The vestry and rector of Christ Church in Plano, Texas announced September 15 that the parish will pay the Diocese of Dallas $1.2 million for its title to the parish property and disassociate themselves from the Episcopal Church.
Bishop James Stanton said, in one of two statements posted on the website of Christ Church in Plano, that he had come to the conclusion that there are "irreconcilable differences between Christ Church and the Episcopal Church, differences that would necessitate their separation from the Episcopal Church and, consequently, from the Diocese of Dallas."
"In many ways, clearly, this is a sad occasion for our Diocese," he wrote.
Stanton wrote that he had issued a "godly judgment" permitting the parish to separate from the diocese.
The website statement from the Christ Church vestry and its rector, the Rev. Canon David H. Roseberry, claims canonical authority for Stanton's "godly judgment." Neither their statement nor Stanton's gives a canonical citation for that authority.
There is a reference to a bishop's authority to issue a godly judgment in Title III, Canon 15, "Of the Dissolution of the Pastoral Relation," specifically Section 4(a)]. The canon deals with differences between a rector and vestry. It allows the bishop to "give notice to the Rector and Vestry that a godly judgment will be rendered" if the bishop concludes that the differences have not and cannot be resolved.
"I have believed that this is essentially a pastoral matter, and as such should be dealt with in a genuine spirit of Christian charity and mission," Stanton said. "I am pleased that all parties and every phase of our discussions have exemplified that spirit."
He wrote that a "contract for withdrawal is in place" that calls for the $1.2 million lump sum payment and for Christ Church to be responsible for its total indebtedness of $6.8 million.
"This arrangement secures their title and helps our Diocese continue to pursue its mission over the next few years," Stanton wrote.
Christ Church was founded in 1985 by Roseberry at the request of the late Bishop Donis Patterson of Dallas, and now has about 1,900 worshippers per weekend, according to its website. In the most recent statistics posted on the congregational development portion of the Episcopal Church's website, the parish claimed about 3,300 baptized members in 2004, and plate and pledge income of about $3.85 million .
The parish hosted the January 2004 meeting which resulted in the formation of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes (NACDP), sometimes referred to as the Anglican Communion Network (ACN).
"The decision of other parishes to remain in the Diocese of Dallas must not be seen as an endorsement" of the policies and actions of the Episcopal Church to which Christ Church objects," Stanton wrote.
Of the Episcopal Church's 7600 congregations, approximately 30 have experienced a majority vote of members to affiliate with an overseas diocese. In most cases, a smaller parish continues in loyalty to the diocese and wider Episcopal Church.
The statement from Roseberry and the vestry says that the process began with a June 24 statement from the vestry issued after a two-day meeting, announcing its intention to disassociate from the Episcopal Church.
That statement, issued three days after the end of the 75th General Convention, said, in part: "The mission of Christ Church is to make disciples and teach them to obey the commands of Christ. The direction of the leadership of the Episcopal Church is different and we regret their departure from biblical truth and the historic faith of the Anglican Communion."
The Christ Church statement says that Stanton has invited Bishop Bill Godfrey of Peru "to provide oversight of Christ Church and her clergy as we take our next step," calling the arrangement a temporary one.
"In God's perfect timing, these positive steps have cleared the way for Christ Church to find a new home within the Anglican Communion," the statement says, calling them "Chapter Two" in the congregation's life.