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DALLAS: Convention refuses to sever relationship with the Episcopal Church

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
[Episcopal News Service]  The Diocese of Dallas's 111th diocesan convention, meeting October 20-21 at the Southfork Ranch Event and Conference Center, refused proposals to remove all reference to the Episcopal Church and General Convention from its constitution, place the diocese specifically in relationship with the Anglican Communion, allow a parish to break from the diocese "upon concurrence of its Rector and at least two-thirds of its Vestry" and allow breakaway parishes to retain title to their property.

"Separation is never a strategy," Dallas Bishop James Stanton said in a convention speech, according to an October 22 report in the Dallas Morning News.

 "Those who depart the church are not, I think, fulfilling Christ's call but are fulfilling the expectations the world has about the church, that we cannot really get along," he said. The diocese's website does not yet have a copy of Stanton's address.

After the convention, Stanton told the Dallas newspaper that his call for church unity would apply to the denomination only if it follows "the teachings of the apostles."

The Diocese of San Joaquin's diocesan convention on December 1-2 will consider similar constitutional amendments concerning references to the Episcopal Church and General Convention, according to a statement posted on the diocese's website October 1.

The resolutions that the Dallas convention passed included ones to:

  • amend the preamble of the diocese's constitution to add words echoing the preamble to the Episcopal Church's constitution saying "that the diocese is a diocese within the province of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, which is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion – A Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Church in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer";
  • qualify the diocese's required constitutional accession to the Episcopal Church's General Convention and Constitution and Canons "expressly premised on the Episcopal Church in the United States of America being and at all times remaining a full, constituent member of the Anglican Communion," to state that the accession as stated can be "revoked, limited or otherwise amended" by the annual or special convention of the diocese, and to state that the amended accession can in "no way be deemed to prevent or limit this Diocese from disassociating itself from any actions of the General Convention by concurrent majority vote of both orders at any Annual or Special Convention";
  • set up a canonical procedure for resolving disputes between a parish and the diocese;
  • continue the "heritage and legacy" of the diocese; "affirm, encourage, and respect" Stanton's leadership, and  note "the need to stay united in common mission, to continue as contributing members of the Diocese of Dallas and to participate in and pray about the ongoing processes in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion";
  • "recommit" to the Great Commission, the Great Commandments and to goals set at the 107th diocesan convention (including increasing communicants and participation worship and stewardship), and call upon the bishop and Standing Committee to revisit the diocesan strategic plan and present measurable goals and plans for achieving them at the 2007 diocesan convention;
  • commend Stanton's pastoral leadership "in a time of a potentially fractious decision-making process"; and
  • reaffirm diocesan commitment to the Windsor Report and its processes, and express its support of and commitment to the Archbishop of Canterbury's proposal for the process of developing an Anglican Covenant; and
  • affirm Article VI ("Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation)
    of the Articles of Religion established by the General Convention on September 12, 1801 (The Book of Common Prayer, p.868); affirm that "every member of this Church is conscience-bound first of all to obey the teaching and direction of Our Lord Jesus Christ as set forth in Holy Scripture -- as interpreted in the ongoing tradition of the church, no local synod, convention or conference to the contrary -- in any matter where a decision or action of this Church, or the General Convention, may depart from that teaching," re-affirms that the statements known as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886,1888, as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer, 1979, p. 876; affirm that "councils of the Church have, and sometimes will, err but that Our Lord Jesus Christ, present through the person of the Holy Spirit, can and will correct such error."

The resolutions that failed to pass included ones to:

  • amend the diocese's constitution to declare that "the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas is and shall be a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church";
  • delete all references in the diocese's constitution to the General Convention, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention;
  • delete Section 36.1 (a) of the diocese's Canon 36 which says that the articles of incorporation of any parish, mission or diocesan institution must expressly state that the organization is subject to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America and the diocese; and
  • stop funding the costs of the diocese's General Convention deputation, its provincial synod delegates and its provincial synod assessment, and to allocate $566,500 of the resulting savings for new church plants and $335,293 to a "contingency" line item.

Withdrawn resolutions included ones to:

  • delete the diocesan constitutional article governing General Convention deputies;
  • amend the diocesan canons to delete all references to the General Convention, the national church, the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, and the Constitution and Canons of the General Convention, "except for Canon 11 regarding the Church Pension Fund";
  • amend various canons to create a process to accommodate parishes whose rector and vestry want to withdraw from the diocese, including handling the disposition of the parish's property; and
  • "accept and endorse ... as its own" the statement issued by the Camp Allen gathering of 21 Episcopal bishops.

Time ran out for the convention to debate a resolution concerning the diocese's support of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and it was referred to the diocese's Executive Council. The Resolutions Committee, however, had recommended that it not pass since the General Convention had previously passed MDGs resolutions.

Many of the delegates said they hope that a year's delay will allow the international Anglican Communion to create a new home for conservative American Episcopalians, the Dallas newspaper reported.

The Diocese of Dallas consists of about 38,900 Episcopalians worshipping in 70 congregations.