FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – A state district judge ordered Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker and a breakaway group of Episcopalians to give all diocesan property back to the national church. Despite the division and the legal ruling, each side expects that the fight is far from over.
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth split in two after falling out over differences including women and gay ministers.READ MORE: Luka's 25 Points Not Enough Against Steph Curry And Warriors, Mavericks Fall 130-92
Every Sunday, Theatre Arlington is dressed for church.
“It’s work,” said Rev. Melanie Wright. “Folks sometimes get tired of it.”
Theatre Arlington is where some 100 Episcopalians have worshipped for two years. There were 56 churches under the diocese of Fort Worth; this is one of eight that split from their conservative counterparts to follow their national church, which allows for gay clergy and women in the priesthood.
“That’s where the grief is,” Wright said. “Both bodies of people are trying to be faithful to the lord.”
Wright mentioned the state district judge’s Friday ruling, which forces Iker’s conservative group to give back all diocesan property to the national church.
“I believe it’s a positive step,” Wright said. “It speaks in honor of what we believe is right.”
That means Iker would have to give up 48 churches and buildings. Saint Alban’s is one of those churches. Located about two miles from Theatre Arlington, Alban’s congregation hopes to be able to continue to worship at the premises. Iker said that under his leadership, however, that’s highly unlikely.READ MORE: North Texas Mom Hospitalized 93 Days With COVID-19 Delivers Healthy Baby Girl
“I don’t have much hope that the two groups are going to suddenly be reconciled because they’ve won a lawsuit against us,” Iker said.
In 2008, Iker’s conservative group of about 5,000 members joined the more conservative Anglican Communion. Iker said the time for reconciliation is over.
“Why does either side have to get hurt? Why doesn’t each side take what is rightfully theirs and go their separate ways and wish God’s speed and God’s blessing to the other side?” He asked.
Iker isn’t ready to hand anything over just yet. He’s filed an appeal and expects the legal battle to continue for years before a resolution is met.
The Associated Press reported Saturday that in a Fort Worth diocesan convention in 2008, most of the delegates under Iker’s leadership voted to leave the national church. The division was related to the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and ordination of women to the priesthood.
Though the group became aligned with the Southern Cone of the worldwide Anglican Communion, Iker maintained he was still bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth and that the group still held possession of diocesan property.
Chupp heard arguments in the case earlier this month and granted a summary judgment in favor of the group headed by Ohl on Friday.
The 2.3 million-member Episcopal church is the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion, a 77 million-member communion that is the third-largest group of churches worldwide, behind the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches.MORE NEWS: DFW Area Has 5 Boys Basketball Players Named McDonald’s All Americans
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)