9/16/2009

What is going on here? (Iker reports one thing, continuing Diocese of Fort Worth another.)

What's going on here?

The realignment Diocese of Fort Worth makes one set of claims about what happened in court yesterday, and the continuing Diocese of Fort Worth another. (Thanks to Ann Fontaine for pointing this out to me.)

Here is what the continuing Diocese of Fort Worth (part of The Episcopal Church) has to say (in red):

"
Statement on today's hearing

The Hon. John Chupp, judge of the 141st District Court of Tarrant County, Texas today ruled that attorney Jon Nelson and Chancellor Kathleen Wells are not authorized to represent the diocese or the corporation that are associated with Jack L. Iker. These attorneys have never claimed to do so. The judge denied the motion by Bp. Iker’s attorneys to remove the diocese and the corporation from the lawsuit filed April 14, 2009.

While the judge did make some off hand remarks in court and asked many questions, he made no other rulings.

A hearing is set for Oct. 15 on the motion for partial summary judgment in this same court."

Yesterday evening I reported that Bishop Iker had released a statement (also found on Virtue's pages and Stand Firm) that said something else entirely. The TEC Diocese had not yet posted their report. Here is what I wrote which included the statement from Bishop Iker. (all in green)

Bishop Iker reports that Judge John Chupp decided that the realignment Diocese of Fort Worth, which he considers part of the Province of the Southern Cone, was within its rights to change its Constitution and to leave for the Southern Cone.

Please note that the Judge believes the realigned Diocese to be part of the Southern Cone, not the Anglican Church in North America. Probably this means little, as the process in court took place while ACNA was being invented. Please note too that Judge Chupp has taken on judicial opinion about the workings of matters completely ecclesial. This will not sit well in future appeal, I think.

What this all means is unclear, except that round one seems to have gone to Iker and company.

This from a press release from Bishop Iker:

"In a hearing today in the141st District Court, Judge John Chupp granted the Diocese partial relief under Rule 12 of the Texas code Rules of Civil Procedure. He ruled that attorneys Jonathan Nelson and Kathleen Wells do not represent the diocese or the corporation which have realigned under the Province of the Southern Cone. He denied a second aspect of Rule 12 relief which would have removed the plaintiffs’ diocese and corporation from the lawsuit filed April 14, 2009.

The judge also ruled that neither the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church nor the Constitution and Canons of this diocese prohibit withdrawal from TEC and realignment under another province. Further, he found that the Diocese had done so at its November 2008 annual convention, saying that “they [the members] took the diocese with them.” The action of the November convention was not, he said, ultra vires and void, as the suit’s plaintiffs have argued. He declared, too, that the Diocese had taken its property with it in realignment. He said he did not consider any court ruling concerning a realigning parish to be applicable in the present case, and he said that he considered it “self-serving on [the part of TEC] to say that [Bishop Iker] abandoned his job.”

The hearing on the Rule 12 motion began Wednesday, Sept. 9. At that time, the judge denied a motion for continuance filed by Nelson and Wells. Each party filed a supplemental written statement in the period between the first and second portions of the hearing. The statement submitted by attorney Shelby Sharpe is available on the diocesan Web site.

Commenting on today’s ruling, Bishop Iker said, “We are pleased that Judge Chupp has recognized the legitimacy of the vote of our Diocesan Convention in November 2008 to withdraw from the General Convention of The Episcopal Church and has ruled that we had the legal right to amend our Constitution in order to do so. This a positive step in support of the position we have taken. We will continue to keep our concerns before the Lord in prayer.”

The date for a further hearing to take up the remaining Motion for Leave to File a Third-Party Petition will be set shortly. A date of October 15 has been set to hear the plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgement."

This is only round one. No one should take much joy in this judgment, since it is a judgment by a civil court opining about the decisions of an ecclesiastical body about its own life. No church likes that sort of thing very much, for once the civil court finds its way into rulings about churches all sorts of church / state matters arise."

If Bishop Iker has released a statement that is as manipulative as it appears he has essentially lied about what transpired. The TEC Diocese, in its brief statement to the contrary, has clearly responded to the press release. If that response is false, then the TEC Diocese has lied.

The paragraphs of the press release are not all of the same "truth" value, the first being a statement of ruling, the following paragraphs report what the judge said and carefully interprets them as "rulings." Bishop Iker gives a good spin to the whole thing.

So....either the Press Release from the Iker camp is a misrepresentation of the facts or the statement from the TEC Diocese is.

Meanwhile, at one in the morning, all I can ask is, "What's going on here?"



27 comments:

  1. I think you are mistaken - from FW web site:
    Statement on today's hearing
    The Hon. John Chupp, judge of the 141st District Court of Tarrant County, Texas today ruled that attorney Jon Nelson and Chancellor Kathleen Wells are not authorized to represent the diocese or the corporation that are associated with Jack L. Iker. These attorneys have never claimed to do so. The judge denied the motion by Bp. Iker’s attorneys to remove the diocese and the corporation from the lawsuit filed April 14, 2009.

    While the judge did make some off hand remarks in court and asked many questions, he made no other rulings.

    A hearing is set for Oct. 15 on the motion for partial summary judgment in this same court.

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  2. As far as the Diocese of Fort Worth being in the Southern Cone and not the ACNA, that's technically correct. The Diocesen Convention will have to vote in November on whether the diocese will join the ACNA. It's my understanding that for some unspecified time thereafter, the Diocese will have joint citizenship in the Southern Cone and in the ACNA. Of course I'm referring to the Diocese of Fort Worth whose Bishop is +Iker, not the one whose interim bishop is +Gulick. At this point, it will be up to the court to decide which one is the "true" diocese.

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  3. Hi Mark
    It might find it useful to see this summary by a lawyer who seems to know the local law and so what it all means -- and also seems to have read the whole of the Judges comments.
    http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2009/09/high-noon-in-fort-worth.html

    Margaret

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  4. Sir, maybe nobody has lied but one of the accounts is mistaken. That is what I hope, anyway

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  5. I trust Anglican Curmudgeon about as much as I trust former bishop Iker, which is slightly less than I'd trust someone trying to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge.

    Exactly this sort of thing is why I kept saying we needed to excommunicate Iker, Duncan and their cohorts - hard to argue you are taking the diocese lawfully when you are officially no longer part of the church.

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  6. Mark,

    Thanks for this post. I went to bed last night having seen the Iker statement but not the statement from the diocese. I am now somewhat relieved. I have ceased reading Anglican Curmudgeon, by the way. Whatever his legal credentials, he is so biased that his analysis is not to be trusted.

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  7. We did, of course, depose Robert Duncan. In a reasonable Anglican Communion, that would mean he could not be in an ordained person in any Anglican church. Our Anglican Communion, of course, is not reasonable.

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  8. Not that the Curmudgeon isn't more than capable of defending himself, but in the absence of any progressive Anglican legal mind in the blog world who is willing to look at the specific facts of the cases, he naturally rules the field. I, a non-lawyer, have learned a great deal about civil legal issues as it intersects the religious world. In light of the TEC lawsuits and the Curmudgeon's writings, I'm wondering how well the civil law structure of the Catholic Church (I'm RCC) corresponds to our theology and canon law.

    Based on the whole saga, it appears to me as if the TEC (at least from 815's point of view) sees itself theologically as a hierarchical church but its canons and (in some jurisdictions) civil associations do not correspond strongly to that theology.

    FrMichael

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  9. I, for one, am glad that Mark has put out there the possibility that the TEC "Diocese" has lied. It is a bold thing to put that out there to be cached, because it may (MAY, not will) require admitting that it has happened. However, I would think that the details included in AC and Iker's statements make it more likely that the spinoff has not lied. Especially since, per Ann's post, the attorneys named DID apparently claim to control the assets of the corporation. So- if the existing TEC group claimed it represented the assets, and the judge says they are do not, then the TEC group may well be lying.

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  10. I find it interesting that if the TEC Diocese report is correct why is not ENS reporting on it? TEC jumps on every court decision that is favorable to it. Would that not be the case here as well? By the lack of reporting from TEC, national or local, my opinion is they are trying to find a way to put a favorable spin on this and are having difficulty.

    Ron

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  11. Right, Lionel. Let's stop reading one another's blogs. That way our attorneys and your attorneys can have their private conversations without all this public notice stuff. Why be involved, anyway?
    Br_er Rabbit

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  12. The .pdf is now up at StandFirm. If, as the plaintiffs say, the attorneys never claimed to represent the Diocese, then it is odd that they were found not have been hired properly by the Diocese. Because that's what the ruling seems to say, that they don't have standing as having been properly hired by the people that they claimed to have been hired by. If they didn't claim to represent the diocese, as Ann's link says- why was there a ruling on that non-claim?

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  13. The ENS story here may be helpful.

    The lack of an ENS story in the present instance means nothing. First, ENS is often slow to report on stories generally, and they don’t always take note of minor court actions.

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  14. The PDF is now up at Episcopal Cafe. All it says is that those two attorneys are barred from representing Iker's so-called "Dio. of Ft. Worth." There's nothing in there about property or the supposed ability of a diocese to secede. So what's Iker crowing about?

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  15. I believe what the judge ruled was that Jack Iker controls the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and he didn't hire these two lawyers.

    The lawsuit is the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth versus Jack Iker, basically. The judge ruled that the rump diocese doesn't control the corporation, can't sue as the corporation, and can't hire the lawyers on behalf of the corporation.

    Paul B

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  16. From the actual ruling - with judge's annotations - it would seem my evaluation of Iker and his shills - and certain rah-rah-boys from the medieval German's sect - is vindicated.

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  17. I can understand why Yawner and Observer chime in. Observer is Anglican and Yawner is an Episcopalian, but what is perplexing is the Roman Catholic troll, Fr, Michael.

    He constantly asserts that he is Roman Catholic, that his church is the superior entity and all its dogma, and does not believe for one Italian minute that we Anglicans are a real church, nor that our bishops carry the charism of the Apostolic Succession, so hence, all of the ordinations of our deacons, priests and bishops are null and void. And yet he has this uncontrollable need to troll the Anglican blogs and insert his uninformed opinion on matters ultimately of no concern to him, if we in fact are not the real thing.

    Fr. Michael, never in the history of the Episcopal Church (TEC) has a ruling that it is not a hierarchal church been allowed to stand. These uniformed rulings by lesser jurists have always been overturned by appellate courts. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has ruled that TEC is a hierarchal church.

    Even in the present cases, lower court decisions are being over ruled to assert that TEC is hierarchal by appellant courts, who ultimately refer to the ruling by the SCOTUS. The ramblings of three guys with a webpage and their inexperienced legal amigo, about their wild imaginings regarding TEC polity will not convince any court over against decades of legal precedent.

    In every present case the Curmudgeon has weighed in with his opinion, and in every case thus far decided, his opinion did not prevail. So much for his vast legal mind.

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  18. David--

    My interest is two-fold.

    1) There is a certain similarity between the progressives in TEC and the progressives in the RCC, so I monitor TEC blogs as a "preview of (potential) coming events" in matters theological. My point of view, as you correctly surmise, is conservative (or "magisterial") Catholic, so I view the progressive ascendency in TEC with alarm.

    2) When it comes to these lawsuits, however, I'm on the side of the institutional TEC (i.e. 815) since the idea that individual parishes or dioceses can secede and take their properties away from a hierarchical church (e.g. TEC) is not a legal precedent I would like.

    What I find interesting is how the theology of a hierarchical church is translated into canons and constitutions and how these interact with civil law.

    The RCC in the US discovered with the revelation of clerical sexual abuse and the resulting legal judgments and settlements is that our standard civil legal arrangement ("corporation sole" with a legally unified diocese and no legally distinct parishes) did not, in fact, correspond with Roman canon law. Thus many RCC dioceses around the US are in a process of constituting parishes as distinct legal entities under civil law and yet do so in such a way that would prevent them from being alienated from the RCC.

    Whatever else I am on this thread, a troll I am not.

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  19. He constantly asserts ... that his church is the superior entity and all its dogma, and does not believe for one Italian minute that we Anglicans are a real church, nor that our bishops carry the charism of the Apostolic Succession, so hence, all of the ordinations of our deacons, priests and bishops are null and void.

    Granted, David, that is what the Roman Catholic Church holds, but you've written something different: that Fr. Michael "constantly asserts" those things.

    Can you give me just, say, three examples ("constantly," right?) of when he's done so?

    Careful: there are a couple of threads going on here about how imprecise rhetoric constitutes lying. I'm sure you wouldn't want to hold Jack Iker to a different standard than yourself.

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  20. Come, Dah-veed: temperance. Fr. Michael did phrase one question about his own church before expressing an opinion on ours.

    Fr. Michael, I think American courts have historically seen as possible a broader understanding of "hierarchical" than the specific canonical structure of the Roman Catholic Church. Our Canons do require more participation of laity and non-episcopal clergy in leadership, and much less "top-down" direction; but they have never suggested that there wasn't a "top," manifested in General Convention.

    Paul B, I agree with the limited understanding of this ruling, that the attorneys in question can't represent the diocesan entity led by Bishop Iker. However, that does not resolve the central issue as to whether the defining characteristic of a "continuing" body is continuing leadership and name, or continuing relationship with the founding body, the Episcopal Church.

    (The verification word is "readia;" and certainly many of us are "ready" to see this settled.)

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  21. If you wonder why everyone is confused -- read the transcript of the hearing here.

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  22. I read the order, which is pretty simple. I'm also an attorney. Bishop Iker's characterization of the ruling is correct. The TEC's statement about it doesn't make any sense. So, if anyone is lying, it would be TEC.

    Why does TEC reject 1 Cor. 1-8?

    Scott B.

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  23. typo-- 1 Cor. 6:1-8

    I once asked a TEC priest about this before I left TEC. She said "yeah, but we're gonna do it anyway." Koolz.

    Scott B

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  24. Ann, that is the transcript of the 9 SEP 2009 hearing, not the transcript for the hearing on 16 SEP 2009.

    Yawner, you would have to follow me around to the different blogs in which I participate to see all the posts I have seen from the trolling Fr. Michael.

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  25. I have read the transcript of the September 9 ruling, and also of the appearance. This ruling does not settle whether the entity led by Jack Iker is the "continuing" diocese or that maintaining relationship with the Episcopal Church. It only clarifies that Jack Iker's entity did not hire the lawyers who represent the Episcopal Church. Iker's entity hoped that the ruling would essentially prevent those lawyers from representing the diocese of the Episcopal Church, implying that that diocese doesn't really exist. The decision does not appear to have gone that far.

    What was clear from the transcript of the court appearance was that the judge didn't understand the polity of the Episcopal Church, and understood that he didn't understand it. He is waiting to make a ruling until he feels adequately informed - which would only seem prudent.

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  26. Try this for how the case was heard.

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  27. Unfortunately, Marshall, Dah-veed is correct: "Fr." Michael is a troll. At the very least, his obsession over TEC is baffling. However, given Phil's Olympic-style leap to his defense, I have my own convictions about his nature and purpose.

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