Rump TEC "Diocese" in Fort Worth Demands Hand Over of All Church Properties, Assets, and Records in the 23 Counties of our Diocese
The standing committee of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (Texas) and Provisional Bishop Edwin Gulick have written to former bishop Jack Iker to request a "peaceful and orderly transfer of property and other assets."
"Our hope is to work together with those who left the Episcopal Church to make this period of transition as painless as possible in what has been a sad time for all of us," said the Rev. Frederick Barber, president of the standing committee. "Those who left remain our brothers and sisters in Christ. But we also know we have a sacred responsibility to the Episcopalians of the diocese to be good stewards of property that is held in trust for generations of Episcopalians past and to come."
The March 3 letter, written by chancellor Kathleen Wells, also asked that Iker and others not interfere with the reorganization of the continuing diocese; refrain from using the diocesan logo and seals and meet with representatives of the continuing diocese “to plan the orderly transition” of property and assets. Last November, Iker and some members of the diocese voted to realign with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. [RWF note: Remember, the "some members of the diocese" who left TEC in November made up more than 80% of the clergy and lay delegates of the diocese! This really is shameless.]
"On behalf of Bishop Gulick, the Diocese and the corporation, I respectfully request that Bishop Iker and those working with him or otherwise claiming authority from him take no action inconsistent with the reorganization of the continuing Diocese or with the continuing interest of the Episcopal Church in church property of the Diocese and its congregations," Wells wrote in the letter addressed to William T. McGee, a retired Fort Worth judge who serves as Iker's chancellor, or legal adviser.
McGee, reached at his Fort Worth law office on March 6, said, "I have received the letter and passed it on to my bishop." He declined further comment until he and Iker meet to discuss the letter.
Iker was unavailable for comment March 6. He issued the following statement a day earlier: "We will have no comment to make on this letter until we have consulted with our legal counsel. However, we previously indicated a willingness to release property to congregations where a significant majority wish to remain in union with the General Convention of The Episcopal Church and, in fact, have already done so in four cases."
But Wells said that isn't what the continuing diocese is asking for. "We're not here to split up everything," she said during an interview March 6 from her Fort Worth law office. "This meeting is not to negotiate who gets what property, but to work out the details of an orderly transfer or delivering keys and security codes, of getting inventories and determining how they will surrender possession of the diocesan center, and the records there."
The continuing diocese has offered Iker "in a nice way an opportunity to tell us how you're going to deliver the keys to us. The way you do that with people of good faith is to write a letter and say let's talk about this," she said. She added that: "We're hoping of course, that as brothers and sisters in Christ they will do the right thing."
She declined to speculate about the dollar value of disputed property and assets except to say: "It's in the millions and millions of dollars, obviously."
She added that: "We have gone through, in a very painstaking way … appraisal and deed records filed in the various 23 counties that make up the diocese and tried to consult title information … to arrive at a ballpark evaluation. We just haven't pulled it all together yet."
Comparing the situation to that of a tenant moving out of a landlord's property Wells, a civil litigator in state and federal court, said: "They're moving out. They are no longer part of the Episcopal Church. They are no longer entitled to possession of property," so how do we go about turning over the possession of property to the landlord? "It's with a ‘let's meet, I'll deliver the keys on this date.'"
RWF resumes: So now we know. The faithful people who have built these churches and been blessed by God to participate in flourishing congregations that have worshiped in them over the last 25 years have simply been tenants of the General Convention of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Societies of the Episcopal Church USA, Inc., all along. How foolish it was of them to think they actually might have an ownership stake in churches they paid for and built and maintained all those years! Silly tenants! Now get out and leave the keys on the altar!
Readers of this blog who still harbor any illusions that the rump TEC DioFW might turn out to be a "conservative" voice within the Episcopal church--or even a "moderate" one--may also be interested in the Lenten Series speaker the rump diocese is presenting this week. It is the Rev. Terry Martin, the clergyman behind the now (almost) inactive hard-Left Episcopal blog "Father Jake Stops the World."
Yes, indeed, the few traditionalists Episcopalians still within the rump TEC organization are in for a bumpy ride ahead. The theological Left clearly calls the shots in their little "diocese" now.
Hat tip to MCJ.