A group of Episcopalians in Texas who recently lost a legal battle with a dissident diocese over church property valued at $100 million have voted to join another Episcopal diocese.
The Episcopal Church of North Texas (ECNTX), formerly known as the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, on Saturday unanimously approved a proposal to join the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.
At a special meeting of the Diocesan Convention at Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, the ECNTX voted 69 to 0 in favor of a “meeting” with the Diocese of Texas.
Bishop Scott Mayer said during a sermon that the special meeting was “not a closure” but “an outward visible sign of faith, hope and love by a liberated people”.
“You’ve done more than weather the storm. You’ve done more than survive the journey. You’ve chosen life and love,” Mayer said of years of litigation over ownership of the Diocese of Fort Worth.
“The communities and people you serve can testify that your presence and testimony matter in this world. You make a difference. And you are great.”
The ECNTX vote came days after the Diocesan Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas voted 526-14 in favor of the plan, in which ECNTX would become the northern region of the Diocese of Texas based in Houston.
The majority of the Diocese of Fort Worth voted in 2008 to leave the Episcopal Church due to disagreement with the mainstream denomination’s progressive theological views following the ordination of the first openly gay Episcopalian bishop. The split led to years of legal battles over trademark and ownership disputes.
In February 2021, the Anglican Church of North America was granted control of the Diocese of Fort Worth after several years of litigation against the Episcopal Church and ECNTX. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a state court ruling allowing the breakaway diocese to take control of about $100 million in church assets.
Currently, the Episcopal Diocese of Texas has about 160 congregations and about 72,000 active members, while ECNTX has 13 congregations and about 5,000 active members.
In April, the Diocese of Texas and ECNTX issued a joint statement announcing that they were pursuing reunification, as ECNTX was originally part of the diocese in the 19th century.
“Just as they did in the aftermath of the 2008 schism, the resilient faithful in the diocese have found new places of worship and have not missed a moment to pursue vital ministries and outreach to their neighbours,” the statement reads. joint statement.
“On April 12, the ECNTX Standing Committee voted to initiate conversations with the Diocese of Texas regarding possible reunification. On behalf of the Standing Committee, Bishop Mayer contacted Bishop Doyle with an invitation to visit the ECNTX and to open formal conversations between the dioceses.”
The next step in the process will be for the merger to be approved by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, which is scheduled to meet in Baltimore, Maryland, July 8-11.
If the House of Bishops and the House of Representatives approve the reunification, it will become effective after the end of the General Convention.