Court victory for Quincy in church property dispute
The Episcopal Church is not hierarchical as a matter of law, court finds
December 21, 2011
By George Conger
An Illinois court has dismissed the claim that as a “matter of law” the Episcopal Church is a hierarchical with dioceses being subordinate to the national church, rejecting a motion for summary judgment brought by the national church against the breakaway Diocese of Quincy.
The 16 Dec 2011 decision by Judge Thomas Ortbal of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court in Adams County, Ill., now sends the dispute between the Diocese of Quincy and the national church and its allies to trial. The court also concluded that even if the church is hierarchical, that would not end the matter because a "neutral principles of law" approach should be applied to resolving the property ownership dispute.
Judge Ortbal’s decision – which cannot be challenged on appeal at this stage of the proceeding without his permission – may well be a legal blow to the national church’s litigation strategy in its fight with other breakaway dioceses as it cuts the legs out from under the national church’s chief legal argument.
While many courts have held that a hierarchical relationship exists between congregations and a diocese, and on the strength of this contention have granted summary judgment in favor of the diocese, the Quincy decision rejects the analogy that a diocese stands in relationship to the national church as a parish does to a diocese.
Anglican Curmudgeon's analysis in case you missed it