Factions Within Texas Episcopal Diocese Hold Separate Conventions as Legal Battle Continues

While legal disputes continue over the name and property of The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the two competing parties are holding their annual church conventions separately.

In 2008, the leadership of the Texas-based diocese voted to cut its ties with The Episcopal Church over growing theological differences. Since then, dispute over who owns the diocese's property has been debated in court.

This weekend, The Episcopal Church's faction is holding its 31st Annual Convention at the Ray Clymer Exhibit Hall of the Multi-Purpose Events Center in Wichita Falls.

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Katie Sherrod, director of Communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (TEC), told The Christian Post that despite the developments in the legal battle, things will go on as usual.

"The objectives of the diocese going into this convention are the same at other annual conventions – to elect people to fill various leadership positions, to pass a budget, to worship together, to have fun together, and to recommit ourselves to bringing the world to God through Jesus Christ," said Sherrod.

"We will hear the preaching of the Rt. Rev. Rob. O'Neill, bishop of Colorado, and hear an address from the Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High, Jr., bishop of Fort Worth."

According to Sherrod, there will be an estimated 200 attendees, which will include clergy, convention delegates, and guests. The convention will go from Friday until Sunday.

In November 2008, a majority of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth's clergy and lay representatives voted to leave The Episcopal Church.

Headed by the Right Reverend Jack Leo Iker, the diocesan leadership joined the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), a newer more conservative member of the global Anglican Communion.

In January 2011, Judge John P. Chupp of the 141st District Court of Texas ruled against the departing diocesan leadership and ordered the Fort Worth Diocese (ACNA) to "surrender all Diocesan property as well as control of the Diocese Corporation" and "not to hold themselves out as leaders of the Diocese."

The ACNA diocesan leadership filed an appeal with the Texas Supreme Court; oral arguments were heard last October.

In the summer, the Texas Supreme Court sent the case back down to the lower court for reconsideration, prompting words from a hopeful Rev. Iker.

"We rejoice in today's ruling by the Texas Supreme Court overturning the summary judgment in favor of The Episcopal Church…while today's opinions are not a final victory, they indicate that a final victory is only a matter of time," said Iker in a statement.

Suzanne Gill, director of Communications for The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (ACNA), told The Christian Post that their Convention will happen next weekend.

"We will have a 31st annual convention like most of the previous 30. We open with Eucharist and dinner on Friday, then a business plenary on Saturday," said Gill.

"The convention also will consider a proposed amendment to one of our Canons. One hundred elected lay delegates are expected to attend, representing their congregations. Approximately 70 voting members of clergy are expected."

Gill also told CP about the current status of the litigation over the diocese property and name, which will be decided on "neutral principles," or a standard that decides ownership by looking at the property records.

"Since the TEC parties lost their bid to obtain a ruling on deference, they have asked the state Supreme Court for a rehearing," said Gill.

"The Court in turn has asked us for a response to their motion, and a date of Dec. 6 has been determined for filing that response. After that the Court will make a determination on the motion. Most requests for rehearing are denied."

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