Save St James responds

by Jon White

As we reported yesterday, the buyer for the St James property in Newport Beach. CA has backed out of a purchase deal.  Seemingly, this would have opened the way to finally re-open the parish (which has been meeting nearby) in accord with the hopes of the Hearing Panel which suspended the ministry of the diocesan bishop for three years over his handling of the property.  Instead, the diocese has chosen to” reopen the church as a bishop’s chapel, with supply, or guest, clergy” but only “after a suitable period of discernment and planning.”

Save St James, the advocacy group formed by members of the parish has released a statement after only learning of this development from the media and not the bishop coadjutor or the diocese.  Their statement is below.

 

St. James the Great Still Locked Out
Yesterday Bishop John Taylor announced that the second attempted sale of the St. James the Great church had fallen through. While that is welcome news, the St. James the Great congregation is disappointed but not surprised by Bishop Taylor’s press release. Rather than opening the church doors, Bishop Taylor seems to say that the St. James congregation will not be restored to the building with its vicar, because he declares that it will be a “bishop’s chapel, with supply, or guest, clergy invited to conduct Sunday services.”

This is not a step forward for St. James, for Newport Beach or for the diocese. What Bishop Taylor proposes is creating a new chapel with rotating pastors and no lay leadership. This is not a church with services every Sunday morning, with Sunday school for children, with pastoral care during the week, with community activities. The national Episcopal church, after careful consideration, strongly recommended that the Diocese of Los Angeles re-open the church, restore it to its congregation and its vicar. The congregation, still meeting in exile in the Civic Center community room, would like to return to its church. The congregation has even, in the past few weeks, made an offer to match the developer’s offer and to pay any reasonable breakage costs. Bishop Taylor claimed that he could not even discuss that offer because of the pending developer agreement. Now there is no such agreement; but instead of talking with the congregation the bishop has put out a press release. This is not what reconciliation looks like.

The St. James the Great congregation is a growing, vibrant, active, inclusive congregation with innovative ministries. It is unfortunate that there does not seem to be room for such a creative, growing congregation, and such an inspirational priest, in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

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Tim Kruse
Guest
Tim Kruse

I'm puzzled by exactly what population is "being welcomed" in restyling St. James' as a "Bishop's Chapel". It would seem to me that diocesan authorities are attempting to sow division in the St. James' congregation in exile by beckoning them back to their church home, and I'll wager that the Rev. Voorhees will not be on the roster of supply clergy. I would assume that she still is licensed to function in the Los Angeles diocese (and haven't seen anything to suggest otherwise), so why not just call everyone to come home? If that's a problem, then something else is going on.

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Elaine Meigs
Guest
Elaine Meigs

My understanding of the word discernment is that it's a period of waiting and listening before a decision is made. That time of discernment was not respected (if it was necessary at all) when a decision was made to turn St. James into a Bishop's Chapel. That decision was made before anyone at SJ had been notified of this news, and before even a two minute phone call or 2-line email had been sent to them. And if welcoming the whole community is the aim of the Bishop's Chapel, we Episcopalians are scratching our heads. Every Episcopal Church welcomes everyone every day of the week. St. James the Great was a lovely example of that welcome, even in the most hurtful and trying of circumstances. No matter the careful wording of the Bishop's statement and phone interview, we all know that a parallel track is not reconciliation or welcome. Hear the heartbreak and disappointment in this string of comments, Bishop.

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Brad Burr
Guest
Brad Burr

Very well said!

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Elaine Meigs
Guest
Elaine Meigs

How many times must the sale of this property fall through before the Bishop and Standing Committee see this as spiritual direction?

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Gary Paul Gilbert
Guest
Gary Paul Gilbert

Real estate rather than spirituality seems to be what this is about. This is a culture, where as Kenneth Leech says, the office has replaced the daily office. Productivity matters, whereas prayer is seen as unimportant--even by clergy themselves. As Ken Leech said, people were fleeing churches in search of the spirituality the church no longer considers important.

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Quentin Durward
Guest
Quentin Durward

Bp Taylor and his committee want time for discernment. So, this past weekend I did my own discernment. It was in a discussion about stewardship that it hit me. This is all about money and power and I'm part of the problem!

Our diocene leaders have pulled back the curtin to expose an ugly reality. Our well-meaning gifts, particularly planned giving, may not be used for the purpose we intended or by people who care what we intended. They have given themselves the power to decide.

For sometime now, I've been very concerned about the direction of the Church and I have been considering resignation but the very thought of doing so was breaking my heart. I knew that would accomplish nothing positive.

How sad it is that I have something Bps Bruno and Taylor want even more than my body in church. So first thing this morning I made an appointment to remove the Church from my estate plans. I refuse to be an enabler and nothing enables quite like a an ill-conceived estate plan.

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Brad Burr
Guest
Brad Burr

Think of doing the same thing.

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Quentin Durward
Guest
Quentin Durward

There's another story here about the Lyon family who gifted a memorial window to St James. It's worth reading.

It's also worth noting that the land was also donated and the intent of the Griffith Company and family was that it be used only for a church.

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The Rev. Canon James Newman
Guest

One of the problems in the Diocese of Los Angeles is that there is no way for clergy and laity to voice their displeasure or concern with what the diocese does. There is no format for "Letters to the Editor" in our diocesan communications. One may attend a meeting of the Diocesan Council, but without a seat does not have voice unless granted by the chair (the Bishop). I did try to question the Bishop's actions two years ago (as an alternate member of the council). My concerns and questions were cut off with a brusque "Come to my office." I declined to meet with the Bishop in private (actually his suggestion to a priest from San Joaquin who was having issues with Bp. Schofield). We cannot bring items to convention unless they are on the agenda. I can give you several examples from recent conventions when Bp. Bruno or his chancellor ruled people out of order and had the microphone turned off.

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Quentin Durward
Guest
Quentin Durward

This frustrates me to no end. I'm not a St James Parishoner but I have a dog in this because I am an Episcopalian! I take this personally. I was born into the church and, after many decades and leadership changes, can honestly say that I've never felt such concern for our future. I've had to sit in many (as in many, many) meetings concerning declining membership and giving. It's hard enough out here in the parishes but add diocene leadership like we have in Los Angeles and it's overwhelming. This is an embarassment that is just getting worse the longer it drags on. Please God help us!

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Elaine Meigs
Guest
Elaine Meigs

Amen.

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John Chilton
Editor

Here's what coadjutor Taylor had to say in August about the hearing panel's order and about Bishop Bruno:

"Bishop Bruno’s 40 years of ordained ministry and 15 years as sixth bishop of Los Angeles are not summed up by this order or the events that precipitated it. He is a courageous, visionary leader. Like every successful executive inside and outside the church, he would be the first to acknowledge that there are things he would have done differently. I look forward to continuing to learn from him and consult with him about the life of the diocesan community he has served and loves so well.

"Regarding the property on Lido Island, the Standing Committee and I, at the request of the Presiding Bishop, will do everything we can to promote a just solution that takes into account the interests of all in our community (including the faithful members of the Newport Beach church) and gives us the opportunity to move forward"

http://livingchurch.org/2017/08/03/coadjutor-spans-conflicts/

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The Rev. Canon James Newman
Guest

Actually, Bishop Bruno has precisely said and acted as if he had done nothing wrong. The Hearing Panel found him guilty on all counts. However, if he could he'd be standing by the side of the closed church offering it to the best bidder. That, however, has been denied him by the Presiding Bishop.

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Michael Dombos
Guest
Michael Dombos

This whole matter is absolutely absurd. It makes the decision-making process within the Episcopal Church appear ridiculous and arbitrary; maybe it is. The right thing to do is to allow the faithful parishioners and their priest to return to Saint James the Great, immediately. Does the diocesan hierarchy think all the 'double speak' is believable? I am truly embarrassed for my church and saddened for the parishioners of Saint James the Great.

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