One of the great challenges facing the church today is how to address genuine and substantive theological disagreements with a spirit of charity, humility, and grace. In 2012, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church adopted a resolution called “Caring for all the Churches: A Response of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church to an expressed need of the Church,” which allows for an honest assessment of these disagreements by providing for "DEPO"—Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight. This arrangement allows for a Diocesan Bishop to delegate certain pastoral tasks to a different bishop for a congregation with which he or she has theological differences. In this resolution, the Bishops wrote:
We are profoundly grateful that the faith that binds us together—grounded in Jesus Christ, rooted in the historic Creeds and in the Holy Scriptures—is deep, and that the bond created in baptism is indissoluble. Our disagreements are nonetheless real, and touch on issues that cannot be easily or quickly resolved . . . [DEPO] is a way of assuring theological minorities that they are beloved and not merely tolerated, and that their presence is a gift rather than a problem.
In June 2016, after much prayerful discernment and deliberation, the Vestry of St. Francis in the Fields unanimously voted to approve a letter accepting Bishop Terry White’s offer to initiate a DEPO relationship between himself, St. Francis in the Fields, and Bishop Gregory Brewer of the Diocese of Central Florida. The Vestry’s approval of this letter led to the creation of a DEPO agreement between the three parties, ratified during the summer of 2016.
The Vestry would like to thank all of the parishioners who provided their insights and opinions on this matter, including the nineteen former Senior Wardens who graciously met with us on June 27 to share their experiences and wisdom.
On September 28, 2016 the Rector and Wardens of St. Francis in the Fields, along with Bishops Terry White and Greg Brewer, signed a Memorandum of Understanding, outlining a completed DEPO arrangement.
Bishop White’s offer has repaired and significantly strengthened the relationship between St. Francis in the Fields and the Episcopal Church, including the Diocese of Kentucky, and the DEPO relationship has been mutually beneficial. The Diocese of Kentucky has received increased financial support as well as a commitment of greater involvement by the St. Francis in the Fields parish community, and in turn we and our clergy have the benefit of access to two bishops for pastoral care and guidance.