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Fort Worth court win: The Church of England Newspaper, May 2, 2014 June 2, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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The Texas courts have handed the Episcopal Church of the USA a loss in its dispute with the Diocese of Fort Worth, rejecting its plea for a rehearing of its case that the diocese should not be allowed to quit the national church and returning a $100,000 bond to the diocese and lifting the requirement that it provide a monthly accounting to the national church. On 24 April 2014 the 141st District Court in Fort Worth agreed to move forward with a new trial in the property suit brought five years ago by the national church against the diocese five years ago. The attorney for Fort Worth Scott Brister, a retired Texas Supreme Court judge, noted, “The judge ruled with us. It’s time to move forward and finish this suit.” The Rt. Rev.  Jack L. Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth commented that this as a “great encouragement to us, and we look forward to the day when all these legal proceedings are behind us and we can get on with the mission of the Church without the distraction of litigation.” In August the court will likely consider motions for summary judgment, which if granted, would resolve the dispute in favor of the diocese.

Texas Supreme Court rejects TEC appeal: The Church of England Newspaper, March 28, 2014 April 11, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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The Texas Supreme Court has rejected the petition of the Episcopal Church in the Texas property cases, denying a rehearing of its dispute with the Diocese of Fort Worth and a parish in the Diocese of Northwest Texas that had seceded from its diocese.  The 21 March 2014 ruling sends the disputes back to the trial courts with instructions to adjudicate the case without reference to church canon law, looking only at civil property law. “We are greatly relieved by the finality of the Court’s ruling,” said the Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth. “TEC’s rehearing strategy has delayed us from moving on with this case by more than six months and at the cost of several thousands of dollars to oppose it. My advice is that TEC cut its losses and get on with their life without the Diocese of Fort Worth. Their litigation strategy has failed.”

Episcopal Church confident it will win Fort Worth fight: Anglican Ink, September 12, 2013 September 13, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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The Provisional Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. Rayford High

The Episcopal Church will prevail in its court battle with Bishop Jack L. Iker and the Diocese of Fort Worth, the Provisional Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High, Jr., said this week, arguing the doctrine of neutral principles of law favors their cause.

On 9 Sept 2013 Bishop High and members of the diocesan standing committee along with the national church appointed trustees of the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and officers for the Fund for the Endowment of the Episcopate met with their lawyers to review the Texas Supreme Court’s 30 August 2013 decision in No. 11-0265Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, et al. v. The Episcopal Church, et al.

In the Fort Worth case the Court by a vote of 5 to 4 overturned a Tarrant County trial court decision that awarded the property of the Diocese of Fort Worth to the national Episcopal Church and its local allies.  The Supreme Court held the trial court erred in deferring to the denominational polity of the national church. The ruling nullified the Episcopal Church’s Dennis Canon in Texas, holding the national church’s property rules had no legal effect in the state.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Fort Worth wins: The Church of England Newspaper, September 6, 2013 p 6. September 12, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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The Texas Supreme Court has nullified the Dennis Canon, holding the Episcopal Church’s property rules have no legal effect in the state. It ruled that church property disputes are to be governed by the “neutral principles of law” doctrine rather than ecclesiastical law.

The decision marks the climax of the five year legal battle between the national church and Diocese of Fort Worth – effectively ruling that a parish may quit its diocese and keep its property if it has clear title to its buildings, and that a diocese may withdraw from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

On 30 August 2013 the Court handed down its decisions in two closely watched cases — No. 11-0265Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, et al. v. The Episcopal Church, et al.; and No. 11-0332Masterson v. Diocese of Northwest Texas.

In the Fort Worth case, the Court by a vote of 5 to 4 to overturn a lower court decision that awarded the property of the Diocese of Fort Worth to the national Episcopal Church and its local allies.  It held the trial court erred in deferring to the opinion of the Episcopal Church over the arguments of the diocese.

It remanded the case to the trial court, instructing it to apply a “neutral principles of law” analysis to the issues and determine whether the Corporation of the Diocese of Fort Worth had complied with state law when it withdrew from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. The dissenting votes in the Fort Worth case did not dispute the majority’s finding and accept the arguments of the national church, but held the hearing before the Supreme Court was premature and the matter should have been litigated at the court of appeal first.

In the Masterson case, the court voted 7 to 2 to reverse a court of appeal decision which held the Diocese of Northwest Texas was the owner of the property of the Church of the Good Shepherd in San Angelo, Texas.  The appeals court had held that the national church’s property canon – known colloquially as the Dennis Canon — required the court to award the parish property to the diocese under the theory that the state must defer to ecclesiastical law.

The Supreme Court rejected this finding, ruling that “neutral principles of law” must govern the courts, where it must look to property deeds and corporate charters to determine who owns property in Texas. The Masterson ruling nullified in Texas the Dennis Canon – a 1979 rule which states parish property is held in trust for the diocese and national church.

The trial court was directed to review the dispute between the parish and diocese and look to the deeds to determine ownership.

The provisional Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. Rayford High, Jr., — the bishop of the loyalist faction — released a statement lamenting the decision. “For now, we must all don the mantle of patience and forbearance,” as their lawyers reviewed the decision.

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

The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth rejoiced in the decision. He told the diocese the Supreme Court had ruled the trial court had erred in its decision and “must now reconsider the merits of the case” based on neutral principles.  “While today’s opinions are not final victory, they indicate that a final victory is only a matter of time.”

Bishop Iker thanked the clergy and lay members of the diocese for “your faithfulness and support during this trying period of time. … Patience and prayers are still required, but in the end we will prevail.”

Canon lawyer Alan Halley – who has served as counsel for some of the breakaway dioceses in their battles with the national church – observed: “Texas law will control the issue of who were the trustees of the Fort Worth diocesan corporation on the relevant dates when crucial votes were taken. And that should bode very well for Bishop Iker’s chances on remand.”

“Likewise, the issues of title are to be resolved by examining the various deeds under Texas secular law — and that, too, should work in Bishop Iker’s favor. Title to all of the parish properties is held by the diocesan corporation. Thus if Bishop Iker’s trustees are the proper trustees in office, the property will follow the corporation.”

Anglican Unscripted Episode 80: August 31, 2013 September 1, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican.TV, Church of England, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Fort Worth, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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Published on Sep 1, 2013

Anglican Unscripted is the only video newscast in the Anglican Church. Every Week Kevin, George, Allan and Peter bring you news and prospective from around the globe.

STORY INDEX:
Communion Bishops go to Canterbury 00:00
Texas & South Carolina Victories 07:23
Teaching Americans how to speak English 18:11
It is Just a War 31:50
Trimming the dead branches 39:38
Closing and Bloooopers 44:21

No decision today from Texas Supreme Court on Fort Worth case: Anglican Ink, June 28, 2013 June 28, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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The Texas Supreme Court did not hand down its expected decision in the Diocese of Fort Worth case today, leaving the breakaway diocese under the leadership of the Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker and the loyalist faction led by provisional bishop the Rt. Rev Rayford High on tenterhooks until September.

In a statement released on 28 June 2013, Bishop Iker said, “Today the Texas Supreme Court did not announce a decision in our direct appeal, and since decisions are not issued in July or early August, we do not anticipate a ruling until the end of August at the earliest. We continue to wait patiently upon the Lord, prayerfully trusting in His loving care and protection.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Episcopal applause for gay boy scout vote: Anglican Ink, May 27, 2013 May 28, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, The Episcopal Church.
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The Provisional Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. Rayford High has applauded last week’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Council to open its ranks to boys who say they are homosexual, and has urged as a matter of justice the Scouts to lift their ban on gay scoutmasters.

“I am gratified to hear of the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to end its policy of forbidding participation by openly gay youths.  I agree with Wayne Brock, the chief executive officer of the Boy Scouts, that the decision was ‘compassionate, caring, and kind’,” Bishop High said.

After prolonged and contentious debate on 23 May 2013, the 1400 delegates to the BSA’s national council  meeting in Grapevine, Texas voted by a margin of 61 per cent to 39 per cent to rescind its ban and allow a local option on gay scouts – but voted to retain its ban on gay scout masters and adult volunteers. The policy change takes effect on Jan. 1.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

TEC hits back in South Carolina: The Church of England Newspaper, April 7, 2013 p 4. April 9, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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The national Episcopal Church has taken the offensive in South Carolina filing lawsuits in federal court and a counterclaim in state court against the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, its Bishop, clergy and lay leaders.

On Maundy Thursday the national church filed an answer to the diocese’s 4 Jan 2013 lawsuit seeking a ban on the use of its name and seal by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and her allies, and asking the civil courts to confirm that it had lawfully withdrawn from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

The national church and its allies in South Carolina denied the diocesan claims and in their counterclaim asserted that all diocesan and parish property in South Carolina belonged to them. It also brought suit against the parish officers and diocesan leaders in their personal capacities alleging they had engaged in a civil conspiracy to defraud the national Episcopal Church.

In a statement given to the Church of England Newspaper on Good Friday, Canon Jim Lewis of the diocese of South Carolina wrote there was “little to say about the counterclaims.”

“We are saddened they filed their suits on Maundy Thursday in the middle of Holy Week and that they have made the lawsuit personal by suing individuals who make up the leadership of our parishes. However we are not surprised that TEC’s filing now makes clear its intention to seize all the properties of the Diocese of South Carolina and its parishes. The court filings are consistent with the scores of lawsuits The Episcopal Church has filed against dioceses and parishes across the United States,” he said.

 On 7 March 2013 the national church asked the US District Court in South Carolina to grant a preliminary injunction to Bishop Lawrence and his allies from using the name and trademarks of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and from representing that his activities were associated with the diocese.

In a suit akin to one filed with the federal courts in Texas, attorneys for the national church argued Bishop Lawrence and his allies had violated the Lanham Act and violated federal trademark law.  The federal court in Texas has held it will not hear that case until the state court proceedings are concluded.  Lawyers for the diocese of South Carolina tell CEN they expect the federal court in their state to make a similar decision.

On 31 Jan 2013 attorneys representing the national church agreed to the entry of an order in state court that forbade the national church and its surrogates from claiming to act on behalf of the diocese.  The new lawsuit in federal court seeks to undo this legal defeat and move the case to a different court.

Settlement reached in Episcopal misconduct cases: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2013 p 6. January 25, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Ecclesiastical Trials, Ecclesiology, Fort Worth, Quincy, The Episcopal Church.
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A settlement agreement has been reached in the disciplinary proceedings of 9 American bishops accused of misconduct for holding and propounding contrary views on church history and polity to those of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Last week representatives of the accusers: Bishops C. Wallis Ohl, Jr., and John Buchanan, met with representatives of the accused: Bishops Peter H. Beckwith, Maurice M. Benitez, John W. Howe, Paul E. Lambert, William H. Love, D. Bruce MacPherson, Daniel H. Martins, Edward L. Salmon, Jr, and James M. Stanton, three observers from the House of Bishops: Mary Gray-Reeves, Edward S. Little, Michael Milliken to sign a “conciliation” agreement.

The nine had been charged with fraud, financial misconduct, teaching false doctrine and failing to inform on their fellow bishops who held opinions on church order contrary to those advocated by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.  The form the misconduct took was in having endorsed an amicus brief filed in the Texas Supreme Court in the Diocese of Fort Worth case and signing an affidavit in the Diocese of Quincy case.

The text of the settlement agreement — mediated by Prof.  John Douglass of the University Of Richmond School of Law following a 8-9 Jan 2013 meeting — has not been released so far as it must be signed by all parties and received the imprimatur of Bishop Jefferts Schori.

A statement from the national church’s press office noted the proceedings were closed and no news bulletins would be released by the parties, however sources at the meeting report the final document is an “amicable” resolution to the dispute.

Oregon rejects the Dennis Canon: Anglican Ink, December 5, 2012 December 6, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, Property Litigation.
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The Oregon Supreme Court has handed down a decision in a Presbyterian Church property dispute that effectively nullifies the Episcopal Church’s Dennis Canon in its jurisdiction.

In a 29 Nov 2012 decision in Hope Presbyterian Church of Rogue River v the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Presbytery of the Cascades the Oregon Supreme Court held that a denominational trust does not encumber parish property unless the parish takes an explicit action to place a trust or lien on the property on behalf of the denomination.

Last week’s rule had immediate ramifications for Episcopal Church property disputes as lawyers for Bishop Jack Iker and the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth filed a letter brief with the Texas Supreme Court reporting the Oregon Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of “neutral principles of law” in adjudication church property disputes.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Conciliator appointed for Fort Worth & Quincy cases: Anglican Ink, November 20, 2012 November 20, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Canon Law, Fort Worth, Quincy, The Episcopal Church.
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John Douglass of the University of Richmond School of Law

The Presiding Bishop’s office has appointed a former federal prosecutor and law school dean to serve as a mediator in the Fort Worth and Quincy cases.

On 19 Nov 2012 the Rt. Rev. F. Clayton Matthews wrote two letters to the nine bishops subject to complaints of misconduct for having express opinions contrary. Bishop Matthews informed the nine that Prof.  John Douglass had been appointed to be “conciliator” between the accused and the complainants.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Fort Worth 7 indicted on charges of failure to inform on other bishops: Anglican Ink, November 13, 2012 November 13, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Canon Law, Fort Worth, The Episcopal Church.
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The episcopal defendants in the Fort Worth 7 case have been charged with fraud, financial misconduct and failing to inform on their fellow bishops  who held opinions on church order contrary to those advocated by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

In an email dated 2 Oct 2012 seen by Anglican Ink the Fort Worth 7 were informed of the specific canonical violations they had committed by filing an amicus brief in the Fort Worth case before the Texas Supreme Court.

The intake officer for the House of Bishops, the Rt. Rev. F. Clayton Matthews told the seven:

“The complaints were filed by the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Fort Worth and Mr. Paul Ambos, a member in good standing of Christ Church, New Brunswick, New Jersey and a Deputy to the 77th General Convention from the Diocese of New Jersey.  They allege you violated Canons IV.3.1, and Canons IV.4.Sec1(c),(e),(g),(f),(h)(6),(h)(8), and possibly IV.4.Sec.1(h)(2).”

The canonical violations enumerated by Bishop Matthews were:

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 54, October 26, 2012 October 27, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Tanzania, Anglican Consultative Council, Anglican Covenant, Anglican.TV, Canon Law, Church of England, Church of Nigeria, Church of North India, Church of South India, Fort Worth, Persecution, Zimbabwe.
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In this weeks episode Kevin and George bring an update on the Diocese of South Carlina and their separation from the Episcopal Church. Also this week they talk about Women’s Ordination and the new task force created by the Anglican Church in North America. And what episode would be complete without news from one of the broken Anglican “Instruments of Unity”. Peter talks about the reality of Women Bishops in England and Allen Haley guildes the viewer thru the Kangaroos courts found in Title IV. Comments to AnglicanUnscripted@gmail.com #AU54

Supreme Court dates set in U.S. property cases: The Church of England Newspaper, October 21, 2012, p. 6. October 25, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, Virginia.
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The Supreme Court of Virginia has announced that it will hear oral argument on the Virginia church property cases on 16 October 2012.  The news of the Virginia hearing follows upon last month’s announcement by the Texas Supreme Court that it will hear argument on the dispute between the Diocese of Fort Worth and the national Episcopal Church on the same day in Austin, Texas.

The Virginia court will hear 15 minutes of argument from attorneys representing the Falls Church and the Attorney General of Virginia, who have asked the court to overturn a lower court decision giving ownership of the church’s property to the Diocese of Virginia.  Virginia’s Attorney General has intervened in the case on the side of the parish, arguing the lower court erred in ordering cash donated to the congregation be given to the diocese violated charity laws.

The Texas Supreme Court will hear arguments reviewing a lower court decision giving control o diocesan assets to a rump group controlled by the national church. The Texas court will rule on the issue of whether a diocese may withdraw from the national church.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Panel of Reference report on the Fort Worth 7 finds misconduct: Anglican Ink, October 22, 2012 October 23, 2012

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, Quincy.
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Bishop F Clayton Matthews

A Reference Panel has found that a prima facie case of misconduct can be made against nine serving and retired bishops of the Episcopal Church for having endorsed an amicus brief presented to the Texas Supreme Court, or for having given testimony in a trial court proceeding involving the Diocese of Quincy.

The Rt Rev. Peter H. Beckwith, the Rt Rev Maurice M. Benitez, the Rt Rev John W. Howe, the Rt Rev Paul E. Lambert, the Rt Rev William H. Love, the Rt Rev D. Bruce MacPherson, the Rt Rev Daniel H. Martins, the Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, Jr, and the Rt Rev James M. Stanton have been informed the Reference Panel had reviewed the charges brought against them by the provisional bishops of Fort Worth and Quincy and by lay and clergy accusers.

In an 19 Oct 2012 email Bishop Matthews wrote:

“The Reference Panel unanimously decided according to IV. 6.sec.8 that the complaint will proceed with option (c), Conciliation pursuant to Canon IV.10.”

Under the Title IV disciplinary canons, if the intake officer finds that if a prima facie case can be made against the accused – if the charges if proven true would constitute an offense – the proceedings are passed on to a Reference Panel for action.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Anglican Unscripted: September 22, 2012 September 23, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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Kevin and George cover a breadth of topics this week: The crisis in the middle east, Jesus’ wife and what was her name, and some very important domestic conversations.

New TEC provisional bishop of Fort Worth named: Anglican Ink, September 18, 2012 September 18, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, The Episcopal Church.
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The Rt. Rev. Rayford High

The former suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Texas, the Rt. Rev. Rayford High has been named provisional bishop of Fort Worth.  Pending confirmation by the 3 Nov 2012 diocesan convention in Stephenville at Tarleton State University, Bishop High will succeed the Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, Jr., as bishop of the faction loyal to the national Episcopal Church in North Texas.

“I am deeply honored and humbled by the fact that the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth would ask me to be their provisional bishop,” Bishop High said, according to an announcement posted on the diocese’s website.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Accusers named in Fort Worth 7 case: Anglican Ink, July 27, 2012 July 27, 2012

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, The Episcopal Church.
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The Rt. Rev. F. Clayton Matthews

The Title IV disciplinary proceedings initiated against the Fort Worth 7 has not been derailed by the intervention of the provisional bishops of Quincy and Fort Worth during the 77th General Convention, the accused have learned.

In an exchange of emails between seven bishops who endorsed an amicus brief in the Diocese of Fort Worth case pending before the Texas Supreme Court and the Rt. Rev. F. Clay Matthews, the Bishop for Pastoral Development in the Office of the Presiding Bishop, Bishop Matthews stated he would be “sending additional information to the Bishops involved after a period of reflection from the conversations at General Convention and some preliminary interviews. When a complaint has been received by the Intake Officer, the Disciplinary Canons are in effect.”

Bishop Matthews added “I trust this letter addresses the immediate concerns you raised, and you will hear more from me perhaps as late as September.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Good TV — WFAA on the Episcopal Wars: Get Religion, July 19, 2012 July 19, 2012

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Fort Worth, Get Religion, Press criticism, The Episcopal Church.
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While GetReligion is on the topic of local television news religion reporting, let me draw your attention to a thoughtful, intelligent broadcast from Dallas/Fort Worth station WFAA. Quality local TV news reporting on religion? And on the convoluted Episcopal wars too? Is such a thing possible?

Yes — Tune into this broadcast from the ABC affiliate Channel 8 entitled: “Episcopal blessings create theological divide over same-sex unions” to view an example of solid religion reporting. The uneven quality and quantity of reports on the Episcopal Church’s recent decision to authorize local rites for same-sex blessings also makes this story stand.

The recently concluded General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Indianapolis (5-12 July 2012)  did not draw reporters outside of the church press. The local Indianapolis newspaper was present and I saw someone from Reuters at one point, and GetReligion’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey filed a great report for Christianity Today. But unlike the last few Episcopal shows there were no satellite trucks from CNNFox or the networks and the national newspapers and religion reporters from the wire services were absent.

However, there has been a great deal of high-powered commentary from Time, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Power Line — I even was pulled in by ABC (the other one, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) to add local color to their commentary on the fun under the Indiana sun. The WFAA report I would like to single out because it gives local context and meaning to the story. As TMatt has pointed out, as a medium local television news has its limitations and one should not expect a New Yorker-style 5000 word report — but let’s take a look.

FORT WORTH — St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church is at the center of another theological divide.

When the General Convention of the Episcopal Church authorized the blessing of same-sex unions last week in Indianapolis, the local church took out a series of half-page advertisements.

Sunday’s ad encouraged Episcopalians to “stand firm on the word of God in faith and morals.” Wednesday’s ad calls the blessings “false inclusivity and pluralism.”

Church rector Dr. William Dickson could not meet with News 8 because of scheduling conflicts. Instead, church member Rob Sell spoke on behalf of St. Andrew’s. He was not part of the decision to place the ad, but said it speaks to Episcopalians who have reservations about the direction of the national church.

“We’re not looking down our nose at anybody,” Sell said. “We simply want to adhere to classical, historic, Christian doctrine.”

The report then presents the voice of a supporter of the changes.

Across town, one of the churches that remained with the national group cheered the decision to bless same-sex unions.

Katie Sherrod was at the Episcopal General Convention last week. She and her bishop at St. Luke’s in the Meadow Episcopal Church voted to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions.

“We are as Christian as they are,” Sherrod said. “We simply have interpreted scripture differently than they have.”

There were eight days of discussions before the vote was taken, and there were emotional arguments made by gay and lesbian church members who sought the church’s blessing. The Fort Worth Diocese deputies unanimously voted to authorize the blessing.

“We’re moving forward toward a church that buys into the fact that God loves you — all of you. No exceptions,” Sherrod said, adding the bishop would consider the blessings on a case-by-case basis.

The story closes with further background information on the convention and ties the story together at the close by noting:

St. Andrew’s and several other local Episcopal churches left the general convention four years ago when they sensed a change in theology. There is an ongoing legal battle over church property that has yet to be decided. There are two, independent Fort Worth Dioceses operating with separate bishops.

This story works on several levels. The reporter demonstrates his skills and a command of his craft by placing what could be an arcane dispute into a recognizable local context — how a conservative Episcopal congregation has responded to this news. After tethering the story to a local landmark, he then allows the actors in the drama to speak for themselves. But in selecting which quotes to use in his story, he eschewed quick and easy soundbites about homosexuality for thoughtful quotes that express theology. Now this is my assumption, of course, and it may be that he happened on just the right people to speak to these issues — but I remain impressed nonetheless that the subtly and nuance of the theological arguments were preserved in the story.

Again let me say that this report is far from an exhaustive of definitive treatment of the issue — but judged by the standards and limitations of the medium in which it was presented, this is a gem of a story.

Well done, indeed!

First printed in GetReligion.

No censure for 9 US ‘disloyal’ bishops: The Church of England Newspaper, July 15, 2012 p 7. July 15, 2012

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has rejected a call to censure nine bishops for disloyalty.  Meeting at the General Convention in Indianapolis, on 8 July 2012 the bishops adopted a resolution affirming the loyalty and perseverance of Episcopalians in dioceses divided by secession.

The push by the provisional bishops of Fort Worth and Quincy to censure the nine has likely sunk any attempt to discipline the accused through the church’s legal system also. By pursuing the nine in the House of Bishops and through the church court system, they will have forced all bishops serving on the disciplinary board to recuse themselves from future deliberations.

On 28 June 2012, seven bishops received an email from Bishop Clayton Matthews in the office of the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori stating that “as the Intake Officer for the Church, I am obliged to inform you that a complaint has been received against you for your action in filing of Amicus Curiae Brief in the pending appeal in the Supreme Court of Texas in opposition to The Episcopal Diocese of Texas and The Episcopal Church. In the next few weeks, I will initiate a disciplinary process according to Title IV Canon 6 Sec. 3 & 4 of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.”

A second email was sent the same day charging three bishops with misconduct for “signing affidavits in opposition to a motion for Summary Judgment made by representatives of The Episcopal Diocese of Quincy and The Episcopal Church in the Fall of 2011 to secure the Diocesan financial assets from a breakaway group.”

The nine bishops were not notified as to what violation of the canons they had nor were they told the names of their accusers. However, on 5 July the Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, Jr., Provisional Bishop of Fort Worth, and the Rt. Rev. John C. Buchanan, Provisional Bishop of Quincy wrote to the presiding bishop asking the House of Bishops to “set the record straight regarding recent statements by certain bishops in our Church.”

The two bishops accused the Rt. Rev. Maurice Benitez, retired Bishop of Texas, the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, retired Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt. Rev. Paul Lambert, suffragan Bishop of Dallas, the Rt. Rev. William Love, Bishop of Albany, the Rt. Rev. D. Bruce MacPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana, the Rt. Rev. Daniel Martins, Bishop of Springfield, the Rt. Rev. James Stanton, Bishop of Dallas, the Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith, retired Bishop of Springfield, and the Rt. Rev. Edward L Salmon, retired Bishop of South Carolina and Dean of Nashotah House of misconduct and called for their censure by the House of Bishops.

Bishops Ohl and Buchanan charged their colleagues with having “falsely claimed” that “dioceses can unilaterally leave” the Episcopal Church. They “denied the Dennis Canon and failed to safeguard Church property”; the “recognize the wrong bishops” thereby injecting “chaos into core ecclesiastical functions” of the Episcopal Church; and they “violated the ecclesiastical jurisdictions” of Fort Worth and Quincy by having endorsed legal documents pertaining to questions outside their dioceses.

The nine had given “aid and comfort to breakaway factions who would take title and control of substantially all of the real and personal property of this Church and cripple its mission and ministry,” the two bishops said.

The charges drew sharp criticism from church scholars.  Canon lawyer, Allan Haley – an attorney for the Diocese of San Joaquin – stated that the Ohl/Buchanan letter was “despicable” and “completely unworthy of the calling of a bishop. It is filled with lies and untruths.”

Professor Christopher Seitz, who also signed the friend of the court brief in Fort Worth, dismissed the charges as unfounded.  “This is a lot of grasping at straws,” he said.

One bishop told The Church of England Newspaper the letter was “ill-timed” and an “end-run” around the church’s disciplinary canons.

The nine rejected the charges of disloyalty.  In a 6 July letter to the House of Bishops they conceded their actions had been “controversial. We took these actions, however, precisely because we thought it our duty to do so in order to uphold the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church as we all have pledged to do.”

The charges brought were untrue, they said as they had never defended the actions of Bishop Iker and the Diocese of Forth Worth in seceding from the Episcopal Church nor had addressed the question of diocesan secession.  They had not discussed the Dennis Canon nor challenged the church’s right to “recognize its own bishops.” They fourth charged that by exercising their civic duties they had violated their ecclesiastical responsibilities was false.  “To our knowledge, no one has ever before suggested that petitioning the legislatures or courts in Washington or state capitols—our brief was filed in Austin, not Fort Worth—requires the consent of the local bishop.”

In two and a half hours of private discussion, the bishops heard representations from the accusers and accused.  One bishop told CEN that while the discussions had been “warm” and at times “emotional” and “tearful”, the animus and partisan bickering present at past meetings was absent in Indianapolis.

By the end of the third session it was clear that the push to punish the nine “had no legs” one bishop said.  Writing in his blog on 8 July Bishop Dan Martins said he had put forward the Mind of the House resolution that affirmed the Episcopal bishops ministering in the divided dioceses.

“This motion carried on a unanimous roll call vote. And it is in no way inconsistent with the amicus curiae brief that seven of us recently signed. My sense is that this has significantly lowered the thermostat in relations between the bishops. What effect it might have on the Title IV complaints remains to be seen. But I am hopeful.”

Speaking to Episcopal Café Bishop Buchanan said: “Bishop Ohl and I triggered this resolution by writing our letter. The House of Bishops spent nearly two and a half hours discussing this matter in productive and collegial conversation that worked toward reconciliation. The matter will continue to be discussed at future meetings of the House of Bishops.”

However, the Bishop of Chicago, the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee told an 8 July press conference the resolution adopted was “virtually” identical to one adopted in 2009 and broke no new ground.

While the conversations will continue, the push to punish with the House of Bishops has effectively ended, CEN has learned.  With the church’s intake officer assigned to review the charges, the members of the review panel that will first see the charges, the disciplinary board that will try the charges and the appeals board that will review the findings present at the meeting, along with the presiding bishop’s chancellor — one of the key witnesses for the prosecution — the impartiality of any future proceedings has been compromised, one of the nine observed.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Show’s over – No censure for Fort Worth 9: Anglican Ink, July 9, 2012 July 9, 2012

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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The push by the provisional bishops of Fort Worth and Quincy to censure nine bishops for disloyalty to the Episcopal Church has failed in the House of Bishops and has likely sunk any attempt to discipline the accused through the church’s legal system.

After two and a half hours of discussion over three private sessions at the 77th General Convention meeting in Indianapolis, on 8 July 2012 the House of Bishops responded to claims of misconduct leveled against the nine by the provisional bishops of Quincy and Fort Worth.  The House of Bishops responded with a “Mind of the House” resolution proposed by one of the accused, the Rt. Rev. Daniel Martins, Bishop of Springfield, affirming the loyalty of Episcopalians in the dioceses of Fort Worth, Quincy, San Joaquin and Pittsburgh.

The House of Bishops had “no stomach” to discipline Bishop Martins, the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, retired Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt. Rev. Maurice Benitez, retired Bishop of Texas, the Rt. Rev. Peter Beckwith, the retired Bishop of Springfield, the Rt. Rev. Paul E. Lambert, suffragan Bishop of Dallas, the Rt. Rev. William H. Love, Bishop of Albany, the Rt. Rev. D. Bruce MacPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana, the Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, retired Bishop of South Carolina and Dean of Nashotah House, and the Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas, a participant in the 6-8 July meetings told Anglican Ink.

The “Mind of the House” resolution does not end the Title IV investigations into misconduct made against the nine, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the bishops.  However, by seeking an immediate resolution to the dispute the Title IV process has effectively been shut down as those bishops present in the discussions who serve on the disciplinary board will have to recuse themselves from adjudicating the case.  All of the episcopal judges that will hear the case are now disqualified from participation in a decision on grounds of personal involvement.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Fort Worth files Motion for Expedited Oral Argument: Anglican Ink, July 6, 2012 July 7, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, Property Litigation.
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Attorneys for Bishop Jack Iker and the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth have filed a Motion for Expedited Oral Argument with the Texas Supreme Court to adjudicate its property dispute with the national Episcopal Church and its Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

The motion filed on 6 July 2012 noted that on 23 April “an amicus brief was filed in this case by seven bishops and three priests of The Episcopal Church (TEC). The brief supported the Fort Worth Diocese’s arguments that, should Texas adopt the Deference approach rather Neutral Principles for church property disputes, the final authority in the Episcopalian tradition on such disputes is the local bishop, not TEC’s national administrative office.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Show trial set for 9 bishops: Anglican Ink, July 6, 2012 July 6, 2012

Posted by geoconger in 77th General Convention, Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, Quincy, The Episcopal Church.
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A letter accusing nine bishops of disloyalty to the Episcopal Church and violation of its canons is scheduled for discussion on 6 July 2012 during a closed session of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops meeting at the 77th General Convention in Indianapolis.

The letter has been described as “end run” around the Title IV canons, one bishop told Anglican Ink, that seeks a political solution to a judicial process.

On 5 July the Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, Jr., Provisional Bishop of Fort Worth, and the Rt. Rev. John C. Buchanan, Provisional Bishop of Quincy wrote to the presiding bishop asking the House of Bishops to “set the record straight regarding recent statements by certain bishops in our Church.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Swimming the Trinity: Get Religion, July 3, 2012 July 3, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Fort Worth, Get Religion.
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Do not let the small mistakes in this article about the ordination of six former Anglican clergy as Catholic priests for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter distract you — this article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram entitled “6 former Episcopalclergymen are ordained in Catholic Church” is one of the few I have seen that “gets religion” and understands the big picture being covered in this story.

And that story is — these priests are entering the Catholic Church, not leaving the Episcopal Church.

Yes, I know the six priests in question have left the Anglican world for Rome — “Swimming the Tiber” in church parlance — (but as the Trinity River runs through Fort Worth I have changed the phrase somewhat). But the real story is about a journey to something — not a rejection of their past.

Before I go to deep into this article, let me say up front that I am acquainted with some of these priests — and have known the leader of the ordinariate, Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson for 10 or so years. And, I am a priest of the church where these men began their ministries and I have written about the journey these men have taken for a number of church-related publications over the past few years. The bottom line is that I come to this story with some degree of knowledge.

This knowledge can be obscure enjoyment at times — as there are one or two points I found to be distracting in this article. Let’s get them out of the way and turn to the lede:

KELLER — Under a huge dome with images of winged angels, six former Fort Worth-area Episcopal clergymen — including a father and son — lay facedown at a marble altar Saturday and were ordained as priests in the Roman Catholic Church.

In what officials called a historic moment, Fort Worth Catholic Bishop Kevin Vann and other white-robed priests in the diocese laid hands on the priests at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller to welcome them.

It was the first ordination class under Pope Benedict XVI’s new Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, created Jan. 1 to allow Episcopal priests to be ordained as Catholic clergy and for Episcopal congregations to join the Roman Catholic Church.

The tone of the article was respectful and the story arc supportive of the Catholic Church. And, yes, they were all once Episcopal priests — but not since 2008.

It would have been better to say that they left the Episcopal Church when the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth left the Episcopal Church in 2008. As an aside, the national Episcopal Church as since created a second Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth for the small number of clergy and congregations that opposed the decision to leave and litigation is presently before the Texas Supreme Court to determine which is the true Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

When the six left the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth to become Roman Catholics in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s offer of an Anglican ordinariate they left the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) — the conservative rival to the Episcopal Church.

I would also add that the story is not as clear as it could be on the point of the “first ordination class”.  For readers who have not been following the ordinariate story, they might have assumed that this ordination to the priesthood was the first ordination for the ordinariate — which is not true. The first ordination took place on 2 June 2012 in Mobile. The Fort Worth six were part of the first batch or class of new priests to be ordained, not the first priests to be ordained.

Those minor quibbles aside, I was impressed the Star-Telegram presented the issues properly by allowing the subjects of this story to explain themselves. And what the subjects of this story told the Star-Telegram was that their decision to enter the Catholic Church was not motivated by anger with the innovations in doctrine and discipline made in recent years by the Episcopal Church. They had entered the Catholic Church because they had become convinced by the truth claims made by the Catholic Church.

Steenson and the six men ordained opposed many of the changes in the Episcopal Church, including the ordination of gay priests and bishops.

All emphasized, however, that those issues were not central in their decisions to convert.

“Hopefully we understand that this is not just about being opposed to something,” Steenson said.

“If you were just opposed to something, you don’t want to join the Catholic Church. It’s a lot more than that.”

The Rev. Mark Cannaday said his ordination ends a long journey.

“My decision had nothing to do with current issues,” he said, adding that he has been drawn to elements of Catholicism for many years.

The younger Hough said: “For me, it’s not running away from something or saying the Episcopal Church is falling apart. My decision was going toward truth. To me, the current issues in the Episcopal Church are symptoms of a greater problem, and that was authority. There was no authority to say this was or was not part of Christian practice.”

A very common mistake made in the reporting about the Anglican ordinariate is the supposition that those who join the Catholic Church do so in protest to the actions of their former church — be it the Episcopal Church or the ACNA.

The Episcopal Church is not a monolithic nor uniform body. Those who are opposed to the recent actions of the church can be found inside the Episcopal Church or outside in the new Anglican Church of North America or other continuing Anglican groups. Some join other Protestant denominations while many simply stop going to church.

Becoming a Roman Catholic, as Msgr. Steenson noted, is a very different thing than being opposed to gay bishops or gay marriage — it is a conscious decision that the Catholic Church is the true church. (I should add that some ex-Anglicans have entered the Orthodox Churches — and while there is no Orthodox ordinariate, the faith journey is very much the same.)

As Fr. Christopher Stainbrook noted, becoming a Roman Catholic was “just a natural progression” for him.

It could be argued that the article might have been improved by the addition of voices from the Episcopal or Anglican churches commenting on the decision to leave. If this had been a contentious decision it might have made sense to do so.

However, Bishop Jack Iker of the ACNA-affiliated diocese has ruined this particular story angle by being gracious and affirming of the decision made by his six one-time priests. I’ve interviewed him a number of times on this issue — and many others — and he won’t bite. I may be cynical but adding more affirming voices to the story from the priests’ former church would be a bit to happy-clappy for me. Now if I could have found someone to say something unkind, that would have been different.

Perhaps I am too close to the story to have an objective mind on this point — what say you GetReligion readers? Would it have improved the story to have spread the circle wider to add non-Catholic voices? Or do you agree with me that the article did a fine job in stating the “coming home” theme and adding more would have not improved the story?

First printed in GetReligion.

Seven more TEC bishops charged with misconduct: Anglican Ink, June 30, 2012 June 30, 2012

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Seven bishops have been charged with misconduct for having endorsed a friend of the court brief prepared by the Anglican Communion Institute in the Diocese of Fort Worth case.

On 28 June 2012, the Rt Rev Maurice M. Benitez, retired Bishop of Texas, the Rt Rev John W. Howe, retired Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt Rev Paul E. Lambert. Suffragan Bishop of Dallas, the Rt Rev William H. Love, Bishop of Albany, the Rt Rev D. Bruce MacPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana, the Rt Rev Daniel H. Martins, Bishop of Springfield, and the Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas were informed they had been charged with misconduct.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Episcopal Church polity under scrutinty by the courts: The Church of England Newspaper, May 13, 2012 p 7. May 21, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation.
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Seven bishops of the Episcopal Church have filed a legal brief with the Texas Supreme Court urging it to reject the theory that the General Convention or the presiding bishop holds metropolitan authority over the church’s dioceses.

In an amicus brief filed on 23 April 2012 prepared by the Anglican Communion Institute in the case of the breakaway Diocese of Fort Worth, seven bishops and three leading Episcopal scholars argued the trial court misconstrued the church’s constitutions and canons by holding that the Episcopal Church was a hierarchical body with ultimate power vested in the General Convention.

The 29-page brief stated that attorneys for that national Episcopal Church sought “to establish an alternative authority to that of the diocesan bishop” in their pleadings, which they said was contrary to the church’s Constitution and Canons.  Attorneys for the national church have argued the Episcopal Church possesses a unitary polity, where dioceses are creatures of the General Convention.

The ACI disagrees, citing the church’s history and constitution and canons.  Its friend of the court pleading follows upon their 22 April 2009 paper endorsed by 15 Bishops entitled Bishops’ Statement on the Polity of the Episcopal Church that stated the “fundamental structure of the Episcopal Church from the outset has been that of a voluntary association of dioceses meeting together in a General Convention as equals.”

Signing the document were the Bishops of Albany, Springfield, Western Louisiana, Dallas, the Suffragan Bishop of Dallas and the retired Bishops of Central Florida and Texas, along with the Rev. Christopher R. Seitz, the Rev. Philip W. Turner, and the Rev. Ephraim Radner from the ACI.

Canon lawyer Allan Haley observed the amicus brief filed in the Fort Worth case “must be both an embarrassment, and also no small irritant. After all, if the “Church” is at the top of the ‘three-tiered hierarchy,’ why can’t the “Church” keeps its bishops and clergy in line?”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

U.S. property cases may go to the Supreme Court: The Church of England Newspaper, April 6, 2012 p 7. April 10, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper, Connecticut, Fort Worth, Georgia, Property Litigation, Virginia.
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Four of the Episcopal Church’s key property dispute cases have moved to the state and U.S. Supreme Courts for review.

Briefings have been filed in the Episcopal v. Anglican Dioceses of Fort Worth cases in the Texas Supreme Court, while the breakaway congregations in Northern Virginia have asked the Virginia Supreme Court to review the lower court’s ruling giving the diocese custody of the parish properties.

The breakaway congregations in Christ Church v. Diocese of Georgia and Bishop Seabury Church v. Diocese of Connecticut have filed writs of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court has also been asked to review a third property dispute, Timberridge Presbyterian Church v. the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, that addresses the same legal issues.

The issue before the courts, as summarized in the Bishop Seabury petition, is whether the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution “requires state civil courts to enforce an alleged trust imposed on local church property by provisions in denominational documents, regardless of whether those provisions would be legally cognizable under generally applicable rules of state property and trust law.”

The American state courts are divided and have made contrary rulings based on their interpretation of Jones v. Wolf.  Five state supreme courts and one federal circuit court hand held that denominational property trust rules such as the Episcopal Church’s Dennis Canon should only enforced in civil court if they were in conformance to “objective, well-established concepts of trust and property law,” while four state supreme courts have enforced “denominational documents asserting a trust regardless of whether those documents are other ‘embodied in some legally cognizable form’.”

Canon lawyer Allan Haley noted the legal question being presented to the Supreme Court is the quasi-establishment of one group of churches over others that has arisen since the Jones v. Wolf decision.

In interpreting the Jones decision some state courts have permitted the canon law of the Episcopal Church, and other ‘hierarchical’ churches to take precedence over state law in property disputes.  Mr. Haley argued that “no other body or organization — religious or otherwise — has been granted the privilege of creating enforceable trusts in such a unilateral fashion.”

The state court decisions in favour of the Episcopal Church have relied upon obiter dictum (a remark made as an aside, in the course of a decision) made by Justice Blackmun in the Jones case.  This remark “suddenly become the law of the land, sufficient to override all state and local laws to the contrary? That is not how the law is supposed to work,” Mr. Haley said.

The “practical effect” has been to grant “special State privileges to just one type of church. And that ‘establishment’ of one type of church over all other types, and over all other kinds of property owners as well, quite plainly is contrary to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as applied to the several States through the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Mr. Haley argued.

However, writing in the Washington Post, the Bishop of Virginia, the Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston argued the issues should be seen through the lens of theology. “We are called to be good stewards of property given to us by our forebears. Stewardship is a theological concept: we give thanks for the gifts God has given to us all. Stewards are bound to preserve gifts for future generations,” the bishop said

“The matter of biblical interpretation is at the heart of the issues, and there are real differences. Differences over biblical interpretation, not authority, remain unsettled. Even so, the common, ancient tradition as to authority, polity and property stands with the diocese and its bishop,” he argued in support of the diocese’s legal campaign.

The Supreme Court is not obligated to hear the petitions from the state courts as four of the justices must agree to hear a case before it is brought before the court.  The court is expected to announce whether it will review the church cases at the close of its current term in June or at the start of the next term in October.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Fort Worth Bishop Clarence Pope dead, Anglican Ink, January 8, 2012 January 8, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, Roman Catholic Church.
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Bishops Pope, Jack L. Iker and A. Donald Davies of Fort Worth

The second Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. Clarence C. Pope, Jr., has died.

On 8 Jan 2012, the Diocese of Fort Worth announced that Bishop Pope (81) had “died in his sleep overnight” at a hospital in Baton Rouge where he was being treated for pneumonia.

“His wife, Dr. Martha Pope, and members of their family were with him over the past week. Please keep all the family in your prayers,” the diocese said.

Read it all inAnglican Ink.

Fort Worth parish ordinariate bound: The Church of England Newspaper, Dec 9, 2011 p 6. December 14, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth.
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The Rev. Christopher Stainbrook, SSC

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A Fort Worth mission congregation will ask its members to ratify the request of its vicar and parish council to accept Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to enter into full communion with Rome through the Anglican Ordinariate.

On 2 December, Bishop Jack Iker announced that the congregation of St Timothy’s Church in Fort Worth will hold a meeting after services on 11 December to discuss the petition of the vestry and its vicar, the Rev Christopher Stainbrook, SSC to enter the Ordinariate.  A parish vote will take place the following Sunday.

Fr Stainbrook told The Church of England Newspaper he expected his parish would support the move. “We don’t think there will be any remnant which wishes to remain a part of the ACNA Diocese of Fort Worth.”

Two US congregations have already been received into the new Ordinariate.  In September an independent congregation in Fort Worth joined, followed last month by the members of the Diocese of Washington’s St Luke’s Episcopal Church in Bladensburg, Maryland.

While a number of Fort Worth clergy and lay members of the diocese have been received into the Roman Catholic Church in recent years – including the former canon to the ordinary the Rev Charles Hough – St Timothy’s is the first full parish to act upon the offer of the Ordinariate. By tradition an Anglo-Papalist congregation, St Timothy’s is the only congregation in Fort Worth expected to join the Ordinariate.

Late last month Fr Stainbrook and the Bishop’s committee informed Bishop Iker of their intentions to go over to Rome.  While details have yet to be worked out for the pastoral care of those who remain within the diocese and the use of the property, the transition appears to be running smoothly.

“We are grateful to Bishop Iker and the diocesan officials who are working with us on the best way to move forward,” Fr Stainbrook said, adding that as Bishop Iker “graciously put it in an email to me Wednesday morning, ‘I am grateful for the tone of last night’s meeting.  People of good will can accomplish anything they set their hearts to doing’.”

Bishop Iker said: “While we regret that many members of St Timothy’s feel called at this time to leave our fellowship for the Roman Catholic Church, we respect their conscience and spiritual discernment in this matter. We live in a very conflicted time in the life of the Church, and it is important to maintain charity and patience with one another. We wish them well, in the name of the Lord.”

Threat of lawsuit blocks ordinariate vote: Anglican Ink, December 8, 2011 December 8, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican Ink, Anglican Ordinariate, Fort Worth.
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An ACNA congregation in Fort Worth has been blocked by the threat of litigation from holding a parish vote on whether it would accept Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to enter into full communion with Rome through the Anglican Ordinariate.

On 8 Dec 2011, Bishop Jack Iker announced that scheduled vote by the congregation of St Timothy’s Church in Fort Worth had been cancelled following the intervention of the national Episcopal Church.

Bishop Iker stated that on 6 Dec “lawyers for the Episcopal Church parties delivered a letter to our legal team inquiring about the situation at St. Timothy and commenting that the proposed use of the St. Timothy property by a body from another denomination would not be a ‘normal course of business use’ in compliance with the order of the 141st District Court signed Oct. 20, 2011.”

The diocese’s lawyers were asked “to explain how the situation would be handled to be in compliance with the order to avoid a hearing before the court, or the TEC lawyers indicated they would proceed to bring the matter to the court’s attention.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

No left behind fears in Fort Worth: Anglican Ink, December 5, 2011 December 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican Ink, Anglican Ordinariate, Fort Worth.
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St Timothy's Fort Worth

The vicar of the Fort Worth congregation that is set to depart for Rome believes his entire congregation will accept the pope’s offer of the Anglican Ordinariate.

The Rev. Christopher Stainbrook, SSC told Anglican Ink “we don’t think there will be any remnant which wishes to remain a part of the ACNA Diocese of Fort Worth.”

On 2 December 2011 the Rt. Rev. Jack. L. Iker announced that the vicar and bishops’ committee – the term for a vestry in a mission congregation supported by a diocese – had petitioned the Vatican for the congregation of St Timothy’s to be received en masse into the Roman Catholic Church under the provisions of the Anglican Ordinariate.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Fort Worth parish heading to Rome, Anglican Ink, December 2, 2011 December 2, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Anglican Ink, Anglican Ordinariate, Fort Worth.
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Fr Christopher Stainbrook, SSC

A Diocese of Fort Worth mission congregation will put to a vote of its members Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to enter into full communion with Rome through the Anglican Ordinariate.

On Dec 2, Bishop Jack Iker announced that the congregation of St Timothy’s Church in Fort Worth will hold a meeting on 11 Dec 2011 to discuss the petition of the vestry and its vicar, the Rev. Christopher Stainbrook, SSC to enter the ordinariate.  The congregation will vote on the proposal the following Sunday.

Not all of the members of the Anglo-Catholic congregation are expected to support the decision to enter the Catholic Church, however.  The 18 Dec 2011 vote will allow Bishop Iker the opportunity to gauge the degree of support the move has in the congregation, and permit him to plan for the pastoral and sacramental care of those not going over to Rome.

The Vatican has set 1 January 2012 as the start date for the Anglican Ordinariate in America.  Created in response to requests from Anglicans seeking union with the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Ordinariate was formed in November 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI following the promulgation of Anglicanorum coetibus.  While Anglicans had always been welcomed as individual converts to Roman Catholicism, the Anglican Ordinariate provideda way for groups of Anglicans to enter in “corporate reunion” with Rome.

If St Timothy’s enters the ordinariate it would become Roman Catholic, but would retain elements of its Anglican liturgy and heritage.  The congregation would not become part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, however, but would join the new American branch of the ordinariate.

Two U.S. congregations have already been received into the new ordinariate.  In September an independent congregation in Fort Worth joined followed last month by the members of the Diocese’ of Washington’s St Luke’s Episcopal Church in Bladensburg, Maryland.

The creation of the American ordinariate follows the formation of the first personal ordinariate, Our Lady of Walsingham, established on 15 Jan 2011 for England and Wales.  Led by the former Church of England Bishop of Richborough, Monsignor Keith Newton, it has approximately 1000 members in 42 congregations.  Plans for ordinariates for Canada and Australia are also underway.

Fr. Stainbrook has also announced that he will resign as vicar and will step down from the ministry of the Episcopal Church and intends to seek holy orders within the Ordinariate.  While he trains for the Catholic ministry, however, the ordinariate will assign a new priest to serve those going over to Rome.

Late last month the leaders of the congregation sent Bishop Iker a copy of their petition to be received by Rome.  The bishop and diocesan leaders met with Fr. Stainbrook and his vestry – known as the Bishop’s Committee due to the congregation’s status as a mission – on 29 Nov and told him they were unanimous in their decision to withdraw.

St Timothy’s has an average Sunday attendance of approximately 90 and is a mission congregation of the diocese.  Founded in 1956, it reached parish status in 1960, but reverted to mission status in 1993 and has received “significant financial support from the Diocese” a spokesman noted.

Those eligible to vote are the members of the congregation who “attend church on every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation unless for good and sufficient cause prevented”; contribute to the “financial upkeep” of the congregation; have been confirmed; have received Holy Communion at least three times in the preceding year; are not under ecclesiastical discipline; and are enrolled members of the congregation 16 years of age and older.

A diocesan spokesman noted the forum and vote are intended to provide the diocese with a “clearer picture of the congregation’s wishes, once we have clarified what is and isn’t possible.”  Under the terms of a supersedeas bond agreement filed by the diocese in its on-going litigation with the national church, Fort Worth may not alienate any properties until the suit is resolved.  The diocese is determined to abide by the terms of the bond and cannot sell, give or lease St Timothy’s to the ordinariate, the spokesman added.

Bishop Iker said, “While we regret that many members of St. Timothy’s feel called at this time to leave our fellowship for the Roman Catholic Church, we respect their conscience and spiritual discernment in this matter. We live in a very conflicted time in the life of the Church, and it is important to maintain charity and patience with one another. We wish them well, in the name of the Lord.”

First published in Anglican Ink.

Bishop appointed chief justice of the Seminole Indian Nation: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 26, 2011 p 6. August 31, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth.
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The Rt. Rev. William Wantland, (second from left) being sworn in as Chief Justice of the Seminole Nation

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Diocese of Fort Worth reports that its assisting bishop, the Rt Rev William Wantland, has been named the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Seminole Nation.

On 8 August, 2011, Bishop Wantland and two other justices took the oath of office for the American Indian tribal court which was formerly reinstated last year.

The Seminoles of Oklahoma are descendents of the Indian tribes expelled from Florida in the 1830s. The Seminole were recognized as an independent Indian Nation in 1856 by the US government after their resettlement West of the Mississippi.

In 1907 the US Congress removed all restrictions on white settlement in Indian Territory. During the reorganization Congress reduced the autonomy of the Five Civilized Tribes: the Cherokee, Chikasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole (so-called due to their successful integration into American society and adoption of Western culture). Indian tribal courts were abolished and the chief of each tribe was henceforth appointed by the Federal Government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

A member of the Tusekia Harjo Band of the Seminole Nation, Bishop Wantland trained as a lawyer and as an Episcopal priest, and was a member of the committee that drafted the tribe’s constitution of 1969, which restored its right to elect its own chief. “However, there was no provision for a court system,” under the new constitution the bishop said, “because the Bureau of Indian Affairs said we could not have courts.”

Bishop Wantland was appointed Attorney General of the Seminole nation in 1969 and served until 1977, while also serving as a priest in Oklahoma. Elected Bishop of the Diocese of Eau Claire in 1980, he led the Anglo-Catholic diocese in Wisconsin for 19 years and upon retirement served a year as Bishop of the Missionary Diocese of Navajoland.

In 1993 Congress passed legislation supporting tribal courts. At first, the Seminole “utilized the Code of Federal Regulations Court of Indian Offences, a Federal Court authorised to handle limited kinds of cases, but not internal or tribal constitutional matters. I have served as the Magistrate of this CFR Court for the past five years,” the bishop said.

“In 2008, the Seminole Nation adopted an amendment to the Constitution providing for a tribal court system, with a District Court and a Supreme Court. We finally got Federal approval of our Amendment in 2010. We had been working on law codes and a structure for a court system for the past four years.”

The court system will formally take over all judicial operations on 1 October, 2011, the bishop said.

Fort Worth cases halted pending appellate review: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 7. April 8, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation.
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Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A Texas trial court has suspended proceedings in the Fort Worth property disputes, until the state’s appeals court rules on issue of whether a diocese may secede from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

On April 5 Tarrant County Judge John Chupp granted the motion brought by Bishop Jack Iker and Diocese of Fort Worth to sever and stay all further proceedings in the main lawsuit  “pending a final determination of the severed claims through the appellate process.”

The order follows the judge’s January 21 ruling in favor of the national church, which directed the diocese to turn over all of its property within 60 days.  The diocese subsequently asked Judge Chupp to stay his ruling requiring the diocese’s assets be turned over to the national church.  The diocese argued its 6000 active members, parochial school students and the participants in its social service programmes would be irreparably harmed by turning over the properties to the national church while the issues remained outstanding.

On March 31, the day of the hearing, attorneys for the national church and its supporters in Fort Worth filed an additional 2000 page pleading, asking the court to rule on their “seventh amended original petition and new motion for partial summary judgment before he addressed Fort Worth’s request for a stay.  The judge responded six days later by moving the entire case to the appeals court for review.

In his January decision, Judge Chupp stated the Episcopal Church was a hierarchical church, and as such, the diocese’s property could be claimed by the national church.  At the March 31 hearing the Judge said it would now be up to the appellate court to decide whether the Episcopal Church is a “hierarchical church or not.”

However the legal issue in question lawyers for Fort Worth have argued, is not the theological question of hierarchy, but how the “neutral principles of law” approach adopted by the Texas and US courts should decide the issue.

In a statement released after the January decision Bishop Iker 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 with neutral principles of law as practiced in the State of Texas.”

Defections to Rome hit Fort Worth: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 9. March 31, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth.
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The Fort Worth 4 with Bishop Vann in 2008

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Two senior priests of the Diocese of Fort Worth have left the breakaway Anglo-Catholic diocese for the Anglican Ordinariate.

On March 8, Bishop Jack Iker announced that his number two man, Canon Charles Hough, and Fr. Louis Tobola had resigned their posts effective March 31.

The bishop noted Canon Hough had served as Canon to the Ordinary for the past 17 years, and he and Fr. Tobola had each served for over 30 years in the diocese.  “Though they have not yet resigned from the ordained ministry, they are expected to do so at the time the Ordinariate is established for former Anglicans who wish to come into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church,” Bishop Iker said.

“Though we regret their departures, we wish both of them nothing but the best in this new chapter of their lives. They will be deeply missed,” Bishop Iker reported.

While the secession of the two Fort Worth priests will hurt the morale of the diocese, it was not unexpected.  In 2008 Canon Hough and Fr. Tobola and two other priests, all members of the Society of the Holy Cross, met with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Fort Worth to discuss uniting the Episcopal diocese with the Roman Catholic church.

In a paper summarizing their talks, the four Fort Worth clergy, concluded the “See of Peter” was “essential not optional” for the true church; a “magisterium” was needed; the “Catholic Faith is true”; the ecclesiology of the Anglican Communion was flawed as was that of the Episcopal Church; an overwhelming majority of Fort Worth’s clergy favored corporate reunion with Rome; Pope Benedict XVI “understands our plight”; and that there was a “charism which the Anglican ethos has to offer to the Universal Church.”

As Anglicans “we realize that Henry VIII, the monarch who wrote ‘Defense of Seven Sacraments’ and who was granted the title ‘Defender of the Faith’, never intended to make any substantive or permanent changes in the Catholic faith. Indeed, the Reformation itself was intended to be for a limited time only,” the four clergy said.

“We believe that it is now time for a new Season. It is perhaps, time for a church of Reformation to die and a new unification among Christ’s people be born: Unification possible only under the Holy Father,” they argued, asking the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth provide the guidance necessary so that we might ‘make a proposal’ that would lead our Diocese into full communion with the See of Peter.”

Following the release of the 2008 report, Bishop Iker said he was “aware of a meeting” between his four priests and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Fort Worth and they had his “trust and pastoral support. However, in their written and verbal reports, they have spoken only on their own behalf and out of their own concerns and perspective.”

“They have not claimed to act or speak, nor have they been authorized to do so, either on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth or on my own behalf,” Bishop Iker said.

TEC Texas legal setback: The Church of England Newspaper, Dec 24, 2010, p 7. December 23, 2010

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The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Episcopal Church suffered a setback this week in its Texas legal battle with the breakaway Diocese of Fort Worth after a US Federal judge stayed all proceedings in the trademark against Bishop Jack Iker, pending the diocese’s motion to intervene in the case.

On Dec 20, Judge Terry R. Means in Fort Worth issued a one-page order that “in the interests of judicial economy and fairness to all parties,” the proceedings in the Episcopal Church’s trademark infringement suit against Bishop Iker would be stayed until the court ruled on the diocese’s request to intervene in the proceedings.

The decision affects only the third of the four lawsuits initiated by the national Episcopal Church and its surrogates against Bishop Iker and the majority faction of the Diocese of Fort Worth.  On Sept 21, lawyers for Bishop C. Wallis Ohl, Jr. and the loyalist faction filed a complaint against Bishop Iker, saying his “unauthorized use of the Service Marks in his provision, advertising, and marketing of religious service and works is likely to cause confusion among the public seeking to participate in, benefit from, or support [the Diocese’s] religious services and works.”

In its press release, the loyalist faction stated unsuspecting members of the public might be duped into attending worship services conducted by clergy from the majority faction under the “mistaken belief” the services they were attending were “provided by, sponsored by, or affiliated” with the minority faction loyal to the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Iker responded the lawsuit was “preposterous” and “vindictive” because the minority faction was “trying to get a different result in federal court from the state court ruling” in favor of the majority faction.

The first lawsuit initiated by the Episcopal Church was filed in Tarrant County, Texas in 2009, sought control of the assets of the Diocese of Fort Worth by claiming the minority faction loyal to the national church was the true Diocese of Forth Worth.  Bishop Iker countered the minority faction had not the authority to bring the suit in the name of the diocese.  The trial court found in favor of Bishop Iker but declined to strike the national church’s lawsuit.

Bishop Iker asked the Fort Worth Court of Appeal to review the trial judge’s decision not to strike the pleadings.  The appeals court backed Bishop Iker and ordered the trial court to strike all the pleadings filed by attorneys for the minority faction who claimed to represent the diocese.

A second lawsuit was then initiated by the national church in Hood County, Texas, seeking control of diocesan assets in that county, and was prosecuted in the name of the Diocese of Fort Worth.  The Hood County court stayed proceedings in that case pending the outcome of the first lawsuit.

On Sept 21, the minority faction filed its third lawsuit against Bishop Iker, and on Oct 18 a fourth lawsuit was brought by a loyalist congregation against the bishop, asserting trademark violations.

Legal commentator Allan Haley, who served as one of the attorneys for the breakaway diocese of San Joaquin in its battle with the national church and its supporters in California, commented the Dec 20 decision by Judge Means showed the judge “grasped what ECUSA and its rump diocese were trying to do.”

The national church’s strategy of doing an “end run around the State courts” has been “rebuffed,” Mr. Haley said.

“The courts have uniformly told ECUSA and its attorneys thus far: ‘Not so fast. You cannot assume the very point at issue by pretending to be what you have not shown yourself to be … you have not demonstrated how you are legitimately in charge of those entities. Until you do so, you cannot come into court pretending to be them from the outset’,” he observed.

Iker responds to latest lawsuit, charging TEC with ‘malicious prosecution’: The Church of England Newspaper, Nov 12, 2010 p 8. November 16, 2010

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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Fort Worth has asked a Texas court to impose sanctions on attorneys for the Episcopal Church, arguing that a lawsuit brought on behalf of a loyalist parish against him was “malicious prosecution” and an “abuse of process.”

On Oct 29 attorneys for Bishop Jack Iker filed a response to a complaint brought by All Saints Episcopal Church that had accused the bishop of violating the congregation’s trademark.  The parish further alleged the bishop, in his personal capacity, was engaged in a disinformation campaign designed to lure Christians into churches affiliated with his diocese by fostering the false notion these churches were Episcopal Churches.

In its pleading to the Federal District Court, All Saints alleged Bishop Iker had engaged in “unfair competition” and engendered “public confusion and harm” by backing a faction in the congregation loyal to his breakaway diocese.   All Saints asked the court to grant an injunction forbidding the use the name “All Saints” by Iker loyalists, and demanded the bishop disgorge himself of any profits he may have received from the breakaway faction, along with payment of damages.

In his response, Bishop Iker rejected the accusations as baseless and having “no factual or legal foundation.”  He further asked the court to impose sanctions on the attorneys for the parish, noting this fourth lawsuit had been brought by the Episcopal Church’s attorneys to “unreasonably and vexatiously multiply the proceedings in a case.”

On Nov 1, the diocese stated the fourth lawsuit was “intended to harass the Bishop and multiply the cost of litigation,” whose costs are expected to top £3 million.

“In addition, the federal suit multiplies the proceedings on an issue already under consideration in a Texas state court. The plaintiff and counsel are well aware of that suit, which covers the question of who owns certain church properties, including intellectual assets such as trademarks,” the diocese noted.

Fourth time a charm, Episcopal Church hopes with latest Fort Worth lawsuit: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 22, 2010 p 6. October 24, 2010

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The Rt. Rev. Jack Iker of Fort Worth

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A fourth lawsuit has been laid at the doorstep of Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker by the loyalist faction in the diocese, claiming he has violated the trademark of a Fort Worth congregation for his personal enrichment and to deceive the local citizenry.

On Oct 18, the diocese reported that All Saints Episcopal Church, a congregation that had affiliated with the loyalist faction, had filed a lawsuit against Bishop Iker in the US Federal Court for the Northern District of Texas alleging the misappropriation of the parish’s name and reputation for his own personal ends.

Speaking to the Forward in Faith National Assembly on Oct 16, before he had learned of this latest suit, Bishop Iker told the delegates “I stand before you as the most sued Anglican Bishop in all of North America.”

The national Episcopal Church and its surrogates in Fort Worth, as of Oct 16, had launched “three different suits, in three different courts, in two counties” in Texas, “all for the same offence: for standing firm for the historic faith and doctrine of the undivided church and not allowing the Diocese of Fort Worth to compromise itself” by conforming to the “General Convention religion of the Episcopal Church.”

In its pleading, All Saints Church alleges Bishop Iker had engaged in “unfair competition” and “public confusion and harm” through giving his support to a faction of All Saints parish that had withdrawn from the congregation.  All Saints has asked the court to grant an injunction forbidding Bishop Iker from allowing those parishioners from All Saints who remained loyal to the diocese from using the name “All Saints” and has demanded he disgorge himself of any profits he may have received, along with payment of damages.

In a statement released on Oct18, the diocese said the new suit was “frivolous” and “laughable.”

“It is time for this wasteful mockery of Christian doctrine and of the civil court system to stop.

However, if the minority continues to bring trumped-up charges, we will continue to defend ourselves,” the diocese said.

In his remarks to the UK Forward in Faith gathering, Bishop Iker said his diocese had spent over $1 million in attorney’s fees “on the first go round,” and expected to spend a further $3.5 million “before it is over.”

In the other cases underway, the parties are awaiting a hearing date to be set in the Texas 141st District Court to hear the Oct 8 motion by the Diocese of Fort Worth to strike the loyalist group’s amended pleadings and enforce the appellate court’s ruling in its favor.

In the federal court case brought against Bishop Iker on Sept 21, the diocese has filed its answer denying the allegations, and offered a complaint in intervention to dismiss the suit.

Third lawsuit now filed over Fort Worth secession: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 8, 2010 p 7. October 12, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The loyalist faction of the Diocese of Fort Worth has filed a third lawsuit against Bishop Iker in the US Federal Court in Fort Worth, accusing him of trademark infringement for using the name and seal of “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.”

The latest round of litigation has prompted outrage from Bishop Iker, who denounced the pleadings as “preposterous and vindictive,” while American canon law commentators have questioned the wisdom of the national church’s legal strategy.

On Sept 21, lawyers for Bishop C. Wallis Ohl, Jr. and the loyalist faction in Fort Worth filed a complaint against Bishop Iker, saying his “unauthorized use of the Service Marks in his provision, advertising, and marketing of religious service and works is likely to cause confusion among the public seeking to participate in, benefit from, or support [the Diocese’s] religious services and works.”

In its press release, the loyalist faction stated unsuspecting members of the public might be duped into attending worship services conducted by clergy from the majority faction under the “mistaken belief” the services they were attending were “provided by, sponsored by, or affiliated” with the minority faction loyal to the Episcopal Church.

The loyalist faction said it hoped to “recover damages and to enjoin Iker from ‘using the Service Marks in connection with the performance, advertising, or marketing of any religious services or works’.”

Bishop Iker responded the lawsuit was “preposterous” because the minority faction was “trying to get a different result in federal court from the state court ruling” in favor of the majority faction.

The lawsuit was “vindictive because it is aimed personally at me, as an individual,” Bishop Iker said.

“I do not use the trademarks personally,” he said.  “The diocese uses them,” observed Bishop Iker, adding that the lawsuit was “only one more indication of how angry the minority faction is.”

In the opinion of canon law commentator Allan Haley, the new law suit was “simply crazy.”

“The minority faction of the diocese is suing the majority (via their bishop) for using its signs and trademarks — which the majority by definition should be able to do, since it is the majority,” Mr. Haley said.

But to “avoid this rather obvious conclusion” the minority faction “has to pretend that it is the whole diocesan entity, and so it has to ignore the real diocese in its pleading” and bring the lawsuit against Bishop Iker in his personal capacity.

“To take the complaint at its word, Bishop Jack L. Iker is the sole source of all religious services and works being performed in the name of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth” by the breakaway majority faction.  “And therein lies the plaintiff’s dilemma,” Mr. Haley concluded.

Episcopal Church in Texas legal loss: The Church of England Newspaper, July 2, 2010 p 7. July 7, 2010

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The Rt. Rev. Jack Iker of Fort Worth

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A Texas court has rejected the Episcopal Church’s contention that ecclesiastical policy trumps state law, giving the third province movement in the United States a major legal victory.

On June 25 the State Court of Appeals for the Second District of Texas handed down a unanimous decision rejecting the claims of the minority faction loyal to the national church that it was the lawful “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth” and could prosecute a lawsuit in that name against breakaway Bishop Jack Iker and his supporters.

While the Court of Appeals did not determine who the lawful Bishop of Fort Worth was nor address the question whether a diocese may quit the Episcopal Church, Friday’s decision was a significant procedural victory for the conservatives, as it rejected the notion that the views of the national church hierarchy supplanted state law.

Canon lawyer Mark McCall of the Anglican Communion Institute told The Church of England Newspaper this “decision resembled the one in South Carolina, which said that judicial determinations about change of corporate control are decided under state law without deferring to the self-proclaimed religious hierarchy.”

In the Texas case, the court held that there was only one Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, and that the attorneys engaged by the loyalist faction could not hold themselves out as representing the diocese in legal proceedings.  “It is “undisputed that there is only one Corporation and only one Fort Worth Diocese, regardless of how those entities are named or characterized,” the court said.

“There is a single Fort Worth Diocese and Corporation, which both a majority [Bishop Iker’s group] and a minority [the loyalists] faction claim to control,” the court noted, adding the attorneys [for the loyalists] whose authority is challenged are either authorized to represent those two entities or they are not.”

The lower court however held that a corporation cannot sue itself.  The trial court had “barred [the loyalist attorneys] from representing only the Corporation and the Fort Worth Diocese associated with the Iker Group. We are aware of no statute or common law rule allowing attorneys to prosecute a suit in the name of a corporation or other entity on behalf of only one faction or part of that corporation or entity against another part or faction,” the court ruled.

The attorneys engaged by the loyalist faction “have not established their authority to represent or appear on behalf of the Fort Worth Diocese and Corporation as required” by Texas law.

The Court of Appeals issued a conditional writ, that would take effect if the lower court did not “strike the pleadings” filed by attorneys for the loyalists in the name of the diocese and barred “them from appearing in the underlying cause as attorneys” for the diocese.

Following the secession of the Diocese of Fort Worth under Bishop Iker in 2008, US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori gathered the rump group loyal to the Episcopal Church and in the Spring of 2009 called a “special convention” for the diocese to elect new officers.  The special convention proceeded to elect new officers and invited the Bishop of Kentucky, Edwin Gulick to serve as interim bishop.

The loyalist group then initiated suit in the name of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth seeking to gain control over the assets controlled by Bishop Iker and the majority faction.  Bishop Iker’s group was granted a partial victory last year, but filed a writ of mandamus with the Court of Appeals seeking clarity on the underlying issue of whether the minority could bring suit.

The June 25 decision by the Court of Appeals in favour of Bishop Iker effectively repudiates the legal strategy adopted by the national church and the loyalist faction in Fort Worth that while people may leave the Episcopal Church, dioceses may not.

The Iker group’s attorney, Mr. Shelby Sharpe welcomed the decision saying it “simply follows the plain language of the law,” while Bishop Iker offered his thanks to the court and his attorneys for the decision.

He added that “while we realize that our opponents will continue to pursue litigation against us, this successful first step reinforces the soundness of our legal strategy to protect our identity, our property, and our assets.”

On June 28 the loyalist faction released a statement saying the fight was not over.  The Court emphasized that “[t]he trial court did not determine on the merits which Bishop and which Trustees are the authorized persons within the corporation and the Fort Worth Diocese, nor do we. The question of ‘identity’ remains to be determined in the course of the litigation,” they argued.

Canon lawer Allan Haley observed the effect of the decision was that Bishop Iker’s group had “achieved its objective of requiring the pretenders to prove they had authority” from the diocese to bring suit.  “As both the trial and the appellate courts found, they failed to carry their burden of proof on that point.”

He added that to prevail at this stage, the loyalist faction must now “show that [the Episcopal Church’s] Constitution and canons prohibit dioceses from voting to leave, and this they cannot do.”

A petition for relief from the loyalist faction to the Texas Supreme Court is expected.

Mixed results in latest US Court proceedings: CEN 10.09.09 p 7. October 23, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, San Joaquin.
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State courts in Texas and California have handed down interim rulings in the Dioceses of Fort Worth and San Joaquin cases. While partisans for both sides can claim a win from the mixed bag of rulings in the dispute over whether dioceses may secede from the Episcopal Church, the courts appear to be pulling back from accepting at face value the arguments of the national church that canon law alone should govern church property disputes.

On Oct 2, Texas 141st District Court Judge John Chupp rejected a motion from Bishop Jack Iker and the Diocese of Fort Worth asking that he reconsider last month’s ruling in the bitterly contested battle over the name, corporate seal and assets of the Diocese of Fort Worth. On Sept 16 the judge told the court he saw no reason why a diocese could not withdraw from the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Chupp however, ruled that Bishop Gulick’s attorneys could not represent Bishop Iker’s Diocese or its Corporation, a Texas not for profit association founded in 1983 when the diocese was formed. But he refused to strike the loyalists’ pleadings even though their attorneys stated they were acting on behalf of the 1983 association.

A motion continuing the proceedings until January was approved. In a statement posted on its website the loyalist faction stated they did not oppose the motion for the continuance, but said that none of their attorneys “has ever claimed” that they represented Bishop Iker.

However, at last week’s hearing the judge granted a third motion filed by Bishop Iker that joined Bishop Gulick and the chancellor and officers of the loyalist faction as defendants in the proceedings. The effect of this motion will be that Bishop Gulick and the loyalist group will have to prove they were lawfully elected to the positions they claim to hold in the Diocese of Fort Worth and have the legal right to hold themselves out as the Bishop and officers of the Texas not for profit association named “the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.”

In California, on Sept 22 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Word accepted the petition for review filed by Bishop John-David Schofield and the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin of July 21 Fresno Superior Court ruling granting summary judgment in favor of Bishop Jerry Lamb and the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.

Fresno Judge Adolfo Corona argued dioceses could not leave the Episcopal Church, as it was a “hierarchical church” where parishes are subunits of dioceses and dioceses are subunits of the national church. “In a hierarchical church, an individual local congregation that affiliates with the national church body becomes a member of a much larger and more important religious organization, under its government and control, and bound by its orders and judgments,” he said.

Although other issues remained outstanding and were set down for trial in 2010, the Appellate Court took the unusual step of agreeing to intervene in the case before the trial court had concluded its deliberations.

After Bishop Schofield filed his petition, the Appeals court asked Bishop Lamb to file an informal response. Bishop Schofield was then asked to file a reply by Oct 5. However, after reading Bishop Lamb’s brief, the Fifth District Court of Appeals declined to wait for Bishop Schofield to file his response and ordered Bishop Lamb to submit a formal response to the petition.

The effect of the ruling is to suspend the trial court’s judgment pending a full hearing before the Court of Appeals, which may reject or affirm all or part of the trial court’s decision, or set it down for further deliberations.

US Churches are free to secede, rules judge: CEN 9.17.09 September 17, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

There is nothing in the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church that prevents a diocese from seceding from the national church, a Texas judge declared on Sept 16.

On Wednesday Judge John Chupp of Texas’ 141st District Court handed the Episcopal Church a major setback in its campaign to seize the assets of breakaway dioceses, stating that of the two entities holding themselves out as the “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth”—Bishop Jack Iker and his diocese affiliated with the Province of the Southern Cone and Bishop Edwin Gulick and his Episcopal Church-affiliated diocese—Bishop Iker’s diocese was the lawful holder of that name, corporate seal and property.

US Churches are free to secede, rules judge

The court’s actions were not a total victory for Bishop Iker, as it did not dismiss as illegitimate the loyalist’s Feb 2009 convention called by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, nor quash their property suit. However, in his comments to the parties Judge Chupp rejected the Episcopal Church’s central legal premise that while people may leave the Episcopal Church, dioceses may not.

The 80 per cent of the delegates who voted to at the 2008 diocesan convention to quit the Episcopal Church for the Province of the Southern Cone “took the diocese with them,” Judge Chupp said.

With the backing of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, a loyalist faction within the diocese held a special convention on Feb 7, electing officers and inviting the Bishop Edwin Gulick of Kentucky to serve as interim bishop of Fort Worth. On April 14, the loyalists, styling themselves as the “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth” brought suit against the secessionists seeking possession of the diocese’s assets.

On Aug 19 the secessionists filed a Rule 12 motion asking the court to require the attorneys for the loyalists to show that they had the legal authority to bring suit in the name of the “Episcopal Diocese of Forth Worth.”

“Those individuals” bringing the lawsuit “claim to hold offices in the Diocese to which they have never been legally elected,” Bishop Iker argued.

The loyalists responded on Sept 3, filing a motion for partial summary judgment arguing that as “Texas authority establishes that a constituent part of a hierarchical church is comprised of those remaining loyal to the hierarchical denomination” it was the true diocese. They then argued the court should resolve the Rule 12 motion by first deciding upon their request for summary judgment.

At the Sept 9 hearing Judge Chupp denied the loyalist’s plea to place their motion ahead of the secessionist’s Rule 12 motion. Arguments were presented to the court and the hearing was continued until Sept 16, with the judge asking each side to present briefs on the question whether a diocese had the legal authority to withdraw from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

At the Wednesday hearing, Judge Chupp declined to accept legal precedents offered by the Episcopal Church that held a parish could not withdraw from a diocese and keep its property, saying this argument was not germane to the question of diocesan secession. He also declined to follow the Fresno, California court ruling in favor of the national church in its suit with the breakaway diocese of San Joaquin.

Instead he charged the parties to “find a place” in the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church “where it says the diocese cannot leave.” Unable to point to such language, loyalist attorney Kathleen Wells told the court that just because the prohibition is not explicit it does not mean it is not there.

Judge Chupp was not persuaded and ruled that the loyalist attorneys had “not discharged their burden of proof that they were hired by individuals holding positions” of legal authority within the diocese and ordered they be “barred from appearing in this suit as attorneys for The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and The Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth that is associated with Bishop Iker.”

In a statement issued after the hearing Bishop Iker said, “we are pleased that Judge Chupp has recognized the legitimacy of the vote of our Diocesan Convention in November 2008 to withdraw from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and has ruled that we had the legal right to amend our Constitution in order to do so.”

Conservative activists lauded the ruling also. The Rev Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council said the decision was a “victory of reason and common sense of the constitution and canons over against the over-reaching of Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori.”

Canon lawyer Mark McCall of the Anglican Communion Institute told The Church of England Newspaper, “The judge was absolutely correct when he concluded that there is nothing in the Episcopal Church constitution that prohibits a diocese from withdrawing from General Convention. And the law in the United States is clear that members of religious associations have the right to withdraw from membership.”

The “members” of the General Convention “are dioceses since they are the parties that accede to membership. The oft-stated slogan ‘only individuals can leave’ actually has it backwards. It is a diocese that joins; therefore it is a diocese that has a constitutional right to withdraw,” he noted.

However, the communications director of the loyalist diocese Katie Sherrod dismissed the secessionist’s claims of victory, saying they appear to have been “misinformed.”

The “judge did indeed rule that Jonathan Nelson and Kathleen Wells do not represent Bishop Iker and others associated with him,” and he also declined to dismiss the lawsuit, but “made no other rulings,” she said.

“He made some offhand comments in court. He asked some questions. But he made no other rulings. Every other assertion about any such rulings are simply not factual,” Ms Sherrod told CEN.

The parties return to court on Oct 15.

No candidate for Bishop of Northern Malawi: CEN 7.31.09 p 5. July 31, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Fort Worth.
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The sole candidate standing for election as Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Malawi has withdrawn from the Aug 1 election.

However, suggestions that the Very Rev. J. Scott Wilson, SSC of the Diocese of Forth Worth withdrew from the election after questions were raised about his being a member of the breakaway diocese are unfounded, The Church of England Newspaper has learned.

On July 22 the Daily Telegraph blogger Damien Thompson published an extract of an email he received from Anglican Information—a pressure group associated with the one-time bishop-elect of Lake Malawi, Ealing vicar the Rev. Nicholas Henderson.

Anglican Information claimed that Fr. Wilson, “formerly of Fort Worth diocese in the Episcopal Church of the United States has withdrawn his candidacy. Although he was runner-up to former Bishop Christopher Boyle (now retired to England) Wilson has left the Episcopal Church and actively joined a new breakaway faction in the United States known as ACNA (Anglican Church of North America). This has a very doubtful status in the Anglican Communion or with Canterbury. Bishop Trevor Mwamba of Botswana pointed out only last week that Wilson would not be able to subscribe to Canon 6 of the Provincial Canons as he is not in a Province in communion with Canterbury.”

On July 9 the Dean of the Church of the Province of Central Africa confirmed to CEN that Fr. Wilson was the sole candidate on the ballot in Northern Malawi. However, upon his return to Texas after a final visit in June to the diocese before the election, Fr. Wilson decided to stand down.

On July 27 Fr. Wilson told CEN that after prayerful consideration he did not believe he was called to be the bishop of the central African diocese. “I was not at peace” about this, he explained, adding he wrote to the vicar general of the diocese, the Rev. James Chifisi upon his return to Texas.

However, “at no time” was the question of his membership in the ACNA ever raised “by anyone connected” to the election, and it played no part in his decision to withdraw.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Fort Worth challenged the assertion that its clergy were not in communion with Canterbury, noting they were bona fide members of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, a status affirmed by the February primates meeting in Alexandria.

Although Fr. Wilson has withdrawn, the vicar general reports the election will go forward with a local candidate likely to be put forward for consideration.

The Diocese of Lake Malawi will also elect a bishop on Aug 1, completing the ranks of the provinces House of Bishops for the first time since 2005. After the two Malawi sees are filled, the province will then be able to elect a new archbishop to succeed Archbishop Bernard Malango—who stepped down in 2007. The Central African canons require a full House of Bishops to elect a new archbishop.

Bishop Iker dismisses legal threat: CEN 7.03.09 p 5. July 5, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, La Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America.
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The Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone has rejected assertions made by lawyers representing the Episcopal Church that the clergy of the Anglican Church in North America are un-Anglican.

In a June 30 letter to the clergy of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Bishop Gregory Venables reminded them that the Alexandria primates meeting had affirmed the Anglican bona fides of the American breakaway dioceses and clergy.

While it would “take some time before the institutional structures catch up to the realities of the present day situation in the Communion,” the Diocese of Fort Worth and clergy of Fort Worth remained in “good standing and favor with me” and the Southern Cone. Your “orders and ministries are secure in the Lord and as Anglicans,” he said.

The February 2009 Primates Meeting had reached a “clear agreement” that the breakaway dioceses, their bishops and clergy are “fully members of the Anglican Communion. Any other assertions are,” in the view of the primates of the Anglican Communion, “completely unfounded,” he said.

Bishop Venables’ salvo comes in the wake of a broadside from a lawyer representing the loyalist faction of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, and a letter from the Provision bishop of the diocese, Bishop Edwin Gulick of Kentucky. Last week, Bishop Gulick wrote to the Fort Worth clergy, stating he would depose unless they acceded to his authority.

A second letter from attorney Jonathan Nelson to the clergy and wardens of Fort Worth’s parishes asked them to turn over their property to the national Episcopal Church of face litigation.

On June 30, Bishop Iker told his clergy to ignore the demand letters, as they were “now in the hands of our attorneys.”

“We are no longer members of [the Episcopal Church] and are not subject to their discipline,” he said.

Bishop Iker further noted that under the Episcopal Church’s canon law, Bishop Gulick had no authority to act in Fort Worth. The special convention called by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on Feb 7, 2009 was not lawfully organized, he said, adding that “there was no quorum present at the February 7, 2009, meeting, because less than one-third of all clergy and lay delegates of the Diocese entitled to seat was present for the meeting.”

Any actions arising from the loyalists’ special convention were “null and void,” under canon and Texas civil law, he said—a point disputed by Bishop Gulick and the loyalist faction. The Tarrant County, Texas courts are studying the preliminary pleadings in the dispute, and a decision is not expected until next year.

61 priests deposed for joining Southern Cone: CEN 6.05.09 p 5. June 6, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation.
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The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin has deposed 61 priests and deacons for affiliating with the Church of the Province of the Southern Cone. However the May 26 statement by the reconstituted Episcopal Diocese may be an own goal in its legal fight with the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin, as it appears to undermine its claim that it is a properly constituted diocese of the Episcopal Church.

On May 26, San Joaquin Bishop Jerry Lamb stated he was heartbroken, but had been “forced” to remove the clergy from the rolls of the Episcopal Church. They had chosen “to abandon their relationship with the Episcopal Church. They declined to ask for a release from their ordination vows, and I had no option but to bring the charges of Abandonment of the Communion to the Standing Committee last year and take these final steps today. It is a sad day.”

A statement released by the diocese said the clergy who followed Bishop John-David Schofield into the Province of the Southern Cone and had refused to acknowledge the authority of Bishop Lamb “were determined to have abandoned the Communion of the Episcopal Church in October and November 2008. The clergy had six months to deny their abandonment, recant, or renounce their ministry in the Episcopal Church or face removal or deposition from the ministry of the Episcopal Church.”

A special convention called by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in March 2008 to reorganize the diocese and elect Bishop Lamb drew 21 clergy. The 61 clergy who did not attend the meeting remained members in good standing of the diocese until charges were proffered in October and November 2008.

Canon 3.01 of the diocese states that a “quorum shall consist of one-third of all the clergy entitled to seats and votes…If a quorum be not present at any convention, no business shall be transacted except that of adjournment from time to time until a quorum shall be present.”

The absence of the 61 clergy in good standing prevented a quorum from being reached, and subsequently renders Bishop Lamb’s election void ab initio, supporters of Bishop Schofield have charged—a contention supporters of Bishop Lamb have just as vigorously denied.

It was with a “mixture of sadness and joy” that Bishop Schofield received the news of the depositions. While it was “heartbreaking” that the Episcopal Church had proceeded with “such a punitive action,” it had no real significance as “all of these men and women are recognized around the world as priests and deacons in good standing within the Anglican Communion.”

“Clearly, the traditional understanding of what it means to be a member of this historic Communion has been tragically altered by this action,” Bishop Schofield said, “and thereby the Episcopal Church needlessly isolates itself from their brothers and sisters around the world.”

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Fort Worth moves to dismiss Church lawsuit: CEN 5.14.09 p 8. May 18, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation.
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The Diocese of Fort Worth has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the Episcopal Church and its allies seeking control of church property in North Central Texas.

On May 8 lawyers for Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker said the April 14 suit brought against the conservative bishop and diocesan officers should be dismissed as the court lacked “subject-matter” jurisdiction to hear the dispute.

Lawyers for Bishop Iker (pictured) asked the court to take “judicial notice” that the Episcopal Church was a voluntary association of dioceses and not a hierarchical church organization with dioceses and bishops subordinate to a metropolitan or national church. The court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the dispute, the motion said, as the underlying petition brought by the national church was seeking to resolve an ecclesial dispute by resorting to secular law — a course of action forbidden under the American principle of separation of church and state

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Fort Worth moves to dismiss Church lawsuit

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US legal battle is postponed again: CEN 5.01.09 p 7 April 30, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, San Joaquin.
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Deputy Constable Smythe serving the Rt. Rev. Jack Iker with the lawsuit

Deputy Constable Smythe serving the Rt. Rev. Jack Iker with the lawsuit

The first legal test of the Episcopal Church’s claim that dioceses are subordinate creatures of the national church and may not secede at will, has been postponed for the sixth time by a California court.

On April 27 the Fresno County Superior Court announced that it had again rescheduled hearings originally set down for Feb 25 in the case of the Episcopal versus Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin.

Hearings on a motion for summary judgment brought by Bishop Jerry Lamb and the Episcopal Diocese against Bishop John-David Schofield and the Anglican Diocese, and on cross-complaint brought by the Anglican Diocese asking the court to order the national Episcopal Church to pay for the costs of litigation, including attorneys’ fees have been postponed until May 5 to enable the court more time to consider the merits of the cases.

While a majority of cases decided so far have sided with the diocese against the parish where the parish seeks to quit the diocese with its property, no court has addressed the question of whether a diocese may quit the national church. The constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church are silent on this issue, and the Dennis Canon—which states that parish property is held in trust for the diocese and church—does not on its face apply to property held by or for a diocese.

Virginia has proven the exception as a Civil War era state law permits a parish to secede from its diocese or ecclesial jurisdiction for a rival body in the case of a denominational schism. The Episcopal Church and Diocese of Virginia have appealed the trial court’s decision, arguing the law is unconstitutional.

Supporters of the parish secession movement have turned to the state legislatures in Texas and Oklahoma, seeking a change in those states laws to model the Virginia statue and allow parishes to quit their diocese and keep their property. In February, Republicans Senator Gary Stanislawski and Rep. Pam Peterson introduced legislation to “define property rights in Oklahoma so that if people in Oklahoma, whether in a church or some other nonprofit, sign on a deed for the land, they own the land. If they ever separate from the parent organization, they own the land.”

In Texas, House Bill 729 seeks to amend property laws governing churches so that in the event of a schism “a court shall order a division of the estate of the parties in a manner that the court considers just and right, having due regard for the rights of each party and any other interested person.”

Church leaders have urged the state legislatures to reject the laws. Bishop Edward Konieczny of Oklahoma argued that state’s proposed law would “effectively take any property that is held in the name of a congregation in our denomination and gives them the authority to walk away with the property.”

Litigation is currently underway between the national church and its allies against the Dioceses of San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, Fort Worth and Quincy. Last week a state constable served suit against Bishop Jack Iker, opening litigation against Fort Worth.

San Joaquin will be the first case that addresses the question of the secession of dioceses in the modern era—-10 dioceses quit the American church during the US Civil War in 1861 to form the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America, but the schism ended with the close of the war and the voluntary reunion of the southern dioceses with the national church.

The national church is seeking a ruling from the Fresno Superior Court granting it title to all diocesan properties, investments and accounts.

Church files suit againt Bishop Iker: CEN 4.17.09 p 6. April 19, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Property Litigation.
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The Episcopal Church’s headquarters in New York, along with a group of loyalist supporters in North Texas, has filed suit against Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker and his diocese’s officers, seeking possession of the diocese’s properties.

In a statement released on April 14, US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said the national church and the loyalist group were asking a Texas court to declare them the “rightful owners of all diocesan property, real and personal, including funds and endowments.”

Bishop Jefferts Schori said she had been forced to act and felt “sorrow that the former diocesan leaders took such actions that led us to this time. However, this is a necessary step in order for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, comprised of Episcopalians of the full theological spectrum, to continue its gospel work in Texas.”

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church files suit againt Bishop Iker

Second Fort Worth Diocese Created: CEN 2.23.09 February 23, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Secession.
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Episcopalians loyal to the national Church in New York have formed a second Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth at a special convention held Feb 7.

The new diocese, formed around five congregations and individual Episcopalians who declined to follow the majority out of the Episcopal Church into the Province of the Southern Cone, invited the Bishop of Kentucky, the Rt Rev Edwin Gulick to serve as its provisional bishop for the next six months, and elected diocesan officers.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Second Fort Worth diocese created

Forth Worth ‘not going to Rome': CEN 2.6.09 p 5. February 10, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Fort Worth, Roman Catholic Church.
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The creation of a “personal prelature” for members of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) by the Vatican will have no “corporate” impact on Anglo-Catholics, a spokesman for the Diocese of Fort Worth tells The Church of England Newspaper.

While individuals might wish to join the Roman Catholic Church the breakaway Diocese of Fort Worth had no plans on withdrawing from the Anglican Communion, diocesan spokesman Suzanne Gill said last week.

On Jan 28, The Record, a weekly Roman Catholic newspaper in Australia reported that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had recommended that TAC be “accorded a personal prelature akin to Opus Dei” by Easter. A member of the CDF disputed the claim, telling an American Catholic newspaper he was unaware of any decision on the matter.

According to the report in The Record, TAC—a continuing Anglican Church—would be united as a body with the Roman Catholic Church, but be outside the existing diocesan system with its own clergy and membership.

In October, the semi-official Jesuit bi-weekly La Civiltà Cattolica predicted that the “corporate unity” under discussion between the Vatican and traditionalist Anglicans “will not be a form of uniatism as this is unsuitable for uniting two realities which are too similar from a cultural point of view as indeed are Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics.”

“The Holy See, while sympathetic to the demands of these Anglo-Catholics” for corporate reunion, “is moving with discretion and prudence.” Opposition to the ordination of women to the ordained ministry and to gay bishops and blessings “is not enough,” the newspaper said. Anglo-Catholics should be motivated not by a rejection of Anglicanism but by the “desire to join fully the Catholic Church,” Fr. Paul Gamberini SJ wrote.

To accommodate the request for corporate reunion with TAC, The Record reported that in October the CDF rejected “uniate” status for TAC, recommending instead an Anglican personal prelature modeled upon Opus Dei, the semi-autonomous ecclesial society within the Catholic Church that functions as a global diocese.

The former president of Forward in Faith North American and priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, the Rt. Rev. David Moyer—who currently serves as a Bishop in TAC, told CEN he welcomed the news and prayed “that it is true. The TAC’s College of Bishops is of one mind as we have been seeking a communal and ecclesial way of being Anglican Catholics in communion with the Holy See, at once treasuring the full expression of catholic faith and treasuring our tradition.”

However, Bishop David Chislett, a former priest of the Anglican Church of Australian and a bishop of TAC told CEN “nothing there is new, in the sense that it reiterates old speculation” save for the idea of an “announcement” after Easter. [N.B. Bishop Chislett was misdescribed in the print version of this story.  He is priest of the ACA licensed in the Diocese of The Murray and a bishop of TAC--an ecclesial dual citizen. GC]

Bishop Chislett said there “is ongoing discussion” but “on this particular matter the ecclesiastical gossip columns feeding off each other do nothing to help; nor do they really shed light on the matters.”

In Oct 2007 the TAC bishops made a formal submission to the Vatican, saying they “accept that the most complete and authentic expression and application of the Catholic faith in this moment of time is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium, which we have signed, together with this letter as attesting to the faith we aspire to teach and hold.”

On July 5, 2008 the prefect of the CDF Cardinal William Levada assured TAC “of the serious attention which the Congregation gives to the prospect of corporate unity raised in that letter”, and said that “as soon as the Congregation is in a position to respond more definitively concerning the proposals you have sent, we will inform you,” as the “situation within the Anglican Communion in general has become markedly more complex.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Fort Worth said the TAC announcement would not alter its plans as there was no corporate will for the diocese to submit to Rome. However, there could well be individual members of the diocese who would wish to join the new entity, she said. However, pending an official announcement from the Vatican, the diocese would be withholding official comment.

As a diocese, Fort Worth would remain within the Anglican Communion. “Everything our bishop says and all that we do as a diocese indicate our intention to continue as a body in the apostolic succession, handed down unchanged in essentials to future generations,” she said.

Bishop Moyer noted the discussions between TAC and the Vatican were “for the benefit of all Anglican Catholics. It didn’t matter which Apostle arrived first at the empty tomb on Easter morning.”

“All Anglo-Catholics need to understand who they are, what their foundation is, and what the ecclesial trajectory has been for many generations,” he said.

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