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FT. Worth legal decision is Knockout Punch against Episcopal Church Diocese

FT. Worth legal decision is Knockout Punch against Episcopal Church Diocese
$100 million in properties goes to the Anglicans who built and paid for them,
ECUSA's Dennis Canon demolished

By David W. Virtue, DD
May 25, 2020

It's not going well for the Episcopal Church these days. In fact, it is going rather badly. After going twelve rounds (years) of litigation, TEC received a knockout punch from The Supreme Court of Texas with one of its dioceses. It was the last of three serious hits the Church has taken in recent weeks.

First off, a virus comes along sending everybody fleeing from their pews to Zoom, shattering the Episcopal Church's invincibility, hopes and aspirations for "inclusive" growth. Then one of its leading-edge progressive dioceses, New York, gets called out for behaving like the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan for booting a healing ministry (Samaritan's Purse) out of its cathedral, whose "sin" was ministering to COVID-19 victims because that ministry refused to embrace homoerotic marriage.

And then on Friday, the other shoe dropped; the Supreme Court of Texas told the Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth that they had no right to the properties they alleged were theirs, (and for which they had fought over for 12 years in the courts) and said they could go pound sand.

It was basically about neutral principles.

In THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF FORT WORTH v. THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH, Justice Eva M. Guzman writing for the court, finds that the withdrawing (Anglican) faction of the splintered Episcopal diocese is the rightful Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth:
"Applying neutral principles to the undisputed facts, we hold that (1) resolution of this property dispute does not require consideration of an ecclesiastical question, (2) under the governing documents, the withdrawing faction is the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, and (3) the trial court properly granted summary judgment in the withdrawing faction's favor. We therefore reverse the court of appeals' contrary judgment".

The 30-page unanimous opinion from Texas' top judicial body reinstates a trial ruling that had been earlier overturned by an appeals court. The ruling winds down litigation between the departing diocese and the Episcopal Church that was set in motion more than a decade ago after the national church filed suit against departing Anglicans. Lawyers for the Episcopal Church maintained that elected officers of the diocesan leadership were no longer the Episcopal diocese and that dioceses hold property in trust for the national church under the denomination's 1970s-era Dennis Canon, wrote Jeff Walton of IRD.

Distinguished canon lawyer Allan S. Haley wrote of the opinion that it makes short shrift of ECUSA's remaining arguments. "It demolishes ECUSA's Dennis Canon, first by holding that a beneficiary like ECUSA cannot declare a trust in its favor in Texas on property that it does not own, and second by holding that even if the Dennis Canon could be said to create a trust in ECUSA's favor, the Canon does not, as Texas law specifies, make the trust "expressly irrevocable". Thus, it was well within the power of Bishop Iker's Fort Worth Diocese to revoke any such trust, which it did by a diocesan canon adopted in 1989 -- to which ECUSA never objected in the twenty years following that act."

The Supreme Court decision puts the ACNA-affiliated group in control of the diocese's $100 million worth of property.

If bad things come in threes, TEC just got whacked over the head, making a mockery not only of the Dennis Canon and PB Michael Curry's much vaunted "love" talk that included spending some $60 million on a failed litigation quest. It is now apparent that Jesus was rooting for the Anglicans.

ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach put the decision in stark relief and told VOL, "Amazing! The people who actually bought the land, built the church buildings, worshipped and ministered in them, and have paid for their upkeep and maintenance actually get to keep their buildings!! I am grateful for the people of Ft. Worth that the justices did not allow this theft to occur."

According to official statistics, some 80 percent of the diocese stayed with the parishes that separated from the Episcopal church. The Remainers stayed with the national church. Data from 2018, the most recent reporting year, lists 3,804 members in the reconstituted Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, down from 17,457 members (-78.2%) in 2008, the year of the split. The same data provided by the Episcopal Church Office of the General Convention also revealed that it was not only membership, but average Sunday attendance, marriages and baptisms were significantly reduced in recent years.

The Rt. Rev. Scott Mayer, provisional bishop of Ft. Worth in a letter to the Episcopal Church-affiliated diocese, said "Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry joins me in acknowledging our disappointment and urging all of us to be gentle with one another during this trying time, with the important goal of continuing our worship of God and our ministries in this diocese in as uninterrupted manner as possible. Now I, other diocesan leaders, and our legal team have to make decisions about our next steps."

Katie Sherrod, the angry Episcopal diocese's director of communications blasted the court's decision and said the diocesan leadership is, "deeply disappointed and actually shocked by this decision" and will now consider whether to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

That might not go down so well. "We never say never, but SCOTUS has not taken a church property case since Jones v. Wolfe (1979)," said Suzanne Gill, speaking on behalf of the (Anglican) Episcopal diocese.

GAFCON and Global South primates and bishops will undoubtedly see this as the hand of God in the liberation of these parishes from the clutches of an apostate, neo-pagan denomination. Even though "God dwells in temples not made with hands," (Acts 7:48) it will be seen as a vindication of ACNA's necessary existence in the face of a post Christian Episcopal church that preaches "another gospel" (Gal. 1: 8-9)

The ruling can be seen here: http://www.txcourts.gov/media/1446580/180438.pdf


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