Supreme Court ends 12-year Fort Worth legal battle over $100 million in church property

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    Upholding a previous ruling by the Texas Supreme Court, a sabotaged document in Fort Worth retains $ 100 million in property and assets after the US Supreme Court weighed the case between the Diocese and the National Episcopal Church Kept.

    The decision marks the beginning of the end of a 12-year legal battle between the National Episcopal Church and the Fort Worth-area diocese. In 2008, Rev. Jack Iker led a rebellion against the church, condemning the National Episcopal Church for socially liberal practices, such as the consecration of a gay bishop. He was led by about 15,000 local congregations from 48 churches. Eight churches did not follow suit and remained loyal to the National Episcopal Church. The congregations of other churches were divided, forcing minority people to find other places to worship.

    The breakaway diocese is now part of the more conservative Anglican Church of North America. As the leader of an Orthodox Church, Iker disagreed with the Episcopal Church’s practices of presenting women as priests, overseeing same-sex unions and the consecration of a gay bishop.

    Contrary to the status quo, the Anglican Church Group wished to leave the official church, but still retained $ 100 million worth of property, buildings and investment. The National Church pushed back saying the property belonged to them.

    Both groups – the Golmaal group and those who remained loyal to the National Church – are known as the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. The right to that name is one of many legal loose ends that would likely be determined by a judge.

    In May 2020, a Texas Supreme Court court ruled in favor of the Brexit group. The National Church appealed to the US Supreme Court. By upholding the 2020 ruling, the US Supreme Court effectively ended the National Church’s hold on those churches and other property.

    About 8,000 people from 15 congregations in the Fort Worth area remain part of the National Episcopal Church, which is Katie Sherrod, the communications director of the diocese. Those congregations use eight buildings, five of which now legally belong to the breakaway group. They will likely have to evacuate buildings, including 4 Cent’s Episcopal Food Pantry in East Fort Worth.

    Other Episcopal dioceses have also faced similar conservative revolts and faced varying legal successes.

    In the Fort Worth case, the Episcopal National Church argued that church law – specifically a rule known as the Dennis Cannon – held church property in a trust for the national church, and from the congregations themselves Is not related. In 2018, a Fort Worth Appeal Court agreed and sided with a group that remained loyal to the National Church.

    However, the Texas Supreme Court overturned the verdict in May and ruled that Texas law allows a trust to be revoked, and Texas law overturned canon law. Opinions also differed as the Texas Supreme Court enforced the law as if the churches were a corporation.

    The Rev. Ryan Reid, the current leader of the Fort Worth Diocese belonging to the Anglican Church of North America, wrote in a press release Monday that the decision was “a turning point for us as a diocese.”

    “Having directed so many resources to this dispute, we can now turn our full attention to the ministry of the gospel and the work of the state,” he said. “We are going to carry out a strategic plan, which will focus on sharing the mission of equipping us with the changing love of Jesus Christ and the saints for ministry work.”

    The minority group, which did not follow Iker’s departure, is currently Rev. J. Scott Mayer. On Monday, Mayer said in a press release that he began litigation in 2009 “as the legacy and heir of generations of heirs.”

    “In the wake of this decision, we are committed to evangelizing as we celebrate the sacrament, care for the needy and strive for justice and peace,” he said in the press release.

    Presiding over the Bishop of the National Episcopal Church, the Rev. Michael B. Curry sent a letter to the mayor-led diocese on Monday.

    He wrote, “I want you to know that while we cannot know your pain and suffering, we stand with you in sorrow and despair that the decision of the Texas Supreme Court will come.”

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