Hope for “reconciliation and mutual respect in Christ”
CHICAGO, November 6, 2013—The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago and The Episcopal Church today filed suit in a circuit court in Peoria asking that clergy and lay members of a faction that broke away from the church in 2008 be ordered to relinquish control of buildings and other assets that belong to the diocese and the church.
Among the assets are the properties of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Macomb, Grace Episcopal Church in Galesburg, Trinity Episcopal Church in Rock Island and Christ Episcopal Church in Moline. The congregations in Rock Island and Moline have formed All Saints Episcopal Church in Moline.
“In our society, we invest a great deal of energy in an impartial legal system designed to help parties settle matters about which they cannot agree,” said the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. “Although we are prepared to litigate this matter, ultimately we still hope that God will use even these legal proceedings to bring us to a place of reconciliation and mutual respect in Christ.”
A majority of the clergy and members of the former Episcopal Diocese of Quincy voted to leave the Episcopal Church in November 2008 over issues including the church’s decision to include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members more fully in its life and ministry. The remaining members of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Quincy reunited with the Diocese of Chicago in September 2013.
“We have kept our congregations alive for five years despite the loss of our buildings and other assets because our commitment to the faithful people of west central Illinois is strong and deep,” said Tobyn Leigh, a member of Grace Episcopal Church in Galesburg who was a member of the standing committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy from 2009 until it reunified with the Diocese of Chicago. “But our witness to the Gospel—worship, education, service and outreach to the community—is challenged in temporary, borrowed and sometimes inadequate spaces that are not our own. We pray that the court will return to us what we believe is ours so that we can continue our service to the church and the world.”
In addition to a permanent injunction compelling the leaders of the breakaway movement to relinquish church property, the suit also asks the court to clarify the legal status of the parishes and missions whose leaders left the Episcopal Church in 2008.
The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago includes more than 36,000 Episcopalians in congregations and chaplaincies across northern and west central Illinois. The Episcopal Bishop of Chicago is the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee. To learn more, visit www.episcopalchicago.org.