Another Legal Battle Underway in Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church filed a lawsuit on Tuesday over the properties and funds of breakaway churches in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Among those being sued is Bishop Jack Iker, who voted along with the majority of the diocese to withdraw from the denomination and realign with the more conservative Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

"This litigation is designed to move quickly to confirm the historical right of Episcopalians to lead the diocese as stewards of its property as we in humility and hope continue the mission of the Episcopal Church here," said the Rt. Rev. Edwin Gulick Jr., provisional bishop of Fort Worth, according to the denomination's news service.

"We deeply regret that the decisions and actions of former diocesan leaders have brought us to this difficult moment," he added.

Last November, the Diocese of Fort Worth was the fourth diocese to split from The Episcopal Church, citing what they believe is the denomination's departure from Christian orthodoxy and Anglican tradition.

About 80 percent of clergy and parishioners voted to sever ties. Others who did not vote in favor of leaving have reorganized as a diocese. Both the breakaway diocese and the remaining one call themselves the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

The lawsuit, which was also filed by the smaller Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, asks that the breakaway diocese stop using the name and its seal.

Iker told The Dallas Morning News that he wasn't surprised by the suit.

"It was expected," he said.

Other dioceses that withdrew from The Epsicopal Church are San Joaquin, Pittsburgh, and Quincy. Legal battles are also underway in those dioceses.

The four dioceses are part of an emerging province called the Anglican Church in North America, which is currently comprised of some 700 conservative Anglican parishes disaffected with The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. The new province is seen as a rival body to the two national churches.

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