Friday, March 18, 2011

Property of Break-Away Church In Texas Belongs To Episcopal Diocese

In Masterson v. Diocese of Northwest Texas, (TX App, March 16, 2011), the Texas Court of Appeals held that the property of the Church of the Good Shepherd in San Angelo, Texas, belongs to the Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas and the continuing parish leaders, not to the break-away congregation that joined the more conservative Anglican Diocese of Uganda. The court held that this conclusion follows using either under the "neutral principles of law" approach or the rule of mandatory deference to determinations by hierarchical church bodies. Discussing the "neutral principles" approach, the court said:
Though the deed to the property is held in Good Shepherd's name, the parish agreed from its inception to be a part of the greater Episcopal Church and to be bound by its governing documents. These governing documents make clear that church property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and may be subject to Good Shepherd's authority only so long as Good Shepherd remains a part of and subject to the Episcopal Church and its Constitution and Canons.