By DAVID MAY
For now, the Episcopalian churches that splintered away from the main church several years ago can breathe easier after the Texas Supreme Court on Friday overturned a Tarrant County district court’s summary judgment that would have forced the separated churches to surrender their properties.
The high court’s split 5-4 decision remanded the case back to the trial court, directing it to apply standards that apply under Texas corporate laws without deferring to a hierarchical church. The Episcopal Church wanted to claim the properties and buildings of the churches that left the main church several years over theological disputes, including allowing gay priests.
The churches that broke way reformed under the umbrella of The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, which amended its articles of incorporation to remove the The Episcopal Church and amended its bylaws, and aligned under the more conservative Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.
Senior Warden Ed Woodard of the historic All Saints’ Episcopal Church, in Weatherford, welcomed the news of the state supreme court’s ruling that means, for now, the local congregation doesn’t have to worry about forfeiting its church.
“This will allow our local parish to continue our traditional Anglo Catholic service which is based on the Holy Scriptures,” Woodard said. “This will allow us to continue that.”
The Weatherford church was dedicated in 1879 and was bestowed a Texas state historical marker. On Sept. 29 it will welcome a new priest, Father Eric Vowles.
“It is a beautiful little church,” said Woodard. “It is just draped in Weatherford tradition. It has a very interesting history.”
Conservative Episcopal churches split from the national church in 2006 over several long-running issues, but brought to a head when the national church decided to allow gay priests. Conventions of the Fort Worth diocese in 2007 and 2008 vowed to break away from the national church. It fractured memberships in some Episcopal churches.