Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Diocese of Northwest Texas

There is only one reported case involving this Diocese thus far, Masterson v. Diocese of Northwest Texas -- a copy of the trial court's ruling granting summary judgment is here, and the appellate court opinion may be downloaded here. The parish involved is the Church of the Good Shepherd, in San Angelo, Texas. The following account of the facts and proceedings to date comes from that opinion:
In 2006, a majority of the Good Shepherd parishioners voted to withdraw Good Shepherd from the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Diocese of Northwest Texas and to reorganize as the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd affiliated with the Diocese of Uganda, Africa; a minority voted to continue Good Shepherd's affiliation with the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Northwest Texas (the "Diocese"). The Diocese and the individual appellees, The Rev. Celia Ellery, Don Griffis, and Michael Ryan (collectively, the "Continuing Parish Leaders"), filed suit for declaratory judgment to establish their rights to continued possession and control over the church property, which was claimed by appellants, who are members of the withdrawing group (collectively, the "Former Parish Leaders").1 The Former Parish Leaders counterclaimed with a suit to quiet title and request for declaratory judgment that they were entitled to possession and use of the church property. The Diocese and Continuing Parish Leaders moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted.
The Court of Appeals for the Third District (Austin) affirmed the grant of summary judgment by the trial court. My critique of its poorly reasoned opinion is set out in the first post below. Recently the Texas Supreme Court asked for full briefing as a preliminary to deciding whether it would accept the case for review. This has potential implications for the request by Bishop Iker for the Supreme Court to review the trial court's decision in the Fort Worth case, as well.

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