Friday, June 19, 2009

DOK writes back

Here is a letter that Grace Sears, Secretary of the Order of the Daughters of the King, sent to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. It was posted on the HoB/D list by National Chaplain Bishop John Howe of Central Florida. I shared this on the Cafe with his permission.

June 18, 2009

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Episcopal Church Center
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Dear Bishop Jefferts Schori:

Thank you for your thoughtful response to a letter from Ruth Annette Mills, of the Diocese of Nevada—a distinguished lady who has been a Daughter fifty years. She deserves respect and attention from all her sisters.

Although I have not seen Ruth’s letter, your response indicates that she believes the Order of the Daughters of the King is proposing amendments that will cut its ties with the Episcopal Church. I am grieved that she has been misled by this idea. It is simply false, fueled by rumors and fears. Let me explain.

The Daughters have twice rejected a proposal to become ecumenical by allowing chapters in any denomination that practices Christian baptism. The first time, in 1997, the proposal was put forward by a committee that included two future presidents, Sue Schlanbusch and the late Joan Millard. After extensive debate, the proposal was decisively rejected. It was again put forward six years later, and tabled, with a request for a survey on the subject. The survey results were collected by the present chair of the bylaws committee, Lena Nealley. We know from reading the results that Daughters rejected the ecumenical option, and the committee has avoided that path. Instead the amendments seek to clarify the status of women who are already members under our present bylaws, and would still be members if none of the proposed amendments were adopted.

My shorthand description of the Order is that we are “Episcopal Plus”—that is, “distinctively Episcopal,” as the early handbooks phrase it, while continually planting chapters in sister Churches. The membership statistics reported at our last Council meeting listed the overwhelming number of members as Episcopalians: 25,145 of an estimated total 28,462. The next largest number is for overseas members, approximately 2500 Daughters in 15 countries. Their membership is not novel—the Order began founding chapters in Anglican churches overseas in the 19th century. When such chapters multiply in any particular country, they develop their own governing structure and leadership, and US Daughters continue to encourage them as much as we are able.

The recent fears and controversy revolve around the relatively small numbers of Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran chapters in the US: the October report listed 720, 97, and 18 members respectively, totaling less than 3% of the entire membership. As you may know, our present bylaws give chapters in Churches in the historic episcopate (other than those in the Episcopal church) the option of forming a national governing structure parallel to the Episcopal structure, just as overseas chapters organize when they have reached critical mass within their country. Although our bylaws have allowed Roman Catholic members since the mid-eighties, the expected growth in their numbers has not occurred, and they clearly are not able to organize as a national entity. A couple years ago the elected DOK leadership asked Anglican Daughters in the US to explore forming a national governing structure of their own, since it looked as if they might soon reach a number that would make that possible. They did explore that possibility and have rejected it in favor of forming a completely new Order with a different name for Anglican Daughters. A majority of our Anglican members will probably leave the Order in the coming year to join a new Order for Anglican women, unaffiliated with the Daughters of the King.

In short, far from receiving a flood of new members who might change the character of the Order, as some appear to think, we expect to say a sad goodbye to long-time members whose congregations have left the Episcopal Church. At the same time most of us want to assure the Roman Catholic Daughters and any Anglican or Lutheran Daughters that remain that although they are a minority we recognize them as valued members of the Order.

The Daughters of the King are praying for the upcoming General Convention, for you personally, and for all the delegates and bishops who will participate. Daughters in the Diocese of Iowa have prepared a seven-day cycle of prayers for us to use during the three weeks of Triennial and Convention. In the latest Royal Cross both our president, Joan Dalrymple, and the Triennial Chair, Phyllis Easley, urge members to participate in the Prayer Vigil. These are not the actions of a sinister cabal intent on cutting the Order’s ties with the Episcopal Church. We may be perplexed at times, but the Daughters still seek first of all to serve our King and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and work out our vows to pray and serve within our local congregations. For most of us in the United States, that means a local Episcopal congregation and diocese. Please believe that severing our multiple connections with the Episcopal Church is not an option the Daughters will consider in Anaheim.

Again, thank you for your attention and your prayers.

For His Sake,

Grace Sears, Secretary
The Order of the Daughters of the King
I still have questions, but I want to dig into the proposed by-laws a little bit more because some of the proposed changes such as changing the process for appointment of the National Chaplain and the removal of the name of the Episcopal Church at various points seem curious to me in light of the letter above.

This letter says that when the Anglican Church in North America formally becomes a new denomination next week, that the chapters in those churches will form their own new group rather than stay in the Order.

Ms. Sears letter helps, but I think that the issues behind it are still very much alive.


4 comments:

Frair John said...

What dose this response have to do with the inexplicable desire on the part of the Daughters to have the Chaplain named by the National President and not by the PB?

I would like to see an explanation of that change.

The Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns said...

I agree. I do not think that the substance of the Presiding Bishop's letter has been answered in this response, namely:

If there is no need to accomodate the breakaway North American Anglican-related churches, then why remove all references to the Episcopal Church in the proposed by-laws.

And, if there is no need to change the Episcopal identity of the group since they are only trying to deal with non-Episcopal chapters that have heretofore been affiliates, then why take away the role of the PB in ratifying the candidate nominated by the National Council?

The response to +KJS's concerns appear to be nothing more than "There is no cabal." Okay, so there isn't. Then why make these proposed changes? This has not yet been addressed.

Thanks, Friar John.

Celinda Scott said...

Friar John--perhsps you've read the answer to your question about the naming of the national DOK chaplain elsewhere. If not: the PB never named the chaplain, at least as provided for in the constitutions of 1971, 2005, and 2006. The leadership did, and the PB was informed and ratified it. There are quite a few orders and organizations listed on TEC's website which are affiliated with TEC, but not "under" TEC in a hierarchical sense. Most of their members are Episcopalians, as is DOK's; but the membership is not limited to Episcopalians. --Celinda Scott

Frair John said...

Celinda-

I'm sorry that I was misinformed. All of our Orders and Christian Communities with a specific relationship with TEC all are "under" the Church in the form of their Visitors. From the looks of it, the DOK has been connected through it's relationship with the PB.
Why is there such a desire for change now?
Also, the substance of my comment stands: This dose not actually answer the PB's concerns or questions.