GRAND CHAIN — A case has moved closer to trial for a United Methodist conference's lawsuit against a church.
The case involved lawsuit brought by the Illinois Great Rivers Conference Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church against Ohio Chapel Church in Grand Chain in August 2015.
The church, which had sought to become independent of the conference, announced its plans to "leave the United Methodist denomination" in March 2015. Back then, an Ohio Chapel representative said the church wanted to leave the association because of "self-governance" concerns.
In turn, the conference said the members of the renamed Ohio Chapel — the Illinois Great Rivers Conference leadership dropped the "United" from its name — were trespassing. The lawsuit complained the church was "converting it and IGRC's assets to its own purposes and diverting said property and assets from their intended purpose."
The leader of the church at that time, the Rev. Tammy Horn, had indicated that she planned to stop leading the church, effective June 30, 2015; this lead the conference to name the Rev. Alan Milligan as pastor.
When Milligan showed up for his first Sunday as pastor, he was denied entry. When he showed up the second Sunday, a Pulaski County sheriff's deputy told him he was trespassing.
Two weeks ago, Pulaski County Circuit Judge William J. Thurston approved the conference's claim to the real estate property, if it could prove it based on the points of the case. The judge also ruled that the Conference had not established its claims to such personal property — equipment, bank accounts and other items — and gave the conference 28 days to file another amended complaint.
Thurston also denied a motion from the Ohio Chapel Church, seeking to dismiss the amended complaint.
In 2015, a trustee said Ohio Chapel had about 50 to 60 members.