THE Supreme Court of Texas has narrowly overturned a previous
ruling ordering the surrender of all property from realigned
congregations, ensuring that the five-year-long dispute is
prolonged even further (News,
28 January 2011).
The dispute started when a majority of the congregations in the
diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, led by the then Bishop of Fort Worth,
the Rt Revd Jack Iker, voted to realign themselves with the
Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America. He kept the church
buildings of his congregations -which are worth an estimated $100
The Episcopal Church sued, and a district court in 2011 said
that Bishop Iker and his supporters must surrender all diocesan
property, and "not hold themselves out as leaders of the
Bishop Iker immediately announced that they would appeal,
arguing that the court needed to view the properties under a
"neutral principles" standard created by the US Supreme Court. That
standard determines ownership by looking at property records, and
has been used in most states to resolve church disputes. Their
appeal was narrowly upheld this week, by a 5-4 vote.
The Bishop of Forth Worth, the Rt Revd Rayford High, said after
the Texas Supreme Court ruling that he was "disappointed".
"Now I, other diocesan leaders, and our legal team . . . have to
make decisions about our next steps," he said.
The case has now been returned to a lower court to be
Bishop Iker said: "While today's opinions are not a final
victory, they indicate that a final victory is only a matter of
The Texas Supreme Court also overturned another ruling in a
church land-dispute this week, reversing the Court of Appeals'
decision requiring the Church of the Good Shepherd in San Angelo to
turn over its building and all other assets to the diocese of