There is an expressed desire on the part of some members of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth to experience the ministry of ordained women priests within this Diocese. As the Diocesan Bishop, however, I remain unwilling and unable to ordain women to the priesthood or to license women priests to function on my behalf.

On various occasions the question has been asked, “Is there some pastoral provision that could be made whereby the Bishop of Fort Worth would be wiling to make a special arrangement that would permit women priests to function and serve in such congregations of the Diocese where their ministry would be desired and welcomed?”

Canon III.16.2 already provides that a deacon or priest may function in any Diocese for up to two months without a license from the Bishop. Though I certainly would appreciate the courtesy of being notified when visiting clergy are functioning in the Diocese, it is not necessary to first secure my permission for them to do so. If my permission is asked for a woman priest to function sacerdotally in the Diocese, my answer will be “no.” But what about priestly ministry from a duly ordained woman which extends beyond the limited time of sixty days, as provided for by this Canon?

Any Rector and/or Vestry in this Diocese that wishes to engage the services of a woman priest on their parish staff would:

1. Recognize that because the Bishop is in a state of “impaired communion” with women priests and unable to accept sacramental ministry from them, that in order to engage the services of a woman priest on a regular basis in their congregation, the congregation itself would enter into a state of “impaired communion” with their Bishop, and

2. Notify the Bishop in writing that by a majority vote of the Vestry, following due consultation with the parish, the congregation wishes to receive the ministry of a woman priest on a regular basis and therefore petitions the Bishop to relinquish episcopal oversight of their parish to another Bishop in order for this to take place.

The Bishop will then designate the Bishop of Dallas as the alternative ecclesiastical authority for that parish and entrust to him all Episcopal oversight of that congregation, as well as the responsibility to provide all episcopal ministry required there, including the right to license priests to function in that parish on his behalf.

Any woman priest licensed under this provision will be canonically resident in the Diocese of Dallas and will exercise a priestly ministry in the Diocese of Fort Worth only at the parish church where she has been specifically licensed to officiate under this arrangement.

The congregation itself and other clergy serving there would continue to function in all other legislative and administrative respects as a part of the Diocese of Fort Worth. Remuneration to the Bishop of Dallas for his ministry under this provision would be paid by the Diocese of Fort Worth on a mutually agreeable basis.

Jack L. Iker
Bishop of Fort Worth