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The Latest Court Ruling

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THE APPELATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT
 
JUSTICE HUTCHINSON delivered the judgment of the court.
Justice Jorgensen concurred in the judgment.
Justice Spence dissented in the judgment.
RULE 23 ORDER
~ I Held: The trial court erred when it granted defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings because the pleadings raised a genuine issue of material fact regarding the autonomy of the subject church. Because the nature of the dispute was a matter of contract law and did not implicate church polity, the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine did not apply. Moreover, we determined that the Transitional Regulations document expired and was no longer in force when this dispute arose. For the reasons that follow, we reverse.
 
Special note
 
According to plaintiffs, the Assembly of the Metropolitanante Diocese never approved a common constitution.
 
Court found that

 
“…unilateral actions taken by the Bishop and documents executed by the Bishop served to further confuse the relationship between the parties.”
 
“Moreover, the Bishop's remaining affirmative defenses are unpersuasive. “
 
“Plaintiffs are representatives of the ultimate authority of the Metropolitanante Diocese pursuant to its constitution.”
 
“In the present matter, however, plaintiffs filed suit only after the Belgrade Church circulated a letter announcing the reorganization of the Metropolitanante  Diocese as Part of the hierarchy of the Belgrade Church in June of 2009 and subsequently, on July 11, 2009, publically stated that a reorganization of the Metropolitanante Diocese had occurred and that there was no longer a division between the Metropolitanante Diocese and the Belgrade Church.”
 
“We determine that judgment on the pleading was inappropriate in this matter because plaintiffs' complaint raised a question of law, specifically, whether the Transitional Regulations document entered in to by the parties had expired or a new constitution had ever been entered into by the Assembly pursuant to the Transitional Regulations document. If the Transitional Regulations document expired without the adoption of a joint constitution, the Metropolitanante Diocese remained autonomous from the Belgrade church.”
 
“Moreover, we determine that the Transitional Regulations document entered into by the parties expired in 1995 pursuant to its terms, after 3 years where no common constitution was jointly adopted. Thus, the governing rules of the two, separate churches reverted back to the documents previously set forth.”
 
“In the present matter, the terms of the Transitional Regulations document, when read as a whole, are clear. In 1992, the Metropolitanante Diocese and the Belgrade Church contemplated uniting. Before the churches officially agreed to unite, they entered into the Transitional Regulations document as a way to govern the churches while each party worked out details of a potential merger. The Transitional Regulations document states clearly that, unless a common constitution is reached by the governing bodies of each church, the terms of the agreement will expire after 3 years' time. The document even provides the specific time and place, the "(meeting of the Holy Assembly of Bishops in May of 1995)" where it will expire if no common constitution has been adopted Here, in 1995 (3 years later), no common constitution had been jointly adopted and the churches remained separate, having never formally unified. It is of no matter that years after the expiration of the Transitional Regulations document, the Bishop executed documents and publically presented the Belgrade Church as unified with the Metropolitanante Diocese. The terms of the Transitional Regulations document were no longer in effect and, therefore, the Metropolitanante Diocese was
not governed by that document.”
 
“For the reasons stated, the judgment of the circuit court of Lake County is reversed.”

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