Saturday, 19 September 2009

The Episcopal Dam has Burst: Texas Judge Rules Dioceses are free to Secede

George Conger, writing in the Church of England Newspaper, reports the decision of a Texas judge who ruled this week that there is nothing in the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church that prevents a diocese from seceding from the national church.
On Wednesday Judge John Chupp of Texas’ 141st District Court handed the Episcopal Church a major setback in its campaign to seize the assets of breakaway dioceses, stating that of the two entities holding themselves out as the “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth”---Bishop Jack Iker and his diocese affiliated with the Province of the Southern Cone and Bishop Edwin Gulick and his Episcopal Church-affiliated diocese---Bishop Iker’s diocese was the lawful holder of that name, corporate seal and property.

The court’s actions were not a total victory for Bishop Iker, as it did not dismiss as illegitimate the loyalist’s Feb 2009 convention called by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, nor quash their property suit. However, in his comments to the parties Judge Chupp rejected the Episcopal Church’s central legal premise that while people may leave the Episcopal Church, dioceses may not.

The 80 per cent of the delegates who voted to at the 2008 diocesan convention to quit the Episcopal Church for the Province of the Southern Cone “took the diocese with them,” Judge Chupp said.

With the backing of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, a loyalist faction within the diocese held a special convention on Feb 7, electing officers and inviting the Bishop Edwin Gulick of Kentucky to serve as interim bishop of Fort Worth. On April 14, the loyalists, styling themselves as the “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth” brought suit against the secessionists seeking possession of the diocese’s assets.

On Aug 19 the secessionists filed a Rule 12 motion asking the court to require the attorneys for the loyalists to show that they had the legal authority to bring suit in the name of the “Episcopal Diocese of Forth Worth.”

“Those individuals” bringing the lawsuit “claim to hold offices in the Diocese to which they have never been legally elected,” Bishop Iker argued.
Read more here

See also Anglican Mainstream Both Sides Debate Significance of Fort Worth Ruling

and High Noon in Fort Worth