Conventions of the dioceses of Chicago and Quincy agreed unanimously to reunification during reconvened convention meetings June 8. The dioceses of Quincy and Springfield were spun off from the Diocese of Chicago, then known as the Diocese of Illinois, in 1877.
“As the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Chicago, the groups sponsoring this resolution believe it is our duty and obligation as Christians to respond and support our sisters and brothers in Christ who feel abandoned and forgotten by their former bishop, clergy, and diocese,” said the identical resolution approved by conventions meeting at St. James’ Cathedral in downtown Chicago and St. Paul’s Cathedral in Peoria.
In 2008, after decades of growing estrangement from the Episcopal Church, majorities at 18 of the 22 congregations in the Diocese of Quincy voted to disaffiliate as a diocese of the Episcopal Church in order to join what is now the Anglican Church in North America. Subsequently minorities from four of the departing congregations established Episcopal Church congregations in different locations. In 2009, clergy and lay deputies from the Diocese of Quincy approved the Rt. Rev. John C. Buchanan as provisional Bishop of Quincy. In his sermon Saturday to convention, Bishop Buchanan referenced the Old Testament reading for the day.
“Our situation here is the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy is somewhat like that of Isaiah and his fellow countrymen and his fellow religious believers,” Bishop Buchanan said. “With diminished fellow travelers and financial resources, it became necessary for us to reorganize, so that we could continue uninterruptedly what was begun in 1835 and 1877; so in 2009 we set out on a highway that would take us right to the heart of the Diocese of Chicago.”
In order for the agreement to become canonically valid, the two dioceses must receive approval from a majority of standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction in the Episcopal Church. The two dioceses could meet as one later this year with the geographical area of the Diocese of Quincy mostly likely comprising a new deanery.
“We will propose ways to fully integrate and welcome members of the Diocese of Quincy into our diocesan life and structures,” said a background document presented to delegates in the Diocese of Chicago. Under the reunification agreement, Bishop Buchanan could become an assisting bishop in Chicago, and clergy now canonically resident in good standing in the Diocese of Quincy would be transferred to the Diocese of Chicago. St. Paul’s Cathedral in Peoria would revert to parish status and the Diocese of Chicago would assume all property and other assets owned or claimed by the Diocese of Quincy.
The Diocese of Quincy holds approximately $4 million in assets, approximately $3 million of which is owned by the diocese and the other $1 million held on behalf of individual congregations. These funds have been frozen and title to the property of the 22 departing congregations contested in litigation filed in March 2009. Hearings were held in April and a summary judgment is expected soon, but it is likely to be a while before any funds or property change hands, because whichever side loses is expected to appeal.
The reunion of the Diocese of Quincy with Chicago will almost certainly have a budgetary effect, according to a section of the approved resolution titled “Budget Impact.” The statement noted that “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 analysis was studied by Bishop Lee in consultation with others he appointed to study the issue of reunification before its consideration by convention.
“The reign of God is not Wall Street,” Bishop Lee said in his convention sermon. “Love and care, compassion and self-giving, are utterly different kinds of resources. Their value doesn’t depend on their scarcity and how much we hoard them — quite the opposite: the more we throw them around, the more we spend them, the more precious and the more abundant they become.
“And that’s just what we’re banking on in this work of reunioning with our sister diocese of Quincy. In the face of years of fearful theological obsessiveness and the inevitable divisions that result from that kind of scarcity thinking, our sisters and brothers there have been daring to practice a radical trust in God’s overflowing goodness. Their commitment to Christ and to the fellowship of this church is an act of sheer, foolish, godly trust. Today we stand with them and we pledge to join them in learning to sow the seeds of God’s love for this world with absolutely wild abandon.”
The reunified diocese, to be known as the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, will include the 125 congregations and chaplaincies and more than 36,000 members of the existing Diocese of Chicago in northern Illinois, and the nine congregations and 755 members of the Diocese of Quincy in west central Illinois. If a majority of bishops and standing committees of other Episcopal dioceses consent to the reunion, the two dioceses will hold their first unified convention in November in Lombard, Ill.
Current congregations in the Diocese of Quincy are All Saints, Moline; St. John’s, Kewannee; Grace Church, Galesburg; St. Paul’s, Peoria; St. James’, Lewistown; St. George’s, Macomb; St. Paul’s, Warsaw; St. James’, Griggsville; and Bread of Life Fellowship, Peoria.
Image: Communion at St. James’ Cathedral during the Diocese of Chicago’s convention. Photo by Brian J. Morowczynski for Othervertical.com