Shield The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth  
March 4, 2016

Diocese, Corporation file response briefs


After a second filing extension due to unavoidable caseload delays, the Diocese and Corporation filed two response briefs with the Second Court of Appeals, located in Fort Worth.Because the briefs filed in December made differing arguments, two response briefs were necessary. The TEC parties now have the opportunity to make a reply by March 24. These files are large and may require a few moments to load.

Response to filing by The Episcopal ChurchResponse to filing by Local TEC Parties

  Dec. 4, 2015
  Episcopal Church parties file in Court of Appeals

As expected, TEC parties have filed briefs this week in the state’s Second Court of Appeals seeking reversal of last March’s trial court order which found that the Diocese was within its legal right to dissociate from TEC and retain its property in the diocesan Corporation.

A reply brief from the Diocese and Corporation will be due just before Christmas. Sometime later the Second Court of Appeals, located in Fort Worth, is expected to set a date for hearing.

DEC. 21 UPDATE: The Diocese has been granted a filing extension to accommodate the case load of our legal team. Our reply will be filed on or before Feb. 4, 2016.

  Aug. 21, 2015
  Five TEC congregations under supersedeas order

On Tuesday, August 18, the Hon. John Chupp signed a supersedeas order that suspends enforcement of the judgment he has previously signed in favor of the Diocese, the Corporation, and the individual defendants. A supersedeas allows the current occupants to remain in place, subject to certain terms, during the course of an appeal. The terms set on Tuesday are similar to those followed by the Diocese and Corporation from 2011 through 2014. Tuesday’s order includes the main sanctuary and nave, parish hall, and offices of All Saints’ church on Crestline Road in Fort Worth, as well as the old parish rectory, which sits across the street on Dexter Avenue.

According to the agreement, a $100,000 bond will be posted by the TEC parties within 10 days. Additionally, five congregations will submit a monthly statement of income and expenses: All Saints’ (Crestline, Fort Worth), St. Christopher’s (Fort Worth), St. Elisabeth’s (River Oaks), St. Luke in the Meadow (Fort Worth), and St. Stephen’s (Wichita Falls). These TEC-affiliated congregations continue to hold services in property belonging to the Diocese and Corporation. Finally, the agreement requires the all properties to be fully insured and faithfully maintained. 

A capital campaign proposed by the existing Crestline parish leadership – to reconfigure the interior offices, add parking, and remove a playground – will not go forward. The plan was announced to the congregation shortly after the court found that the Fort Worth property belongs to the Diocese and Corporation under leadership of Bishop Iker. No dollar figure was attached to the campaign, though pledges were solicited from church members. It is not known whether the Crestline congregation was aware that their motion to be awarded title to the property had been turned down by the court.

The supersedeas order will continue in effect for the duration of the appeal by the plaintiff Episcopal Church parties, who are disputing Judge Chupp’s decision (linked above). That appeal will go first to the state Appellate Court in Fort Worth. 

Read the full order here.

  July 24, 2015
  Judgment concludes trial-court phase

Today the Hon. John P. Chupp signed his Final Judgment concerning the Motions for Partial Summary Judgment filed last December by the TEC-loyal plaintiffs and the defendant Diocese, Parishes, and Corporation, as well as Motions for Partial Summary Judgment concerning the TEC-loyal All Saints’ Episcopal Church (Fort Worth) filed by these same parties on May 6. In doing so, the 141st District Court affirmed and combined its orders of March 2 and June 10 [see the entries below], which upheld the Diocese’s right to dissociate from TEC and for the Corporation to retain its property – including All Saints' parish property transferred from the Dallas Diocese – and elected leadership. 

Today’s judgment brings to a close a process started on Aug. 30, 2013, when the Supreme Court of Texas ordered that the case, initially decided using a “deference” approach, return to the trail court and that the court reconsider the parties' claims, applying the Neutral Principles approach instead. 

The trial court’s ruling now becomes appealable, and the TEC-affiliated plaintiffs have indicated their intention to ask the Second Court of Appeals for a review. In early August the court is expected to issue an order stating terms that will allow the TEC-affiliated congregation of All Saints’, Fort Worth, to remain in the property it now occupies during the duration of the appeal. 

We give thanks for our many blessings, for God’s work among us, and for the Hope of Salvation that is within us. We are thankful, too, for the patient endurance of all those who have prayed and labored for this day, especially our legal team, their associates, and their families.

  June 10, 2015
  Court leaves All Saints’ property in Diocese

Attorneys for the Diocese, Corporation, and parishes returned to district court today for oral arguments concerning two pieces of property held in trust for All Saints’ Church in Fort Worth. All Saints’ had been severed out of the main property ruling issued in favor of our faithful members by the Hon. John P. Chupp on March 2. 

Today’s decision by the  court was consistent with that earlier order. Judge Chupp found that the main church building and parish hall, as well as the original rectory, are properly owned by the Diocesan Corporation and held in trust for the faithful members of the All Saints’ congregation remaining in union with the Diocese.

“We rejoice and give thanks to God for this wonderful ruling,” Bishop Iker said. “It means that in due course this great, historic parish will be restored to the biblical faith, orthodox teaching, and catholic religion of her founding members.”

Bishop Iker also expressed gratitude for all the prayers offered in support of the legal team in seeking this outcome.

In coming days, the March 2 and June 10 orders will be combined into a final declaratory judgment. At that point the decision of the trial court will be appealable, and it is expected that TEC attorneys will pursue that process.

  March 3, 2015

Court denies TEC claims to Diocesan property


On Monday, March 2, 2015, the 141st District Court granted our Motion for Partial Summary Judgment regarding all diocesan property, with the exception of All Saints’, Fort Worth, which Judge Chupp severed for a separate trial.

Shelby Sharpe with Bishop Iker
The 141st District Court has ruled in favor
of the Diocese and Corporation in our
nearly six-year-old lawsuit, instigated by
The Episcopal Church. Pictured with Bishop Iker is attorney Shelby Sharpe.

Nearly six years after we were first sued by The Episcopal Church and its local representatives, the court has confirmed the Diocese’s right to dissociate from TEC and for the Corporation to retain its property.

“We are grateful for the ruling in our favor,” said Bishop Iker. “It’s clear that both church laws and Texas laws have been rightly applied to this dispute.”

In granting our motion, the Hon. John Chupp has ruled that Bishop Iker and the duly-elected officials of the Diocese and Corporation control the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, its Corporation, all endowments and funds, and all property that has been disputed in this litigation. The ruling is binding on all parties.

The judge severed out all the claims concerning ownership of the property of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, and this case will be heard by him at a future time. All Saints’ is the only incorporated parish in the Diocese and claims to hold title to property in its own name. In a February 20 hearing before the court, Judge Chupp strongly encouraged the leadership of All Saints’ to pursue the Canon 32 process with the Diocese, which might settle the issues without the need for a trial.

The following statements from our Motion for Partial Summary Judgment are confirmed by Judge Chupp’s order:

“According to the deeds, church charters, and Texas law:

• using neutral principles of Texas law to decide this case is not retroactive;
• the properties at issue are owned by the Corporation;
• the Defendant Trustees are the properly elected Trustees of the Corporation;
• Bishop Iker is the proper chairman and a member of the Corporation’s board;
• no express trust exists in favor of Plaintiffs (TEC);
• no implied or constructive trust exists in favor of Plaintiffs;
• the Defendants are not estopped to defend themselves; and
• the Defendants properly control the funds, trusts, and endowments at issue.

As a matter of law, the Defendants are entitled to title, control, and use of all of the property at issue in this case.”

The laity and clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth rejoice with Bishop Iker and join him in giving thanks to God for this ruling. We pray for a quick resolution to the remaining claims and disputes. We will continue to carry out the mission given us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: to win the world for Him.

Read the one-page court order.

  Feb. 20, 2015
  Trial court ruling expected soon

Disputed All Saints’ parish severed from case

Oral arguments on each side’s motion for partial summary judgement were heard this morning in a two-hour hearing before the Hon. John Chupp, and a ruling is expected from him soon. The judge asked for each side to submit proposed orders to him on Monday, Feb. 23. He will likely select one of them to sign, subject to any alterations he may wish to make.
In the course of the hearing before several dozen clergy and lay people, Judge Chupp asked each side, “What are you asking me for today?” The Plaintiffs argued for a “simple solution” acknowledging that the property is held in trust for the Diocese and Congregations by those individuals recognized by The Episcopal Church.

The Diocese and Corporation countered that, under neutral principles of law as mandated for the trial court to follow, the Dennis Canon has been found by the Texas Supreme Court to have been revoked, leaving the property in trust for the parishes and missions in fellowship with the Diocese, and only those individual defendants before the court are the duly-elected officers of the Diocese and the Corporation.

Judge Chupp posed a number of questions to the Plaintiffs during their presentation, and the discussion was frequently animated. Near the conclusion of the hearing he indicated a philosophical preference for local self-determination, asking, “Why do we need to have a ‘big government’ solution to this where a New York church says [what is best]?”

While the ruling on the motions for partial summary judgment is yet to be issued, one section of the dispute will go forward separately. During oral argument by attorney Frank Hill, who represented the plaintiff parishes, Judge Chupp decided to sever out the claims of All Saints’, Fort Worth, for a separate jury trial this spring. As an alternative, the judge urged Mr. Hill several times to opt instead for a settlement under diocesan Canon 32, which sets out a procedure to follow in cases where a parish wishes to separate from the Diocese. Though Mr. Hill expressed his belief that the Diocese would not have given the parish a favorable settlement at any time from 2008 to the present, the judge chided him, saying, “But you didn't even try.”

Following the hearing, Bishop Iker commented, "I am grateful to everyone who observed a time of prayer and fasting for this key hearing. While we were very encouraged by several comments and questions posed by Judge Chupp to attorneys on both sides, we have learned that you cannot rely on impressions to try to predict what his ruling might be.

“Continue to pray for clarity and right understanding for him as he considers how to decide this case in the days ahead. We hope to have a decision sometime next week. We continue to trust in the Lord for the outcome in this case.”

Jan. 23, 2015
  Diocese files Reply to TEC parties’ Response

The Diocese, Corporation, and parishes have filed a Reply to the TEC parties’ intermediate filing on Motion for Summary Judgment. This is the final set of document filings before our scheduled hearing on Friday, Feb. 20, in the 141st District Court.

The supporting affidavits are available here separately from the main reply. Dividing the sections in this way will make it easier for most readers to download and view the pages of the filing.

The diocesan officers filing affidavits and supporting documents are Chad Bates, Bishop Iker, and Jane Parrott. Mr. Sharpe’s affidavit contains the documents previously submitted to the United States Supreme Court, as well as the Court’s letter denying certiorari (that is, the appeal the TEC parties were seeking). Finally, the stipulated documents (part of Mr. Sharpe's affidavit) are Episcopal Church records footnoted in the main Reply.

  Defendants’ Reply in Support of their Motion
  Affidavits of diocesan officersAffidavit of Shelby SharpeStipluated documents

  Dec. 22, 2014
  Diocese files response to TEC motion

The Diocese, Corporation, and parishes have filed their response to the Motion for Summary Judgment submitted by the plaintiff TEC parties earlier this month.

Defendants’ Response to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment

Supporting affidavits were submitted as well.

  Dec. 1, 2014
  Diocese, TEC parties file new motions
for partial summary judgment

Today both the plaintiff TEC parties and the Diocese and defendant congregations filed Motions for Summary Judgment in the 141st District Court. The origial Motions were filed in December 2010, and the court's January 2011 ruling was reversed by the Texas Supreme Court in August 2013, and the trial court was instructed to re-hear the case and render a ruling based on neutral principles of law. To that end, a hearing is now set for Feb. 20, 2015, before the Hon. John Chupp. Two more rounds of filings will be submitted to the court in the intervening weeks.

In his introduction to our filing, diocesan attorney Scott Brister writes,

From the outset of this litigation, the Plaintiffs’ lawsuit has been based not on equity but on wishful thinking and unfounded claims. The Plaintiffs filed suit claiming that a diocese cannot disaffiliate from TEC – even though not a single provision in TEC’s charters says so. The Plaintiffs insisted they represented the Corporation and the Diocese – but the Second Court of Appeals held that they did not. The Plaintiffs insisted that Texas courts follow the deference approach – but the Texas Supreme court held they do not. The Plaintiffs insisted that the Dennis Canon was irrevocable – but the Texas Supreme Court held it was not. Despite these repeated judicial rebukes, the Plaintiffs still assert every one of these claims to this day.

The following PDF documents have been submitted to the court.

Party Motion Supporting documents
Diocese, Corporation,
and congregations
Second Motion for Summary Judgment Agreed joint documents (to come)*
    Affidavit of Bishop Iker
    Affidavit of Chad Bates
    Affidavit of Walter Virden III
    Affidavit of Canon Koehler
    Affidavit of Shelby Sharpe (to come)*
TEC parties Second Motion for Summary Judgment Thousands of pages of supporting documents were submitted to the court. It is impractical to attach them here.

*technical difficulties prevent posting at this time.

We offer thanks to our legal team for the care and effort they have invested in our filing.