Dear Sisters and Brothers:
I wanted to update you on a small development in the litigation we are involved with on behalf of the Episcopal Church and our brothers and sisters in the Peoria deanery. I write not because something momentous has happened, but because at this particular moment in this particular case, one of the primary reasons that we have pursued litigation against the groups that broke away from the Episcopal Church and claimed a right to its property is thrown into stark relief.
To get to the particulars: This week, The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Chicago filed notice that we will ask an appeals court to overturn the ruling of an Adams County Court that gave control of all of the money in a disputed account to the breakaway group now organized as the Anglican Diocese of Quincy.
The account at issue contains funds deposited by the former Episcopal Diocese of Quincy as well as money deposited by parishes and missions of the former diocese for their own benefit. As Courtney Reid, our director of operations has said, “These sorts of pooled investment funds are common in the church. Parishes make use of them with the understanding that the diocese is managing their investment, not assuming control of it.”
In February, however, the Adams County Court ruled that the “disputed funds” in the case included all moneys in the account. We continue to believe that the funds at issue in the case were only those of the former Diocese of Quincy and not those that parishes contributed to the account, and so we have filed a notice that we plan to appeal.
We have firm legal grounds for an appeal, but it is not legal considerations that motivate us. In the nearly two years since they joined our diocese, the people of the former Diocese of Quincy have been an example of grace and fortitude to all of us. Pushed out of their places of worship and forced to stretch meager resources, they have not only persevered but have also begun to establish new ministries and new relationships in the Peoria deanery and beyond. They have a missionary spirit, and in seeking the return of the assets that belong to some of these parishes, we seek to nourish that spirit.
The question that church leaders must ask themselves when faced with difficulties that might have a legal remedy is whether seeking such a remedy advances God’s mission. In this instance, I believe the answer is yes.
The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee
Bishop of Chicago