After a second filing extension due to unavoidable caseload delays, the Diocese and Corporation filed two response briefs with the Second Court of Appeals, located in Fort Worth.Because the briefs filed in December made differing arguments, two response briefs were necessary. The TEC parties now have the opportunity to make a reply by March 24. These files are large and may require a few moments to load.
Category : TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth
Bishop Iker and the people of the diocese of Fort Worth win case.
Today the Hon. John P. Chupp signed his Final Judgment concerning the Motions for Partial Summary Judgment filed last December by the TEC-loyal plaintiffs and the defendant Diocese, Parishes, and Corporation, as well as Motions for Partial Summary Judgment concerning the TEC-loyal All Saints’ Episcopal Church (Fort Worth) filed by these same parties on May 6. In doing so, the 141st District Court affirmed and combined its orders of March 2 and June 10 [see the entries below], which upheld the Diocese’s right to dissociate from TEC and for the Corporation to retain its property ”“ including All Saints’ parish property transferred from the Dallas Diocese ”“ and elected leadership.
Today’s judgment brings to a close a process started on Aug. 30, 2013, when the Supreme Court of Texas ordered that the case, initially decided using a “deference” approach, return to the trial court and that the court reconsider the parties’ claims, applying the Neutral Principles approach instead.
The trial court’s ruling now becomes appealable, and the TEC-affiliated plaintiffs have indicated their intention to ask the Second Court of Appeals for a review. In early August the court is expected to issue an order stating terms that will allow the TEC-affiliated congregation of All Saints’, Fort Worth, to remain in the property it now occupies during the duration of the appeal.
We give thanks for our many blessings, for God’s work among us, and for the Hope of Salvation that is within us. We are thankful, too, for the patient endurance of all those who have prayed and labored for this day, especially our legal team, their associates, and their families.
Judge Chupp has entered a final judgment against TEC, its rump diocese of Fort Worth and its parishes, thereby ending the lawsuit in which they sought to claim the corporation, property and bank accounts owned and controlled by Bishop Jack L. Iker and his co-trustees. Judge Chupp ordered that the plaintiffs “take nothing” from their complaint. This leaves all real property, corporate control and diocesan bank accounts exactly as they were after Bishop Iker and his Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth voted to leave TEC in November 2008.
The TEC parties have said they plan to appeal the final judgment to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal. However, any such appeal will be guided by the “neutral principles of law” announced by the Texas Supreme Court when it reversed Judge Chupp’s original judgment in their favor, based upon his belief that he was required by Texas law to defer to the “hierarchical” Episcopal Church. Under neutral principles, the Texas courts look solely to the documents establishing a party’s title: whose name is on the deeds, what trusts have been recorded, and what (if anything) the Church’s governing documents say about a diocese’s ability to amend its own constitution so as to remove its affiliation with the Episcopal Church.
A judge has ruled that a diocese in Texas which broke away from The Episcopal Church over theological differences is the rightful owner of its church property.
Judge John Chupp of Tarrant County ruled Wednesday that All Saints Episcopal Church belongs to the…Diocese of Fort Worth rather than the national denomination.
Early reports coming in
News has just been received that Bishop Iker and his Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth are the victors in the separately-tried lawsuit to determine the ownership of the grounds and property of All Saints, Fort Worth.
Judge John Chupp of the Tarrant County District Court had severed off the All Saints case, because its facts were more dependent on documents and circumstances that were not shared with all the other parishes in dispute…
Bishop Iker’s latest request was thus simply an attempt to go back to ground zero, before Mr. Hill started drawing the battle lines, and to take the real pulse of the entire All Saints congregation in order to arrive at an amicable, Paulian-motivated settlement of the dispute. The rump faction at All Saints once again has spurned any such resolution — acting, no doubt, in unity with ECUSA and its attorneys.
And so we see that little has changed, despite Bishop Iker’s success in the underlying lawsuit. The attorneys have agreed on some procedures to expedite the resolution or trial, if necessary, of the All Saints case, and there remain still other matters which the parties can address by means of further partial summary judgment motions. No one seems to think that there are any material disputed facts.
In a letter dated March 9, attorneys for The Episcopal Church and the TEC-affiliated All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Fort Worth rejected the Diocese’s offer to resolve the property dispute between the parish and Diocese through the Canon 32 process.
Read it all and follow the link.
Judge Chupp’s ruling is thus significant for a number of reasons:
1. For all practical purposes, it ended the case — in favor of Bishop Iker and his co-defendants. There are still some claims for damages and trademark infringement, etc., reserved for another day.
2. It agreed with the Texas Supreme Court that “neutral principles of law” were to be used to decide the issues in the case, and that their application was not retroactive, since Texas courts had been applying neutral principles to church property disputes for a number of years already.
This reference makes it sound as if the tradition of properties being controlled by the local diocese is a brand new concept, created by Iker and company in the very recent past. Did those ordinances “declare” this fact or affirm older traditions? Stop and think about it: Why was there such a bitter battle in Denver back in 1979 when the national church took the unusual step of creating and passing the Dennis Canon?
As always, I am not saying that journalists need to agree with Iker, or with High for that matter. The key is to understand the arguments being made by experts on both sides.
The bottom line: When dealing with Anglican controversies, it always helps to include specific dates in the timeline, while also remembering that these battles are being fought at the local, regional, national and global levels.
For the second time in as many months, a state court has sided with a group of breakaway Episcopalians, ruling that they can keep their property after leaving the national church in 2008 over sharp differences on homosexuality and the authority of Scripture.
Judge John P. Chupp of the 141st District Court in Tarrant County, Texas, ruled Monday (March 2) that more than 60 parishes in greater Fort Worth can retain their property and remain independent of the Episcopal Church.
By my count, 40 of the 91 cases listed resulted in legal victories at the trial or appellate level for ECUSA; just two parish cases (All Saints and the Good Shepherd San Angelo case in Texas) went the other way, but three of the five cases involving Dioceses resulted in rulings against ECUSA. A fourth diocese case (San Joaquin) is on appeal; the fifth one (Pittsburgh) gave a victory to ECUSA on the basis of a very strained reading of the effect of a stipulation between the parties.
It is a legitimate query to ask why the results of the parish cases are so lopsided in favor of ECUSA, while the results of the diocese cases go just the other way.
For the parishes, most of the decisions turned upon explicit language in their own bylaws that made them “perpetually” subject to their Diocese and ECUSA. No such language exists in any of the Dioceses’ governing documents, however. For the cases involving them, the explanation lies in the well-established freedom of association, which is a fundamental right enshrined in the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. It holds that just as no one can be prevented by the government from joining a group, so also the group may not go to court to prevent a member from leaving it. “Freedom of association therefore plainly presupposes a freedom not to associate,” as the Supreme Court put it in Roberts v. U.S. Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609, 623, 104 S. Ct. 3244, 3252, 82 L. Ed. 2d 462 (1984).
The liberals in ECUSA have a very difficult time trying to understand why their Church should be subject to such a doctrine. For them, the union between a Diocese and General Convention is an ecclesiastical one, and as such, they claim, civil courts should be precluded (by that same First Amendment!) from examining or questioning it in any way.
A moment’s reflection will expose the flaws in that argument (not that ecclesiastical liberals ever pay any attention to logic or reason). ECUSA is, ecclesiastically speaking, a denomination — but that says nothing about what it is in the eyes of the law. In order to sue or be sued in a civil court, for instance, ECUSA has to be a juridical person, not just an ecclesiastical one.
On Monday, March 2, 2015, the 141st District Court granted our Motion for Partial Summary Judgment regarding all diocesan property, with the exception of All Saints’, Fort Worth, which Judge Chupp severed for a separate trial.
Nearly six years after we were first sued by The Episcopal Church and its local representatives, the court has confirmed the Diocese’s right to dissociate from TEC and for the Corporation to retain its property.
“We are grateful for the ruling in our favor,” said Bishop Iker. “It’s clear that both church laws and Texas laws have been rightly applied to this dispute.”
In granting our motion, the Hon. John Chupp has ruled that Bishop Iker and the duly-elected officials of the Diocese and Corporation control the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, its Corporation, all endowments and funds, and all property that has been disputed in this litigation. The ruling is binding on all parties.
After a bitter, seven-year legal dispute, state District Judge John Chupp ruled Monday that the Episcopalians led by Bishop Jack Iker who broke away from the national Episcopal Church are entitled to an estimated $100 million in property in the 24-county Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.
Fort Worth-area Episcopalians who remained loyal to the national Episcopal Church and reorganized the diocese under Bishop Rayford High have the right to appeal the decision.
“We are grateful for the ruling in our favor. It is clear that both church laws and Texas laws have been rightly applied in this dispute,” Iker said.