Save St James responds

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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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Jim Pratt
Guest
Jim Pratt

I am beginning to think that Bruno was not the problem, but that the entire diocese is extremely dysfunctional (sort of like the parish I grew up in, where three successive rectors left amid scandals, and several more since then were chewed up and spat out) What was the point of a press release announcing the collapse of the sale? Would it not have been far better -- in terms of seeking reconciliation, and in showing collaborative leadership -- to reach out to stakeholders to seek input for the next steps?

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Tim Kruse
Guest
Tim Kruse

People like to target bishops as the problem, but bishops are elected by the movers and shakers of a diocese. We get what we want. We should begin at the grassroots congregational level to elect the electors who will choose bishops, standing committee and diocesan council members (and vestry members and rectors!) who will serve God and the Church according to Gospel values, and not the values of the principalities and powers of this world.

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Liz Zivanov
Guest
Liz Zivanov

Tim, we get what we hope for in a bishop. It doesn't necessarily mean that hope is fulfilled and that we get what we want. In spite of an in-depth search process, the result is often a c**p shoot. The agendas of individual groups in the diocese are often not taken into account before the vote.

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Gary Paul Gilbert
Guest
Gary Paul Gilbert

Thank you, Liz Zivanov, for your excellent point. Bishops should not have the authority to ignore recommendations from the national church.

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Quentin Durward
Guest
Quentin Durward

I can only hope there is more going on here than meets the eye, but there is more than enough to see a dysfunctional Diocese. We're getting chatter about the facilities but I don't hear much about the PEOPLE of St James. These remarkable people! How many of us could hold together after all they've been through? True, I don't have all the facts but I do know that due process ruled in their favor. The parishoners of St James have been a class act so why are they being dismissed when the Episcopal Church needs more just like them?

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John Chilton
Editor

The way Bishop frames it, they are not a church of the diocese. In his brief statement Monday he wrote, "We again pledge to do all we can pastorally, logistically, and financially to assist the St. James congregation should it wish to regain mission status in the diocese."

When did it lose its mission status?

In his interview with the LA Times I infer that the vicar remains canonically resident in the diocese. So she's still in the diocese, but her church isn't?

Our enemies are enjoying this show.

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John Chilton
Editor

Joan Gunderson comments on a Facebook page "Without notification to the congregation, Bruno had the mission declared closed in 2015. This is in the documents submitted to the hearing panel." So there you go -- the mission is closed and not just in the sense of being locked out. The group meeting on Sundays in the community room of the Civic Center is not a mission of the diocese. That's what the diocese says.

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Maria Oleson
Guest
Maria Oleson

There is a multi-step process to closing a mission. None of the steps were followed by Bruno, he just up and closed it without consulting the standing committee, among other things.. This was just one of the charges in his Title IV hearing in which he was declared guilty of ALL charges. Just because they said it was closed, doesn't make it correct.

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Christopher Epting
Guest

What the hell is going on here? Either there is a ton of information the public doesn't know or this is a dysfunctional diocese, as well as having tyrannical bishops. I could never have "gotten away with this" in the Diocese of Iowa -- nor would I have wanted to!

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Ken Albrecht
Guest
Ken Albrecht

Something doesn't smell right about this whole story. The bishop should let this displaced congregation move back into their old home.

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Maria Oleson
Guest
Maria Oleson

One would think! This is how Bruno lost his clergy privileges. The hearing panel decision was very clear. Bruno was guilty on ALL counts. Unfortunately, Taylor is following in Bruno's footsteps. (a puppet?)

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Jay Croft
Guest
Jay Croft

When the first service is held in the re-opened church, I hope that EVERY member of St. James shows up, occupying all the pews and grinning broadly. After all, it's their church!

This should have some impact, methinks.

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Robert Shekell
Guest
Robert Shekell

As a member of the Save St James Congregation, we are blessed to have such a strong bond where inclusion, pastoral leadership and dedicated fellowship for community good-will remains our constant focus. Despite the gross abuse of power and repeated lies, we remain a congreation of stewarts for Christ's love and works. The hearing panel came to the right and only reasonable conclusion based on facts. Unfortunately, the focus of the LA Dicocese appears not to be on spreading Christ's work. There are few congregations that could survive services in a park in all weather, then a gallery, then to town hall...for years...and remain dynamic followers.

The support from churches around the world, these emails and visiting clergy willing to stand by us truly feed our souls. Thank you for your generous love. I assure you if we get back our church our impact on our community will prove worth your investment in care.

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Jay Croft
Guest
Jay Croft

I greatly admire the Save St. James movement. Indeed, you are a beacon for the entire Episcopal Church.

Certainly you can get back into your church. Sooner or later a public service will be held in this so-called "Bishop's Chapel." All St. James folk should just show up, in disguise if necessary. Put a penny each in the offering plate to show what you think of this soap opera.

No signs, no protests, no identifications. Just a sea of smiling faces.

The diocese will get the message.

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