Story Highlights

After a hearing on February 8, 2011, the Hon. John P. Chupp, judge of the 141st District Court of Tarrant County, Texas, entered an amended order affirming his rulings on January 21, 2011 in a form agreed to by all the parties. A copy of the order is below.

The order reaffirms that the court grants the motions for summary judgment filed by the Episcopal Parties (Episcopal Church and Bishop Ohl and other diocesan leaders) and denies the motion for summary judgment filed by Bishop Iker and other Southern Cone diocesan officials and Southern Cone “Intervening Congregations.”

Although many issues remain to be resolved in the case, the ruling on these motions decides the essential issue in the case: the identity of those who are entitled to control the Church property in the Diocese.

The Court order reflects in part the following declarations,

  1. The Episcopal Church is a hierarchical church;
  2. The individuals who remain loyal to The Episcopal Church are the individuals entitled to use and control church property;
  3. All property held by or for the use of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth may be used only for the mission of The Episcopal Church, subject to the Church’s Constitution and canons; and
  4. The changes made by the Defendants to the articles and bylaws of the Diocesan Corporation are ultra vires and void.

Subject to further orders that may be entered before the remaining issues in the case are resolved, the Court clarified that Defendants will be required to surrender possession of all Diocesan property and control of the Diocesan Corporation and to cease holding themselves out as leaders of the Diocese. The attorneys on both sides conferred today about the possibility of reaching agreed orders that would restrict the Defendants’ use of and conserve the property pending a final order.

To follow up on remaining issues in the case the Local Episcopal Parties served interrogatories and a request for production of documents, in order to discover the extent of the property, funds, records—and any losses of that property—that has been in the hands of former diocesan and parish leaders who left the Church but have been using the property without authority since November 15, 2008. The response from those defendants is due by March 10, 2011. The discovery requests are: