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Exclusives : Episcopal Diocese of Quincy fades into history - UPDATE
Posted by David Virtue on 2013/9/9 4:20:00 (3199 reads)

Episcopal Diocese of Quincy fades into history
Former diocese is reconfigured as the Peoria Deanery

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
www.virtueonline.org
September 9, 2013

As Illinois leaves begin to get the slightest tinge of autumn color and with the silence of cat's paws, the venerable Episcopal Diocese of Quincy quietly slipped into history, forever erased from the map of Episcopal dioceses.

On September 1 the Episcopal Diocese faded into memory to become a footnote in Anglican history now folded back into the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.

The formal announcement of its imminent demise came on Aug. 29 through a joint press release issued by the Diocese of Chicago, giving the Anglican Communion only three days notice of the permanent change.

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, Bishop of Chicago and the Rt. Rev. John C. Buchanan, Provisional Bishop of Quincy, announced today that the two dioceses would reunite on Sunday, September 1, a news release stated.

The western Illinois diocese was birthed in 1877 to accommodate the growth and expansion of The Episcopal Church, especially among western Illinois Swedes. For nearly 136 years, the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy was a thriving, albeit small diocese in The Episcopal Church that became a bastion for Anglo-Catholicism, standing against the tide of The Episcopal Church's liberal creep.

"Since 2008, the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy has been forging a new identity. After its former bishop and more than 60% of its members broke away to become founders of the theologically conservative Anglican Church of North America," the news release explained. "...The diocese elected (Bishop John) Buchanan, retired Bishop of West Missouri, as provisional bishop in 2009. In 2012, the diocese's leaders approached (Bishop) Lee about the possibility of reunion."

At the stroke of midnight on Pentecost XV, the 755 souls in the former diocese spread through nine congregations - All Saints, Moline; Grace, Galesburg, St. George's, Macomb; St. James, Griggsville; St. James, Lewistown; St. John's Kewanee; St. Paul's, Warsaw; as well as St. Paul's Cathedral and Bread of Life in Peoria - and a handful of clergy ceased being a part of the Diocese of Quincy and became a part of the Diocese of Chicago. At the same time, the former western Illinois diocese was reconfigured into the Peoria Deanery as a part of the Chicago diocese. The new Peoria Deanery joins ten other deaneries in the Diocese of Chicago: Aurora, Chicago-North, Chicago-South, Chicago-West, Elgin, Evanston, Joliet, Oak Park, Rockford and Waukegan. The Cathedral Church of St. Paul's was also reduced to a parish.

The death knell of the Diocese of Quincy was originally struck when the Episcopal General Convention started to make doctrinal and theologically innovations. The controversial decisions began in 1976 with the ordination of women and the slow but insidious acceptance of the gay culture. Later, the heavily revised 1979 prayer book became a lightning rod issue. Those unwelcome changes occurred around the time the Diocese was celebrating its centennial.

Finally, in 2008 a majority of parishioners in some 18 congregations in the Diocese of Quincy voted to realign with the Southern Cone. They became a founding diocese in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). As a result, the membership of the Diocese plummeted from over 3,000 to 755 with an ASA of less than half that, hovering around 340.The plate and pledge income also plunged more than a million dollars from the $1.7 million figure to $605,000. The beleaguered diocese was no longer able to be self-sufficient and maintain its commitment to the Great Commission. The decision was made to reach out in order to survive.

When the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy was reorganized in 2009, retired VI Bishop of West Missouri John Buchanan was elected provisional bishop. At the same time, a Quincy Future Committee was established to determine what the long-range vision of the Quincy diocese might look like.

The western Illinois looked north to the Diocese of Chicago and west to the dioceses of Missouri and Iowa, both of which are located across the Mississippi River from the Land of Lincoln, to see what possible ministerial mergers were available. Both the Diocese of Missouri and the Diocese of Iowa are in different states where as the Diocese of Chicago is in the same state. Also the Diocese of Missouri is in Province V while the Diocese of Missouri is in Province VI. The various jurisdictional borders created interesting reunification challenges.

Once the Diocese of Quincy started making overtures to the Diocese of Chicago, a Chicago Quincy Committee was formed to dialogue with the Quincy Future Committee. It was determined that it would be easier for the Diocese of Quincy to reunite with the Diocese of Chicago then try to juncture with either neighboring Episcopal diocese across the Mississippi River.

When the original Diocese of Illinois was formed in 1835 it encompassed the entire state. As The Episcopal Church grew in the Prairie State, the statewide jurisdiction was split into three and the dioceses of Springfield and Quincy were born. The Diocese of Quincy took its name from the city that was home to its first cathedral. The parent Diocese of Illinois was renamed the Diocese of Chicago.

Eventually, the diocesan offices were relocated from Quincy to Peoria along with the cathedral, but the diocese was not renamed. Unfortunately, at the dawn of the millennium, St. John's, the historic mother church of the Diocese in Quincy, was destroyed by fire.

For Quincy's canonical reunification with Chicago all that was needed was the approval of both diocesan conventions and the permission of their bishops - Bishop Lee in Chicago and Bishop Buchanan in Quincy. On June 8, concurrent special conventions were held in the Diocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Quincy with a common focus on the agenda - reunification. At that time, both dioceses simultaneously voted to proceed. The next steps were taken which consisted of getting the consent of the House of Bishops and the various TEC diocesan standing committees. With the bishops' blessings and the requisite standing committees' approval, the Secretary to the House of Deputies of General Convention certified the results. At that point, the reunification was considered complete and the dioceses of Chicago and Quincy were considered to be one. These facts are then certified to the Presiding Bishop at which point the Secretary of the House of Deputies strikes the name of the Diocese of Quincy from the roll of Episcopal dioceses in union with General Convention.

Had the smaller Illinois diocese sought canonical juncture with either of the neighboring dioceses across the Mississippi River, it would have taken the action of the General Convention that meets next in 2015. The major item on the next General Convention agenda will be the election of a new presiding bishop. Quincy's juncture with either western diocese would still have been more than two years away -- time the diminished diocese did not have.

Now that the two dioceses have become one, Bishop Buchanan will not be putting up his crozier. He will become a part time assisting bishop in the Diocese of Chicago where he'll focus his episcopal ministry in the northern parts of the Diocese of Chicago thus freeing up Bishop Lee and Assistant Bishop Christopher Epting to spend time in the new Peoria Deanery where they can be busy getting to know the lay of the land and their new people.

LITIGATION CONTINUES

As this reunification takes place, all eyes turn to Quincy's Adams County Courthouse where the Peoria Deanery (formerly the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy) is locked in litigation with the ACNA Diocese of Quincy over property, assets, and endowment funds.

"Since March 2009, litigation has been pending in the Circuit Court of Adams County, Quincy, Illinois, seeking a declaration by the court as to the proper ownership of Diocesan assets, between the breakaway ACNA parishes and diocese, and the non-departing parishes and original Diocese of Quincy," a question and answer segment on the Diocese of Chicago website explains. "The main asset in question is the Diocesan endowment fund with a current value of about $4 million, of which more than $3 million belongs to the Diocese and the remaining amount represents funds of contributing parishes. ... Nonetheless, and despite the uncertainty that always hangs over litigation, we believe the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy is likely to prevail and that the endowment fund will stay with the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, and thus with the reunified Diocese of Chicago."

The same Q&A explains: "The reunion of the Diocese of Quincy with this Diocese will almost certainly have budgetary impact. ... Preliminary financial analysis has suggested that increased costs from the reunion will be offset by additional income from endowment funds and other assets which the Diocese of Quincy will bring into a reunited Diocese. ... The assets of the endowment, however, are currently frozen until the pending litigation is settled."

In a joint letter announcing the finalized reunification, Bishops Lee and Buchannan ask for prayers.

"As we begin our life together as one diocese, please pray for us, for one another, and for our brothers and sisters who have chosen other paths," they write. "May God strengthen us for the work we have been given to do and reconcile us in the power of the Risen Christ, who overcomes all divisions."

The newly reunified Diocese of Chicago is scheduled to hold its next diocesan convention on Nov. 22-23 in Lombard near Chicago. Fr. Alberto Cutiť is to be the keynote speaker at the convention themed: Behold, We are Doing a New Thing. Fr. Cutiť is the former charismatic Roman Catholic priest in Miami who, in the spring of 2009, was caught by the paparazzi cavorting with his girlfriend on a beach. As a result, he quickly left the Catholic Church, was readily accepted in The Episcopal Church in May, married his sweetheart in June, and has since fathered two children. One year later, in June 2010, he was received as a priest and assigned as the priest-in-charge of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Biscayne Park by Bishop Leo Frade of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida.


Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline


BREAKING NEWS: On September 6, Adams Country Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ortbal has rendered a ruling in the Diocese of Quincy case striking down The Episcopal Church's claim that a diocese, in this case the Diocese of Quincy, cannot leave the mother church.

The judge also solidly struck down TEC's notion that it has a top-down hierarchical structure emanating from General Convention.

This means that Bishop Lee cannot look at what he had hoped was the assets of the ACNA Diocese of Quincy, including the $4 million endowment fund, to revert back to the Peoria Deanery for his use to sustain the deanery as it reunites with the Diocese of Chicago.

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