An invitation to the primate of the Episcopal Church (TEC) to preach at an upcoming chapel service of an orthodox Anglican seminary has prompted one of the school’s longest serving trustees to resign in protest.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will visit the Nashotah House campus in Wisconsin for the first time on May 1 at the invitation of Dean Edward L. Salmon, Jr.
The resignation of Bishop Jack Iker of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (Anglican Church in North America) “was taken in protest of the Dean’s invitation to the Presiding Bishop of TEC to be a guest preacher in the seminary’s chapel,” read a statement distributed to Fort Worth clergy. Iker cited lawsuits initiated by Jefferts Schori against his Diocese and notified the Nashotah House Board that he “could not be associated with an institution that honors her.”
The statement was widely shared on Facebook and clergy blogs.
Iker was joined by honorary board member retired Bishop William C. Wantland of Eau Claire who sent notification that he “will not take part in any functions at Nashotah” nor continue “to give financial support to the House as long as the present administration remains.”
Diocese of Fort Worth Director of Communications Suzanne Gill told IRD that reaction from clergy to Iker’s resignation from the Nashotah House board has been overwhelmingly supportive.
“This is a tragic and unwise decision that threatens the future of Nashotah House,” ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan told IRD in a statement. Duncan also serves on the Nashotah House Board of Trustees.
Nashotah House is one of two accredited seminaries affiliated with the Episcopal Church that are regarded as theologically orthodox. In addition to training Episcopalians, many Nashotah House students are from other Anglican churches. Founded in 1842, it is the oldest existing institution of higher learning in the state of Wisconsin.
In a phone interview with IRD, Salmon explained that the invitation to Jefferts Schori originated when Deacon Terry Star of North Dakota, a student at Nashotah and member of the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, shared that Bishop Jefferts Schori had advised him against attending the seminary. Star was joined by two other female Episcopal students at Nashotah who indirectly received the same advice.
“All three said she [Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori] should be invited to come and see ACNA and TEC in harmony,” Salmon explained. “No one here is fighting with anybody.”
The retired bishop of South Carolina said that the invitation would give the seminary the opportunity to witness to the Christ-centered life.
People think that inviting her here is an endorsement,” Salmon said. “We are a clearly rooted orthodox community – rooted in Jesus.”
Jefferts Schori has repeatedly garnered criticism for making statements outside of the church’s traditional understanding of Christ. As Presiding Bishop-elect in 2006, Jefferts Schori stated “Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation — and you and I are His children.” At Episcopal General Convention in 2009 the Presiding Bishop denounced “the great Western heresy: that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God.” In 2013, Jefferts Schori baffled some in the Anglican Communion over her claim in a sermon on the island of Curaçao that St. Paul of Tarsus’ was wrong to cure a demon-possessed slave girl as described in the Bible.
Salmon, a former bishop of South Carolina, asserted that the seminary is not like a parish church with congregants having various degrees of spiritual rootedness. Instead, the Nashotah House Dean insisted “this is a deeply rooted community” and because of that rootedness, “we are not concerned about the direction of the power.”
Data provided from the Association of Theological Schools shows a total 2012-2013 enrollment of 143 at Nashotah House, with 110 full-time students taking classes. According to Salmon, between 30 and 35 percent of enrolled seminarians are from Episcopal Church dioceses, while “a significant number” of students are from other Anglican churches and many more are non-Anglicans “on the Canterbury trail.”