|The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth||
Oct. 18, 2010
Fourth lawsuit arrives
With three suits pending in two Texas counties, members of the minority that chose to stay in The Episcopal Church (TEC) two years ago have launched another assault on much the same grounds as the first three. Today All Saints’ Episcopal Church on Crestline Road in Fort Worth has sued Bishop Jack Iker personally, in federal court.
There can no longer be any doubt that this litigation is intended to harrass, intimidate, bankrupt, and divert the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, its Corporation, and its leadership – particularly Bishop Iker – from carrying out the mission of the Church.
Ironically, only this weekend Bishop Iker made several comments in jest to a gathering of clergy and laity of the Church of England in London, saying that he had “not checked the Internet today” to see whether he had been sued again.
In dispute now is the right of the Bishop to recognize a parish in the Diocese as All Saints’ Episcopal Church.
In November 2008 Bishop Iker was under threat of arrest for trespassing if he so much as set foot on the property of All Saints’ on Crestline. Thus, it was impossible for him to know the will of the majority of the parish so that he could decide whether to release the property to All Saints’, as he soon did for four other parishes that chose to stay in TEC. Instead, in January 2009 he met with concerned members of All Saints’ at another location, in the presence of the parish’s attorney. They expressed concern about a loyalty oath being required of vestry candidates and other signs that their voices were being disregarded by some parish leaders. The Bishop told them they could try to stay the course, leave as a body, or leave individually to join other parishes. Less than 10 days later approximately 100 parishioners walked out of their annual meeting and organized themselves for worship and ministry in another location.
Title to the property where the church sits is held by the diocesan Corporation, yet never since then has Bishop Iker attempted to interfere with the activities at the Crestline campus. Neither has he attempted to interfere with three other diocesan congregations which occupy diocesan property but identify with TEC. Moreover, in other cases, where a TEC-loyal minority has split from a parish to worship elsewhere, the Bishop has never attempted to stop a congregation from using the name of the diocesan parish from which it split.
Clearly, this suit is but the latest attempt to demonize Bishop Iker and ignore the decision by an overwhelming majority of delegates to two diocesan conventions – where the Bishop himself has no vote – to separate from TEC. Over and over, the complaint speaks of the Diocese, its Web site, parishes, assessment income – even the worhsip services themselves – as if they belong to Bishop Iker personally. The fact is that the TEC-led minority lost, but it has not been gracious. Its leadership is embittered. The suit’s claims of “unfair competition” and “public confusion and harm” are frivolous and would be laughable if not for the fact that litigation and personal animosity damage the cause of the Gospel.
It is time for this wasteful mockery of Christian doctrine and of the civil court system to stop. However, if the minority continues to bring trumped-up charges, we will continue to defend ourselves. To that end, we can also announce the following:
In the case pending in the 141st District Court (Tarrant County), there is no hearing date set at this time. On Oct. 8 the Diocese filed a Motion to Enforce Appellate Mandate and Strike Amended Pleadings. This asks the court to require that the plaintiffs abide by the June 25 appellate ruling, that individual members of the minority group have no authority to bring litigation on behalf of the Diocese.
In the suit filed against Bishop Iker in federal court on Sept. 21, the Diocese’s response, filed over the past several days, includes:
|Read the All Saints’ lawsuit|