Depose Bishop Iker Immediately
I previously (http://weiwentg.blogspot.com/2007/01/anglical-communion-panel-of-reference.html) took the Anglican Communion Panel of Reference to task for upholding what was, in my mind, a faulty theological position. For those who haven't been following the story, Bishop Iker of the Diocese of Forth Worth refuses to ordain women. He appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who set up the Panel. The Panel stated that refusal to ordain women was a "recognized theological position," and asked us to clarify our canons. Our canons state that no one is to be denied ordination because of, among other things, gender. Bishop Iker refers prospective female clergy to the Diocese of Dallas under what is known as the Dallas Plan. I expressed skepticism if the Plan was adequate, and called for my church to debate it. I also called for my church to listen to women on the ground in Fort Worth, especially those who had sought ordination.
However, I recently discovered a blog post by a woman, Katie Sherrod, who is actually on the ground in Fort Worth. And I am rather embarrassed, because I had browsed her blog but missed the appropriate post.
But, the gist is this. Women in Fort Worth who feel called to the priesthood must meet several requirements, like meeting their own rector and writing a spiritual autobiography. Women who complete these requirements must then meet with Bishop Iker. We all know that the Bishop is against the ordination of women. Sherrod feels that his priests are (not surprisingly) almost uniformly against it as well. Women called to ordination have a pretty low chance of passing this screening process.
If they do, they will have to go through the same process, albeit in a less hostile environment, in Dallas. Here lies the next problem. I stand by my assertion that the city of Fort Worth is 33 miles away from the city of Dallas, because I checked it on Yahoo maps. However, Texas is a large state. It's about the size of France. The town of Burkburnett, in the Diocese of Fort Worth, is a 300-mile round trip from Dallas. Someone who got past Bp Iker would, if the distance from her town were that great, have to uproot herself and relocate to somewhere in the Diocese of Dallas. Or else she would have to make the trip, which is not cheap these days.
Since Iker was consecrated in 1993, 4 Fort Worth women have been ordained, out of a Diocese of 16,000. The Diocese of Michigan is somewhat larger than Fort Worth, but there was one ordination recently where we ordained 5 women to the priesthood, and one to the transitional diaconate (which means she was then a deacon and we later made her a priest). The numbers alone seem to suggest that Bp Iker is up to no good.
Bp Iker also has the gall to claim that no parish in Fort Worth has tried to call a female priest as their rector. However, Sherrod believes that a female priest in Fort Worth would have no seat or voice at Diocesan Convention, and decisions about her parish would be made without her input.
Sherrod's post is available here: http://wildernessgarden.blogspot.com/2007/01/its-all-about-gender.html.
Sherrod points out that of the 13 members of the panel, only 2 were women. 8 were from the Global South, which is generally less supportive of women's ordination. Sherrod believes that they did not consult with women on the ground in Fort Worth at all, which could be seen as a form of wilfull ignorance.
However, I would ask us not to blame the panel too much. First, remember, they have only advisory authority. Second, perhaps the deck was stacked against us by the makeup of the panel. However, we have to remember that the Anglican Communion is changing. The largest churches are in Asia and Africa. They should perhaps have more input, based on their greater numbers. It would be presumptuous of Western churches to keep them out of decision-making, because we think we know better. If we go against the panel of reference, let it because what they ask is wrong in our cultural context.
My attitude towards Bishop Iker is less charitable. The Episcopal Church should investigate Sherrod's allegations, by consulting with people on the ground in Fort Worth. The man has the gall to act as if he is following church canons. He has the gall to claim that he is being discriminated against by the church. I admire gall ... but if the allegations are substantiated, he should be deposed as soon as possible.
Our ecclesiastical courts must presume him innocent until found guilty. But, unless I hear contrary from other women in Fort Worth, I have no reason to distrust Sherrod's views, and my mind is made up. Try as I might, I was unable to find a depiction of someone drowning in the sea with a millstone around their necks. But, if a piano were to fall on Bishop Iker's head, I would not be among the first to mourn.
Credit for the pianos goes to this guy's blog: http://amanyala.blogspot.com/2006/08/piano-should-fall-on-their-heads.html