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The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. [Ted] Gulick Jr., provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, has sent letters to those 72 members of the clergy of the diocese who joined with former Bishop Jack Iker in choosing to leave the Episcopal Church and realign with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Click to read the bishop’s letter here: Gulick-letter-to-clergy-who-left-Episcopal-Church-May-26-2009

Bishop Gulick wrote, “I want to begin by thanking you for your service as a priest or deacon in the Episcopal Church. . . I know that many of you have searched your hearts and conscience and have come to a decision to join with Bishop Iker to realign your allegiance with Anglicans in the Southern Cone. It is not my intention in writing you this letter to trespass upon your conscience in this matter or to offer any new arguments or words of persuasion. However, before I begin to exercise certain canonical responsibilities regarding the status of those who have left the Episcopal Church, I feel compelled to offer to meet with you, if you wish, for a conversation related to your own discernment and decision.”

The letter points out that since the November 2008 Diocesan Convention in which many voted to leave the Episcopal Church the primates [heads of autonomous Provinces] of the Anglican Communion have met as has the Anglican Consultative Council, a body made up of bishops, priests and lay people from around the Communion, and that legal decisions favoring the Episcopal Church have been rendered by courts in several states that may well affect decisions made here in Texas.

Therefore, Bishop Gulick writes, “In fairness to you, I would like to be absolutely sure that your decision to leave the Episcopal Church is final and that your conscience and soul are at peace. If in fact that is the case, then any canonical action I am forced to perform as Provisional Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth will simply be declaration of a reality that exists. If on the other hand, there is still an open ended space for further discernment, I stand ready to be available to consult and pray deeply with you about your relationship with the Episcopal Church.”

The letter lists several times being set aside for such meetings and concludes “If I do not hear from you by return mail, I will assume you have made your decision.” The letter ends with a prayer for the healing of “this season of brokenness in Christ’s one body.”

The canonical responsibilities referred to in the letter are those requiring the deposition of clergy who have left the Episcopal Church, an action referred to in the canons as “abandonment of the communion,” and who refuse to acknowledge the authority of the bishop of the diocese, in this case, Bishop Gulick. Deposition formally renders them ineligible to serve as clergy in the Episcopal Church or any of its parishes.

As the letter points out this procedure is a formality to acknowledge a reality that has existed for some time. For example, former Bishop Iker purported to issue a Godly Judgment on February 5, 2009 listing 23 members of the clergy in the diocese whom he [Iker] considered not to be part of the group of clergy who had left the Episcopal Church with him and thus by implication identified those clergy who had left the Episcopal Church with him. However, some of the clergy not listed by Bishop Iker have indicated to the diocese that they do remain as clergy in the Episcopal Church and thus did not receive a letter from Bishop Gulick.