On Tuesday, March 2, 2015, the Hon. John P. Chupp of the 141st District Court, Tarrant County, Texas, denied the Local Episcopal Parties’ and The Episcopal Church’s Motions for Summary Judgments. He granted the breakaway parties’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, except as to the claims of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Fort Worth.
“We are disappointed with this decision but quite hopeful for the future. This sacred property was built up over 170 years in this part of Texas by generations of Episcopalians for the use of The Episcopal Church so it will be available for use by generations of Episcopalians to come as they do the work of the Church,” said the Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High, Jr., Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. “That remains our purpose in this litigation, and we are confident going forward under the rulings of the Fort Worth Court of Appeals and Texas Supreme Court that are already in place in our case.”
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was formed by The Episcopal Church in 1982-84, after the new diocesan leaders promised unanimously to accept and use the Episcopal property only for The Episcopal Church’s mission and ministry. In November 2008, former Bishop Jack L. Iker and other diocesan leaders left The Episcopal Church and aligned themselves with another church, the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. Since then they have been using the name and seal of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and occupying Episcopal Church property, even though they are not Episcopalians and hold no offices in The Episcopal Church or any Episcopal Diocese. This lawsuit was brought by the local, loyal Episcopalians of the diocese to protect their historic name, seal, and property for the future generations of Episcopalians in Texas. Under basic neutral principles of Texas law, former officers like the breakaway Defendants are free to leave an institution, but they cannot take its name and property with them, in violation of all the commitments that came before.
In January, 2011, Judge Chupp granted the Local Episcopal Parties’ and The Episcopal Church’s Motions for Summary Judgment. That decision was appealed directly to the Texas Supreme Court by the breakaway parties. In August, 2013, the Texas Supreme Court, in a split decision, sent the case back to Judge Chupp, ordering it be heard on different principles. That hearing was on Friday, February 20, 2015.
Bishop High said today, “Be of good heart. The Episcopal Church, including its continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, welcomes everyone, no matter where they are on their spiritual journey. The mission of The Episcopal Church is to reconcile the world to God through Jesus Christ and that work continues.“