Friday, December 26, 2008

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth

Status of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
After Convention November, 2008


This is intended to be a very brief explanation of the status of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth ("EDFW") and those parishes and parishioners who were members of the EDFW prior to and immediately after the Diocesan Convention, November, 2008 ("The Convention"). This explanation is not intended to be a legal explanation of all the nuances and fine points of the law concerning this subject, but merely an explanation that will hopefully educate those who were affected by the actions taken at The Convention.

Legal Entity

In order to understand any of what follows, it is first necessary to understand the legal entity that is the EDFW. It is a nonprofit corporation duly organized and registered with the Texas Secretary of State’s Corporate Filings Office in Austin. The filing information is as follows:

Name: Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
Date Filed: February 28, 1983
Charter. No.: 64493201
Registered Agent: Jack Leo Iker
Registered Office: 2900 Alemeda Street
Fort Worth, Texas 76108-5960
Status: Domestic Nonprofit Corporation
Tax ID: 17518551332

As a legally constituted corporation, the EDFW functions as any other nonprofit corporation functions, with all the rights and privileges attached to such a corporation. As such, it is free to enter into whatever associations it may choose. It is also free to disassociate itself from any association it may have once made. No nonprofit corporation, or any other corporation or person, is required to remain in association with any organization with which it does not wish to remain. There is no irrevocable association law. The corporation is governed by its governing documents, which, in the case of EDFW, in addition to its Charter and Bylaws, are its Constitution and Canons. No other governing documents may have legal preference over these. According to Article 2, Constitution of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth,("the Constitution") the legislation of the diocese is entrusted to:

". . . a Convention to consist as follows: First, of the Bishop, when there be one; of the Bishop Coadjutor, when there be one; of the Suffragan Bishops, Assistant Bishops, if there be any; Second, of all priests canonically resident in the Diocese, and not under Ecclesiastical discipline, and who have not in contemplation of removal from this Diocese, applied for their Letters Dimissory; and Third, of Lay Delegates chosen by and representing their Congregations. Lay Delegates and their Alternates shall be elected by the Congregations of their respective Parishes and Missions at the Annual Parish Meeting and shall hold office until their successors are elected. The Rectors of Parishes and Vicars of Missions shall have authority to fill such vacancies as may occur from the list of Alternate Lay Delegates between the time of such election and any meetings of the Convention. Lay Delegates shall be confirmed communicants in good standing, at least 18 years of age."

Status After The Convention

By law, any "legislation" passed by the duly chosen representative members of the EDFW at convention, held according to the Constitution, is the act of the EDFW and all of its constituent members, i.e. parishes and members of parishes. Some rectors and lay leaders within EDFW who voted at the Diocesan Convention in November, 2008, against the proposed changes to the Constitution and Canons of EDFW at that convention are making the mistake of declaring that because they voted "No" the changes do not effect them. They mistakenly believe they are unchanged by the vote of almost 80% of the duly chosen delegates to that convention.

The parishes that were part of the EDFW prior to The Convention sent their duly appointed clergy and lay delegates to The Convention, just as they had always done, and those delegates voted at The Convention on the propositions properly placed before them, just as they had always done. Unlike previous conventions, however, some parishes (or rather rectors and vestry members) went away from this convention convinced that what happened at this convention did not apply to them, as all previous actions at previous conventions had applied. For some reason, these rectors and vestry members took the position that they were no longer a part of what took place, nor were they a part of the diocese that had just held its convention. The question then remains, what was the defining moment that made such a result possible? How did those parishes walk into that convention a part of it and walk out not a part of it?

To illustrate the absurdity of this position, consider the recent national elections that were held in the US. First, there were the primaries where voters voted for their choice for the nominee of their party. John McCain won enough votes in the Republican primaries to be the nominee of that party, and Barack Obama won enough votes in the Democratic primaries to be the nominee of that party. Then there was the general election where voters voted for President and Vice President. Obama won and McCain lost. To apply the reasoning of those who "lost" the election at the Diocesan Convention in November, 2008, if I did not vote for Obama for President, then the election of the majority of voters in America doesn’t affect me. I can still claim to be under President Bush, or even worse that I am under John McCain. To make such a claim is absurd.

So it is absurd for those who voted "No" at the Diocesan Convention in November, 2008, to claim that they are still in TEC, when the vote of almost 80% of the delegates voted that the EDFW leave TEC. Some will say, "But we didn’t vote to leave, so why should we have to be the ones to start a new diocese? Shouldn’t you who voted to leave be the ones to start a new diocese?" Since the only diocese with any standing is the EDFW, and since the EDFW has left TEC, the only choice for those who wish to remain in TEC is for them to take some action to accomplish that. It is not possible to remain in place and remain in TEC, because the EDFW, to which they all belong at present, is no longer in TEC. They must separate from the EDFW and go their own way. The Canons of the EDFW were amended to provide for just such action by those who wish to separate from the EDFW.

The crux of the problem seems to be that some have believed the continual pronouncements from TEC that parishes and dioceses cannot leave TEC, only people can. From this premise follows all the conflict in the EDFW. It is important to check the premise of any argument in order to arrive at a correct result. If the premise is wrong, the result will be wrong. Each time TEC is challenged to defend their position concerning who can leave TEC, they are silent. Their only response is that the Constitutions and Canons of TEC do not allow a diocese to leave TEC. In fact, there is nothing in the Constitutions and Canons of TEC that even address a diocese leaving TEC, let alone prohibiting such action. The rule of law is that any act that is not prohibited in the governing document is, therefore, allowed.

If the founders of PECUSA had intended to prohibit dioceses from leaving PECUSA, they could have placed such a prohibition in the Constitution and Canons of PECUSA, but they did not. In the intervening 200 years, if the Bishops and clergy and lay delegates to General Convention had desired to place such a prohibition in the Constitution and Canons of PECUSA, ECUSA, or TEC, they could have amended those documents. The have not. It is not as if this has never been an issue. During the Civil War, the dioceses of the Confederate States left PECUSA, and after the war, they returned to PECUSA. No question was raised about whether they could leave PECUSA. The precedent has clearly been established that a diocese can leave TEC. There is no issue now, except in the mind of the Presiding Bishop and of her supporters, about diocese leaving TEC. So far, no court has been asked to settle this question, so that remains to be resolved, but the law appears to be on the side of the diocese in this conflict.

What About The Bishop?

Some rectors have told their parishes that they no longer have a bishop in the EDFW and that they will be having a convention in February to elect a new bishop. The Restated Articles of Incorporation of the EDFW set forth the process for selecting a bishop.

"In the event of a dispute or challenge regarding the identity of the Bishop of the body now known as the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the elected Trustees shall have the sole authority to determine the identity and the authority of the Bishop, as provided by the Bylaws of the Corporation, for the purposes of these Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation." (Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation, Article VI.)

Since the Bishop of the EDFW is still Bp. Iker, there is no vacancy to be filled, but should such vacancy exist, it is clear that the Trustees of the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth have the "sole authority to determine the identity and the authority of the Bishop" and no one else. Therefore, those rectors and parishioners who believe they can simply call a convention and elect or appoint a bishop clearly do not know the rules by which this must be accomplished. Certainly, the Presiding Bishop of TEC has no authority to convene such a convention, as she proposed to do in Fort Worth on February 7, 2009.

What About the Property?

The issue of the title to the property of the EDFW is one of continual conjecture and controversy. It need not be. The title to the real property, i.e. the parish buildings and grounds, was vested in the Corporation of the Diocese of Fort Worth by court order in the case of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, et al. v. Jim Mattox, Cause No. 84-8573, the 95th District Court of Dallas County, Texas, (1984) in which the court entered a judgment whereby the title of all property standing in the name of the Bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas and located within the present boundaries of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth were vested in the name of the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Since a court of competent jurisdiction has already ruled on the title to the property, the EDFW is in a better position to withstand a challenge by TEC to the property of the EDFW.


The EDFW is still alive and well. It is a legal entity with a life of its own, separate and apart from TEC. There is nothing TEC can do that will have any legal effect on the EDFW. Those who voted at The Convention for the EDFW to leave TEC can thank God that He placed in positions of authority wise and learned leaders who were responsible for the formation of the EDFW in the beginning, and who have guided it through the troubled seas of recent times. From a legal perspective, it would appear the EDFW is on very solid ground. From a pastoral prospective it would appear the EDFW is on solid biblical grounds in how it proposes to treat those within the EDFW who disagree with leaving TEC. Those members of the EDFW who wish to remain in TEC must now take some affirmative action to go their separate way from the EDFW. Until they take such action, they remain part of the EDFW.

Friday, December 12, 2008

This I Believe - Part One, Chapter One

This I Believe - Part One
By Bill Fisher

Copyright © 2008. Bill Fisher. All Rights Reserved.

Where Did We Get Scripture?


Before I can explain what I believe, I must explain what I believe to be true about Scripture itself. My eldest daughter, Stacie, and her husband, Brian, have been thinking about the question: "Where did we get the Scripture we call The Bible?" This is a good question and deserves to be addressed first. Otherwise, what follows will ring hollow. If, as I wrote in the Preface, I believe Scripture to be the inspired Word of God, what do I mean? That fundamental issue will permeate all the rest of what I believe. At the outset, I refer to an old book, which was compiled from a series of articles written by Henry Gray Graham that appeared in the Catholic Press in 1908-1909 and which were written to demonstrate the origins of the Bible and its ties to the Roman Catholic Church. These articles were written in respect of the 300th anniversary of the King James Bible which was published in 1610. You can read or download this book at:

I also refer to another book, which unfortunately as far as I know cannot be downloaded from the internet, written by Neil R. Lightfoot, who was a professor of Bible at Abilene Christian University when I attended that university. It is entitled, How We Got The Bible, published by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and has been printed several times, including 1963 and 1988, both of which printings I have a copy. This book is a good basic review of much of what is not included in Graham’s much earlier book. It also gives a point of view from the other side, not the Roman Catholic view. Somewhere between the two perspectives lies the Truth.

Hebrew Scripture (Or Old Testament)

So, I shall begin with my understanding of where we got scripture. First, there is what we call the Old Testament. Obviously, this portion of Scripture was not called the Old Testament at the time of its writing. It was, rather referred to as the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings. This is the same Hebrew Scripture that Jesus and the apostles quoted in what we call the New Testament. If we are to be honest about where we got the Bible, we must admit that the Roman Catholic Church deserves a great deal of the credit. As much as some churchmen and churchwomen hate to admit it, there is not much that came down to the modern Christian church that did not first pass through the Roman Catholic Church. A cursory review of church history will reveal that after the church started in Judea, it spread throughout the Mediterranean world during the next 100 years or so, and, by the time of the first church councils, which I will cover later, a kind of consensus had developed as to what constituted the New Testament, and a confirmation of what constituted the Old Testament.

We have very early witnesses of what was accepted at the time of Jesus as the "canon" of the Old Testament. This word, "canon" is the English version of the Greek word kanon and the Hebrew word qaneh. The most basic meaning of these two words is a reed, or measuring rod. Thus the word came to mean the standard or rule by which to measure the writings accepted by the Hebrews and the church as "the Scriptures." The word ultimately was used to refer to the list or index of the books which are received as Holy Scripture.

It is fairly well settled that at least by 100 B.C. the canon of the Old Testament was established. It would have been nice if Jesus or one of the apostles would have listed the writings considered to make up the Old Testament at the time, but they didn’t. About the closest we can come to that is something Jesus said, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." (Lk. 24:44) This corresponds with how the Jews traditionally referred to the volume of Scripture we call the Old Testament.

Josephus, who lived during the first century after Christ, wrote the oldest known historical account of the life of Jesus outside of the New Testament. Josephus recounted in his writings, including Antiquities of the Jews, the writings then accepted as the Holy Scriptures of the Hebrews. His list contains the same writings we currently have in the Old Testament and none other. Therefore, we can be reasonably certain of what was considered to be the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings during Jesus’ time.

During the third century A.D., another writer confirmed Josephus’ "canon" of the Hebrew Scriptures. Origen, (184-254 A.D.) was one of the most prolific writers of, what has been called, the Early Church Fathers. Origen listed the titles of writings included in Josephus’ "canon" to include all of what we call the Old Testament. Origen’s "canon" agrees exactly with Josephus’ "canon," and both agree with what we have today.

It should be noted at this point that there are books contained in the Roman Catholic Bible that are not included in the King James Bible and those that followed. Those "apocryphal" books are contained between the Old and New Testaments of some Bibles. These apocryphal books were rejected as inspired and authoritative by later churchmen. I will not get bogged down in that debate. Entire books have been written on the subject. I will leave it at this: I have read the apocryphal books and have found nothing in them that added to my understanding of God or His plan for mankind. There is some interesting history contained in them, which is probably mostly true, and there are some quite outlandish tales contained in them. Why do I use the term "outlandish?" I use that term because some of those tales are contradictory of the rest of Scripture. If anyone is interested in what those tales may be, someday, in another writing, I will address them.

This I Believe - Part One, Dedication & Preface

This I Believe - Part One
By Bill Fisher

Copyright © 2008. Bill Fisher. All Rights Reserved.


This writing, whatever it turns out to be, is dedicated to my three adult children, Stacie, Sheri, and Chris, whom I love like crazy. I list you in the order of your birth, which is the way I always seem to mention your names. I hope when you hear me do that, you don’t think it has anything to do with any order of preference or favor, or lack thereof. I love you each in a separate and special way that is unique to you, because you are each such unique and wonderful persons. You each bless me in a special way that the others don’t, but altogether you bless me so much that it overflows.

In addition to my children mentioned above, I want to dedicate this to two others who are also my children, Tim and Brian. Tim, you are our "adopted" son, even though there is no paper saying that in a court of law. You are our son in the court of heaven and in our hearts. Gloria and I include you daily in our prayers right along with our offspring. We love you and count it a blessing to have you in our family. Brian, you married into this family when you married Stacie, and we could not be more pleased to count you as one of our children as well. As with Tim, you are included in our daily prayers as we pray for each of our offspring. We love you dearly.
It is my heart’s desire that all of you come to know the Lord God, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, in a close intimate way. I want you to enter into such a deep personal relationship with God that nothing can ever separate you from Him. This is the most important desire in my heart and in my soul. All other desires pale into insignificance compared to this one.


The inspiration for writing this came to me one day as I was praying for my adult children. As I prayed for God to speak to my children, He spoke to me. In seeking God’s help in sending someone to cross the path of my children, who would say the words, or live the Life of Faith as a model for them, He showed me that I am the spiritual head of my family, and it is my responsibility first. So, I embarked on this adventure of sharing my faith with my children. I have always tried to live out my faith in front of my children, and now it seems it’s time to write out what I truly believe as well.

It is my intention, as I begin, to start at my beginning and to write about what I believe. I will do my best not to preach to anyone, but to share my own faith. If I lapse into preaching somewhere along the way, I ask for forgiveness. It is my nature to teach. Gloria says I am a teacher at the core of my being. I may do some other work or have some other career to earn a living, but I always revert to my true nature of being a teacher. So, I embark from here, looking back to my beginnings in the faith walk, and winding my way through the paths, avenues, and freeways of my life to find, to tell, and to share what I believe.

In this explanation of, what I believe to be, the Truth concerning God and my relationship to Him, it seemed right to me to begin at the point of reference that shows how I know about God in the first place. The starting point for my knowledge about God is Scripture. I grew up listening to my mother read to me from a Bible story book. I still have that book. It is entitled, Bible Story Book, and was written by Elsie E. Egermeier and published by The Smithsonian Company, Los Angeles, California in 1939. The book was first copyrighted in 1923, and, by the time my mother acquired a copy in 1943, it was in its twenty-ninth printing and over 500,000 copies were in circulation. It was written as "A complete Narration from Genesis to Revelation for Young and Old.", according to the title page. It contains almost all of the Bible stories and made me fall in love with them. A copy of this exact same volume can be purchased today from Amazon. It is still in print, with the latest printing that I’ve seen being in 1974.

Before I launch into this subject, I need to clarify something that those who know me, especially my children, may think about me. I love Scripture. That is no surprise. As much as I love Scripture, however, I love my Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ, more. It is easy to fall into a trap when living the Life of Faith. Some Evangelicals, some Fundamentalists, some Protestants make such a big deal out of Scripture that some of them worship Scripture instead of the God of Scripture. This reminds me of a time when Jesus was addressing the Pharisees of his day and he said to them, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39-40a) Scripture leads us to God and His plan for mankind, but it is not the thing that should engender our affection, but rather, the Author of it, who came down from His lofty position to become Man, to live among men, to suffer and die a horrible death to take away the sin of the world, who deserves our adoration and devotion.

Scripture is a wonderful thing when handled rightly, but a deadly weapon when mishandled. Too many have mishandled it, and I plead guilty to having done this at one time in my life when I was young and accepted too much what some preacher said. I believe that Scripture is the Word of God written. I believe it is inspired of God. I believe it contains everything necessary for life and for salvation. There are many things I believe about Scripture, all of which I will eventually get to. For now, I will say only this about that: I believe Scripture, being the Word of God, is alive with God’s Holy Spirit and that it speaks to us when we read it out loud and hear its words coming from our own mouths. I believe Scripture can transform our lives into the pattern set forth with it.

For now, this verse from Scripture will suffice to set the tone for what follows.

"For the word of God is living and active: Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Heb. 4:12)

Unhitched — Liberalism’s Slide into Oblivion - Part One

By Bill Fisher
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Fisher. All rights reserved.

Liberalism, whether it surfaces in the spiritual or the secular world ultimately leads to a slide of that world into the oblivion of failed expectations. How and why is this the case? First, and foremost, modern liberalism, as it is practiced today, is rooted in relativism, sometimes called moral relativism. According to this philosophy, there are no absolute truths. What was true yesterday is not true today, and what is true today will not be true tomorrow. What is true for you may not be true for me. Relativism unhitches society from the anchors of traditional, foundational truths. Once unhitched from the anchors of traditional, foundational truths, relativism leads to a free floating uncertain journey through life that has no destination. Thus, it leads to oblivion, because without a destination, there can be no progress, only floating about seeking but never finding. Yogi Bera is quoted has having said, "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there." And that, at it’s center, is what modern liberalism is all about.

Relativism is defined in the American College Dictionary as: "the theory of knowledge or ethics which holds that criteria of judgment are relative, varying with the individual, time and circumstance." Sometime during the 60's America embraced, with gusto in some quarters, an idea called "situational ethics." This was nothing more than relativism. What is right or wrong all depends on the circumstances, and what the actors think is right or wrong. This is unhitched from reality, not to mention traditional, foundational truths.

While relativism lies at the center of modern liberal philosophy, there is another factor that, when added to relativism, creates a dynamic that seduces society into believing something that has never been true to be true now, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. That factor is an idea commonly known as "socialism." Modern liberals believe with all of their hearts that government is corrupt, business is exploitive, and people are generally good at heart. Interestingly, however, even with that statement of faith, these same liberals believe the best way to create a perfect world is to regulate the conduct of those good-hearted people and to control the means of production of the exploitive businesses (which are in reality made up of good-hearted people). And who should intervene to control such things? Why, the corrupt government, of course (which is in reality made up of good-hearted people).

Modern liberalism has hijacked the label "liberal" and given it a new meaning. Classic liberalism stood for the proposition that government should be restrained not increased. Classic liberalism stressed individual freedom and limited government. It was a marriage between economic freedom and political freedom. It is the principle foundation of the writings of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Thomas Paine and others. It was, indeed, the basis of the foundation upon which the founding fathers of the United States fashioned a more perfect union to establish justice, to insure domestic tranquility, to provide for the common defense, to promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity. There was tension between the forces that wanted to create a powerful central government with superior rights to the various states within the country and those who distrusted a strong central government that would eventually dictate every area of life of its citizens. It was this tension that gave rise to the Bill of Rights that were to forever preserve to the people and the states superior sovereignty over a central government.

Modern liberalism is really not liberalism at all, in the classic sense of the meaning of the word. Instead, modern liberalism is actually socialism in disguise. Prior to the late 19th century, everyone who knew anything about this subject understood liberalism to mean individual freedom, limited government, economic liberalism (liberty) and political liberalism (liberty.) With the introduction of the interventionists central planning concepts from Europe during the late 19th century came modern liberalism.

Socialism was the label used in Europe and in Russia for what became modern liberalism in the United States. Most of us have heard of Karl Marx, known to many as the father of Communism. Many of us have heard of his famous book, The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848, in which he set forth a plan for the creation of a utopian society in which the state controlled everything for the good of everyone. What most people don’t realize is that what Marx wrote was not original. All Karl Marx really did was to update and codify the very same revolutionary plans and principles set down seventy years earlier by Adam Weishaupt, the founder of the Order of Illuminati in Bavaria. This blueprint set forth the foundation for constructing a socialist society where centralized government possessed most, if not all, of the power.

It is interesting to note that Karl Marx was hired to put his name on The Communist Manifesto by a group who called themselves the League of the Just. Many serious scholars agree that the League of the Just was the progeny of the Illuminati which was forced underground in 1786 by the Bulgarian government. The Illuminati was founded on May 1, 1776, barely two months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. Although it existed in the open for only a decade, it’s offspring — The League of Outlaws, Educational Society for German Working-men, The Communist League, Workers’ Brotherhood of Germany, and others — have survived even into the 21st century.

By the time modern liberalism was taking shape in the United States, the label "socialist" was fairly solidly associated with Communism, which carried with it many negative connotations. The socialists came up with a new name for their movement, and called it liberalism. Over the course of years, the label "liberalism" has come to signify a philosophy of greater government intervention in the lives of citizens and a focus on individualism as opposed to community.

In Part Two, I will explore specific examples of liberalism at work in the current financial crisis in which the United States finds itself. In Part Three, I will explore specific examples of liberalism at work in The Episcopal Church as that denominations is being split assunder by relativist doctrines