Diocesan litigation moves forward in two courts

Diocesan litigation moves forward in two courts

At a hearing on Thursday, April 24, 2014, Judge John P. Chupp of the 141st District Court denied the Episcopal Parties’ motion to stay, or stop, proceedings in the diocesan case in the district court and granted the breakaway ACNA parties’ motion to set aside the supersedeas order that had imposed conditions for the ACNA parties to maintain possession of the church property during appeal. The breakaway parties agreed to give notice before selling any church property in their possession.

This ruling did not affect the ultimate outcome or prejudice our litigation strategy to recover our church property. It does mean that the Episcopal Parties will continue to move forward on two tracks in two courts:

  1. In the 141st District Court, in the short term the parties will amend pleadings and conduct discovery on the fact-intensive claims based now on the Neutral Principles doctrine, including estoppel and trust theories.
  2. In the U.S. Supreme Court, the Episcopal Parties will by June 19, 2014, file a petition for writ of certiorari (appeal) to review the federal constitutional issues of the Texas Supreme Court’s decision.

In addition, the court clerk will return to the breakaway parties the $100,000 in cash that they deposited as they appealed to the Texas Supreme Court from the 2011 decision in favor of the Episcopal Parties. The Texas Supreme Court reversed that judgment in August 2013, in part imposing retroactively a new standard of Neutral Principles to determine church property disputes in Texas and ordering that the parties return to the 141st District Court to litigate under this new standard. The Episcopal Parties will appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High, Jr., bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, stated, “While we are disappointed that the court did not maintain the status quo, and we regret the unnecessary costs in financial and human terms as the case proceeds on two tracks simultaneously, we remember that there will be many motions and decisions before it is finally determined who gets to use the historic church property and diocesan name, as The Episcopal Church has done in this area since 1838. Exciting new developments in St. Stephens in Hurst, St. Paul’s in Gainesville, and St. Andrew’s in Fort Worth, for example, demonstrate that we have not let the litigation distract us from our primary mission and ministry of being The Episcopal Church in this diocese. Our churches continue to spread the Good News as the only places in the diocese where people can joyfully worship in a church that is part of the Anglican Communion. We continue to pray for our sisters and brothers who are not currently worshipping with us.”