Friday, January 25, 2008

The Episcopal Majority Meets Bishop Iker

A week ago, the Reverend Thomas B. Woodward was in the Diocese of Fort Worth to present two programs to those wishing to remain in the Episcopal Church or at least to explore the questions. Father Jake carried an announcement, along with some background information and recommended sources for news about developments in the Diocese of Fort Worth. Here, Father Woodward provides a personal reflection about a meeting that occurred before the two public meetings.


Upon receiving an invitation to speak to Via Media people in Fort Worth and in Wichita Falls January 18-20, I wrote to Bishop Jack Iker to request a meeting with him to hear whatever concerns he might have about a dissident coming into his diocese to challenge his consistent message to his flock.

I could not have been happier with his response. He would see me shortly before lunch on the day I arrived in Fort Worth. In preparation for the visit, I bought a six pack of Santa Fe Brewery Pale Ale and a couple of pounds of Hatch roasted green chilies as a love offering from me, though in spirit from the Diocese of the Rio Grande. I also was careful to inform Bishop Iker of the sorts of things I would be talking about, referring him to some of what I have written for The Episcopal Majority, including the booklet The Undermining of the Episcopal Church.

We spent the first part of our meeting exchanging pleasantries, and I expressed my regret that his experience in the Episcopal Church was such that he felt he must leave it. Then I asked if he had any concerns about my speaking to his people. He said that he did not mind debate and arguing about matters of theology and the Bible – but that he did not like the demonizing that often accompanied it. He then mentioned several of the phrases that were most hurtful to him. I assured him that I had not used any of that language about him – but have stepped over the line more than once with my rhetoric, but always grateful when others mentioned that so I could apologize and, hopefully, learn something. He noted that he, too, has stepped over the line from time to time.

I assured Bishop Iker that I intended no disrespect for him during my time in his diocese. We then shared stories of blessing and of hurt in our life in the church. At the end of our time I asked for his blessing. We stood and he put his hands on my shoulder and prayed a most beautiful prayer, asking God’s blessing on my son in his recovery, asking God’s blessing on my time in Fort Worth and on my talks to his people.

I carry several things away with me from that meeting. First, what a joy it is when two people, so opposed on so many critical issues and concerns, can spend time relating to the best in the other with the best of ourselves. That is not the whole truth, but it is part of the truth. Second, I do not discount the hurt and sometimes the humiliation my friends and others in Fort Worth have suffered when +Jack has stepped over the line, nor the havoc his beliefs and attitudes about women’s ordination and our “Anglican agonies” have wreaked. Third, at this point the two of us are in the same church and attempting to follow the same Lord. Fourth, there is certainly pain when we encounter the worst in each other, but the pain is worse when we encounter their best, for it is then that the deep ache sets in as we wait for a time when our several wounds are healed and our fears are stopped in such a way that our best is our consistent selves. We are obviously not there yet.

The talks did go well, both in Fort Worth and in Wichita Falls. They were followed by time with the Steering Committee of Via Media Dallas. While I had requested time with Bishop Stanton for an earlier trip that had to be cancelled, there was no time for such a visit this time. I did, though, revel in my time with several of my heroes and heroines in the church, including Dixie Hutchinson, Katie Sherrod and Gayland Pool.

I will have more to say about the talks themselves. One thing is probably worth mentioning here. I had done some thinking about what the faithful could do to sustain themselves, and the thought about singing “We Shall Overcome” during communion at diocesan gatherings had stuck in my mind. However, reflecting upon all that is at stake in our struggles to remain in the fullness of the Episcopal Church, an even more appropriate song came to mind: “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.”

Tom Woodward
Santa Fe, NM

Postscript: Fort Worth Via Media posted a synopsis by Susan Reeves of Father Woodward's January 19 presentation , and Katie Sherrod provided a reflection after his presentations.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Praise God, Fr. Tom, that you had this positive time of fellowship, and sharing. (The saints are dancing in Heaven. ;) If more were able to reach out in this caring way, I"m sure the divisions between us would be so much less, and the Lord's name praised.

Sincerely...
Grace.

1/26/2008 8:06 AM  
Blogger Sue "Sioux" Seibert said...

However, you failed to mention, or perhaps to understand, the hurt TEC has caused to those of us in Fort Worth and around the world who are staying faithful to biblical teachings rather than to the Episcopal Church in the USA.

1/26/2008 9:43 AM  
Anonymous Spencer Mabry said...

I have always found that when you approach someone as an equal, not as someone or something other, then there can be a gracious sharing. Whan +jack was first elected, I wrote him, explaining to hiom that I though he was in error in amny ways, but that I could respect his stance and I would allow him to make his own way before I criticized him. since then (he mistakening wrote back, addressing me as "Fr. Mabry"), we have met and talked in pretty much the same way you describe, Tom, as gentlemen who agree to disagree. I only wish others could have the same experience.

1/26/2008 10:31 AM  
Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

Fr. Tom, I'm pleased that you and Bp. Iker had a good visit. Thanks for the story.

Sue, I understand that you feel hurt by TEC, and I'm sorry about that, but I don't see how TEC prevents you, or anyone else, from "staying faithful to biblical teachings". How does TEC force you to go against what you view as proper biblical teachings?

I realize that I'm probably walking into quicksand by even asking the question.

God's blessings,

June Butler

1/26/2008 10:36 AM  
Blogger Fr. Tony Clavier said...

Tom:

I am glad you met with +Jack Iker. I don't agree with his plans to leave us for much the same reasons as those forcefully articulated in Bishop Hathaway's excellent sermonat the consecration of +Mark Lawrence today.

But, I do wish we could tone down our use of the word 'pain". I will grant that there is a real degree of mental anguish when we find ourselves confronted and challenged by people who seem to deny issues or subjects we believe to be utterly godly and vital. That happens on both sides. It is also true that we suffer the same mental anguish when we are deliberately misquoted or things untrue are spread around.

But pain of the sort that stabs the body of the cancer sufferer, the AIDS victim, the starving child in Darfur, the stabbed body of the child in Kenya is something quite different and more severe.

Tony

1/26/2008 7:14 PM  
Anonymous JCF said...

...or the beaten body of the gay-bash victim. (More common, world-wide, than generally acknowledged)

God bless you, Tom, for meeting w/ Iker. I don't think I would have the strength/heart to do so. May God's mercy abound all the more...

1/26/2008 11:48 PM  
Blogger David said...

Tom,

I am glad you were well received and that the exchange was gracious with you and Bishop Iker. The demonizing is very hard to take.

BTW I think the Santa Fe Pale Ale is among my favorites.

David W. Virtue DD
VIRTUEONLINE

1/27/2008 2:11 PM  
Blogger David said...

Fr. Tom,

Thanks so much for meeting with us in Dallas. I think all of the Via Media Dallas folks present got a lot out of it.

And a big Amen to Fr. Tony's comments above RE: toning down the "pain" rhetoric.

David Huff
webmaster, Via Media Dallas

1/28/2008 4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

grandmere mimi, sue did not say that TEC was preventing her from staying faithful to biblical teachings. Can you imagine that it is possible to cause person X hurt without compelling him to act in a certain way? Why would you put words into someone's mouth like that?

1/29/2008 8:36 AM  
Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

Well, then, Anonymous, how is TEC hurting her? And where is Sue to speak for herself? She could tell me better how I have misinterpreted what she said than you could, right?

June Butler

1/29/2008 9:12 AM  

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