The Texas Supreme Court awarded a Fort Worth breakaway group affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America the right to $100 million in church property.
The ownership of the property has been in dispute since the ACNA-affiliate group broke away from the Episcopal Church in 2008.
The ruling on Friday (May 22) is the latest over properties held by breakaway congregations and dioceses that the Episcopal Church has been fighting in court for decades.
The Texas ruling may be the first time that a breakaway diocese has prevailed.
Ever since the Episcopal Church ordained Gene Robinson as an openly gay bishop in 2003, scores of congregations and five dioceses withdrew from the church over doctrinal differences. Many joined ACNA, formed in 2008.
That was the case in Fort Worth, too, where a majority of clergy and lay leaders in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth voted to leave. Both groups continue to call themselves the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.
Across the country, four other dioceses also broke with the national church, including the dioceses of Pittsburgh; Quincy, Illinois; San Joaquin, California; and in 2012, Charleston, South Carolina. In most cases, courts ruled that property titled to the diocese must stay in the Episcopal Church’s hands.
A breakaway group in South Carolina, for example, won the right to its property in a lower court, but that ruling was overturned by the state’s high court. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down an appeal, leaving in place the state ruling and clearing the way for the national church to retake ownership of 29 properties.
In Texas, the high court reversed a 2018 appeals court decision that found the historic diocese, now led by Bishop Scott Mayer, was the rightful controller of the Diocese of Fort Worth and ruled that the breakaway group should control the properties.
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Source: Religion News Service