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)
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?"