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Bp Bruno to face disciplinary hearing in March

Bp Bruno to face disciplinary hearing in March

Meeting in Chicago, a Hearing Panel consisting of three bishops, a priest and a layperson have determined that the bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt Rev Jon Bruno will face a disciplinary hearing in March on charges related to the closure and attempted sale of property once occupied by St James the Great Episcopal Church in Newport Beach.  Members of the panel were Right Rev. Herman Hollerith IV, the Right Rev. Nicholas Knisely, the Right Rev. Michael Smith, Rev. Erik Larsen, and Ms. Deborah Stokes.

 

The Panel denied a motion by Bruno to dismiss the charges, but also denied a motion presented by Jerry Coughlan, the Church Attorney for The Episcopal Church prosecuting the charges against Bruno, that it order the church reopened to the congregation immediately. The panel members’ questions to Coughlan during the oral arguments indicated they were unsure whether they had the authority to issue such an order at this stage of the process.

 

Bruno locked the congregation out of the church in June 2015, after the congregation questioned his surprise agreement to sell the church to a condominium developer. The sale was terminated in escrow the next month, but Bruno has refused to allow the congregation to return to the building and grounds.

 

The charges against Bruno include entering the sale agreement without the proper authorization and making false statements to the congregation and Newport Beach city officials about his intentions for the property. The charges also allege that locking the congregation out was “conduct unbecoming” for a bishop.

 

According to a story in the Orange County Register;

“The 71-year-old St. James the Great congregation has been locked out of the property since July 2015, even after the planned sale to the developer, who wanted to build 22 luxury townhomes where the 40,000-square-foot church building stands on Via Lido, fell through.

Buried in the church’s rose garden are the cremated remains of 12 former parishioners and some family members have expressed concern about not being able to go into the property to visit their loved one’s resting place. The diocese has promised to move the cremated remains respectfully, at no cost, to another location of the families’ choice.

Bruno has since refused to allow the congregation to return to the building. Members have been gathering for Sunday services at a meeting room in Newport Beach Civic Center, with Sunday school held in the outdoor plaza.”

 

Another factor in the ongoing conflict is a clause of the original gift of the property of the diocese that stipulated the property could only be used for a church.  At conflict is whether or not the original donors had agreed to remove the clause in the 1980’s or not.  The Griffith Co (the descendants of the original donor) say the deed doesn’t allow the diocese to sell the property.  The diocesan Corporation Sole, which is controlled solely by Bp Bruno, countered with a legal complaint arguing that the restriction was lifted about 30 years ago. In May, the court ruled in favor of the bishop and the diocese. That decision is being appealed as well.

 

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Bob Fagaly

Other dioceses have used a corporate structure with an actual Board of Directors. Until the Diocese of San Diego folded is Board of Directors into Diocesan Council, the structure of its Board of Directors was the Bishop as President (with voice and vote) along with (I believe a dozen) Directors elected at the Diocesan convention by orders. The terms were staggered as to assure reasonable continuity.
The sale or financial encumbrance of any church property (mission or parish) also had to be approved by the Standing Committee. Does the Diocese of LA require Standing Committee (or even have one)?

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Tim Kruse

Bob and Paul, There was an article previously published here that linked to the report of the Special Committee that the 2015 Diocesan Convention had tasked with the whole Corp Sole issue. The report is lengthy, but fascinating reading, giving the whole history and the current state of affairs. https://www.episcopalcafe.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Diocesan-Corp-Sole-Committee-Report-7-31-16-.pdf

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Paul Powers

As far as I know, every diocese has a standing committee (at least among TEC's U.S. dioceses). It serves as the Ecclesiastical Authority when there's no bishop, and a majority of them must usually consent to the election of a bishop in another diocese. I'm not sure whether every diocese requires that its standing commitee approve the sale or encumbrance of church property, but a lot of them do.

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Bruce Bennett

Actually, no. It would probably have prevented such a thing as the "Anglicans" chose to breakaway. The current congregation is not the breakaway group at all, but a mission parish placed there by the Bishop.

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Michael Hartney

A mission that is composed of many who just happen to be loyal Episcopalians who were members of Saint James' Church in the first place.

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David Curtis

I don't understand your point. It would appear that Bishop Bruno moved to rebuild the congregation at St. James the Greater after the return of the property. Why would a continuing congregation matter?

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David Allen

A mission that attracted some of the former Episcopalians back. There is no report of a historic continuing Episcopal congregation after the "Anglicans" absconded with the property.

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Tim Kruse

A good thing coming of this disgraceful situation is that the diocese appears to be addressing the "corporate sole" - the practice of concentrating the power to dispose of property in the hands of one individual (the Ordinary of the Diocese) who is accountable to no one. Yes, there were good reasons for setting up "corporate sole" in the previous centuries in California, but the time has come to bring all properties and assets of the Episcopal Church in LA (and any other diocese that may still have this practice) under shared oversight.

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JC Fisher

But if that were done, would that not feed into previous situations such as when "parish had absconded with the property and left the diocese" to become "Anglicans"? I'm just trying to understand the complexities here.

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Bob Fagaly

I do know that when my parents (and subsequently myself) gave money to St. James, it was not as an "investment" towards a future sale of the property. It seems to me that the present parishioners of St. James are working towards a flourishing Christian Community. Isn't this the actual mission of the Church? Locking them out does nothing to advance the cause of Christianity.

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Diane Bock

As far as I can see, the only reason the bishop has locked everyone out of the building is because he hopes the congregation will become exhausted and discouraged and fizzle out...... Why else? Even though no one likes the acrimony. the process IS grinding along and there is no reason that loyal Episcopalians should not be allowed to use the building in the the interim. ( Please note Bishop Bruno's passionate statements regarding the use of the building during the previous dispute.) The current situation is sad, discouraging and Machiavellian.

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Diane Bock

While churches of all denominations lament about shrinking congregations, Bishop Bruno is actually chasing parishoners away..... Dastardly!

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Bruce Bennett

The only time the Bishop said anything about the parishioners going to other nearby parishes was in May of 2015 at the Parish meeting when he announced that he was selling the building. His actual statement was that members had options in the other parishes and should scatter in the wind. I was there and heard him say it. Unfortunately I am not aware of any recording of his remarks that day as they came as a surprise.

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David Curtis

I do not find reference to Bishop Bruno asking that St. James fold themselves into area congregations. Was that during the time period when the property was held by "Anglicans" or was this after the mission at St. James was re-established by Bishop Bruno? Thank you.

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David Allen

False, Bishop Bruno requested that the folks attending St James fold themselves into the three existing Episcopal parishes that surround them.

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