On Friday, the Fort Worth Court of Appeals issued a decision in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth identifying it as the true diocese. The decision on identity set that Court’s instructions on remand to the trial court for decisions on disputed parish and diocesan property. See the Café’s earlier post of the diocese’s press release on the decision here.
As expected, the competing entity, a diocese of ACNA (also calling itself The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth) has announced it will appeal to the Texas Supreme Court — before the trial court has reconsidered the case on remand.
The saga thus far: The trial court initially ruled in favor of the Episcopal Church. On appeal by Iker’s group, the state Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court which then ruled in favor of Iker’s group. The Episcopal diocese appealed to the US Supreme Court which did not take the appeal. The Fort Worth Appeals Court did hear the Episcopal diocese’s appeal of the trial court decision. And on Friday that Appeals Court remanded to the trial court. See Wikipedia.
Iker’s breakaway group, in the press release below, announces it will appeal to the state Supreme Court a second time, rather than wait for the next trial court outcome. The reference the breakaway makes to TEC is to The Episcopal Church.
April 9, 2018
[Breakaway] Diocese will appeal to Texas Supreme Court
On April 5, 2018, the Second Court of Appeals issued its long-awaited Opinion in our dispute with TEC over the ownership of our church property, and it essentially reversed the previous trial court ruling in our favor (dated July 2015). After review by our legal team, we have concluded that this most recent appellate court opinion is not consistent with what the Texas Supreme Court previously decided when it addressed this controversy in 2013 and that we will appeal it.
In reversing the original trial court ruling in favor of TEC’s claims, the Supreme Court instructed the trial court to rehear the case and to use neutral principles of law in reaching a conclusion, instead of deference to TEC. This means that Texas laws concerning corporations, property, trusts, and unincorporated associations are to direct the outcome of the lawsuit.
The Texas Supreme Court ruled in the Masterson case (No. 11-0332) that:
• Changes made to “articles of incorporation or bylaws are secular, not ecclesiastical, matters.” (page 25)
• “…[W]e have held that Texas courts cannot simply use deference or identity methodology principles to resolve this type of issue.” (page 27)
• “…[I]dentifying the loyal faction” does not “determine the property ownership issue under this record, as it might under the deference or identity methodology.” (page 27)
We are disappointed that the appellate court chose to decide this as an identity case. We remain hopeful that we will prevail under neutral principles of law should the Texas Supreme Court address this controversy for the second time. We will file a petition for review in May or June but will likely not know whether the Court will take the case for decision until late this year or early 2019.
In the meantime, everything remains as it has been, as we continue to wait for a conclusion to this tiresome litigation now entering its tenth year before the courts. Our trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, and we rely upon His grace to sustain us with faith and patience in the months to come. Please continue to pray for our legal team and for the justices who will address our petition.
Pictured: Bishop Jack Iker, Diocese of Fort Worth (ACNA)