Threat of lawsuit blocks ordinariate vote

 

Threat of lawsuit blocks ordinariate vote

Author: 

George Conger

An ACNA congregation in Fort Worth has been blocked by the threat of litigation from holding a parish vote on whether it would accept Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to enter into full communion with Rome through the Anglican Ordinariate.
On 8 Dec 2011, Bishop Jack Iker announced that scheduled vote by the congregation of St Timothy’s Church in Fort Worth had been cancelled following the intervention of the national Episcopal Church.
Bishop Iker stated that on 6 Dec “lawyers for the Episcopal Church parties delivered a letter to our legal team inquiring about the situation at St. Timothy and commenting that the proposed use of the St. Timothy property by a body from another denomination would not be a ‘normal course of business use’ in compliance with the order of the 141st District Court signed Oct. 20, 2011.”
The diocese’s lawyers were asked “to explain how the situation would be handled to be in compliance with the order to avoid a hearing before the court, or the TEC lawyers indicated they would proceed to bring the matter to the court's attention.”
In order to avoid litigation, the attorneys for the diocese wrote to the Rev. Christopher Stainbrook, SSC, vicar of St. Timothy’s stating the bishop and the diocesan leadership “cannot jeopardize the entire Diocese as a result of your desire to join the Ordinariate.” Bishop Iker had no choice but to cancel the 18 Dec 2011 vote, the diocese reported.
 “We regret that the desires of the St. Timothy's Ordinariate group to continue to use the facilities after Jan. 1, 2012, would be contrary to the court order and subject all of us to unnecessary legal proceedings that the TEC lawyers have stated they are prepared to pursue. Sadly, this prevents a pastoral solution to a sensitive issue of spiritual discernment,” Bishop Iker said.
The retired Bishop of Quincy, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Keith Ackerman has been appointed priest in charge of the congregation beginning the first Sunday after Christmas, Bishop Iker said, as Fr. Stainbrook has renounced his orders in preparation for being received into the Roman Catholic Church.
Fr Stainbrook had told Anglican Ink he expected his parish would follow him to Rome.  “We don't think there will be any remnant which wishes to remain a part of the ACNA Diocese of Fort Worth.”  St Timothy’s had been the first Diocese of Fort Worth parish to act upon the offer of the ordinariate.  By tradition an Anglo-Papalist congregation, St Timothy’s was the only congregation in Fort Worth expected to join the ordinariate.
The forum scheduled for 11 Dec at the parish to discuss the petition to enter the ordinariate made by Fr. Stainbrook and the parish leadership would still be held, the bishop said, so that the congregation has an opportunity to ask questions and share its concerns about the implications of being received by the Roman Catholic Church.