By Kirk Petersen
The Supreme Court of Texas ruled on May 22 that the faction that formally withdrew from the Episcopal Church (TEC) in 2008 is, nevertheless, the continuing “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth” — and is thereby entitled to more than $100 million worth of church properties held in trust by that diocese.
For more than a decade there have been two entities calling themselves “the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth” — one affiliated with TEC and the other affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The 30-page opinion did not address whether either entity must discontinue using that name.
Katie Sherrod, director of communications for the TEC-affiliated diocese, said the diocesan leadership is studying the opinion and has not determined whether to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
Suzanne Gill, director of communications for the ACNA-affiliated diocese, welcomed the ruling and said “I would expect that somewhere down the line we will resolve the intellectual property issue” involving the use of the name.
She said that while most of the church properties in dispute are currently occupied by ACNA congregations, there are “about four” buildings nominally controlled by the diocese that are occupied by TEC congregations.
The parties have been litigating for more than 11 years. Fort Worth was one of five dioceses in which the bishop and a majority of the congregations in those dioceses left the Episcopal Church over a period of years because of unresolved doctrinal issues. A key milestone was the consecration of an openly gay bishop in 2003.