Shield The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth  
Feb. 20, 2015

Trial court ruling expected soon


Disputed All Saints’ parish severed from case

Oral arguments on each side’s motion for partial summary judgement were heard this morning in a two-hour hearing before the Hon. John Chupp, and a ruling is expected from him soon. The judge asked for each side to submit proposed orders to him on Monday, Feb. 23. He will likely select one of them to sign, subject to any alterations he may wish to make.
In the course of the hearing before several dozen clergy and lay people, Judge Chupp asked each side, “What are you asking me for today?” The Plaintiffs argued for a “simple solution” acknowledging that the property is held in trust for the Diocese and Congregations by those individuals recognized by The Episcopal Church.

The Diocese and Corporation countered that, under neutral principles of law as mandated for the trial court to follow, the Dennis Canon has been found by the Texas Supreme Court to have been revoked, leaving the property in trust for the parishes and missions in fellowship with the Diocese, and only those individual defendants before the court are the duly-elected officers of the Diocese and the Corporation.

Judge Chupp posed a number of questions to the Plaintiffs during their presentation, and the discussion was frequently animated. Near the conclusion of the hearing he indicated a philosophical preference for local self-determination, asking, “Why do we need to have a ‘big government’ solution to this where a New York church says [what is best]?”

While the ruling on the motions for partial summary judgment is yet to be issued, one section of the dispute will go forward separately. During oral argument by attorney Frank Hill, who represented the plaintiff parishes, Judge Chupp decided to sever out the claims of All Saints’, Fort Worth, for a separate jury trial this spring. As an alternative, the judge urged Mr. Hill several times to opt instead for a settlement under diocesan Canon 32, which sets out a procedure to follow in cases where a parish wishes to separate from the Diocese. Though Mr. Hill expressed his belief that the Diocese would not have given the parish a favorable settlement at any time from 2008 to the present, the judge chided him, saying, “But you didn't even try.”

Following the hearing, Bishop Iker commented, "I am grateful to everyone who observed a time of prayer and fasting for this key hearing. While we were very encouraged by several comments and questions posed by Judge Chupp to attorneys on both sides, we have learned that you cannot rely on impressions to try to predict what his ruling might be.

“Continue to pray for clarity and right understanding for him as he considers how to decide this case in the days ahead. We hope to have a decision sometime next week. We continue to trust in the Lord for the outcome in this case.”

Jan. 23, 2015
  Diocese files Reply to TEC parties’ Response

The Diocese, Corporation, and parishes have filed a Reply to the TEC parties’ intermediate filing on Motion for Summary Judgment. This is the final set of document filings before our scheduled hearing on Friday, Feb. 20, in the 141st District Court.

The supporting affidavits are available here separately from the main reply. Dividing the sections in this way will make it easier for most readers to download and view the pages of the filing.

The diocesan officers filing affidavits and supporting documents are Chad Bates, Bishop Iker, and Jane Parrott. Mr. Sharpe’s affidavit contains the documents previously submitted to the United States Supreme Court, as well as the Court’s letter denying certiorari (that is, the appeal the TEC parties were seeking). Finally, the stipulated documents (part of Mr. Sharpe's affidavit) are Episcopal Church records footnoted in the main Reply.

  Defendants’ Reply in Support of their Motion
  Affidavits of diocesan officersAffidavit of Shelby SharpeStipluated documents
  Dec. 22, 2014
Diocese files response to TEC motion

The Diocese, Corporation, and parishes have filed their response to the Motion for Summary Judgment submitted by the plaintiff TEC parties earlier this month.

Defendants’ Response to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment

Supporting affidavits were submitted as well.

  Dec. 1, 2014
  Diocese, TEC parties file new motions
for partial summary judgment

Today both the plaintiff TEC parties and the Diocese and defendant congregations filed Motions for Summary Judgment in the 141st District Court. The origial Motions were filed in December 2010, and the court's January 2011 ruling was reversed by the Texas Supreme Court in August 2013, and the trial court was instructed to re-hear the case and render a ruling based on neutral principles of law. To that end, a hearing is now set for Feb. 20, 2015, before the Hon. John Chupp. Two more rounds of filings will be submitted to the court in the intervening weeks.

In his introduction to our filing, diocesan attorney Scott Brister writes,

From the outset of this litigation, the Plaintiffs’ lawsuit has been based not on equity but on wishful thinking and unfounded claims. The Plaintiffs filed suit claiming that a diocese cannot disaffiliate from TEC – even though not a single provision in TEC’s charters says so. The Plaintiffs insisted they represented the Corporation and the Diocese – but the Second Court of Appeals held that they did not. The Plaintiffs insisted that Texas courts follow the deference approach – but the Texas Supreme court held they do not. The Plaintiffs insisted that the Dennis Canon was irrevocable – but the Texas Supreme Court held it was not. Despite these repeated judicial rebukes, the Plaintiffs still assert every one of these claims to this day.

The following PDF documents have been submitted to the court.

Party Motion Supporting documents
Diocese, Corporation,
and congregations
Second Motion for Summary Judgment Agreed joint documents (to come)*
    Affidavit of Bishop Iker
    Affidavit of Chad Bates
    Affidavit of Walter Virden III
    Affidavit of Canon Koehler
    Affidavit of Shelby Sharpe (to come)*
TEC parties Second Motion for Summary Judgment Thousands of pages of supporting documents were submitted to the court. It is impractical to attach them here.

*technical difficulties prevent posting at this time.

We offer thanks to our legal team for the care and effort they have invested in our filing.