Attorneys for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the Corporation of the Diocese of Fort Worth, and the Episcopal Church are preparing a response to motions filed by attorneys for former bishop Jack L. Iker and former members of the corporation’s board. A hearing has been set for September 9 in the 141st District Court in Tarrant County.
Bishop Iker and these former leaders left the Episcopal Church in 2008 and have since aligned themselves with another church, the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone. However, they have continued to occupy Episcopal Church property and control other Episcopal Church assets and records.
Their first motion seeks the court’s permission to file a petition challenging the authority of Bishop Gulick, members of the Diocesan Standing Committee, and the chancellor of the continuing diocese in those offices. The second motion challenges the authority of Chancellor Kathleen Wells and attorney Jon Nelson to act as attorneys for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.
Both motions and the proposed petition fail to inform the court that all those on whose behalf these motions were filed have voluntarily left the Episcopal Church and thus are no longer officials of the Diocese or the Diocesan Corporation. The vacancies left by their departure have been filled by Episcopalians as part of the same reorganized and continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.
As do many of those who have left the Episcopal Church, Bishop Iker continues to make inconsistent arguments about the hierarchical nature of the Episcopal Church. Just seven years ago, in 2002, he joined in challenging Bishop Jane Dixon’s authority as a bishop in a dispute in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Then he represented in a “friend of the court” brief he and former Bishop Duncan authorized to be filed in the U.S. Appellate that
- Bishops in the Episcopal Church have limited authority,
- General Convention leads the church,
- Dioceses are subordinate to the General Convention,
- The Episcopal Church is not merely a loose federation of independent dioceses, and
- That diocesan canons cannot be inconsistent with national Church canons.
Bishop Jane Dixon prevailed, and the court, in their decision,clearly determined that the Episcopal Church was hierarchical.
All these are opposite of the positions he and others take now.
There is no question who the legitimate leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth are. The Episcopal Church has clearly recognized Bishop Edwin F. [Ted] Gulick Jr. as the bishop of Fort Worth as well as the new leadership elected at the special meeting of the diocesan convention in February 2009 or appointed since then by Bishop Gulick. That special meeting was called to order by the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori in accordance with Episcopal Church canons after the former bishop and other diocesan leaders left the Church. Furthermore, deputies of the reorganized Diocese of Fort Worth were welcomed as they were seated with voice and vote at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, held in July in Anaheim, California. The General Convention is the governing body of the Episcopal Church. The Church not only recognized Fort Worth’s deputation at the General Convention but also passed a resolution commending the four reorganized dioceses and gave their deputations a standing ovation in the House of Deputies. Three deputies from Fort Worth have been appointed to significant commissions and committees of the Church and one, Katie Sherrod, was also elected to the Executive Council, the body that governs the church between General Conventions. Since February Bishop Gulick and the Standing Committee have given or withheld consents for bishops in the Church.
The motions filed by Bishop Iker’s attorneys are in response to the suit filed in the 141st District Court of Tarrant County, Texas, on April 14, 2009, by the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Episcopal Church in part to recover property and assets of the Episcopal Church. The defendants are former members of the corporation’s board and the former bishop of the diocese, all of whom have left the Episcopal Church and its Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth but continue to control some Episcopal Church assets.
Bishop Gulick said then, “The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, heir and steward of the legacy of generations of faithful Episcopalians, has this day brought suit to recover that legacy. We deeply regret that the decisions and actions of former diocesan leaders have brought us to this difficult moment…We bid the prayers of all faithful Episcopalians and other Christians as we protect our legacy and fulfill the trust and dreams of those who have gone before.”