Presiding Bishop issues Further Partial Restriction on the ministry of Bishop J. Jon Bruno

by Rosalind Hughes

This story has been updated to include a response from the Save St James organization.

From the Office of Public Affairs:

August 1, 2017

Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry has issued a Further Partial Restriction of Ministry to Bishop Jon Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Signed today by the Presiding Bishop, the Further Partial Restriction is effective immediately and is intended to protect the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process until it is concluded and also allow the Diocese of Los Angeles under its new leadership to move forward even as the disciplinary process with Bishop Bruno continues, as explained by the Presiding Bishop.

The Further Partial Restriction is intended to chart a way forward that clarifies and respects the appropriate role and authority of the Bishop Coadjutor and Standing Committee as well as the Hearing Panel and the Title IV process.

“It is my hope that this action will help to facilitate positive steps toward resolution and reconciliation,” the Presiding Bishop said.

The Further Partial Restriction removes Bishop Bruno’s jurisdiction over all matters related to the St. James real and personal property, the congregation, and the vicar.

Acknowledging that Bishop Bruno is not in a position to exercise pastoral oversight of St James, it transfers pastoral oversight and jurisdiction to the Bishop Coadjutor, with the Standing Committee functioning in its standard canonical capacity.

The text of the Further Partial Restriction (included below) forbids Bishop Bruno,

acting individually, or as Bishop Diocesan, or as Corporate Sole, or in any other capacity, … from exercising any episcopal authority or jurisdiction, secular, temporal, pastoral, or ecclesiastical, regarding in any manner any of the St. James real or personal property, the congregation that formerly worshipped in that property, as well as those who have since joined as members, and the Rev. Cynthia E. Voorhees, commonly referred to as the “Vicar” of the congregation.

An earlier restriction dealt solely with Bishop Bruno’s capacity to sell the St James property, and did not mention congregation or clergy.

On Tuesday afternoon, Save St James the Great released a statement responding to the Presiding Bishop’s action:

We are very grateful and would like to commend Presiding Bishop Michael Curry for his prayerful deliberation and profound wisdom.

While we hope and pray that this decision will soon open the doors of St. James the Great and restore us to that holy space, we are also mindful that the overriding objective of the Title IV process, and of the Presiding Bishop, is to “promote healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation …”

We recognize the need for healing through honest reflection, humility and dialogue by all parties, guided by the Holy Spirit. We stand ready to discuss a path forward with Bishop John Taylor, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Los Angeles, and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Diocese, aimed at restoring us to our house of worship and the Diocese to a peaceful, loving and united community in God’s service.

More background on the case is here. Today’s announcement is here.

**

Full text of today’s Further Partial Restriction on the Ministry of The Rt Rev J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles

On June 28, 2017, I issued a Partial Restriction on the Ministry of the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, arising out of actions by Bishop Bruno that in my view may threaten the good order and welfare of the Church. As explained in that order, I had learned that, earlier this year, Bishop Bruno entered into a contract for sale of property (the “St. James property”), that has an important role in a disciplinary matter now pending under the Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church, in which Bishop Bruno is the Respondent. According to Bishop Bruno’s submissions in that disciplinary matter, the contract for sale of the St. James property set the closing date as July 3, 2017.

Bishop Bruno’s actions and intentions regarding an earlier attempted sale of the St. James property are currently under review in the pending disciplinary matter. I continue to be deeply concerned that his act of entering into a new contract for sale of the same property, while his approach to the earlier sale is still under review, continues to have the potential to undermine the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process. I noted that the secrecy with which the recent sales contract was undertaken has added to the potential for undermining the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process.

The Title IV Hearing Panel with jurisdiction over this matter has now issued its proposed Order. My review of the order and the factual findings that undergird it, as well as my independent understanding of the deeply impaired relationships among the respective parties, have led me to have additional concerns about Bishop Bruno’s exercising any aspect of his episcopal authority over the St. James congregation, its “Vicar,” or St. James’ real and personal property, during the pendency of this matter in the Title IV process. In my opinion, any exercise of more general authority by Bishop Bruno over the St. James congregation while the Title IV matter is pending, including through a likely prolonged appeal process when any suspension or other disciplinary order would not be in effect, may threaten the good order and welfare of the Church.

Therefore, as set out more specifically below, I have determined to restrict Bishop Bruno’s entire authority over the St. James congregation until the Title IV proceeding is finally resolved, thereby removing him from all diocesan processes and decisions involving St. James.  The purpose of this is to create space for the Bishop Coadjutor and the Standing Committee to, a) exercise their respective ministries of healing and reconciliation within the diocese, and, b) seek to resolve the conflict over and determine the disposition of all matters related to the property, congregation and Vicar, which is the proper domain of their respective authority and responsibility as leaders of the Diocese. With this restriction in place, I urge the diocesan leadership to press forward vigorously toward reconciliation for the sake of the ministry of the Gospel.

Accordingly, in order to further protect the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process and the ministry of the Diocese regarding all persons with a genuine interest in the pending disciplinary matter, and thereby continue to protect the good order and welfare of the Church, I hereby, pursuant to Canons IV.7(3), (4), and IV.17(2), place the following additional partial restriction on the exercise of Bishop Bruno’s ministry until the pending Title IV matter has been finally resolved:

During the period of the restriction, Bishop Bruno, acting individually, or as Bishop Diocesan, or as Corporate Sole, or in any other capacity, is forbidden from exercising any episcopal authority or jurisdiction, secular, temporal, pastoral, or ecclesiastical, regarding in any manner any of the St. James real or personal property, the congregation that formerly worshipped in that property, as well as those who have since joined as members, and the Rev. Cynthia E. Voorhees, commonly referred to as the “Vicar” of the congregation.

This restriction is effective immediately. This document shall be served upon Bishop Bruno today and shall inform him of his right to have any objections to this restriction heard pursuant to Canon IV.7.

(The Most Rev.) Michael Bruce Curry

XXVII Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

 

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Eric Bonetti
Member

BTW, has anyone figured out what the Corp Sole's LLC is? It is very cryptically referenced in the Corp Sole audit report.

If there's more to this than we know now, that would be the first place I'd look, given that LLCs typically are used to limit liability or conceal ownership. So why does Corp Sole need and LLC? And why is its activity and relationship to the parent entity not fully disclosed in the audit report?

Something surely doesn't pass the sniff test.

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Prof Christopher Seitz
Guest
Prof Christopher Seitz

"He thought he was above it all."

Or, he knew where his authority as corp sole was not legally subject to constraint by a Title IV committee.

For many of course this is a case about a congregation allegedly being mistreated.

But it is also a case about the relationship between a Diocese and Standing Committee and those who seek to have authority over that. The rub is that there is no national church or PB who have legal title to property in dioceses. It would be almost impossible to get Bishops to agree to that, and it would also make liability run up to the 'top'.

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Helen Timpe
Guest
Helen Timpe

Does this mean that this beaten, battered and abused but always respectfully resilient congregation return to their iconic pews on Sunday, August 6? Bergues, France

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Maria Oleson
Guest
Maria Oleson

Good idea except John Taylor became a bishop just three weeks ago. Yes, Bruno was allowed to dally much too long, creating more mischief as delays in the proceedings tried the patience of many. The final sale attempt was his undoing. There was no doubt in the minds of the PB and the Hearing Panel that the man had no respect for his office or the disciplinary process. He thought he was above it all. Oh how the mighty have fallen!
The Hearing Panel didn't know what they would find therefore making his removal premature. In hindsight, yes, a great idea.

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Eric Bonetti
Member

While I agree with this order, it should have been issued at the very start of the Title IV proceedings. There is an inherent conflict of interest when the crux of the complaint is misuse of Episcopal authority, yet +Bruno continues to exercise that same authority during the course of the proceedings.

If nothing else, allowing +Bruno to continue his interaction with the people of St. James the Great allowed Bruno to go over the cliff with his second attempted sale. It was not in his best interest to have continued contact with the congregation.

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