The latest development in a conflict that has involved multimillion-dollar real estate proposals, mass eviction, public protest and has left a congregation churchless, is the July recommendation that the bishop – the Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno – be put on trial. From The Living Church:
The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles, will be only the third Episcopal Church bishop known to have faced an ecclesiastical trial since 2000. His trial is believed to be the first under a public hearing process that took effect in 2011, said Mark Duffy, canonical archivist and director of the Episcopal Church Archives. Bruno received his notice in July. The start date and location will be announced soon.
Bruno stands accused of three canonical violations: conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation; conduct unbecoming a bishop; and attempting to dispose of property without the Standing Committee’s consent. When asked to comment on the charges, Bob Williams of the Diocese of Los Angeles referred to a July 21 statement.
The conflict surrounds and impacts a parish which began as a mission church in 2013 on Episcopal property that was itself a battle ground, previously the home of a congregation that is now Anglican:
Bruno’s charges trace to a heated conflict with St. James the Great Church in Newport Beach. In a 40-page complaint, St. James congregants allege that Bruno misled the congregation when it launched in 2013. The church was consecrated after a multi-year property fight with a congregation now known as St. James Anglican Church, Newport Mesa. Members of St. James the Great, led by Vicar Cindy Voorhees, believed the fledgling mission church could grow and expand outreach programs, such as software-coding instruction for local kids. But they argue that Bruno deceived them about what lay ahead.
Even in 2013, Bruno intended to sell the property, the complaint asserts, and it says he kept those plans secret. In April 2015, he entered a contract to sell the property to a developer for $15 million. By June 2015, the congregation was required to leave, and Bruno had the locks changed. Efforts to sell the property have been tied up in litigation for the past year.
Meanwhile, St. James has been a congregation with no permanent home. For months, more than 100 gathered for Eucharist weekly in a nearby park before changing weather forced them to find an indoor space. The congregation now rents a venue at City Hall, but the impermanence of the situation is taking a toll.
The date for the hearing has not yet been set. Updates can be found at savesaintjamesthegreat.org. Previous coverage in the Episcopal Cafe:
July 14, 2015, A complaint of misconduct has been filed against the Rt Revd J Jon Bruno, Bishop Diocesan of Los Angeles
July 31, 2015, Title IV charges against Bishop Bruno sent to Reference Panel
August 6, 2015, St James the Great files more charges against Bishop Bruno
October 17, 2015, A family’s memorial gift is caught in the crossfire over St James the Great, Newport Beach
April 7, 2016, Forty weeks in the wilderness
Photo from St. James the Great’s website.