Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will offer a revamped primatial vicar plan to the House of Bishops at their meeting next week in New Orleans, sources who have been briefed on the broad outline of the new proposal told The Living Church.
The plan is said to call for a nominee of the Presiding Bishop’s to exercise delegated pastoral authority over those dioceses that had requested alternate primatial oversight from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams following the 2006 General Convention.
However, the Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth, said a plan that placed the ultimate authority in the hands of the Presiding Bishop was a non-starter. Fort Worth would not accept the “unilateral dictates” of the Presiding Bishop, he said.
Last November, Bishop Jefferts Schori proposed a “primatial vicar” scheme where she would appoint a bishop to serve as her “designated pastor,” presiding at consecrations and acting in her stead for “any other appropriate matters.”
Neva Rae Fox, a spokeswoman for the Episcopal Church’s Office of Communications, stated she had no knowledge of a new plan, but hypothetically if something like that were introduced during the meeting, it would probably be during the business sessions Sept. 24-25.
Bishop Iker said bishops affiliated with the Anglican Communion Network would not be present if a primatial vicar plan was brought forward during the House of Bishops’ business session, as they were withdrawing from the meeting following the departure of Archbishop Rowan Williams on Sept. 22.
The Presiding Bishop is understood to have canvassed a number of bishops and received conflicting opinions about the suitability of the modified plan. Her consultation reportedly included at least one bishop active in the Camp Allen meetings of “Windsor” bishops.
In March, Bishop Iker told the Archbishop of Canterbury’s chief of staff, Chris Smith, that Fort Worth envisioned three possible scenarios for alternate oversight, including moving Fort Worth into a different province of the Anglican Communion, and creating a personal prelature or exarchate by Archbishop Williams that would give the diocese extra-provincial status.
All of the scenarios, however, were predicated on metropolitan pastoral authority being exercised by someone other than the Presiding Bishop, Bishop Iker said. Mr. Smith responded that the Archbishop of Canterbury at that time could not commit to such plan, but would counsel the Presiding Bishop to take heed of the pastoral scheme put forward by the primates at their meeting in February in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Also, a senior advisor to the Archbishop of Canterbury told The Living Church it was a serious misreading of the primates’ communiqué to say that an ultimatum had been given to the House of Bishops to take certain actions by Sept. 30 or face expulsion from the Anglican Communion. The communiqué had asked for certain clarifications from the House of Bishops, he said, but did not envision a breaching of The Episcopal Church’s constitution.