A.S. Haley writes at Anglican Curmudgeon that the Episcopal Church
pretends to have a “three-tiered, hierarchical structure,” when the reality is that there are just the member dioceses at the top, who act and decide matters through their triennial conventions. The rest of the time (more than 99% of it), the individual dioceses are what makes up the national denomination, and which deal with its day-to-day affairs and interface, through their bishops, other clergy, and manifold parishes, congregations and missions, with the churchgoing public, and with the outside world.
The Illinois [Fourth District appellate court] not only found that ECUSA was not “hierarchical” at the topmost level, but because Illinois courts apply “neutral principles of law” to church property disputes, it also found that the issue of “hierarchy” was irrelevant to its decision of the case. The deed to the Diocese’s real property stood solely in its own name ever since it was first granted, in the nineteenth century. And the names of the bank accounts, together with the written custodial agreement between the diocese’s bank and the diocesan corporation, did not have ECUSA anywhere as a party, co-owner, or trustee; nor did they mention ECUSA in any respect.
The Diocese of Chicago responds to the same ruling:
“We are disappointed by the decision of the Court and believe that the decision is erroneous,” said Richard Hoskins, chancellor emeritus of the Diocese of Chicago. “We believe that the opinion misunderstands the polity of the Episcopal Church and misapplies the First Amendment. The attorneys representing us in the lawsuit are studying the opinion and will advise the Diocese whether to petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.”
“We will respond to this decision in the appropriate legal manner,” said the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, bishop of Chicago. “While that process unfolds, our primary mission will continue to be fulfilling God’s vision for the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago and its newest deanery in Peoria.”