“It’s been very difficult,” said Woodard. “This struggle isn’t new. Some of the more liberal Episcopalians that now run the national church, the traditional Anglo-Catholic Church has felt a rub for years.”
While the supreme court ruling signals the beginning of a new round of legal action, Woodard said, “This is a giant hurdle. We are very pleased. It’s not over. This is just the first major hurdle and we feel very good about it.”
The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, issued a letter Friday, stating, “We rejoice in today’s ruling by the Texas Supreme Court overturning the summary judgment in favor of The Episcopal Church. The Supreme Court ruled that the trial court erred in deferring to TEC (The Episcopal Church) rather than subjecting TEC’s property claims to the same neutral principles of law that apply to everyone else. The trial court must now reconsider the merits of the case based upon neutral principles of law, and we are confident that we will prevail when TEC is subjected to neutral principles of Texas law. In sum, while today’s opinions are not a final victory, they indicate that a final victory is only a matter of time.”
In a second related case involving the Church of the Good Shepherd in San Angelo, the Texas Supreme Court also reversed a lower court ruling that went in favor in favor of TEC and directed the trial court to decide that case based upon neutral principles of law, rather than using deference to an hierarchical church.
The high court ruled in that case that a not-for-profit corporation in Texas, including a church, can change its articles of incorporation and bylaws.
“The corporation of our Diocese, which holds title to all our church property, is governed by Texas corporate law and has authority to control its own affairs without interference from TEC or other parties,” wrote Iker. “TEC’s argument – that its national officers can remove officers of a Texas corporation by decree – simply doesn’t comply with Texas law.”