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Ruling in Church Dispute

The first round in a long fight over church property in western Illinois has ended with a victory for the challengers. This week, a judge in Adams County ruled in favor of the Diocese of Quincy of the Anglican Church in its dispute over money and land with the national Episcopal Church. Quincy Diocese spokesman, Canon Frank Dunaway, says a dispute over doctrine led to the Diocese leaving the national denomination in 2008.

"When we did that, our diocesan endowment fund was frozen by the Episcopal Church. The amount was several million dollars."

Also in dispute was the diocese office building in Peoria and the churches and other property used by congregations in the diocese, including the Illinous Quad Cities.

Bishop Christopher Epting, from the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, which now includes western Illinois, says this is the first ruling against the national church in numerous similar cases across the country.

"Our position is that individuals can leave the Episcopal Church but congregations and dioceses cannot. We're not a congregational church - we are a catholic hierarchical church and local congregations and even dioceses are held in a kind of trust for the Episcopal Church itself."

He belives the Adams County ruling will be appealed.

When the Quincy diocese split five years ago, Dunaway says 17 congregations moved to the Anglican Church, while four opted to remain with the Episcopal Church.

(crest is for the Diocese of Quincy)