Diocese of Fort Worth: Living with litigation

Posted on September 6, 2013 
Filed under Anglican Communion, TEC

Bishop Jack Leo Iker, Fort WorthBishop Jack Iker of Fort Worth reflects on the lengthy legal battle imposed on his diocese.

“Living with litigation has become a way of life for us as members of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. For the past 4 ½ years, we have been under the cloud of a lawsuit brought against us by The Episcopal Church and its local supporters, seeking to deprive us of our buildings and assets.

This has been a huge distraction from our focus on spreading the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and making new disciples for the Kingdom of God. What a relief and a blessing it was to have the Texas Supreme Court overturn the trial court judgment against us on August 30. So now we head back to the local court for a reconsideration of the dispute – based this time upon neutral principles of law, and under this methodology we are confident we will prevail. Life goes on – the litigation continues – and we learn again how important it is to trust in the Lord in the midst of distractions and threats to our security.

The national leadership of TEC has misguided and misled local Episcopalians by encouraging them to support its litigation strategy, which sought to undermine the laws of the State of Texas regarding property, trusts and corporations. They advised people to leave their local churches following the separation of the Diocese from TEC in November 2008 and to claim that they had been denied access to these churches. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one has ever been asked to leave their church, and our services are open to all. Those who now wish to return to our fellowship will find an eager welcome.

We regret that millions of dollars have been spent on legal fees by both sides. All of this could have been avoided in an amicable separation process as provided for by the Diocese for any congregation that wished to remain in TEC. This was accomplished in the case of three churches by a simple transfer of property title to the local congregations. However, TEC insisted on blocking further transfers and sued for everything, resulting in a long, protracted process of litigation. But now the end is in sight.

The Dennis Canon is dead in Texas. Corporations are authorized to control their own decisions and affairs without the interference of third parties. That’s the law. Perhaps in light of these rulings by our Supreme Court, those who have sued us and sought to deprive us of our property might see the wisdom of terminating their continued use of the courts contrary to 1 Cor. 6:1-7. Let’s get on with the mission of the Church and apply our limited resources to advancing the Kingdom of Christ rather than to continued litigation.

The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker
Fort Worth III

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you.

1 Cor. 6:1-7.

– from The Diocese of Forth Worth. (h/t A.S. Haley.)