The Episcopal Church prevailed in a decision announced today by the California Supreme Court in cases where the majority of members of three Episcopal congregations voted to leave the Episcopal Church for oversight by bishops in another Anglican province and tried to take the property with them.
These are cases of parishes versus a diocese, whereas ours is a diocese versus the national church, but I would say this case is more helpful to Episcopalians than it is to those who are no longer Episcopalians.
Here are two key excerpts from that decision:
"Applying the neutral principles of law approach, we conclude that the general church, not the local church, owns the property in question."
And this comment on the recent claim of those leaving the Episcopal Church that the Dennis Canon -- which states that property is held in trust for the national church -- was never actually enacted:
"Defendants also suggest that the Episcopal Church did not properly adopt Canon I.7.4 under its own rules. It is a bit late to argue that Canon I.7.4 was not effectively adopted, a quarter of a century later, and, in light of the consistent conclusions of the out-of state cases that that canon is, indeed, part of the Episcopal Church's governing documents, the argument seems dubious at best. But, in any event, this is one of those questions regarding "religious doctrine or polity" (or, as we phrased it in Catholic Charities of Sacramento, Inc. v. Superior Court, supra, 32 Cal.4th at page 541, "religious doctrine and internal church governance") on which we must defer to the greater church's resolution. (Jones v. Wolf, supra, 443 U.S. at p. 602.) Over the years, the Episcopal Church has consistently taken the position that Canon I.7.4 was effectively adopted."
You can read the whole decision here and the Episcopal News Service story here.
Now, off to fantasyland.
Our former diocesan leadership continues to harbor the fantasy that they are the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, which name they continue to use even after very publicly leaving the Episcopal Church.
The Episcopal Church is apparently so "tainted" they had to remove their pure selves from it. So why do they want to keep the name? The answer is simple -- they want the name because they want the property. So they continue to promulgate the lie that they are still Episcopalians, continue to illegally occupy property that belongs to the Episcopal Church, and continue to harass Episcopalians.
Here are some excerpts from the latest Ad Clerum issued today from the former bishop's office:
"FR. ZEKE ROGERS HAS RESIGNED his position as an assistant priest at All Saints' Church in Fort Worth, where he has served for the past 11 years. Also resigning are Matt Maples, the parish youth minister, and three members of the vestry over a controversy regarding required loyalty oaths to The Episcopal Church."
Oddly enough, All Saints Episcopal Church wants to make sure it has Episcopalians on its vestry and Episcopal priests on its staff. So it asked vestry members, candidates for the vestry and convention delegates and all its staff members to reaffirm that they will uphold the Canons and Constitution of the Episcopal Church. The three vestry members declined to do so, as did the youth minister and Zeke Rogers. So they did the honorable thing and resigned.
When you have people openly taking property that is no longer theirs, it makes sense to ask candidates for decision-making jobs where their loyalties lie.
"A CANON 32 EPISCOPAL ORDER has been issued by the Bishop in a controversy between the Rector and Vestry of Christ the King Episcopal Church in Fort Worth. Five vestry members have been removed for numerous violations of the canons of the diocese, including withholding of assessments and loan repayments to the diocese, seeking to remove the rector against his will and without the consent of the Bishop, and attempting to hold vestry meetings without the rector's knowledge or presence. Please pray for a spirit of unity and peace in the parish during this difficult time."
It's hard to know where to start with this piece of fantasy writing.
1. Canon 32 is an illegal canon passed by those intent on leaving the Episcopal Church and taking its property with them.
2. The rector of Christ the King stated very openly after the Nov. 15 diocesan convention that he is no longer an Episcopal priest, so the vestry of Christ the King Episcopal Church fired him. Since they have no bishop -- he having renounced his orders upon leaving the Episcopal Church, there is no bishop with which to consult, nor is there a Standing Committee, since all its members have left the Episcopal Church. Having no rector -- theirs having left the Episcopal Church -- they could not ask permission to have a vestry meeting.
3. The former bishop of Fort Worth announced he was firing those vestry members who are still Episcopalians, even though Jack Iker is no longer in the Episcopal Church and so has no authority to fire anybody.
4. Christ the King is withholding no assessments or loan repayments to the diocese. They are awaiting the reorganization of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, at which time the Episcopal parish of Christ the King will resume its assessments and loan repayments.
And don't you love them asking us all to pray for "a spirit of unity and peace in the parish during this difficult time?" The mendacity takes one's breath away.
"PLANS ARE UNDER WAY for a new diocese to be formed at a special meeting scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 7, at Trinity Church in Fort Worth. The organizers are those who opposed the vote of our Diocesan Convention by an 80% margin to withdraw from the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Six of our 56 congregations have indicated that they wish to remain in TEC."
There is no NEW diocese being formed. The EXISTING Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is reorganizing. The action taken at the diocesan convention was illegal. There is no canonical way for a diocese to unilaterally leave the Episcopal Church. People can leave, and indeed, our bishop and all members of the Standing Committee and many clergy and lay people have done so. But all parishes of the diocese are still in the Episcopal Church, even though the buildings may be being used illegally by people who are no longer Episcopalians.
Here's the bottom line.
You can't leave the Episcopal Church and then claim to still be part of it. And you can't claim property that does not belong to you and then whine if the rightful owners go to court to get their property back.
While we wish him well in his new venture, Jack Iker is no longer the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. He has no authority AT ALL over any Episcopalians, our property, our money, or our clergy.