UPDATE ON THE ORIGINAL POST
From The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
Dec. 8, 2011
On Dec. 2, leaders of the Diocese announced they had received a request from the Bishop's Committee at St. Timothy's, Fort Worth, asking that members of the mission congregation, as well as Fr. Christopher Stainbrook, the vicar, be permitted to become part of the Roman Catholic Church's Anglican Ordinariate while continuing to use the real property of the church for worship, instruction, and fellowship activities. It was announced that a forum would be held on Sunday, Dec. 11, to discuss the situation, and that a vote of the qualified members would be taken the following week in order to ascertain the wish of the majority of the congregation.
On Dec. 6, lawyers for The Episcopal Church parties delivered a letter to our legal team inquiring about the situation at St. Timothy and commenting that the proposed use of the St. Timothy property by a body from another denomination would not be a "normal course of business use" in compliance with the order of the 141st District Court signed Oct. 20, 2011. The team was asked to explain how the situation would be handled to be in compliance with the order to avoid a hearing before the court, or the TEC lawyers indicated they would proceed to bring the matter to the court's attention.
Our attorneys have therefore informed Fr. Stainbrook and the Bishop's Committee that "Bishop Iker and the diocesan leadership … cannot jeopardize the entire Diocese as a result of your desire to join the Ordinariate." It is imperative that all parties to the proceedings in the 141st, including St. Timothy, obey the October 20 order.
As a result, the Dec. 18 vote of the mission congregation has been canceled. The Dec. 11 forum will be held as planned, so that the congregation has an opportunity to ask questions and share its concerns. Bishop Iker will accept Fr. Stainbrook's resignation from Anglican orders as part of his stated intention to seek re-ordination for service in the Ordinariate.
"We regret," Bishop Iker says, "that the desires of the St. Timothy's Ordinariate group to continue to use the facilities after Jan. 1, 2012, would be contrary to the court order and subject all of us to unnecessary legal proceedings that the TEC lawyers have stated they are prepared to pursue. Sadly, this prevents a pastoral solution to a sensitive issue of spiritual discernment. We are grateful to Bishop Keith Ackerman for his willingness to provide Sunday services at St. Timothy's beginning on the first Sunday after Christmas Day."
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Here's some great news from…(drum roll, please…) TEXAS! Yes, yet another group in the Lone Star State is moving into full communion with the Catholic Church.
The people of St. Timothy's Church, under the leadership of Fr. Christopher Stainbrook, are petitioning for entrance into the U. S. Ordinariate when it is erected. Here is the press release from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth:
Diocese responds to request from St. Timothy’s Bishop’s Committee
The Bishop’s Committee of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, a mission congregation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, has informed Bishop Jack Iker that they wish to join the U.S. Anglican Ordinariate of the Roman Catholic Church when the Ordinariate begins functioning on Jan. 1, 2012. The Rev. Christopher Stainbrook, vicar of the church, intends to resign from the ordained ministry in order to seek admission to holy orders within the Ordinariate.
The Bishop’s Committee – a body of elected lay leaders in the congregation – discussed its decision with the Bishop and other key diocesan officers – including the President of the Standing Committee, the President of the diocesan Corporation, and the Chancellor – in a meeting Tuesday, Nov. 29. Approximately 90 persons worship at St. Timothy’s each Sunday. It is not known how many members of the congregation intend to join the Ordinariate.
St. Timothy’s, which was founded in 1956, became a parish in 1960, but had to revert to mission status in 1993, requiring significant financial support from the Diocese to continue operations.
Bishop Iker has asked that an open forum be held on Dec. 11 with the entire congregation, and, one week later, that a vote be taken to determine the will of the members. This will provide a benchmark number so that the Bishop can make provision for worship and pastoral ministry to that portion of the congregation that will be staying in the Diocese.
Bishop Iker said, “While we regret that many members of St. Timothy's feel called at this time to leave our fellowship for the Roman Catholic Church, we respect their conscience and spiritual discernment in this matter. We live in a very conflicted time in the life of the Church, and it is important to maintain charity and patience with one another. We wish them well, in the name of the Lord.”
Notice of the intention of the Bishop’s Committee and plans for the open forum and vote are being communicated in a letter to the congregation. The text of the letter is below.
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Dear Friends in Christ,
On Sunday, Dec. 11, and Sunday, Dec. 18, we will have two very important meetings for all members of St. Timothy’s Church. Please join us in the Parish Hall following the 9:30 a.m. Solemn Mass on these dates. All active members are strongly encouraged to attend these meetings pertaining to the future of our congregation. They are being held with Bishop Iker’s full knowledge and support.
The December 11th meeting will be informational and will focus on the petition of the Bishop’s Committee for St. Timothy's to be admitted, as priest and congregation, to the Anglican Ordinariate in the Roman Catholic Church when it is established on Jan. 1, 2012. After this petition was sent to Bishop Iker last week, the Bishop’s Committee and Father Stainbrook met with the Bishop and key officers of the Diocese of Fort Worth on Tuesday, Nov. 29, to discuss the best way to address this concern. If approved by our members, the most likely possibility would be for the St. Timothy's Ordinariate group to pay a use fee for the buildings until the property litigation is finally resolved by the courts.
The following representatives of Bishop Iker and the Diocese will be present on Dec. 11 to address our concerns and answer any question you may have: Dean Ryan Reed, President of the Standing Committee; Bishop Keith Ackerman, President of Forward in Faith; and Shelby Sharpe, lead attorney for the Diocese in the litigation.
To encourage attendance and foster fellowship, a lunch will be served prior to the open forum.
This meeting will be followed by a week for prayer, reflection, and the opportunity for clarification, before the December 18th meeting where all eligible members will have the opportunity to vote on whether or not St. Timothy's should join the Ordinariate at this time, as proposed. The results will be presented to Bishop Iker for his consideration prior to being announced to the congregation.
We urge all voting members of St. Timothy’s to attend these two very important meetings. Eligibility for voting will be the same as at the Annual Meeting:
- Attend church on every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation unless for good and sufficient cause prevented. [These causes are (a) serious illness or infirmity, (b) necessity to perform charitable service, (c) unavoidable obligations connected with one’s vocation, and (d) unavoidable difficulties with travel.]
- Contribute to the financial upkeep of the Congregation.
- Have been confirmed or received by a Bishop of this Church or of a Church in communion with this Church.
- Have received Holy Communion at least three times in the preceding twelve (12) months.
- Not be under ecclesiastical discipline or censure.
- Be enrolled (via letter from another congregation or Confirmation register) as a communicant of this Congregation and be at least 16 years of age.
Do pray for God’s wisdom and guidance as we seek His will in this decision.
Faithfully in Christ,
Bishop Iker and Father Stainbrook
As the people of St. Timothy's prepare for these meetings, they ask for our prayers.