Saturday, 22 January 2011

Fort Worth: Judge rules against Bishop Iker

Updated Saturday evening

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Judge rules for national Episcopalians, against Iker’s group

A state district judge on Friday ordered the group of Episcopalians headed by Bishop Jack Iker to “surrender all Diocesan property as well as control of the Diocese Corporation” to Episcopalians loyal to the national church.

Judge John Chupp’s ruling in 141st District Court came after months of legal arguments over who owns church buildings and other property in the 24-county Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

Chupp heard arguments for both sides Jan. 14 and granted a summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs — Episcopalians who have remained a part of the U.S. Episcopal Church.

Chupp wrote that they have legal claim to diocesan property. He ordered the defendants to “provide an accounting of all Diocesan assets within 60 days…”

The Diocese of Fort Worth has this press release: Judge Grants Episcopal Parties’ Motions for Summary Judgment and Orders Surrender of Diocesan Property.

On Friday, January 21, 2011, the Hon. John P. Chupp of the 141st District Court, Tarrant County, Texas, granted the Local Episcopal Parties’ and The Episcopal Church’s Motions for Summary Judgments. He denied the Southern Cone parties Motion for a Partial Summary Judgment The orders can be seen here.

The Court orders provide in part that the defendants, including Bishop Jack L. Iker, “surrender all Diocesan property, as well as control of the Diocesan Corporation, to the Diocesan plaintiffs and to provide an accounting of all Diocesan assets within 60 days of this order.” Additionally, “the Court hereby orders the Defendants not to hold themselves out as leaders of the Diocese.”

The parties are ordered “to submit a more detailed declaratory order within ten days of the date of this order” or by January 31…

The judge’s order is available as a PDF file.

There is as yet no press release from Bishop Iker.

Update Saturday evening

There is now a press release from Bishop Iker, Diocese and Corporation announce intention to appeal trial court ruling.

On Friday afternoon, Jan. 21, attorneys for the Diocese and Corporation received two orders from the Hon. John Chupp in the matter of the main suit against us, in which a minority of former members has been joined by The Episcopal Church in an effort to claim diocesan property. Judge Chupp signed an order drafted by the plaintiffs’ attorneys, from which he struck several points with which he did not apparently agree. The order does find that TEC is a hierarchical church, and on that basis the judge has ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The judge’s order can be read here.

Friday’s ruling from the trial court is a disappointment but not a disaster. The plaintiffs have offered no evidence, either in the courtroom or in their voluminous filings, supporting their claim that the Diocese was not entitled to withdraw from The Episcopal Church, as it did in November 2008. Nor have they demonstrated a legal right to our property, which is protected by Texas statutes regulating trusts and non-profit corporations.

On the contrary, it is our position that the judge’s order does not conform to Texas law, and we are therefore announcing our plans to appeal the decision without delay. We believe that the final decision, whenever it is signed by Judge Chupp based on these orders, will not be sustained on appeal. According to our lead attorney, Shelby Sharpe, “These orders appear to be contrary to the earlier opinion from the Second District Court of Appeals in Fort Worth and current decisions from both that court and the Supreme Court of Texas.”

In response to the ruling, Bishop Iker has said, “We are obviously disappointed by Judge Chupp’s ruling and see it as fundamentally flawed. We are confident that the Court of Appeals will carefully consider our appeal and will rule in accordance to neutral principles of law as practiced in the State of Texas. In the meantime, we will continue to focus on mission and outreach in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, while praying for the judges who will take up our appeal.”

We give thanks to God in all circumstances, and we trust in His plans. While we disagree with the judge’s ruling, we offer our sincere appreciation for the time and study he has given to the case.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 7:00am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: ECUSA

SO! Justice has been done, and has been seen to be done - surely a resounding moral victory for TEC and her Mission Partners! Deo Gratias! This worth a Novena!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 10:31am GMT

I fully expect Iker et al to spin this, somehow, as actually being a victory for their side.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 11:59am GMT

I have, for the first time, (thanks for the link Simon) visited the website of Bishop Iker's group. In addition to Bishop Iker's use of the logo of the diocese and its branding, the website notes: "This Diocese is a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, consisting of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces and regional churches in communion with the See of Canterbury,..." I do not believe this statement to be true. It seems to be an iteration of the statement made by Bishop Schofield of San Joaquin which I also believe to be inaccurate. I would like to hear comment about it. There is no question in my mind that the summary judgment made by this judge will be appealed. It appears to rely on the theory that the episcopal church is hierarchical and, therefore, in accordance with Texas law, hierarchical preference trumps corporate law and, at least in property disputes, hierarchical preference trumps neutral principles. That may nor may not survive the appeals court but, this is surely a positive for The Episcopal Church in the interim. ---inhibiting Bishop Iker's contined use of the title Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, logos and branding will also be of assistance. It will insure that donations intended for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth are directed to the TEC organization.

Posted by: EmilyH on Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 2:23pm GMT

Of course they will appeal and Iker will fight this to the bitter end..he will be hailed the persecuted hero, but his bank account will be non the poorer.

TEC should sue Southern Cone for sponsering this theft of her property.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 2:45pm GMT

This is fantastic news as yet one more attempt at property theft is thwarted. The wheels of justice grind slowly ....

Posted by: Roger on Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 2:53pm GMT

Excellent news! The independent court living in the real world is apparently unintimidated by the the religious extremists who follow ex-bishop Iker. A great and long overdue victory for common sense, fairness, and The Episcopal Church. And perhaps too this is a chance for those in Fort Worth who have abandoned the Church that has been so good to them over the years to face up to what they have actually done. They have left behind their faithful, loving family for a replacement that in their mind is newer, flashier, and glitzier. I wish them well as now they will have to pay for the privilege of starting their new church instead of simply stealing from the Church family they so cavalierly dismissed.

Posted by: Dallas Bob on Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 5:58pm GMT

The press release has now been posted and it says:
"Our lawyers tell us this should not have happened, they say this judge does not know his law, they also tell us if we give them more money they can make this decision go away. We believe them and we are giving them more money."
I paraphrase somewhat ......

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 6:15pm GMT

>> The wheels of justice grind slowly .... <<

Aye, and "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Posted by: David da Silva Cornell on Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 8:30pm GMT

Well, looks like I had it right...

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 11:50pm GMT

At least Iker did not accuse the local justice establishment of being an agent of TEC, like Don Armstrong did in Colorado Springs.

Posted by: JPM on Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 11:53pm GMT

Good decision. Iker can believe what he wants to and can leave ECUSA or do whatever he wants with another church/denomination-but he can't take title to the Diocese's property with him. Certainly he will appeal, his lawyers will make more money off him, and he will fight to the bitter end. He can become his own favorite church martyr- the Saint Anthony of Cowtown.

Posted by: Charles on Sunday, 23 January 2011 at 3:14am GMT

Bitter Iker.

If one really, REALLY wants to be a member of the Church of the Southern Cone, there's probably a direct flight from Dallas-FTW to South America. If, on the the other hand... "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!"

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 23 January 2011 at 6:41am GMT

As usual Martin Reynolds hits the nail on the head..the real winners are the lawyers!It's interesting how the Judge in his judgement even gave them a foretaste of their claim that neutral principles would assist them. He showed them that it would not apply.

However what do you expect when the leadersship are not going to experience any financial hardship?

Posted by: Robert ian Wiliams on Sunday, 23 January 2011 at 6:42am GMT

"However what do you expect when the leadership are not going to experience any financial hardship? - Robert I. Williams -

This, however, will not be the case with the English and Welsh defectors to the Roman Catholic Ordinariate. There will be no Big Daddy Mr Money Bags to finance the new life style (complete with Anglican Patrimony) that these hoped to enlist: No buildings, no vicarages - just a residual stipend-based pension - no more. Mission context?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 23 January 2011 at 9:48am GMT
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