The Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth issued an opinion late Friday, June 25, granting the Southern Cone parties’ petition for writ of mandamus regarding the order of the 141st District Court ruling on the Southern Cone parties’ Rule 12 motion.
The Court’s decision said there is one Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and one Corporation of the Diocese of Fort Worth. The procedural ruling was based on Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 12 and expressly was not a substantive decision on which faction—those bishops and officials who are members of The Episcopal Church or those bishops and officials who are now of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone—represents the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth or the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.
It also was not a decision on which faction is entitled to the church property in dispute, a substantive matter which Judge John Chupp of the 141st District Court will decide. The Court also ruled that the stay imposed on the trial court proceedings was lifted to permit further action in the 141st District Court.
The Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, provisional bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, said, “We are confident that The Episcopal Church and the Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth and the Diocesan Corporation will prevail on the substantive issues at the trial court. I urge continued prayer for all parties involved in this litigation.”
The Court emphasized that “[t]he trial court did not determine on the merits which Bishop and which Trustees are the authorized persons within the corporation and the Fort Worth Diocese, nor do we. The question of ‘identity’ remains to be determined in the course of the litigation.” Thus the Southern Cone parties failed to achieve their goal of getting the Court of Appeals to declare that Bishop Iker represented the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and its Diocesan Corporation.
The Court also noted that “[w]e are aware of no statute or common law rule allowing attorneys to prosecute a suit in the name of a corporation or other entity on behalf of only one faction or part of that corporation or entity against another part or faction.” As applied to both factions in the litigation, the bishops and trustees from each faction are already named as parties in the case pending in the 141st District Court.
The complete text of the ruling is available. No decision has been made whether either the Episcopal faction or the Southern Cone faction will appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.