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Disappointment for Fort Worth Episcopalians in US Supreme Court

Disappointment for Fort Worth Episcopalians in US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court has declined to take the property appeal of The Episcopal Church and its Fort Worth diocese. The Texas Supreme Court decision in favor of the breakaway diocese stands.

SCOTUS Blog reports this afternoon:

The court also declined to take up three cases that involved property disputes between religious denominations and breakaway church factions: All Saints’ Episcopal Church (Fort Worth) v. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort WorthThe Episcopal Church v. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and Schulz v. Presbytery of Seattle. There were no noted dissents from the court’s decision not to intervene.

The loyal diocese issued this press release:

For immediate release

February 22, 2021

On February 22, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear our cases, which means the decision of the Texas Supreme Court stands.

(20-534) ALL SAINTS’ EPISCOPAL CHURCH V. DIOCESE OF FORT WORTH, ET AL.

(20-536) THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH, ET AL. V. DIOCESE OF FORT WORTH, ET AL.

Bishop Scott Mayer said, “I know this is a disappointment to us all, but as followers of Jesus Christ, we live in hope.”

“Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry of The Episcopal Church joins me in acknowledging our disappointment and urging all of us to be gentle with one another during this trying time, with the important goal of continuing our worship of God and our ministries in this diocese of the Church in as uninterrupted a manner as possible.

“I ask for your prayers and urge us all to stay focused on the saving gospel of Jesus Christ and on our mission and ministries in the days ahead.”

Bishop Mayer continued, ‘When we began this litigation in 2009, we did so as heir and steward of the legacy of generations of faithful Episcopalians.  In the wake of this decision we remain committed to preaching the gospel as we celebrate the sacraments, care for those in need, and strive for justice and peace.”

Bishop Mayer will be meeting with clergy and lay leaders via Zoom today.

In 2008, Bishop Jack Iker and other leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth left The Episcopal Church but retained control of the vast majority of the property, which those present at the founding of the Diocese unanimously promised by signed writing to use for The Episcopal Church, its constituent diocese, and the congregations thereof. This litigation began in early 2009 when The Episcopal Church and the loyal minority who sought to uphold those promises went to court to reclaim the property, accumulated over decades by generations of Episcopalians, for the mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church.

Attached: Letter from bishop 02222021

Curry to the Diocese of Ft Worth 2-22-2021_signed

For more information:

Katie Sherrod

Communication Director

cksherrod@gmail.com

817.909.0070

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Thomas Rightmyer

I don’t see much stated desire on the part of either the Episcopal Church or the ACNA – or any of the Continuing Anglican churches – for much reconciliation, and I regret that. The Episcopal Church has full communion and shared ministry agreements with a number of churches including the Philippine Independent Church, the Mar Thoma Church, the ELCA, the Moravian Church, and a proposed agreement with the United Methodist Church. But churches of the Anglican tradition in the United States remain divided. These churches agree on the four points of the Chicago – Lambeth Quadrilateral, though they do differ on the Biblical teachings about some questions of moral theology. But if Anglican churches can be in dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, what prevents us from dialogue with churches of common Anglican heritage? When the Diocese of Fort Worth rejected the authority of the General Convention parishes that chose to remain in communion with the Episcopal Church were offered title to their property. I have not seen any report whether that offer continues to be open.

Eric Bonetti

This underscores an important issue for TEC, particularly in light of the fact that, as a denomination, it is much older than the population at large. Specifically, governance often is profoundly sloppy and needs attention. Consider: In SC, several parishes had never incorporated the required accession clause in their governing documents, with the result that Episcopal assets were lost. Similarly, nothing prevents a diocese from reviewing its governing documents and going beyond the Dennis Canon. But typically these issues are left to chance, even when parishes (and dioceses) ignore canons.

The church needs to ensure that gifts intended for the future well-being of the church are used for that purpose by cleaning up its slipshod governance.

And for the record, it is difficult to enforce provisions like the Dennis Canon, or the provisions on same-sex marriage, when bishops, including here in DioVA, routinely ignore canonical provisions they don’t like.

Eric Bonetti

I’d add that one of the issues in the Ft. Worth litigation is that the diocesan canons apparently were changed in the 1980’s to rescind the Dennis Canon, but the hierarchy ignored these developments. Thus, while sad, the outcome should come as no surprise as the hierarchy turns a blind eye to violations of the very canons it later tries to enforce in court.

David Mu

Perhaps, TEC may seen this as a path of letting go of – privilege?

JoS. S. Laughon

Te Deum. Now we can finally go our separate ways and let it be.

Steve Price

So if my small parish which has close to 2million dollars worth of assets calls a church meeting to vote on withdrawing from the Episcopal Church and a quorum of 25 votes 13-12 to become independent ,sell all assets and divide the receipts among the 13 that’s now legal?It is now foolish to will any of your estate to a church if it can be diverted in the future for some purpose other than what you intended.

Paul Powers

It depends on which state you’re in. On the same day SCOTUS declined to hear the two FW cases where the state court ruled in favor of the breakaway diocese, it also declined to hear a case where the Washington courts ruled against a breakaway congregation. If you’re thinking about making a donation to your church, you may want to talk with an attorney about adding a provision about what happens if your parish leaves TEC.

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