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.