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Dallas Bishop clarifies request for 'alternative primatial oversight'
Stanton withdrew request to Canterbury for 'direct primatial relationship'

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

Participants at the 2006 convention of the Diocese of Dallas  

[Episcopal News Service]  In a statement issued October 27, Episcopal Diocese of Dallas Bishop James Stanton says that he "quietly" withdrew his diocese's request for a "direct primatial relationship" with the Archbishop of Canterbury in July.

Stanton's statement says that he withdrew the request because he had misgivings about the requests and because the terminology used was causing "confusion and some anxiety" in his diocese.

His statement comes in response to questions raised by an October 24 posting on the Diocese of Pittsburgh's website saying that the Diocese of Dallas had withdrawn its request for Alternate Primatial Oversight (APO).

That comment was made while introducing the full text of the appeal for a change in primatial oversight made July 20 to the Archbishop of Canterbury by the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Central Florida, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Joaquin, South Carolina, and Springfield. (The Diocese of Quincy joined the appeal September 16.) Pittsburgh's introductory comments refer only to APO.

"There is a problem here," Stanton said in his October 27 statement. "I never asked for APO."

"I maintain that the appeal is NOT for APO," Stanton said (emphasis his).

"Among other concerns, we do not have 'primatial oversight' in this Province as some other member Churches of the Anglican Communion do," Stanton said in his statement.

The constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, the Anglican Communion's main policy-making body, makes no provisions for alternative primatial oversight. Neither do the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

"This language caused confusion and some anxiety within the Dallas Diocese," Stanton said in his statement. "This is understandable, since I had announced and maintained a different sort of request from the beginning. Following the New York meeting in September, I shared this concern with my colleagues and indicated that I would quietly withdraw my own request. I did this before the Windsor Bishops' meeting at Camp Allen, in a simple note to the Archbishop."

Stanton said "there are no divisions" among the eight dioceses. "My own misgivings about the concept of APO is not a judgment on those who have made this request or what they intend by it. I certainly have not had any change of mind or resolve on my own part," he said.

Stanton acknowledged that he signed the appeal and helped to write it. He quoted from its third paragraph in support of his stance that none of the dioceses actually asked for APO.

That paragraph reads, in part:  "Seven dioceses are seeking to reshape their life together as dioceses . . . under the oversight of a Canterbury appointed Commissary, temporarily exercising some of the responsibilities normally assigned to the American primate."

The paragraph notes that some of the dioceses had requested "alternative primatial oversight" while one had requested "a direct pastoral relationship" and another "alternative primatial relationship and, as appropriate, oversight." None of the dioceses are named in this paragraph.

"While worded differently, what these requests seek in common is a special relationship of pastoral care and accountability under the Archbishop of Canterbury," the paragraph concludes.

A "Commissary," Stanton explained in his statement, is "a sort of vicar used by the Bishop of London in colonial days. The colonies which became the United States were under the oversight of the Bishop of London until the end of the American Revolution.

Stanton said in his statement that he had "misgivings" when he first heard Diocese of Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker use the phrase "alternative pastoral oversight" during June's General Convention meeting. Iker used the new phrase the day after the election of Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the 26th Presiding Bishop when he announced, that he had faxed a letter to Williams asking for such oversight.

Stanton said the Standing Committee of Dallas discussed APO with him prior to issuing a statement in early July but agreed to change the terminology in the statement. That statement asks Stanton to request a "direct primatial relationship" from Williams.

Stanton made the "direct pastoral relationship" request "immediately," he said in his statement.

The statement on the Diocese of Pittsburgh accompanying the text of the so-called "consolidated appeal" says that it was posted because the diocese's annual convention November 3-4 "will be asked to confirm the Standing Committee's request for Alternative Primatial Oversight." The text of the appeal has been available on the Internet for a number of weeks.

At Dallas' recent 111th annual convention delegates refused proposals to remove all reference to the Episcopal Church and General Convention from its constitution and place the diocese specifically in relationship with the Anglican Communion.

"Separation is not a strategy," Stanton said in his convention address. "Those who are thinking about departing from the church are fulfilling, not Christ's call, but the world's expectations about the church — that we really cannot get along, even with each other."

The full text of Stanton's address is available here.

His October 27 statement is due to be posted soon on Dallas' website.