An Anglican bishop in Texas is facing his fourth lawsuit, two years after he led his diocese out of The Episcopal Church.
The Rt. Rev. Jack Iker on Friday filed a response to the latest suit, submitted by All Saints' Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, contending that it constitutes "malicious prosecution."
"There can no longer be any doubt that this litigation is intended to harass, intimidate, bankrupt, and divert the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, its Corporation, and its leadership – particularly Bishop Iker – from carrying out the mission of the Church," the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth stated.
Iker is currently affiliated with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. A majority of the Diocese of Fort Worth voted in 2008 to withdraw from The Episcopal Church – the U.S. arm of Anglicanism – and realign with the overseas province. They left over what they believe is the U.S. body's departure from Christian orthodoxy and Anglican tradition. A minority remained.
Since then, he has been sued by The Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (both the breakaway diocese and those that remained claim the same name), and now two parishes over church properties, assets and trademark and copyright name infractions.
He has referred to himself as "the most sued Anglican bishop in all of North America" and has been in conversation with his attorneys almost every day.
From his perspective, his offense in all the suits was "standing for the historic faith and order of the undivided Church, and not allowing the Diocese of Fort Worth to compromise that by a relationship with the General Convention religion of The Episcopal Church," he said in an address in London earlier this month.
The most recent lawsuit was brought by members of a parish who did not sanction the vote to leave The Episcopal Church in 2008. The complaint alleges that Iker has intentionally been using the same name – All Saints' Episcopal Church – for one of his breakaway churches, violating the Trademark Act. The parish claims the use of the name is likely to cause confusion among the public or could deceive the public. It further alleges that using the same name is part of "his plan to take their property and assets for his Anglican diocese."
All Saints' also accuses Iker of having used money paid to the diocese to fund their withdrawal from The Episcopal Church.
The parish "did not authorize the use of its money for such purposes and [Iker's] use of [All Saints'] money to fund his schismatic departure from The Episcopal Church is a violation of his trust and a breach of his fiduciary duties to plaintiff."
Iker denied the allegations.
"Clearly, this suit is but the latest attempt to demonize Bishop Iker and ignore the decision by an overwhelming majority of delegates to two diocesan conventions – where the Bishop himself has no vote – to separate from TEC (The Episcopal Church)," the breakaway diocese stated.
"The fact is that the TEC-led minority lost, but it has not been gracious. Its leadership is embittered. The suit’s claims of 'unfair competition' and 'public confusion and harm' are frivolous and would be laughable if not for the fact that litigation and personal animosity damage the cause of the Gospel."
Iker has called for prayers, saying the lawsuits are distracting and expensive. The diocese has spent over one million dollars in attorney's fees defending itself.