Tag: lawsuit

Fort Worth Wins

Diocese of Fort Worth Press Release:

For immediate release:

U.S. Supreme Court upholds Texas ruling on Diocese, Corporation

It is with great joy and thanksgiving to God that we receive news today that the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has let stand the unanimous May 2020 ruling of the Texas Supreme Court (TXSC), which found in favor of the Diocese and diocesan Corporation.

Responding to two Petitions and replies, SCOTUS denied the requests of The Episcopal Church and All Saints Episcopal Church in Fort Worth for a review of the May 2020 opinion. That opinion upheld state trust law and statutes governing unincorporated associations, affirming ownership of properties throughout the Diocese is governed by our Constitution and Canons and administered by the diocesan Corporation.

For all practical purposes this ends the appeals process that began in 2015 following the Second Summary Judgement of the trial court in Fort Worth. Shortly the trial court will move forward to enforce the ruling and consider related matters severed from the original suit filed against the Diocese in April 2009.

“Today’s decision marks a turning point for us as a Diocese,” said Bishop Ryan Reed. “After directing so many resources to this dispute, we can now put our entire focus on Gospel ministry and Kingdom work. We are nearing completion on a strategic plan that will keep us focused on sharing the transforming love of Jesus Christ and our mission to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”

We are grateful for the thousands of prayers said over these 12 years, for the faithful leadership of Bishop Jack Iker, the excellent work of our legal team, the solid foundation laid for our Diocese nearly 40 years ago, and most of all for God’s gracious provision with the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion with 55 congregations located in
Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, Midland, Wichita Falls and other locations in Texas and Louisiana. It was founded in 1982.

Court denies TEC claims to Diocesan property

Sharpe-IkerThe 141st District Court has ruled in favor of the Diocese and Corporation in our nearly six-year-old lawsuit, instigated
by The Episcopal Church. Pictured with Bishop Iker is attorney Shelby Sharpe.

Statement by The Diocese of Fort Worth
March 3, 2015

On Monday, March 2, 2015, the 141st District Court granted our Motion for Partial Summary Judgment regarding all diocesan property, with the exception of All Saints’, Fort Worth, which Judge Chupp severed for a separate trial.

Nearly six years after we were first sued by The Episcopal Church and its local representatives, the court has confirmed the Diocese’s right to dissociate from TEC and for the Corporation to retain its property.

“We are grateful for the ruling in our favor,” said Bishop Iker. “It’s clear that both church laws and Texas laws have been rightly applied to this dispute.”

In granting our motion, the Hon. John Chupp has ruled that Bishop Iker and the duly-elected officials of the Diocese and Corporation control the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, its Corporation, all endowments and funds, and all property that has been disputed in this litigation. The ruling is binding on all parties.

The judge severed out all the claims concerning ownership of the property of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, and this case will be heard by him at a future time. All Saints’ is the only incorporated parish in the Diocese and claims to hold title to property in its own name. In a February 20 hearing before the court, Judge Chupp strongly encouraged the leadership of All Saints’ to pursue the Canon 32 process with the Diocese, which might settle the issues without the need for a trial.

The following statements from our Motion for Partial Summary Judgment are confirmed by Judge Chupp’s order:

“According to the deeds, church charters, and Texas law:

• using neutral principles of Texas law to decide this case is not retroactive;
• the properties at issue are owned by the Corporation;
• the Defendant Trustees are the properly elected Trustees of the Corporation;
• Bishop Iker is the proper chairman and a member of the Corporation’s board;
• no express trust exists in favor of Plaintiffs (TEC);
• no implied or constructive trust exists in favor of Plaintiffs;
• the Defendants are not estopped to defend themselves; and
• the Defendants properly control the funds, trusts, and endowments at issue.

As a matter of law, the Defendants are entitled to title, control, and use of all of the property at issue in this case.”

The laity and clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth rejoice with Bishop Iker and join him in giving thanks to God for this ruling. We pray for a quick resolution to the remaining claims and disputes. We will continue to carry out the mission given us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: to win the world for Him.

FT. WORTH: Bishop Iker: “We won!”

By Mary Ann MuellerBishop Jack Iker
VOL Special Correspondent
March 2, 2015

Two short words in the subject line in an e-mail from Bishop Jack Iker (III Fort Worth) tells it all. “We won!”

He was condensing what Tarrant County District Court Judge John J. Chupp wrote Monday in his brief one-page order denying The Episcopal Church’s (TEC) motion for a partial summary judgment.

Judge Chupp wrote: “Having considered the pleading, motions, responses, replies, evidence on file, governing law, and arguments of counsel, the Court orders the following:

“IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED that Defendants’ (Bishop Iker) Second Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is GRANTED, except with respect to claims relating to All Saints Episcopal Church (Fort Worth).

“IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ (TEC) Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is DENIED.”

The two-hour oral arguments were heard 10 days ago (Feb. 20) where The Episcopal Church argued that the “simple solution” would be in acknowledging that all property is held in trust for the diocese and congregations by those individuals who are recognized by The Episcopal Church to be the “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.”

However, Judge Chupp’s ruling does not include All Saints-Fort Worth which has been severed out and slated for a separate jury trial this spring to determine property ownership. The remaining members of the congregation have steadfastly refused to cooperate with Bishop Iker in implementing the Diocese of Fort Worth’s Canon 32 which outlines the procedure where parishes, loyal to TEC and wish to separate from the realigned Diocese, can be canonically separated from the Diocese with Bishop Iker’s blessing and their property intact. The Diocese of Fort Worth disaffiliated from The Episcopal Church in 2008 over deepening theological differences.

Bishop Iker’s legal team successfully argued that Texas recognizes neutral principles of law and that the “Dennis Canon” has been found by the Texas Supreme Court to have been revoked allowing the lower Court to determine ultimate ownership according to warrants and deeds based on what the historic property records actually say.

The legal battle has been dragging on since the morning of April 14, 2009 when the newly reconstituted Episcopal diocese in north Texas, under the leadership of Bishop Edwin Gulick (I Provisional TEC Fort Worth), changed the articles of incorporation at the Texas Secretary of State office removing Bishop Iker and the registered trustees of the Diocese from the corporation paperwork Then TEC’s lawyers filed a lawsuit that afternoon claiming a change the legal ownership of the corporation of the “Episcopal Diocese of Forth Worth.” The new case first landed in Judge Chupp’s courtroom where it has gone through a complicated web of hearings, orders, motions, rulings, litigations rehearings, and appeals eventually winding all the way up to the Texas Supreme Court.

“We just won!” the Fort Worth bishop e-mailed late Monday afternoon. “(Judge) Chupp ruled in our favor.”

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline