On Friday, January 14, 2011, the Hon. John P. Chupp of the 141st District Court of Tarrant County considered the motions for summary judgment in the dispute between the Episcopal parties and the Southern Cone parties, former members of the Episcopal Church.
Competing motions for summary judgment are filed by the Episcopal Parties [The Episcopal Church, the Local Episcopal Parties (officials of the continuing diocese), and Episcopal Congregations (continuing parishes and missions and officials)] and the Southern Cone Parties (individuals who left the Church but claim to represent the Diocese and the Diocesan Corporation, and its parishes and missions). Attorneys for the Episcopal Parties offered arguments reflecting the briefs filed in the case – the hierarchical nature of The Episcopal Church, the courts’ deference to determinations of such hierarchical churches, the trust interest of the Church and its diocese in parish property, and the First Amendment protections against state interference in church affairs. Attorneys for the Southern Cone parties offered arguments based primarily on Texas laws dealing with nonprofit corporations. The judge indicated he would issue a ruling soon after spending more time with the parties’ summary judgment motions, briefs and evidence.
Before the Court heard argument on the motions for summary judgment, the Episcopal Rule 12 motions challenging the authority of the Southern Cone attorneys were postponed.