn about the potential risks of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

“We believe that the majority of the clergy and laity in the Anglican Communion would not wish to endorse this document,” according to the Coalition’s Moderator, the Revd. Dr. Lesley Fellows, who is also the Coalition’s Convenor for the Church of England. “Apart from church insiders, very few people are aware of the Covenant. We want to encourage a wider discussion and to highlight the problems the Covenant will cause.”

The idea of an Anglican Covenant was first proposed in 2004 as a means to address divisions among the member churches of the Anglican Communion on matters ranging from human sexuality to the role of women. The current draft of the Covenant, which has been unilaterally designated as the “final” draft, has been referred to the member churches of the Communion. The proposed Covenant establishes mechanisms which would have the effect of forcing member churches to conform to the demands and expectations of other churches or risk exclusion from the Communion.

Critics of the proposed Anglican Covenant, including members of the new Coalition, believe that it will fundamentally alter the nature of historic Anglicanism in several ways, including the narrowing of theological views deemed acceptable, the erosion of the freedom of the member churches to govern themselves, and the concentration of authority in the hands of a small number of bishops. Two English groups, Inclusive Church and Modern Church, ran anti-Covenant advertisements in last week’s Church Times and the Church of England Newspaper aiming to make more members of the Church of England aware of the dangers of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

“If the Anglican Communion has a problem, this is not the solution,” according to former Bishop of Worcester Peter Selby. “Whether those who originated the Covenant intended it or not, it is already, and will become even more, a basis for a litigious Communion from which some will seek to exclude others.”

The launch of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition website coincides with the commemoration of the sixteenth-century theologian Richard Hooker. “Hooker taught us that God’s gifts of scripture, tradition, and reason will guide us to new insights in every age,” according to the Canadian priest and canon law expert, the Revd. Canon Alan Perry. “The proposed Anglican Covenant would freeze Anglican theology and Anglican polity at a particular moment. Anglican polity rejected control by foreign bishops nearly 500 years ago. The proposed Anglican Covenant reinstates it.”

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition began in late October with a series of informal email conversations among several international Anglican bloggers concerned that the Covenant was being rushed through the approval process before most Anglicans had any opportunity to learn how the proposed new structures would affect them.

Revd. Dr Lesley Fellows (England)
Dr. Lionel Deimel (USA)
Revd. Malcolm French (Canada)


Crystal Cathedral crumbles in face of financial problems

Crystal Cathedral is crumbling in the face of massive and overwhelming debts. Capitalizing on the emerging car culture of Southern California in the 1950s, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller started a drive-in church and built it into an international televangelist empire, symbolized by the soaring glass Crystal Cathedral and its weekly “Hour of Power” show. Now Schuller’s life’s work is crumbling. The organization declared bankruptcy this week in a collapse blamed by some on its inability to keep up with the times and a disastrous attempt to hand the church over to Schuller’s son.

The church’s failure to adapt to a changing landscape is ironic, considering that Schuller, now 84, was considered a theological radical during the Eisenhower years when he started preaching about the “power of positive thinking” from the roof of a concession stand at a drive-in theater. Followers could sit in their cars and listen to him through the movie loudspeakers that hooked to their windows.

Schuller tapped into powerful post-World War II cultural forces that were reshaping America, said Scott Thumma, a sociologist of religion at the Hartford Institute of Religion Research.

“What he was preaching was seen a pretty heretical to a traditional religious world view at the time. But it worked because that’s where society was,” Thumma said. “Society was in their car. They had a very positive viewpoint of the world. We had just come back from World War II, we were all having kids, we were all going to college. He tapped into those different streams in the culture and turned them into Christian expression.”

Schuller soon turned his humble pulpit into one of the nation’s first megachurches, beaming his weekly Sunday service into 1 million homes worldwide through the “Hour of Power” TV show, which went on the air in 1970. Schuller became a familiar presence on television, a smiling figure in flowing robes, with snowy white hair and wire-rimmed aviator glasses.

In 1980, he opened the Crystal Cathedral, a 2,900-seat see-through church made of 10,664 panes of glass. A $20 million architectural marvel designed by the acclaimed Philip Johnson, it became a major Southern California landmark and tourist attraction. Schuller soon added a K-12 school and a tourist center.

(To this day, you can pull up to the Crystal Cathedral and listen to the service in your car through small speakers in the parking lot.)

Church leaders blame their predicament almost entirely on the recession, saying donations and ticket sales for their holiday pageants began to drop precipitously in 2008. The additions to the 40-acre grounds also forced the ministry to take out a mortgage that still carries a $30 million balance, church spokesman John Charles said.

Attendance has dropped about 10 to 15 percent at services at the Crystal Cathedral in the past few years but still hovers around 5,000 each Sunday, Charles said. A Spanish-language service attracts about 2,000 and is growing rapidly, and a new Arabic-language service has about 400 worshippers, he said.

But those who have watched the church’s fortunes decline believe Schuller – and later his children – failed to do much to attract younger people.

Newer evangelical leaders like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels began offering hip worship services and an emphasis on social activism and the latest technology. Schuller got left behind, Thumma said.

Schuller and family “stayed with the organ when everyone had gone to the rock ‘n’ roll band. He stayed with the robes when everyone else was reinventing themselves as bishops. In a time when most megachurces are going multisite and to smaller venues, he kept building bigger buildings,” Thumma said.

The church has recently joined sites like Facebook and Twitter (Schuller has his own account), posts inspirational videos on YouTube and offers the Spanish and Arabic services, but those changes may have been too little, too late.

“I look at the ‘Hour of Power,’ and when the camera pans to the audience, it’s gray-haired people,” said Kurt Fredrickson, assistant professor of pastoral ministry at the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.

The Crystal Cathedral also alienated older worshippers with the ill-fated attempt to turn the church over to Schuller’s son, Robert A. Schuller Jr. The much-heralded changeover ended in a bitter and very public family spat, with the younger Schuller disappearing from the “Hour of Power” broadcasts and abruptly leaving the church altogether in 2008, less than three years after he assumed his father’s mantle.

Last year, while announcing his own weekly TV show, Schuller Jr. said his father had resisted when he tried to introduce other media, such as cell phones and the Internet.

Sheila Schuller Coleman, Schuller’s daughter, has since taken over as senior pastor and presides over the “Hour of Power” broadcasts with a rotating stable of guest preachers, including her father.

In the past two years, the church has laid off 250 of its 450 or so employees, sold its beloved retreat center, cut salaries and canceled contracts with more than 100 TV stations nationwide, Charles said. Family members took 50 percent pay cuts this year, the church spokesman said. He would not say how much they are paid.

This week, the church filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows a business to keep operating while it tries to put its finances in order under court supervision. The church said that for the time being, “Hour of Power” will remain on the air and the Crystal Cathedral will continue operating as usual.

Charles acknowleged the church could have reacted faster to changes in worship styles, but said: “There’s always a fine line we have to walk. We want to gain new members and we want to keep the older members, but some members say, `I want it to stay exactly the way it is.’”


Archbishop Backs Homosexual Bishops

The split within the Anglican Church has widened after the Archbishop of Perth Roger Herft declared support for homosexual bishops, claiming the Church and society had been rejecting gay and lesbian people for too long. His candid comments echoed those of the leader of the world’s Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who told the Times in London he had “no problem” with gay bishops. Neither archbishop however would endorse a candidate in an active gay relationship because there was a traditional celibacy “standard” for bishops.

The Right Rev. Harry Entwistle, who heads the 120-strong Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) in WA, said the Church’s increasingly liberal views were one reason the dissident group he belonged to was breaking away to join the Catholic Church. Mr Entwistle said the TAC only supported gay people if they were celibate, claiming homosexual sex was as immoral as “promiscuous adultery”. The TAC, with half a million members globally, expects to enter into full communion with Rome within a year.

Archbishop Herft said the gay and lesbian community had long faced judgment and there was a danger of homophobia. “We have treated them by and large with suspicion, with rejection and we have excluded them from most things, and that isn’t a healthy way for the Church to react,” he said. Archbishop Herft said he had to endorse the official Church view that only married couples should have sexual relations, but debate was needed amid a social revolution. “I believe that we cannot ignore the questions being placed before us of people living holy lives of integrity, whether they are gay persons, lesbians or people in heterosexual (de facto) relationships,” he said.

“Here are people whose lives are actually flourishing, but in some sense it jars against the Church’s expectation of them, and that’s the issue that I’m frustrated about because I think we haven’t really been attentive to this massive revolution that has taken place.” Archbishop Herft said the Church should support the things that helped people flourish. “So the question I think we have to ask ourselves. . . is how does a gay or lesbian person flourish if sexuality is very much a part of our human nature and the art of flourishing,” he said.

Archbishop Herft said he would not support gay marriage, but backed gay civil unions which would recognise legal rights like those granted to heterosexual partners. About 10 months ago Archbishop Herft condemned the election of the second openly homosexual Anglican bishop in the US. He had feared that the timing was not right in 2009.

Compiled by APN from media reports ND