Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
April 8, 2011
Fort Worth Diocese to make
direct appeal to Texas Supreme Court

Following the sever-and-stay order issued April 5 by the 141st district court, leaders of the Diocese and Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth will file a Notice of Appeal with the trial court early in the week of April 11. We will dispute the court’s ruling that all our property is held in trust for TEC; on the contrary, the property is held for the benefit of the local congregation, as our Constitution and Canons plainly state.

Our attorneys anticipate making the appeal directly to the Texas State Supreme Court. It is within the Court's discretion to take the case directly, or to require that we go first to the intermediate Court of Appeals. Since all parties agree that the case will come inevitably before the high court, we hope to save both the time and expense of an intermediate appeal as we seek resolution to the litigation brought against us, which has been so distracting from our mission for the past two years.

As an additional result of the April 5 order, all discovery in the case is now on hold. The plaintiffs' proposed property inspections will not be carried out. Nor will the judge's Feb. 8 order to surrender our property be enforced during this period: Our congregations will not be evicted from their churches for the duration of this process, if ever.

We give thanks for the opportunity to appeal our case, and we continue to pray for our attorneys as we move on to this very important phase of the litigation.


April 13 Update: The Notice of Direct Appeal was filed today.



June 2, 2011
Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth Statement of Jurisdiction
asks state Supreme Court
to hear appeal

On Wednesday, June 1, attorneys for the Diocese initiated our direct appeal to the Texas State Supreme Court, arguing that the high court should review the trial court's Feb. 8 judgment in favor of local Episcopal Church (TEC) parties without the delay of an intermediate appeal.

The Statement of Jurisdiction asks for the Supreme Court's immediate attention to what it describes as ”the largest church property dispute in Texas history,” involving ”60 churches and over $100 million in property.”

The Statement shows that the case meets all the statutory requirements for a direct appeal. Foremost among these is the requirement that the lower court's decision challenges “the constitutionality of a state statute.” It explains that the trial court order, if allowed to stand, would overturn trust law in the state and set a precedent against the use of neutral principles to decide church property cases. The neutral principles approach has been established in Texas and most other states since 1979 and has been upheld in five Texas courts of appeal, as well as the state Supreme Court, as recently as 2007. The effect on trust law would extend to virtually every non-profit organization in the state, making it difficult or impossible for them to hold bank accounts, take loans, or conduct other business anywhere in Texas.

TEC supporters have 10 days in which to respond to the filing. Diocesan attorney Scott Brister explains that “the Court holds conference and takes votes every Monday in June; thereafter, it does not convene again until August.” Attorneys for the Diocese hope the court will accept the appeal before its summer recess and set a hearing date for early fall.