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.