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Texas Supreme Court Rules Against Diocese of Fort Worth

Texas Supreme Court Rules Against Diocese of Fort Worth

From Episcopal News Service:

On May 22, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a ruling against the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and in favor of a breakaway group now affiliated with the Anglican Church of North America in a dispute over which group legally controls the diocese and its property.

The ruling reversed a 2018 appeals court decision that established The Episcopal Church’s diocese, led by Bishop Scott Mayer, as the rightful controller of the Diocese of Fort Worth. In 2008, a majority of clergy and lay leaders in the Diocese of Fort Worth voted to leave The Episcopal Church and join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone over doctrinal differences on topics like same-sex marriage and the ordination of women. Now there are two entities calling themselves the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth: the original diocese associated with The Episcopal Church and the breakaway group that is now part of the Anglican Church in North America.

Bishop Mayer’s letter to the diocese notes that,

For now, we all must don the mantle of patience and forbearance.  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.

I remain convinced that we are right in our affirmation that we are the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and that I am its bishop.

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 worship, care for those in need, and strive for justice and peace.

Let us move forward together with grace and love, guided by the Holy Spirit.

 

The text of the court’s decision is available online here.

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christopher r seitz

[eds. - we're catching up on comment approvals]

I wrote a note that has not been posted. Don't know why. I simply pointed out that the group which left the Diocese of Fort Worth to remain in TEC would more likely find a kindred spirit in TEC dioceses in TX other than Dallas. That is surely not controversial.

It is worth noting, "The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth" is the name of the diocese that the TX supreme court ruled in favor of. Rightmyer chooses his words carefully: "That diocese released several parishes which formed a new diocese that accepts the authority of General Convention. I wonder if the new diocese is really viable...". The TEC entity may have sought to claim the name, but the Supreme Court did not favor them as the holders of the diocese or name.

I agree with him that it would be better to join a diocese -- I suggested NW-TX.

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Thomas Rightmyer

As I read the Texas Supreme Court decision the Diocese of Fort Worth whose convention voted twice to leave the Episcopal Church is the continuing diocese and entitled to the property. That diocese released several parishes which formed a new diocese that accepts the authority of General Convention. I wonder if the new diocese is really viable or if it, like Quincy, should rejoin the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas. NWPa and WesternNY now share a bishop. I wonder if we are seeing some restructuring in the Episcopal Church. It will be interesting to see if some small congregations will survive the virus.

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Paul Powers

FW shares a bishop with NW Texas, but I haven’t heard of any discussion of merging the two dioceses. A merger with Dallas isn’t in the cards because of the two dioceses’ different policies on marriage equality.

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christopher r seitz

You ask a good question about viability. I doubt, however, if Dallas is where they would head. More likely a more representatively progressive TEC diocese in the area. N-TX?

I agree about restructuring more generally. A lot of dioceses are not really viable as twenty years ago.

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Steve Price

There could be a silver lining here.Up to this point there has been little reason for the U.S.Supreme Court to hear an appeal of these state court decisions in order to protect the rights of a hiearchial church since the hiearchial church has mostly prevailed at the state level.Maybe this decision in Texas will cause them to accept an appeal and overturn or modify it's ill advised decision in the 1979 Jones case that opened this can of worms to start with and return to its prior position recognizing the right of an hiearchial church to control it's own affairs.With 5 Roman Catholics and 1 Episcopalian on the Court a favorable ruling seems possible.

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mike geibel

I doubt review would be granted if the issues are state or local laws such as the property rights of a Corp Sole vs the rights of parishioners. But be careful what you ask for. SCOTUS is not a court of review for error. Accepting a petition for review by the US Supreme Court would not necessarily indicate a probable reversal but rather signal an intent to resolve inconsistent state rulings or to decide important questions of Constitutional or federal law.

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Steve Price

That's the point. The application of the neutral principle provision established in Jones vs Wolff to hierarchical churches is why we've had inconsistent state rulings. SCOTUS created this mess by not allowing 100 year old established precedent to stand. It's their responsibility to resolve it instead of allowing it to tear hierarchical churches assunder. We now have 2/3 of the justices who are members of hierarchical churches who might understand the importance of the State not interfering in the governing structure of those churches.

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christopher r seitz

I'd be skeptical the US Supreme Court would be enticed to hear, much less overturn the TX ruling. As for religious affiliation, I cannot imagine Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh or Alito, or for that matter Roberts, inclining toward the TEC position. They know the difference between the polity of the Roman Catholic Church and that of TEC.

Who is going to continue to bankroll legal work for this cause? 815? Doubtful.

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