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Stand Firm Interviews: Bishop Jack Leo Iker

Greg Griffith: You've said your primary reason for asking for alternative primatial oversight is that your diocese, as one that doesn't ordain women, does not recognize the validity of Bishop Jefferts Schori's orders. You're an easy mark for critics who want to characterize you as a reactionary and perhaps a sexist, despite your having stressed that your request is not a comment on the PB-elect personally. How do you respond to those critics?

Bishop Iker: It is always a temptation to dismiss those with whom we disagree by the use of derogatory labels. Those tempted to do so in this case, with reference to those who uphold an all male priesthood, must remember that this is the historic practice of the catholic church dating back to Jesus and the Apostles. They started it, not I, and still today the catholic church as a whole does not recognize the orders of women priests and bishops. I remain unconvinced by the arguments that have been put forward to support such ordinations and regard them as a fundamental break with apostolic faith and order.

Though our doubt about the validity of Katharine Jefferts Schori’s orders is the immediate and primary concern for asking for alternative primatial oversight, it is by no means the only reason. She espouses various heterodox views that are contrary to a bishop’s ministry to guard and defend the faith. Contrary to Holy Scripture and the apostolic practice of the whole church, she advocates the blessing of same-sex unions, thinks that calling Jesus our only Savior puts God in a box, and refers to him as "Mother Jesus."

My theological views are contrary to the ones she has espoused. Mine are shared by the vast majority of the Christian world and of the Anglican Communion. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would lead the universal church into all truth, not just the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the 21st century.


Greg Griffith: There are widely divergent opinions among orthodox Episcopalians on the issue of women's ordination. Has this caused any conflict between you and other orthodox bishops who support the ordination of women? If so, what does this portend for the future of orthodox Anglican unity in America? If not, how might the peaceful coexistence around this disagreement be a model not just for relations among the orthodox, but between them and revisionists as well?

Bishop Iker: Yes, there is a significant, critical difference between those bishops who do not ordain women to the priesthood and those who do. Some regard this innovation as a legitimate development in the historic faith and order of the church, while others among us do not. We are, however, all in complete agreement as to the moral authority of the Lambeth resolutions on this subject. This means a commitment "to live together in the highest degree of Communion possible." We uphold the principle of a process of "open reception" as defined by the Eames Commission on Women in the Episcopate, which recognizes that in the end the whole church ultimately may accept or reject the practice of ordaining women as priests and bishops. The 1998 Lambeth Resolution III.2 states that "we affirm that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, are both loyal Anglicans," and "that there is and should be no compulsion on any bishop in matters concerning ordination or licensing."

We agree that eventually our differences on this issue will have to be resolved, one way or the other. As the church lives with this experiment, it presents practical difficulties in that not every ordained person is recognized by the whole church. There is the need for mutual respect, but we must also not compel anyone to act contrary to conscience.

On this issue, the Anglican Communion Instruments of Unity have all said, "Maybe - we shall see - the verdict is still out." However, on the issue of same-sex blessings and the ordination of active homosexuals persons, these Instruments have said, "No, we cannot endorse this - this goes beyond the limits of diversity."


Greg Griffith: Bishop Schofield of San Joaquin has been charged by bishops Bruno, Lamb, Mathes, and Swing of abandonment of communion, the penalty for which may include deposition and the declaration of +Schofield's see as vacant. It is the episcopacy's equivalent of the death penalty. What do you think the probability is that this penalty will be imposed, and if it is, what practical ability does 815 have to enforce it?

Bishop Iker: What is sad about the case against Bishop Schofield is that it really has more to do with trying to hold onto property by these revisionist bishops who have brought the charges than it does the faithfulness of Bishop Schofield. It is a misuse of this canon, and I hope the investigation leads to a speedy dismissal of the charges against him.

I think this attack will serve to further unite the Diocese of San Joaquin around their bishop and will bring some of the "fence sitters" more fully to his support.

If reason does not prevail and the House of Bishops eventually votes to depose Bishop Schofield, it will be interesting to see how they try to enforce it. Will they send in another Task Force from the Executive Council? My guess is that many will simply refuse to accept the deposition and that life in the Diocese of San Joaquin will continue on under the leadership of Bishop Schofield. It would be very difficult to preserve the unity of the church under such circumstances. Some would see this as the first step by the revisionists in an attempt to eliminate the opposition.


Greg Griffith: You'll be joining a number of other bishops in September at Camp Allen, for a consultation called by Bishop Wimberly to discuss, in the bishop's words, "a way forward that both prevents some in our Church from 'walking apart', and others from seeking irregular means of preserving their Anglican identity." Those in attendance must confirm beforehand their commitment to 4 key points (see note below), which are notable for the fact that both the outgoing and incoming presiding bishops, as well as several other key bishops in TEC, have spoken and/or acted against these points, and presumably cannot attend without recanting years of words and actions. What do you think are the odds that this meeting will succeed in meeting Bishop Wimberly's goals?

Bishop Iker: I commend Bishop Wimberly for taking the initiative in convening this meeting of Windsor bishops and Network bishops, so that together we may find a way forward as constituent members of the Anglican Communion. I hope that one result of this consultation will be that several of the others will decide to become part of the Anglican Communion Network. We need to work together in assisting the Archbishop of Canterbury’s efforts to realign the Communion around an agreed upon Covenant. This meeting will move us in that direction and is a sign of hope for the future.


Greg Griffith: There will be a significant number of revisionist bishops who will not be able to attend unless they reverse their positions on fundamental points in this debate. Whether the meeting fails or succeeds, what message should they take from the fact that the meeting is being held at all?

Bishop Iker: The only sensible message for the revisionist bishops to take from all of this is that we are not going to be marginalized and relegated to some sort of "associate" membership status in the Anglican Communion. The bishops taking counsel together at Camp Allen are committed to compliance with the teaching of the Anglican Communion and, I would add, to the historic teaching of the Church Catholic. We are willing to stand and fight for what we believe.


Greg Griffith: There is already concern on the orthodox side that you and your fellow Network bishops' positions might be compromised at Camp Allen - "diluted" is a word often used - in an attempt to expand your base. Are these concerns valid? Can you explain why or why not?

Bishop Iker: There are always dangers of compromise. To some extent, of course, we have already done this. Some of us cannot accept the validity of the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, but we belong to the Network, where the majority of bishops support such ordinations. We are committed to living together in "the highest degree of Communion possible," in the midst of these differences. But I don’t see how the positions of the Network bishops are likely to be compromised or "diluted" by the consultation at Camp Allen. The very terms for accepting Bishop Wimberly’s invitation seem to preclude any such compromise. I have already said to my colleagues in the Network that I am not willing to allow the most timid of Windsor bishops to determine the course that the Diocese of Fort Worth will take in the future.


Greg Griffith: Whatever becomes of the Camp Allen consultation, it seems clearer by the day that the number of dioceses that don't intend to follow 815 into "associate" communion status will constitute at least a majority, and perhaps a sizeable majority, of the Episcopal Church. Assuming push must sooner or later come to shove, what role might the Archbishop of Canterbury and the rest of the primates play in the realignment; or is this something the Americans must settle amongst themselves?

Bishop Iker: So far we Americans have had very little success in settling things amongst ourselves! That’s why seven dioceses (and I think there will be others) have appealed to the Archbishop for alternative primatial oversight. We need an intervention. We need the help and support of the whole Anglican Communion to address the crisis American revisionists have created. Yet the Archbishop is not a pope, and he cannot impose a solution upon us. Our problem is rooted in the fact that we have acted like an independent protestant sect, while historically we have considered ourselves a province of the whole Catholic Church. This is part of our objection to the revisionist agenda. It treats the Episcopal Church as just one church among many - a church that can decide whatever it wants, no matter what others think. The Network, on the other hand, believes in submission to the consensus of Christians throughout the world, Anglicans first, but then the whole of Christendom. We uphold the biblical faith of the undivided church. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the key instrument of unity in the Anglican Communion, and it is his responsibility to hold the Communion together in this biblical faith. This means that he will have to use his influence to intervene in disputes within provinces such as the Episcopal Church. Neither he nor any other primate can compel the Episcopal Church to act differently than we have, but Canterbury does have the power and right to say who is Anglican and who is not - a power exercised by his prerogative to decide who should be invited to the Lambeth Conference of Bishops. The revisionist bishops know this, and it causes them no small amount of concern. When the Archbishop is ready to act, he will find the Windsor and Network bishops as strong allies.


Note: The four points of agreement for Windsor Bishops, as set forth by Bishop Wimberly are:

• Agreement that Lambeth Resolution 1.10 constitutes the current teaching of the Anglican Communion.

• Commitment to the Windsor Report as marking the way ahead for the Communion, and acceptance of its recommendations regarding blessing same-sex unions and the ordination of persons engaged in sexual relations outside the bonds of Holy Matrimony.

• Acceptance of the Dromantine Communiqué.

• Agreement that the response of ECUSA’s General Convention to the Windsor Report does not go far enough, and commitment to avoid "impaired Communion" with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primates of the Anglican Communion.



Interview posted August 21, 2006 at 4:00 am at

©2006 Stand Firm, LLC. Used with permission.