APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIRST DIVISION
509 N.E.2d 572, 156 Ill. App. 3d 356, 108 Ill. Dec. 876 1987.IL.676
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Charles E. Freeman, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the court. CAMPBELL and BUCKLEY, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE O'CONNOR
This is an interlocutory appeal by the Stony Island Church of Christ and its elders, John W. Davis and John Driver, from an order vacating an ex parte temporary restraining order and denying a petition for preliminary injunctive relief. Defendants Randolph Mannings, Jr., Jack Curtis, and Alfonso Woodward have cross-appealed.
The initial action was brought in quo warrantor and for injunctive relief by the elders of the Stony Island Church of Christ (the church) against former officers of the church who were charged with seizing control of the religious and business affairs of the church without authority. Following a hearing, the trial court issued a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction. Defendants then filed a motion to vacate the temporary restraining order and to amend their counterclaim to reflect that the church was incorporated under the General Not for Profit Corporation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 32, par. 163a), as well as under "An Act concerning corporations" (the Religious Corporations Act or RCA) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 32, par. 164 et seq.). Following another evidentiary hearing, the temporary restraining order was dissolved and defendants' motion to terminate the preliminary injunction was granted.
On appeal, plaintiffs raise the following issues: (1) whether the trial court erred in finding that the church "re-incorporated" as a not-for-profit corporation; (2) whether the trial court erred in finding that the elders violated the bylaws of the church so that their removal of defendants from church office was an ultra vires act; and (3) whether the court abused its discretion in dissolving the preliminary injunction. The defendants have cross-appealed from the trial court's finding that the congregation lacked power to remove the elders.
The following facts are pertinent to this appeal. The Stony Island Church of Christ was originally incorporated in 1928 pursuant to the Religious Corporations Act of 1872. When this cause of action arose, the church had two elders, John W. Davis (Davis) and John Driver (Driver). At a church business meeting held on December 22, 1985, Davis was presented with a petition requesting his voluntary resignation. He refused to resign and the congregation thereafter voted to oust him as an elder.
The next day, Davis and Driver mailed certified letters to defendants Randolph Mannings, Jr. (Mannings), and Jack Curtis (Curtis), respectively the secretary and the treasurer of the church, removing them from office. Davis and Driver then went to the Pullman Heritage Bank, where they attempted to remove Mannings and Curtis as authorized signators on the church bank accounts.
In January 1986, the congregation petitioned Driver to resign as an elder. Thereafter, Davis and Driver filed an action in quo warranto seeking to enjoin defendants from exercising control over the religious and business affairs of the church. It was alleged, among other things, that the defendants: illegally retained church funds, executed documents, opened a bank account in the church name, attempted to withdraw church funds, and refused to return church records and property.
A hearing on the preliminary injunction was held on April 7, 1986. Peter Bumpass, minister of the South Holland Church of Christ, testified regarding prior litigation which concerned the role of the elders of the church. (See Stony Island Church of Christ v. Stephens (1977), 54 Ill. App. 3d 662, 369 N.E.2d 1313.) During the prior litigation, Bumpass had been appointed by the court as one of three arbitrators who conducted extensive hearings concerning the role of elders in the church. A finding by the court in that matter determined that the church could function with a minimum of two elders and that the congregation did not have the authority to dismiss the elders of the church by majority rule.
Bumpass also testified that elders control the religious and business affairs of the church and only the elders serve on the board of directors (the board), which has the authority to select the treasurer and the secretary of the church. He further testified that the qualifications of the elders are based on scripture and that as basic polity and theology, specific numbers of elders are not required.
Edler Driver testified that he had been an elder since 1977, that Davis was appointed at the same time, and that they are presently the sole elders of the church. In their capacity as directors of the board, they appointed Mannings as secretary and Curtis as treasurer of the church. Driver further testified that there was no basis within the bylaws, customs, or practices of the church for Mannings' proclamation on December 22, 1985, that Davis was no longer an elder. He stated that pursuant to section 6 of the church bylaws, he and Davis removed Mannings and Curtis from their respective positions. Davis also testified that despite ...