diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, took the first steps
Saturday to withdraw from the national church as part of a
growing rift over Scriptural interpretation and
homosexuality, giving preliminary approval to
diocese is among four of the 110 Episcopal dioceses --
including Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, Calif., and Quincy, Ill.
-- that have approved similar measures to break away
and align with an overseas Anglican leader. The
dioceses contend U.S. church leadership has wrongly
abandoned Scriptural authority and traditional teachings on
truth, salvation, and the divinity of Jesus Christ.
The Fort Worth
convention followed a testy exchange of letters between
the national church's presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts
Schori, and the diocese's bishop, Jack Iker.
warned Iker that he could face discipline if he continues
to back proposals to separate from the U.S. church. Iker
responded by accusing her of ''aggressive, dictatorial
Iker referred to
her letter again Saturday during his address to the
convention, saying that he ''must object to the claim that
the presiding bishop has any canonical authority in
this diocese or any legitimate power over the
leadership of this diocese.''
''She has no
authority to bring Fort Worth into line with the mandates of
a so-called 'national church,''' he told delegates. ''There
is no such thing as 'the national church.' We are a
confederation of dioceses, related to each other by
our participation in General Convention.''
attending a peace conference in South Korea and had no
immediate comment, said Canon Robert Williams, a spokesman
for the presiding bishop.
A series of
amendments relating to the split passed overwhelmingly,
including an amendment that deleted reference to the
authority of the Episcopal Church and replaced it with
the Anglican Communion. That measure passed in votes
of 69-14 by clergy and 95-28 by lay delegates.
Iker said the
decision showed firmed resolve about moving forward. He
said that he recognized that not everyone fully supported
the decision, but that the debate was characterized by
respect and honesty.
to note that the decisions made today are preliminary
decisions that need to be ratified by another convention,''
The measures will
be up for final approval at next year's convention.
said the diocese wishes ''to remain within the family of
the Anglican Communion while dissociating itself from the
moral, theological, and disciplinary innovations of
the Episcopal Church.''
A majority of the
77 million-member Anglican Communion hold traditional
views that homosexuality is condemned by Scripture, while a
majority in the Episcopal Church do not.
between conservatives and the Episcopal Church, the Anglican
body in the U.S., has sharpened since the denomination
consecrated New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who
is openly gay, in 2003.
are among several denominations struggling to agree on
what the Bible says about gender and sexuality. Some
Episcopal leaders in Texas, including Iker, object to
the ordination of women, which the denomination
approved in the 1970s.
The Fort Worth
diocese includes about 56 congregations in north central
Texas with about 20,000 members. (Matt Curry, AP)