A Significant Victory for the Diocese of Fort Worth in Court!
This is big because TEC's strategy all along has been simply to assume what really is one of the chief issues that must be litigated. They have assumed that the "+Gulick group" (the small, TEC-loyalist rump now claiming to own all the property of our diocese) is the REAL leadership of the REAL Episcopal diocese of Fort Worth and that Bishop Iker and the other leaders who have lead our diocese for years have essentially stolen the "real" TEC diocese's property and are now holding it illegally. The TEC rump's lawyers were trying to pull the wool over the trial court's eyes and get the judge to accept this argument without even hearing the facts behind our departure from TEC!
Because of yesterday's ruling the TEC-loyalists must now refile and PROVE what they have simply been assuming--that Bishop Iker and our other leaders have no legitimate authority over our parishes because of their votes to leave TEC in 2007 and 2008 and that an ad hoc "special diocesan convention" called by PB Schori for the tiny faction of TEC loyalists we left behind when we departed from the General Convention of TEC in November of 2008 was able legitimately to replace the full set our diocese's leaders with folks loyal to TEC's national headquarters (commonly known as "815"). (It should be remembered, btw, that this was a "special convention" PB Schori had no express authority to convene under TEC's own canons and at which no quorum of diocesan clergy or legitimate lay delegates was present since the vast majority of us now simply ignored her call to meet as irrelevant.)
Of course, the TEC rump can still file suit again and I am certain that they will. But this time they will have to do so as individuals and actually PROVE that they have a right to run the only existing "Episcopal diocese of Fort Worth" and its corporation. They will have to prove, among other things, that there was something so fundamentally wrong with the procedures by which an almost 80% majority of the delegates to two diocesan conventions called a full year apart voted to leave TEC that these errors mean the leadership associated with Bishop Iker automatically vacated their posts as officers of the diocese and its corporation when the conventions' votes were taken. But Bishop Iker and the other legitimate leaders of our diocese took extraordinary care to see that every canonical "I" was dotted and every legal "T" was crossed during the more than two long years we took to withdraw from TEC. I cannot see how the TEC-loyalist rump can possibly hope to convince a Tarrant County jury that the real leadership of our diocese is actually a liberal faction loyal to a bunch of folks in New York City who were recognized as legitimate by no more than 20% of the membership of our diocese as its stood before the split.
The rump TEC-loyalist "diocese" has got a very hard row to hoe now if they continue to try to deprive the people of our parishes of their buildings!
Read the entire decision and opinion here.
The diocese has released this brief statement via e-mail, with more to follow from Bishop Iker on Monday:
To the clergy, convention delegates, Executive Council, and vestry members,
We give thanks for the decision just issued by the Texas Court of Appeals in Fort Worth. The decision is posted on the diocesan Web site at http://www.fwepiscopal.org/downloads/CourtOfAppeals062510.pdf
A statement concerning the court's decision will be issued by Bishop Iker on Monday, June 28.
Director of Communications
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth