By Kirk Petersen
In a victory for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the United States Supreme Court declined without comment on February 22 to consider property and naming rights in Fort Worth. This leaves standing a Texas Supreme Court ruling that awards $100 million worth of church properties to the group that left the Episcopal Church (TEC) in 2008.
Many of the affected properties are already occupied by ACNA congregations, but there are a handful of TEC congregations that apparently will have to vacate the buildings where they worship. The largest of these is All Saints Episcopal Church, with an average Sunday attendance (pre-pandemic) of more than 400 people.
TEC and ACNA each has a diocese that has been calling itself “the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.” In 2015, District Court Judge John Chupp ruled that the ACNA faction is the continuing “Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth,” a decision that the higher courts have now let stand.
The case now goes back to Judge Chupp’s court to work out the details of exactly what changes hands and when.
“I know this is a disappointment to us all, but as followers of Jesus Christ, we live in hope,” said Bishop Scott Mayer, who has been the provisional bishop of the TEC-affiliated diocese since 2015. He is also the bishop of the neighboring Diocese of Northwest Texas. “In the wake of this decision we remain committed to preaching the gospel as we celebrate the sacraments, care for those in need, and strive for justice and peace.”
“Today’s decision marks a turning point for us as a Diocese,” said Bishop Ryan Reed, who leads the ACNA-affiliated diocese. “After directing so many resources to this dispute, we can now put our entire focus on Gospel ministry and Kingdom work.”
Fort Worth is one of five dioceses where the bishop and a majority of the congregations left the Episcopal Church a decade or more ago, following disagreements over doctrine. This touched off property lawsuits in each diocese, with TEC maintaining that all of the buildings were held in trust for the Episcopal Church.
In Fort Worth, the ACNA diocese lists 55 congregations on its website, compared to 15 for the TEC diocese.