Court rules in favor of Episcopal Church in El Paso
On December 16, 2010 the district court in El Paso County, Texas signed a final summary judgment in favor of The Episcopal Church and its Diocese of the Rio Grande against a faction formerly with St. Francis Episcopal Church that attempted to control parish property after they left the Church in October 2008. A copy of the Final Summary Judgment is here.
The court’s ruling is the second by a Texas district court to grant judgment for the Church and its diocese against former Episcopalians who left the Church but continued to claim title and control of parish property. In the other case a trial court granted a similar judgment on October 9, 2009, regarding Good Shepherd Episcopal Church of San Angelo, in the Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas.
The declaratory judgment issued by the El Paso Court tracks the identical positions asserted by The Episcopal Church, Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, its parishes and missions, and its church officials in the case pending in the 141st District Court of Tarrant County, Texas, against former Bishop Jack Leo Iker and other former diocesan and parish officials who left the Church and the diocese but continue to claim title and control of church property donated for the use of The Episcopal Church over the last 170 years.
The El Paso judgment also enjoined the former Episcopalians from “diverting, alienating, or using the real or personal property” of the parish except as provided by the constitutions and canons of The Episcopal Church and its diocese and awarded “possession and control of the property” to the “continuing Episcopal congregation for use in furtherance of the parish/mission’s ministry and mission pursuant to the Constitution and canons of the Church and the Diocese.”
Based on these declarations, the trial court ordered the former Episcopalians, among other things, to (1) “relinquish control of all real and personal property” of the parish and to “deliver said property to the Vestry/Bishop’s Committee” of the parish or the appropriate “Diocesan agency” within 30 days and (2) render an accounting to these officials “of the disposition of all property of (the parish) since October 20, 2008” within 60 days.