Presiding Bishop declares inhibited Fort Worth bishop has renounced his orders

December 4, 2008
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said December 5 that she had accepted Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker's renunciation of his orders in the Episcopal Church.

The Presiding Bishop's office released a one-page notification on December 5 saying Jefferts Schori had accepted Iker's renunciation with the "advice and consent" of her advisory council. The document says that Iker made his renunciation in writing on November 24; however a spokesperson for Iker denies that such a renunciation has been made.

"I have chosen to follow this course rather than seeking consent of the House of Bishops to Bishop Iker's deposition for abandonment of the Communion of this Church because I believe it to be a more pastoral response to Bishop Iker's clear expression of his desire not to be a part of the Episcopal Church at this time," the Presiding Bishop wrote in a letter to the House of Bishops. "I believe this course best expresses my hope and prayer that reconciliation in the future can be achieved by God's love and grace."

On November 21 Jefferts Schori had inhibited Iker from "exercising the gifts of the ordained ministry of this Church; and pursuant to Canon IV.15 and ordered him "to cease all 'Episcopal, ministerial, and canonical acts, except as relate to the administration of the temporal affairs of the Diocese of Fort Worth,' until this Inhibition is terminated pursuant to Canon IV.9(2) or superseded by decision of the House of Bishops."

Title IV, Canon 9, Sec. 2 allows an inhibited bishop 60 days to recant his or her position or make a "good faith denial" of the acts described in the certification, or face possible deposition. The alternative offered by Title IV, Canon 9, Sec. 2 is for the bishop to renounce his or her orders under the provisions of Title IV, Canon 8, Sec. 2 or Title III, Canon 12, Sec. 7.

Suzanne Gill, Diocese of Fort Worth communications director, told ENS December 5 that "Bishop Iker hasn't sent any communication to the Presiding Bishop concerning his orders in the Episcopal Church."

"There was no such renunciation communicated to her," Gill added.

In her letter to the House of Bishops, Jefferts Schori noted that Iker had said in a November 24 news release that he is now a member of the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

"Bishop Iker's November 24 statement clearly constitutes 'a renunciation of the ordained ministry of this Church, and a desire to be removed therefrom' as contemplated by Canon III.12.7(a)," the Presiding Bishop wrote in the letter. "Other, similar letters … have also been treated as voluntary renunciations and with the consent of my Council of Advice I have accepted them and removed and released those bishops from our ordained ministry, as well."

Jefferts Schori wrote in her letter that "accepting Bishop Iker's voluntary renunciation now rather than waiting for the March meeting of the House [to consider the question of deposition] will do much to alleviate the difficult circumstances facing the Episcopalians in Fort Worth, who are functioning in a Diocese devoid of any formal leadership." She also wrote that "renunciation is a more hospitable avenue of departure from the Church, and therefore increases the hope for reconciliation with Bishop Iker and his followers at some point."

The Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians said as much in a statement issued the evening of December 5. "The Presiding Bishop's action saves the Church the expense and distress of formal procedures to depose the former bishop and opens the door for an early reorganization of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth," the group said, adding that they commended Iker and his wife to the prayers of the "many Episcopalians who opposed Iker's efforts to remove the diocese from the Episcopal Church."

The committee represents about seven groups and an estimated 8,000 communicants from among at least 17 of the diocese's 56 congregations who intend to remain aligned with the Episcopal Church.

Jefferts Schori had inhibited Iker after the Title IV Review Committee certified to her that Iker had abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church.

Upper South Carolina Bishop Dorsey Henderson, review committee chair, told Jefferts Schori that the nine-member committee had met November 20 and that a majority agreed that some 70 pages worth of documentation provided to them "demonstrated that Bishop Iker has abandoned the communion of this Church by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of this Church." The committee acted after the diocesan convention voted November 15 to leave the Episcopal Church and to align with the Southern Cone. The decision came at Iker's urging, including his "10 Reasons Why Now is the Time to Realign."

Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies George Packard and Episcopal Diocese of Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen witnessed Jefferts Schori's acceptance of the renunciation, as is required by canon.

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