Saturday, January 13, 2007

Missing the Mark: the POR & Fort Worth

On January 8th, the Panel of Reference released it's report on the complaint by the Diocese of Fort Worth. A very fine description of the background on this is found in The Episcopal Majority.

Here is the summary of the POR's findings:

The panel's recommendations are that

1. use of the Dallas Plan continue;

2. "it be made clear that it is legitimate for a diocese to ask of candidates for election as bishop that they abide by the particular policy of the diocese in relation to the ministry of women, and that theological views on the ordination or consecration of women should not be a ground on which consent might be withheld by the Province/House of Bishops;"

3. "the Archbishop of Canterbury should discuss with the Presiding Bishop the possibility of the clarification of the ambiguous wording of the 1997 amendment to the relevant canon so as to ensure that the permissive nature of the ordination of women is maintained in any diocese" while underscoring the "apparent intention of the amendment to defend the interests of women candidates for postulancy, candidacy and ordination in a diocese that does not ordain women;"

4. "the Archbishop of Canterbury continue discussions with the Diocese of Fort Worth and with the Episcopal Church with the aim of securing the place of Fort Worth in the Communion."

The process of "open reception" assumes that not only will the consciences of persons opposed to the ordination process be respected, but that it be possible for dialogue to take place about the ministries of ordained women in the dioceses where Bishops or diocesan policy refuse to ordain women. So it not just about seeing to it that there is some process somewhere where women in such dioceses can uproot themselves and go somewhere else, but also that dialogue continue in such dioceses.

What has happened instead is that Fort Worth has found a way to both exile women and to isolate any ordained women who might by some miracle minister in that diocese to be fully isolated from the common life of the diocese this hypothetical women ministers in.

Instead of using the Dallas Plan to provide space to truly discern God's call relative to the ministry of women, the plan is an "out" to allow Fort Worth to ghettoize themselves and all the Episcopalians within it. Was the intent of the permissive language of the canons that the POR holds up really to maintain the status quo at all costs?

Outside of the ominous hint that the POR wants to find a way to keep Fort Worth "in the communion" as if one can do that outside of the Church the diocese is in, the POR failed in this case to provide for the highest possible communion. It is very disappointing and discouraging.

I have written more about this. See The Episcopal Majority for an essay I wrote for the HOBD listserve earlier this week.

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