Shield The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth  
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.