For Immediate release
April 14, 2009
THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF FORT WORTH
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth files suit to recover property and assets of the Episcopal Church
On Tuesday, April 14, 2009, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Episcopal Church filed suit in 141st District Court of Tarrant County, Texas 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.
The petition seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, damages, an accounting, and attorney fees and costs. The petition is attached. It also can be seen at www.episcopaldiocesefortworth.org. [Bishop Gulick's pastoral letter on the litigation is here.]
This lawsuit is necessary because of actions and decisions of these former diocesan leaders that sought to alienate property and assets of the Episcopal Church and deprived Episcopalians of their use and benefit. Despite courteous demand, the defendants and others continue to use the name and seal of the Diocese and maintain possession and control over diocesan property, including the Diocesan Center, Camp Crucis in Hood County, and significant funds, including endowed funds given for the use of the Episcopal Church.
The Episcopal Church is a party to this litigation and has been very supportive of local efforts to maintain continuity of worship, ministry and mission by and for Episcopalians in North Texas. The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick Jr., provisional bishop, supports the litigation, as does the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, and the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.
Recent court decisions in the dioceses of Los Angeles, San Diego, Rochester, Long Island, Colorado and elsewhere have been decided in favor of the Episcopal Church and against those who have sought to leave the Episcopal Church and take its property with them.
The Episcopal Church is an autonomous Province of the Anglican Communion in the United States, Honduras, Taiwan, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and parts of Europe.
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth covers 23 counties in North Texas.
The Episcopal Church has a long history in this part of North Texas. Since the mid-19th century, long before the plaintiff diocese was formed, its geographic territory was part of other missionary districts or dioceses of the Episcopal Church. In 1838, The Episcopal Church formed its “Missionary District of the Southwest,” which included the state of Texas, under the jurisdiction of Missionary Bishop Leonidas Polk. In 1850, the General Convention admitted the Diocese of Texas as a part of The Episcopal Church. In 1874, the General Convention divided the Diocese of Texas into the continuing diocese of Texas and the Missionary Districts of North Texas and West Texas. In 1895, upon action of the General Convention, the Missionary District of North Texas became the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Dallas. In 1982, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was created by General Convention from the western part of the Diocese of Dallas. It continues to carry out the work of the Episcopal Church under the direction of Bishop Gulick.
The following is a statement from the Office of the Presiding Bishop concerning actions in Fort Worth today.
The Episcopal Church, with the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, filed in court today for a declaratory judgment as the rightful owners of all diocesan property, real and personal, including funds and endowments. We feel sorrow that the former diocesan leaders took such actions that led us to this time. However, this is a necessary step in order for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, comprised of Episcopalians of the full theological spectrum, to continue its gospel work in Texas. In other court venues, the courts have ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church and we anticipate a favorable outcome in this case and to a continuation of The Episcopal Church's mission priorities.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, the Episcopal Church