Fort Worth parish heading to Rome

 

Fort Worth parish heading to Rome

Author: 

George Conger

A Diocese of Fort Worth mission congregation will put to a vote of its members Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to enter into full communion with Rome through the Anglican Ordinariate.
On Dec 2, Bishop Jack Iker announced that the congregation of St Timothy’s Church in Fort Worth will hold a meeting on 11 Dec 2011 to discuss the petition of the vestry and its vicar, the Rev. Christopher Stainbrook, SSC to enter the ordinariate.  The congregation will vote on the proposal the following Sunday.
Not all of the members of the Anglo-Catholic congregation are expected to support the decision to enter the Catholic Church, however.  The 18 Dec 2011 vote will allow Bishop Iker the opportunity to gauge the degree of support the move has in the congregation, and permit him to plan for the pastoral and sacramental care of those not going over to Rome.
The Vatican has set 1 January 2012 as the start date for the Anglican Ordinariate in America.  Created in response to requests from Anglicans seeking union with the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Ordinariate was formed in November 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI following the promulgation of Anglicanorum coetibus.  While Anglicans had always been welcomed as individual converts to Roman Catholicism, the Anglican Ordinariate provideda way for groups of Anglicans to enter in "corporate reunion" with Rome.
If St Timothy’s enters the ordinariate it would become Roman Catholic, but would retain elements of its Anglican liturgy and heritage.  The congregation would not become part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, however, but would join the new American branch of the ordinariate.
Two U.S. congregations have already been received into the new ordinariate.  In September an independent congregation in Fort Worth joined followed last month by the members of the Diocese’ of Washington’s St Luke’s Episcopal Church in Bladensburg, Maryland.
The creation of the American ordinariate follows the formation of the first personal ordinariate, Our Lady of Walsingham, established on 15 Jan 2011 for England and Wales.  Led by the former Church of England Bishop of Richborough, Monsignor Keith Newton, it has approximately 1000 members in 42 congregations.  Plans for ordinariates for Canada and Australia are also underway.
Fr. Stainbrook has also announced that he will resign as vicar and will step down from the ministry of the Episcopal Church and intends to seek holy orders within the Ordinariate.  While he trains for the Catholic ministry, however, the ordinariate will assign a new priest to serve those going over to Rome.
Late last month the leaders of the congregation sent Bishop Iker a copy of their petition to be received by Rome.  The bishop and diocesan leaders met with Fr. Stainbrook and his vestry – known as the Bishop’s Committee due to the congregation’s status as a mission – on 29 Nov and told him they were unanimous in their decision to withdraw. 
St Timothy’s has an average Sunday attendance of approximately 90 and is a mission congregation of the diocese.  Founded in 1956, it reached parish status in 1960, but reverted to mission status in 1993 and has received “significant financial support from the Diocese” a spokesman noted.
Those eligible to vote are the members of the congregation who “attend church on every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation unless for good and sufficient cause prevented”; contribute to the “financial upkeep” of the congregation; have been confirmed; have received Holy Communion at least three times in the preceding year; are not under ecclesiastical discipline; and are enrolled members of the congregation 16 years of age and older.Fort
A diocesan spokesman noted the forum and vote are intended to provide the diocese with a “clearer picture of the congregation’s wishes, once we have clarified what is and isn't possible.”  Under the terms of a supersedeas bond agreement filed by the diocese in its on-going litigation with the national church, Fort Worth may not alienate any properties until the suit is resolved.  The diocese is determined to abide by the terms of the bond and cannot sell, give or lease St Timothy’s to the ordinariate, the spokesman added.
Bishop Iker said, “While we regret that many members of St. Timothy's feel called at this time to leave our fellowship for the Roman Catholic Church, we respect their conscience and spiritual discernment in this matter. We live in a very conflicted time in the life of the Church, and it is important to maintain charity and patience with one another. We wish them well, in the name of the Lord.”