Monday, September 10, 2007

Bonnie Anderson receives Texas welcome in Dallas and Fort Worth

This post may not be for everybody. Again, this blog is about stuff I'm interested in, so stop complainin' already!

Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church (TEC) spoke at our parish yesterday. She was here in the Diocese of Dallas by invitation of our church, but I think the real reason she was in town was to speak in Fort Worth on Saturday at the invitation of Ft. Worth Via Media and Brite Divinity School at TCU.

According to our rector, she was not in the town of the cow to “rabble-rouse” but answered questions from many concerned Episcopalians who have been living with an antagonistic bishop who derides the Episcopal Church that consecrated him at every opportunity. I can attest from listening to her speak that Bonnie Anderson does not seem like the type of person to go about stirring up trouble. She is very professional and straightforward, she knows her stuff, and she has a kind demeanor. Bishop Iker has already issued a statement denouncing her visit and suggesting that she visited without his permission. Of course as a lay person talking to other lay people, Anderson does not need to request permission of Bishop Iker to be in the boundaries of the Diocese of Fort Worth.

On Sunday morning at Transfiguration, Ms. Anderson preached on the Gospel text and did not drag church politics into the pulpit. The reading was the difficult bit about hating your own family in order to be a disciple. Bonnie talked about the need to change and leave behind what is comfortable to follow God’s call to us. Of course there is something in there that applies to the Recent Unpleasantness, whether it is explicitly spelled out for us or not. She ended the sermon with poetry that I would like to be able to reread and digest.

Between services, Anderson took questions from the congregation in a packed Roper Hall. From my recollection (no direct quotes here), among the notable points addressed were as follows:
* What will happen if Bishop Iker or another bishop tries to take their diocese out of the Episcopal Church? Anderson replied that this cannot happen as dioceses are the creation of General Convention. It would require an act of General Convention to allow this, and that won’t happen. If Iker were to renounce his orders and leave for another church (probably an African Anglican church), then the bishop’s seat would be declared vacant and a new bishop would be elected. To me this didn’t address the likely scenario that Iker would try to have it both ways and remove the diocese from TEC without formally renouncing his orders. In that case I believe he would have to be charged for violating his vows to uphold the doctrine, discipline, and worship of TEC.

* If congregations cannot leave TEC, why was Christ Church Plano allowed to do so by Bishop Stanton of Dallas? This one took a few of our clergy to help answer, but it seems that Bishop Stanton may have violated some canons in allowing Christ Church to depart with their property, even though there was a financial settlement. There apparently is no plan by the diocese to plant a new Episcopal Church in Plano. (Someone made the pronouncement in asking a question that Plano was one of the most dynamic cities in the world. All I can say is, how small is our world…)

* If TEC gets “kicked out” of the Anglican Communion, how will we do mission without our mission partners around the globe? “Who is going to distribute the mosquito nets?” It is much more difficult to expel a province from the Anglican Communion than some of the louder voices would lead one to believe. The process is outlined here. But regardless of who declares TEC to be out of communion or heretical, our mission partners do not care and we will continue to have those relations so we can continue to do relief and development work throughout the globe.

Mary Frances Schjonberg of Episcopal News Service was traveling with Anderson and files her story on the President's Texas Hoedown here. Father Jake has this report. Episcopal Cafe has an entry as well with good info on the FW gathering.

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