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Forty weeks in the wilderness

Forty weeks in the wilderness

Well, not exactly in the wilderness, but this week marked the fortieth since the congregation of St James the Great in Newport Beach, CA was locked out of their building.  Last April, the diocesan bishop, the Rt Rev Jon Bruno,  announced to the congregation that he had sold the property (apparently, the bishop alone owned the property as a corporation sole) to property developers who wanted to knock down the church and build condominiums.  But energized by a sense of injustice, the congregation decided to refuse to be closed and have been worshiping in a nearby park (and in a local museum when the weather is bad).

The Congregation has since mounted a concerted effort to not only re-occupy the church building, but to also call the bishop to account and change how the diocese operates and manages the properties it holds.  As well as pluckily refusing to accept that their parish has been closed, they have offered resolutions at the Diocesan convention and filed Title IV disciplinary complaints against Bishop Bruno.  In a surprise twist, they also engaged with the descendants of the original donor of the property and held up the sale due to a clause in the original donation that forbids the diocese to use the property for anything other than a parish church.

See a timeline of events here

In a recent open letter marking the anniversary of the closure announcement, the parish lashed out at Bishop Bruno and the Church Center for not moving forward in a timely manner on their promises;

As for transparency and accountability, we have also asked for the financial audit of Corp Sole that Bishop Bruno promised to the entire Diocesan Convention—over 800 people—back in December. To date, the bishop has refused to honor his commitment to release the information. Corp Sole owns over 66 real estate properties; a Delaware LLC with a multi-million-dollar commercial land asset in Anaheim, CA; and unaccounted donations to the diocese. Are we not all curious to know what is financially occurring in our diocese? We seek to understand the truth and we are concerned as to why the bishop will not share the information. For the health of our diocese, we ask Bishop Bruno to produce the audit to aid in transparency and accountability.

Regarding the canon-law-violation complaint against Bishop Bruno, it has been nearly 10 months since we sought help from the Episcopal Church (TEC) in New York for Bishop Bruno’s actions against our congregation. After a failed conciliation process eight months ago (in the course of which Bishop Bruno refused to sign a confidentiality agreement and refused to meet with us), we were told on October 29, 2015 that our Title IV Complaint against Bishop Bruno would go before a Conference Panel made up of three bishops, one priest and one layperson. We have not heard from TEC in over five months about when and where the hearing will take place.

The struggle to survive seems to have energized the congregation, which claims to have been experiencing growth throughout this ordeal.  Whether St James ever returns to its former building or not, one might hope that the energy and spirit shown in these forty weeks might continue to animate ministry in this one small part of the world.


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Martin Reynolds

Does this bishop retire this year?

David Allen

From Bishop Bruno;

On Dec. 5, (2014) during Diocesan Convention’s 119th annual meeting, I requested that the Standing Committee, with my consent and in accordance with the canons, call for a bishop coadjutor to be elected when Diocesan Convention meets for its 121st annual meeting Dec. 1 – 2, 2016.

This timeframe provides for an in-depth search process, and for one program year in which the bishop coadjutor and I will work together before I retire in late 2018, having reached age 72, retirement age for clergy church-wide.

Sarah McIntyre

Why don’t you the congregation purchase or at the very least, lease a building since it’s been almost a year, so you don’t have to set up and tear down every week? Wouldn’t that be a better use of time and talents? NB is one of the Richest communities in OC, an already wealthy county. Bishop Bruno gave you notice to vacate prior, though I agree that communication since then could have been better.

mary anna jeppe

As a member of Saint James the Great, it has been astounding that this group of men and women of our congregation has continued to worship with devotion and perseverance, since being kicked out of our church by Bishop Jon Bruno.
For the last 40 Sundays, plus 7 other Lenten Services, our Vicar offers a full Mass, the Altar Guild brings, sets ups and takes down the items for communion, the musicians bring 2 pickup trucks loaded with equipment which are set up, taken down, loaded and unloaded again and stored at their homes, the choir practices weekly at the Vicar’s home in order to be prepared to lift their voices each Sunday, the hospitality team supplies coffee and food (plus all the items to serve) for around 120 parishioners each Sunday and still our church sits
I am dismayed as I leave my home, which is a few blocks from St. James the Great, and see the beautiful church standing alone and unused.
For 280 days, the Bishop has obviously seen no need nor reason to let us make use of our church, class rooms, offices and sanctuary. So we are forced to spend an incredible amount of time and treasure in order to worship. Think of what we could do from a church building! When will rational voices speak up and return our place of worship to us?

Carolyn Peet

Your faithfulness in worship is a powerful testimony and witness. May God continue to bless your sacrifices for His glory!

Alvah Whealton

I am pleased that Father Michael Curry moved forward so efficiently and decisively with the personnel matters in NYC. I suspect that was an issue that commanded his priority. I also observed him acting in what was, in my opinion, an efficient and decisive manner in the Diocese of North Carolina, with regard to personnel matters. It is my observation that Father Curry does not like to discuss matters before a decision is finalized and he is ready to act. There are pro’s and con’s with that, but I have no problem at this point acquiescing to his judgment. With regard to the disputes between Bishop Jon Bruno and the Parish of St. James the Great, I do not know if that matter is in the hands of Father Curry or the task group originally set up to adjudicate it. As with so many issues, there is also a public which, rightly or wrongly, feels a vital interest of its own. If I were to learn that the matter is in the hands of Father Curry, I would be a lot more tolerant because of the trust he has earned from me in the past. If I were to learn that the matter has not moved beyond the hands of the original group to which it was assigned, I would tend toward exasperation at this point. I do not know, in the first place, what justifies any confidence at all in such committees. I would suspect that Father Curry has urged that body to move forward, but I do not think a confirmation of that would damage anyone’s position, if theirs is a worthy position.

Warren Wimer

As matter of community concern, the adjacent neighborhood, consisting of numerous denominations as well as secularists, responded in a survey overwhelmingly, by 92%, against the Bishop selling the church out from under the congregation. Perhaps 1 Timothy 3:2-3 is applicable: “An overseer, then, must be above reproach…prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.”

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