From The Living Church • May 6, 2008
  Bishop Venables: Communion “breaking up
because nobody is leading”

The work of amending the Constitution and Canons of the Southern Cone in order to regularize the admission of parishes and dioceses beyond South America is about to begin, according to Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables. The Primate of the Southern Cone made a visit to the Diocese of Fort Worth for a series of meetings with clergy and lay leaders May 2-4.

Archbishop Venables at the Church of the Holy Apostles
Archbishop Venables spoke to the clergy of the diocese on Friday, May 2.

“The Anglican Communion in the United States has been hijacked,” Bishop Venables said, by an Episcopal Church leadership that doesn’t “mind what happens as long as they control it.

“I am astounded that in America, the land of the free, so many people have been robbed of their freedom,” he said.

Bishop Venables’ visit began with a private meeting of diocesan clergy at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Fort Worth on May 2. The following day, Bishop Venables met with a convocation of elected clergy and lay delegates to the diocesan convention. The convocation also included about 130 visitors who were granted seat, but not voice. There was no voting. On Sunday morning, Bishop Venables preached at St. Vincent’s Cathedral, Bedford, and again later during Evensong at St. Andrew’s, Fort Worth. At each stop on Sunday he answered questions from those present.

Bishop Venables visited the Diocese of Fort Worth at the invitation of its bishop, the Rt. Rev. Jack Iker. In late April, Bishop Venables also visited with Anglicans who have left the Anglican Church of Canada and with the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin in California. Prior to his arrival in Fort Worth, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote a public letter to Bishop Venables. She asked him to cancel his visit in part because it was “an unprecedented and unwarranted invasion of, and meddling in, the internal affairs of this province,” and because it would prevent “needed reconciliation from proceeding” within The Episcopal Church.

“This is not about schism,” Bishop Venables said. “Schism is separation on secondary issues. This is [a question of] essentials.

Archbishop Venables at St. Andrew’s, Fort Worth
The Archbishop preached at Sunday Evensong to a congregation of 315 people from around the diocese. Following the service he stayed for an informal question-and-answer period.

“You [in the Diocese of Fort Worth] must decide whether or not you can stand with a group of people who have denied that Jesus is the Son of God and that the Bible is the Word of God.”

Should clergy and lay delegates to the annual convention in Fort Worth next November vote a second time to amend the diocesan articles of incorporation and leave The Episcopal Church, the Province of the Southern Cone has invited the diocese to affiliate on an “emergency and pastoral basis” despite the fact that the Southern Cone’s constitution currently limits member dioceses to those geographically located in the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Last December, the Province of the Southern Cone welcomed the Diocese of San Joaquin after its convention voted a second time to amend its bylaws and disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church.

Despite articles of incorporation which seem to prohibit welcoming overseas dioceses and licensing deposed clergy and bishops for ministry in other Anglican provinces, Bishop Venables said he felt compelled to act so that brother and sister Anglicans can “get on with their ministry.

“If we don’t do something,” he said, “we are complicit.”

This was the same motivation behind his recent decision to attend the Lambeth Conference in July, he said.

“Somebody’s got to go and say the house is on fire,” he said. “Things are breaking up because nobody is leading, and that really worries me.”

In each venue, Bishop Venables told those present that the troubles in Anglicanism can be traced to doubt of the word of God (beginning with the words of the serpent in Genesis 2) and doubt that Jesus is the Son of God (the tempter in the wilderness in Matthew 4).

“I believe that the division at the present moment is about how we define Christianity: that God has spoken, that [the Bible] is the word of God, that Jesus is the incarnate Word of God, and that he is the only means of reconciliation with God. That marks the foundational truth of true Christianity.”

Suzanne Gill


A video presentation of the Saturday, May 3, Special Convocation at St. Vincent’s Cathedral is available on DVD. Please send your mailing address to Special Convocation, The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, 2900 Alemeda Street, Fort Worth, TX 76108. A donation of $5 is requested to help defray costs.