Dear All Saints’ Parishioners,
In regard to a letter you may have received from Ryan S. Reed dated March 12th, I want to make some points of clarification. This is a brazen and unheard-of solicitation by a leader of another denomination to get you to leave our and your Episcopal Church and become members of an entirely different church.
Now, I have fond memories of Ryan Reed when we were both priests in The Episcopal Church. As Rectors of large-ish Episcopal Churches in Ft. Worth, we would have lunch, share our bits of progress and struggles, and enjoyed each other’s company. But, let me be quite clear. Ryan Reed left The Episcopal Church. He is not now an Episcopalian, nor are the priests under his supervision, nor are the parishioners in his church’s organization. They have no association with, nor do they support, give, or work for The Episcopal Church.
We Episcopalians, you and I, are not members of his church. We are members of The Episcopal Church which is quite a different body of Christians. We may have been removed from the building on Crestline Road, but we, The Episcopal Church, are still very much here and doing the work of the Church.
In his letter to you, Bp. Reed said that “your former leadership” exercised “poor judgement (sic)” and “unbiblical action” on three occasions. I’m sure you know that we are NOT your “former leadership.” Neither the State nor the head of an entirely other church has any say about our leadership or your leadership. And whereas it is true that we were given three occasions by those who left The Episcopal Church to act, might I put those occasions he cites in his letter into proper perspective?
All of these occasions were offers by those who left The Episcopal Church for us to breach the trust given us by The Episcopal Church. We refused to do that. I don’t think that is “poor judgment,” I think that is being faithful to the trust given us. For instance:
When The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was created out of The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas and established by The Episcopal Church, it did so only after the postulant diocese vowed it would “accede to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.” In other words, if you, Fort Worth, want to be known as a diocese in The Episcopal Church, you must play by our rules, conduct yourselves according to our governing documents. One of the many “rules,” or “canons” as we term them, is this one on fiduciary responsibility:
“Any person accepting any office in this Church shall well and faithfully perform the duties of that office in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of this Church and of the Diocese in which the office is being exercised.”
All of us in The Episcopal Church, lay or ordained, have a responsibility of trust to the Church. Working within that Church to undermine it, to remove it, to break the very canons (church laws) we swore to operate by is a breach of trust. We who resisted that activity did not exercise “poor judgment” in doing so, nor was it “unbiblical behavior.” It is being honorable trustees and keepers of the faith entrusted to us.
Another instance might be the vows we clergy make when ordained in The Episcopal Church. When Ryan Reed and I were both priests in The Episcopal Church, we each had been ordained twice, once as deacons and again as priests. On both occasions, we were asked by our bishops to take this oath before we could be ordained by the Church, the Bishop asking:
“Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church has received them?”
To which each of us answered:
“I am willing and ready to do so, and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.”
One of us has kept those priestly vows upon which our ordination in The Episcopal Church was conditioned. So, to claim that when we were repeatedly given opportunities by those who were not acting consistently with those vows as trustees of The Episcopal Church, and when I and the lay leadership of this parish said, “No” – well, again, that is not “poor judgment” or “unbiblical behavior.” It is being true to our promises, our vows, and our Church’s polity.
Now, according to former Episcopalian Bp. Reed, I am being offered yet a fourth opportunity to betray my priestly vows and my oath and responsibility to be a fiduciary of The Episcopal Church, writing in his letter to you, “Clergy can meet with me about becoming canonically resident, but I suspect most will wish to remain with The Episcopal Church.” (Emphasis added.) There you have it, Fr. Jambor. One last offer to break your vows. This is one final temptation to breach the trust placed in me by The Church. For the fourth time, sir, “No.”
I think if asked, our bishop, a bishop of The Episcopal Church, would agree that our approach has been faithful and correct. I suspect all six of the diocesan bishops of The Episcopal Church in Texas would agree. I am convinced that our Presiding Bishop and all 100 diocesan bishops of The Episcopal Church in the United States would support our behavior to date.
We Episcopalians in this part of the Church have been the traumatized by what we believe was an act of betrayal. Bp. Reed wrote that we “chose a lawsuit over settlement.” Our lawsuit was not “unbiblical behavior.” It was seeking justice in the face of perceived wrongdoing. This lawsuit was not just by All Saints’. It was brought by our diocese and by The Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. From top to bottom, our Church, The Episcopal Church, expressed its outrage at what we believe was the breach of faith given to those who systematically and single-mindedly undermined it, and we rightly and understandably sought justice from the bench.
I could go on. It may well be that I sometimes use “poor judgement (sic)” or engage in “unbiblical action.” And I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. But I can assure you, I know the sacred trust which the Church has placed in our hands, and neither I nor our lay leadership have wanted any part of what we believed to be a betrayal of that trust over the last twelve and more years. We have not broken the trust. We have kept the faith. This is true: our church has been, remains and will continue to be The Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, in communion with the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury. We have been faithful to our promises and remain so. This is a most sad state of affairs. Despite what has befallen us, we will continue to be The Episcopal Church in Fort Worth because that is who we are.
I am so sorry you have had to suffer this. Be strong. Pray, work, and give for our way of being Christian, The Episcopal Church.