Support the Café

Search our Site

Diocese of Fort Worth wins in court

Diocese of Fort Worth wins in court

From the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth


On Thursday, April 5, 2018, the Fort Worth Court of Appeals issued a 178-page opinion in favor of the loyal Episcopalians of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.  In a decision authored by the Chief Justice, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s 2015 judgment for the breakaway parties and held that the loyal Episcopalians are entitled to control both the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and its Corporation.

Noting that the parties agreed that the Corporation held legal title to all of the property in dispute, the Court of Appeals also analyzed two examples of the many deeds at issue.  The Court of Appeals rendered judgment in favor of the loyal Episcopalians on those two deeds, both of which relate to property occupied by All Saints Episcopal Church (Fort Worth).  The Court of Appeals then remanded the many other, similar deeds to the trial court so it could rule on those deeds using the same analysis.

Bishop Scott Mayer of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth said today: “We are very grateful for the care taken by the Fort Worth Court of Appeals in reaching its decision. As this unfolds, the people and clergy of our diocese will, as always, carry on our work as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. We continue to hold all involved in our prayers.”

The Episcopal Parties and Congregations look forward to the resolution of this matter and the trial court’s enforcement of the Court of Appeals’ opinion.

Read the opinion. Opinion-178pgs

Read the judgment. Judgment-2pages

From the opinion:


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Chris Cresswell

Wow a 180 pages of fire starting paper.

Marshall Scott

I’m not an attorney, so this is a question from ignorance (and, yes, I know those can be helpful): does this throw out the Dennis Canon? In the flowchart/algorithm above, one question is, “Has the highest church authority decided the issue?” Wouldn’t the Dennis Canon meet that standard?

Prof Christopher Seitz

This is it, also as ruled (definitively/finally) in Illinois. Not patient of further review.

An implied trust is not a trust in which the principals sign on expressly. In my reading of Jones v Wolff the Supreme Court judges said an express trust was needed. This would require something like GC asking for a vote and change of language in constitutional wording. That this has not happened at TEC GCs is a sign it is not something easy to achieve.

Stay tuned. We are in polity no-man’s land.

Joan Gundersen

The decision is a mixed blessing. From what I can tell, it denies the applicability of the Dennis Canon, but rules that the governing documents of the diocese in 2006 were worded in a way that means the Corporation that owns most of the property is the corporation populated by the members loyal to TEC. It rules in the All Saints case that the property belongs to those still in the TEC, but sends most of the parish cases back to the trial court to see if their deeds and governing documents had wording as of 2006 that tied property to the Episcopal Church. The diocese has been waiting 3 years for the court to issue its opinion. It is both headed back to trial court AND inevitably back to the Texas Supreme Court.

Paul Powers

The Texas Supreme Court had already held that the Dennis Canon doesn’t create an enforceable trust under Texas law, so it isn’t surprising that the Court of Appeals did too. It’s an interesting opinion. My reading is that the property held by the diocesan corporation belongs to the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. The national church doesn’t have an ownership interest in the property as such, but since TEC is a hierarchical church, its determination of which group constitutes the EDFW controls.

My understanding is that most of the property at issue is held by the corporation. The case is being remanded to the trial court to determine ownership of properties that aren’t or might not be held by the corporation. However, if. TEC determines who the diocese is, the same logic, the diocese should determine who the parishes are.

Prof Christopher Seitz

How right you are. Dennis Canon is tossed out and looks like every parish going to trial.

Maybe +Dorsey Henderson of Pittsburgh could be called on to advise on how to stay out of court. They could use him in SC as well.

Sarah Walker

There are a few churches that have bought more church property so that they will have new worship space out of the litigation. There is also one new mission with property purchased after 2008. Most churches are involved in the litigation and will be for many more years.

Prof Christopher Seitz

Thank you, E Larsen!

Erik Larsen

Dorsey McConnell

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café