By Sam Hodges
The Dallas Morning News (www.dallasnews.com/)
DALLAS, TX (Dallas Morning News) - A delegation of Episcopal priests from Fort Worth paid a visit to Catholic Bishop Kevin Vann earlier this summer, asking for guidance on how their highly conservative diocese might come into "full communion" with the Catholic Church.
Whether that portends a serious move to turn Fort Worth Episcopalians and their churches into Catholics and Catholic churches is a matter of dispute.
The Rev. William Crary, senior rector of the Fort Worth diocese, confirmed that on June 16 he and three other priests met with Bishop Vann, leader of the Fort Worth Catholic diocese, and presented him a document that is highly critical of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
The document states that the overwhelming majority of Episcopal clergy in the Fort Worth diocese favor pursuing an "active plan" to bring the diocese into full communion with the Catholic Church.
While declining to specify what that might mean, Mr. Crary said it likely would not mean "absorption" by the Catholic Church.
He cast the initiative as following Anglican and Catholic leaders in longstanding efforts to bring the two groups into greater cooperation, with the ultimate goal of honoring Jesus' call in John 17:21 for Christian unity.
"These discussions between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion have been going on for 42 years," he said. "We would like to bring these down to the local level."
But other local Episcopalians interpret the meeting and document differently.
"There's a very serious attempt on the part of Episcopal clergy in the Diocese of Forth Worth to petition Rome for some kind of recognition," said the Rev. Courtland Moore, who is retired as rector of St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Arlington.
"They make it clear that they no longer believe there is truth in the Anglican Communion, and the only way they can find truth is reunion with Rome."
Mr. Moore is co-chairman of Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians, a group that wants the Fort Worth diocese to remain in the Episcopal Church. He obtained a copy of the document the priests gave to Bishop Vann and made it available to reporters.
The Fort Worth Diocese is one of the Episcopal Church's most conservative, having declined under Bishop Jack Iker to ordain women as priests and having strongly opposed acceptance of an openly gay Episcopal bishop.
The diocese has taken one of two votes necessary to leave the Episcopal Church and will vote again in November. Bishop Iker could not be reached for comment, but the document asserts he's supportive of the effort. Mr. Crary confirmed that. A spokesman for Bishop Vann confirmed the meeting.
This article, written by Sam Hodges, appeared in the August 12, 2008 edition of the Dallas Morning News and is used with permission at www.catholic.org.