complaints that we have not seen. Bishops Ohl and Buchanan have asked that the record be set
straight. That is our intention in this letter.
No charge is more serious to us than the one that we have acted against our own Church—in
other words, that we have been disloyal. We assure each of you that we have acted out of a
profound loyalty to this Church we love. We knew our decision to file an
upholding the constitutional polity of the Church as we understand it is not disloyalty.
Because our views have been mischaracterized, we welcome this opportunity to clarify what we
believe and what we have said in our legal submissions. Our primary concern is that the polity
that has defined this Church for two centuries is being transformed due to momentary legal
objectives in the secular courts. We do not question these objectives. We only believe that the
constitutional polity of the Church—the discipline we pledge to uphold—should not be
sacrificed in pursuit of these goals.
Constitution is the diocesan bishop. Ours is not a metropolitical church, but a churchwith a dispersed hierarchy. We did not invent this understanding of our governance. It
(“Diocese of Fort Worth”) to leave The Episcopal Church, but in its ruling against them
the court has misunderstood, and thereby damaged, the constitutional structure of The
Episcopal Church.” We do not address in the brief whether withdrawal is permitted
under the Constitution. Indeed, some in our number have at great cost ruled such
proposals out of order in their own dioceses. Our legal submissions are concerned only
with the nature of authority in our Church; we do not address the exercise of that
authority by Bishop Iker or any other bishop.
secular courts must use neutral principles of law if they cannot readily identify the nature
of a church’s hierarchical authority can hardly be prejudicial to the Episcopal Church
parties when they argue themselves that they win under such a standard.
state in theAmicus brief that “The Episcopal Church clearly has the constitutional right to
select a new bishop.” We recognize Bishops Ohl and Buchanan as the bishops of the
TEC-recognized dioceses. Indeed, one of our number participated in the installation of
Bishop Ohl’s predecessor. We acknowledge that Bishop Iker was the Ecclesiastical
Authority of the diocese until the vote to withdraw, which is the crucial time period in
this dispute, but that is undeniable. We conclude that if the court applies a deference to
hierarchy standard—an issue on which we explicitly take no position—the Ecclesiastical
Authority at the time of the vote to withdraw was Bishop Iker. We consider that
conclusion inescapable given our polity. To the extent that this is a question of
nomenclature, the Texas Court has previously ruled that Bishop Ohl and his diocese are
not yet entitled to claim the name of “The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth” pending the
final result of this litigation. Thus, Bishop Iker and his diocese continue to use this name.
This ruling, however, plays no role in our analysis. It is not our concern.
not ecclesiastical—rights to petition the government. To our knowledge, no one has ever
before suggested that petitioning the legislatures or courts in Washington or state
capitols—our brief was filed in Austin, not Fort Worth—requires the consent of the local
bishop. To the extent that the claim really is that our submission might have an effect in
another diocese, we would reply that we are simply responding to submissions by others
that will themselves have what we believe to be very profound and harmful effects on all
our dioceses, not only in Texas but across the Church. And we note that we are not the
first bishops of our Church to file an amicus brief this year with the Texas Supreme Court. Others filed a brief in another property dispute involving Bishop Ohl’s former diocese. Clearly, it is the views we express, not the act of filing a brief, to which objection is taken.
may understand and sympathize with these objectives, we consider it our greater duty to uphold
our constitutional polity. Whether or not you agree with our interpretation—and we all must
acknowledge that our polity is in some ways obscure—we hope you will recognize that we are
doing our duty to uphold the good order of the Church as we perceive it and that it is no small
part of the burden of that duty to know that others take offense from our actions.
I apologize for the break up of the letter but here it is. Enjoy your reading.