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Breaking: Circuit Court rules on Quincy

Breaking: Circuit Court rules on Quincy

UPDATED: Comment from Tobyn Leigh of the former Episcopal Diocese of Quincy (now part of the Diocese of Chicago). Leigh is Senior Warden of Grace Episcopal Church, Galesburg, IL, a congregation currently removed from its property and meeting in a Congregational Church building. She was a member of the Quincy steering committee to reorganize the diocese in 2009, and served on the Diocese of Quincy Standing Committee from April 2009 until Sept. 1, 2013, when we reunited with the Diocese of Chicago, and a Deputy to General Convention in 2009 and the chair of the deputation in 2012:

“The people of the former Diocese of Quincy, (now Chicago) are resilient. Although we are deeply disappointed in Judge Ortbal’s ruling, we move forward, keeping our eyes on the Lord and the work He has set for us to do. For we are convinced that nothing, certainly not a court ruling, will be able to separate us from the love of God, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The Eighth Judicial Circuit Court, Adams County, Illinois has ruled on the property dispute between the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy (TEC) and the Diocese of Quincy (DOQ). From the Conclusion:

Based upon the foregoing, the court finds in favor of DOQ on its complaint for declaratory relief and against TEC and EDQ on their counterclaim for declaratory relief. The court directs the attorneys for DOQ to submit a proposed declaratory judgment order within seven days of the date of this opinion and order.

The court has concluded that the supreme and ultimate authority of the General Convention over the property of the DOQ cannot be constitutionally determined.

From p. 15

The court finds, therefore, that the declaratory relief that TEC seeks and the deference to the actions of the General Convention, Presiding Bishop and Bishop Buchanan cannot be legally enforced in this action.

As stated above, the court finds that DOQ met its burden of proof, in its case in chief, that it has title and ownership of the accounts and deed titled in the Trustees. Reviewing its actions under neutral principals of law, DOQ established its withdrawal from association with TEC was compliant with the applicable corporate charter, bylaws, as amended, as well as the not for profit corporation laws.



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Jeremy, You need to check the actual journals of General Convention. In fact, John Jay was not present at the 1785 General Convention and arrived at the 1786 Convention on June 25 AFTER discussion of the constitution had concluded on June 24. He was rather busy at the time as Secretary of Foreign Affairs for the U.S. Thus whatever Jay’s views were, he was not the active writer of the TEC constitution you would like him to be.

As for the clause in the 1789 constitution binding states (dioceses) to acts of General Convention whether present or not, that article has nothing to do with states ratifying acts of General Convention. Article 2 is about representation at General Convention. Here is the full part that talks about states being bound: ” If the Convention of any State should neglect or decline to appoint Clerical Deputies, or if they should neglect or decline to appoint Lay Deputies, or if any of those of either Order appointed should neglect to attend, or be prevented by sickness or any other accident, such State shall nevertheless be considered as duly represented by such Deputy or Deputies as may attend, whether lay or clerical. And if, through the neglect of the Convention of any of the Churches which shall have adopted, or may hereafter adopt this Constitution, no Deputies, either Lay or Clerical, should attend at any General Convention, the Church in such State shall nevertheless be bound by the acts of such Convention.” It is clear that what these sentences were intended to do is ensure that ABSENCE from General Convention did not provide an excuse to ignore acts of the General Convention. The underlying assumption is that General Convention’s actions bound EVERYONE in the church.


tobias haller

Mr Caldwell, a quick check of the OED reveals that “bound” is in use by the 15th century to mean “under obligation, of duty… (b) having entered into contract binding to service, as a ‘bound’ apprentice.”

Frankly, McCall’s arguments fly in the face of reality, from 1785 on. Assertions of “sovereignty” or “independence” seem specious in the face of the fact that — apart from the very early period in which bishops were obtained more or less on suffrance — a “state” or a diocese can not obtain a bishop without the approval of the rest of the church’s episcopal and clerical and lay leadership. Can one imagine a circumstance in which a “sovereign” State of the the US would have to gain the approval of the governors in office and the legislatures of a majority of the states (or of Congress) in order to place their own elected governor into office? The Episcopal Church is more hierarchical than the Federal Government. It is not a confederation, but unitary — ultimately the General Convention is the final authority, and the Oath of Conformity “binds” all clergy to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Church as determined by the General Convention; and diocesan conventions are not permitted to alter the General Constitution on their own, nor are they given a direct voice in its composition or amendment, save through their deputies to the General Convention — as the Constitution states at present, and as was proposed in 1785, ratified in 1789. Amendments are sent to the dioceses and their conventions for information, not approval, and ratified (or not) at the next session of the General Convention.

Doubtless when the term “sovereign” was used in some contexts in relation to the dioceses, it was to affirm that some powers are in fact exercised locally — which I’ve mentioned above. But this is a very limited sort of “sovereignty” as it is of “independence.”

Ronald Caldwell

Mr. Bonner and Mr. Haller, I for one am profiting from your discussion. Could we back up a moment to the argument between Mark McCall and Joan Gundersen that occurred in 2008? It boiled down to the definition of one word “bound.” (“Is the Episcopal Church Hierarchical?” Mark McCall, Anglican Communion Institute, 2008; “A Response to Mark McCall’s ‘Is the Episcopal Church Hierarchical?'” Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, Sept. 17, 2008; and “Fatal Flaws: A Response to Dr. Joan Gundersen” Anglican Communion Institute, Sept. 19, 2008).

Gundersen cited the GC statement of 1789 “the Church in such state shall nevertheless be bound by the acts of such Convention” as proof of hierarchy and the sovereignty of the General Convention over the separate parts. In his argument that TEC is not hierarchical and sovereignty rests in the individual dioceses, McCall disputed the meaning of the word “bound” in the Eighteenth Century to hold a loose sense, not an authoritative one. I say Gundersen has the side of common sense, then and now. Just wondering what new insights you two might give us on that point.

tobias haller

No, Dr. Bonner, citing the odd comment from a committee report will not likely convince me of the truth of such statements as, “It was the Dioceses who created the General Convention.” There were no “dioceses” in the formative period, and even on the eve of formation, only three bishops. I can point to reports of the House of Bishops Theology Committee that contain grave theological errors! In a free society, all sorts of things will make their way into print — or phosphor or LED.

In any case, the point is about what those who formed PECUSA intended it to be, and what it became, not what “it” was before. This is shown in the documents to which they put their hand as a body. They agreed upon a “general ecclesiastical constitution” for the “government” of the church, to be ratified by the existing State conventions, requiring accession to the “articles of this union” for any later-developed churches in other states, and once ratified or acceded to, to be held as “fundamental” and “unalterable by… the Convention of the Church in any State” that ratified or acceded to it. (1785 first draft of the Constitution, preamble and Arts. VII and XI.)

Once again to pick up the analogy of marriage — which must have been in the minds of those who so often used the word “union” — a couple is of course the “constituency” of which the marriage is made; but once made, the marriage is not easily dissolved (some would say it is indissoluble).

Ronald Caldwell

Mr. Bonner, I am curious to know what happened to the two committee reports and one Joint Commission report you mention. Were they brought up in a general convention? Were they voted on (if so what was the vote)? What were the arguments on both sides?

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