Shield The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth  
Feb. 11, 2019

State Supreme Court has Petition ‘under consideration’

  On Friday attorneys for the Diocese and Corporation received notice that the Texas Supreme Court is requesting briefs “on the merits” in our appeal. While our Petition for Review remains “under consideration” by the Court, this is very good news, signaling that the Court wishes to take a closer look at the April 2018 decision of the Second Court of Appeals. This is often the next step before the Court grants a Petition for Review.

It was the decision of the high Court in 2013 that neutral principles of law should govern disputes over church property in Texas, yet the only judge of the Fort Worth court of appeals to sign an opinion took an approach that effectively reverted to the deference standard in that opinion.

The letter sets a date of March 11* for our legal team to file our brief. Following that, the Court is asking the TEC parties to respond by April 1, after which the Diocese will make a closing reply by April 16. Once these briefings are complete, we hope to hear that the Court has accepted our Petition for Review and the appeal is moving forward. Please continue to pray for the Court and for our attorneys as they prepare the March 11 filing.

We thank God for His blessings and put our trust in His plans.
  *This date was later moved to April 10.
Nov. 5, 2018
  Diocese replies to TEC response
  On Friday, Nov. 2, attorneys for the Diocese and Corporation filed a response to the October reply by TEC parties to our Petition to the Texas Supreme Court for a review of the Appellate Court's opinion, issued in April. A reply to the cross petition is due next month.
Reply by the Diocese and Corporation
Oct. 8, 2018
  TEC parties file response, cross petition
On Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 3, Episcopal Church parties filed in the Supreme Court of Texas a Response to our Petition for Review, as well as a Cross-Petition for Review, concerning rulings by the Court of Appeals that were adverse to the TEC parties. Both documents are linked below.

Our legal team is studying these filings, and appropriate responses will be made and presented to the Court.

  TEC Response to Petition for Review
(53 pages)
(169 pages)

July 27, 2018
  Diocese, Corporation file petition for review

The Diocese of Fort Worth and its Corporation took the next step today in defense of our church property against the hostile claims of parties representing The Episcopal Church (TEC).

Attorneys for the Diocese have filed a Petition for Review with the Texas Supreme Court regarding the April 2018 opinion released by the state’s Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth, which relied on old Deference standards to reverse the trial court’s 2015 Summary Judgment ruling. 

In 2013, the Texas Supreme Court directed the lower courts to decide the property issues according to Neutral Principles of state law. The trial court did so in 2015, granting summary judgment in favor of the Diocese. The TEC plaintiffs appealed, and the now nine-year-old case was left pending for two years in the appellate court. The Petition argues that when finally released, the opinion contradicted the explicit instructions from the Supreme Court to apply state law rather than deferring all property decisions to TEC.

Now, with this second appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, the Diocese asks for a review of the April opinion and reinstatement of the trial court’s 2015 Final Judgment. “Under Neutral Principles of state law,” the petition argues, “a minority group cannot take control of an existing legal entity by forming another with the same name and demanding that the state law be ignored.”

If the Court accepts the appeal, it may call for oral argument sometime next year.

Recognizing that our times are in God’s hands and that the blessings of this life come from Him alone, we continue to pray for the wisdom of the courts and the conclusion of this dispute.


Read the Petition for Review [PDF includes three appended court documents, 277 pages]


  April 9, 2018
  Diocese will appeal to Texas Supreme Court
  On April 5, 2018, the Second Court of Appeals issued its long-awaited Opinion in our dispute with TEC over the ownership of our church property, and it essentially reversed the previous trial court ruling in our favor (dated July 2015). After review by our legal team, we have concluded that this most recent appellate court opinion is not consistent with what the Texas Supreme Court previously decided when it addressed this controversy in 2013 and that we will appeal it. 
In reversing the original trial court ruling in favor of TEC’s claims, the Supreme Court instructed the trial court to rehear the case and to use neutral principles of law in reaching a conclusion, instead of deference to TEC. This means that Texas laws concerning corporations, property, trusts, and unincorporated associations are to direct the outcome of the lawsuit. 
The Texas Supreme Court ruled in the Masterson case (No. 11-0332) that: 
  • Changes made to “articles of incorporation or bylaws are secular, not ecclesiastical, matters.” (page 25)
  • “…[W]e have held that Texas courts cannot simply use deference or identity methodology principles to resolve this type of issue.” (page 27)
  • “…[I]dentifying the loyal faction” does not “determine the property ownership issue under this record, as it might under the deference or identity methodology.” (page 27)
We are disappointed that the appellate court chose to decide this as an identity case. We remain hopeful that we will prevail under neutral principles of law should the Texas Supreme Court address this controversy for the second time. We will file a petition for review in May or June but will likely not know whether the Court will take the case for decision until late this year or early 2019.
In the meantime, everything remains as it has been, as we continue to wait for a conclusion to this tiresome litigation now entering its tenth year before the courts. Our trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, and we rely upon His grace to sustain us with faith and patience in the months to come. Please continue to pray for our legal team and for the justices who will address our petition.
  April 19, 2016
  Appellate court hears oral arguments

Visitors’ seating was full today in the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth Court room dooras a three-justice panel heard arguments from both sides regarding the appeal of last year’s trial court ruling in favor of the Diocese and Corporation. Justice Ann Gardner welcomed all those present for the hearing, noting the unusual number of observers.

The appeal was filed by the plaintiff Episcopal Church parties after the trial court ruled that, under neutral principles of law, the church and diocesan properties held by our Corporation are held in trust for the Diocese and not The Episcopal Church. The Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the trial court should apply neutral principles rather than deferring to TEC wishes. It also declared that the Dennis Canon has no force or effect in the state.

Attorney Scott Brister answer several questions from Justices Lee Gabriel, Bonnie Sudderth, and Gardner during his presentation on behalf of the Diocese and Corporation. The hearing concluded on time. There is no period defined for the court’s response, but a ruling can be expected within a few months’ time.

Attorneys for the Diocese and Corporation ask for continued prayer for the justices as they review the extensive record in the case and reach a decision on the appeal.