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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Tim Kruse
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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
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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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Member

This is John Taylor, the LA bishop coadjutor. Thanks for your comments. Whether you agree with our response to the canceled sale or not, I invite your prayers. I have enormous respect for the Hearing Panel, including its pastoral empathy for the people of St. James and Canon Voorhees, Its been a traumatic time for them and our whole diocese. Proceeding quickly to the status quo ante, it seems to my fellow diocesan leaders and me, would not be helpful to anyone. While I take the Hearing Panel’s recommendations with the utmost seriousness, I did not have the opportunity to share my views with the Hearing Panel. Diocesan leaders remain responsible for complex pastoral and operational questions. In short, we have some dialog and discernment to do in LA. In the meantime, and strictly as an interim step, we plan to open the church to the whole community as soon as possible. In Christ.

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Brad Burr
Guest
Brad Burr

When the Diocese locked a congregation out of the sanctuary, I stopped supporting the Diocese and attending the Episcopal Church in that Diocese. When I tell friends what happened and that congregation was locked out they think I am kidding or not stating the facts correctly.

I have no personal interest in Saint Jame as I live in Thousand Oaks and attended Saint Patrick’s. Three years as Senior Warden of that church and on four Vestries. Now am a part time resident of Rancho Mirage and am the Treasurer and on Vestry of Saint Margaret’s in Palm Desert under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of San Diego. I can not bring myself to attend any LA Diocese Church, even Saint Patricks. It certainly pains me to miss that Parish but after the actions of Bishop Bruno and further actions since then I must stand my ground and find another church home, perhaps the Lutheran Church when in Thousand Oaks.

Sincerely,
Brad Burr

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Maria Oleson
Guest
Maria Oleson

Thank you, Brad. Integrity does matter.

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Member

I'm sorry, Brad. I hope we get a chance to meet. Blessings.

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Brad Burr
Guest
Brad Burr

I do understand that consolidation of parishes may have to take place in the not-too-distant future. This is beginning to happen in the Diocese of San Diego. But before closing a Parish or Mission there is study, conversation, prayer, the looking for alternatives, etc. it is done in an open manner and not on the dictatorial whim of an egotistical , imperial and pompous Bishop. I have met Bruno several times and he started his ministry at Saint Patrick’s albeit before I attended that Church.
So glad he is departing and is suspended for three years from clerical duties. When he locked the congregation out and chained the doors, that did it for me in that Diocese.

I also pray you do the correct , moral and right thing and return this amazing congregation of Saint James to their building in the most expeditious manner possible. The people of the congregation were deplorably treated and certainly not even in a remotely Christian manner. Time and discernment are over.

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Cynthia Katsarelis
Member

It's pretty difficult to understand why the congregation learned through the media about the buyer backing out and the decision not to invite them back. Further, the statement is pretty harsh, they can apply to be a mission? Didn't they already have some standing? The decision to shut them out was head spinning. Especially after a previous announcement stated that LA had to go through with the sale because of fiscal reasons.The fact that the community has stayed together through all of this is a powerful statement. Your press release about the buyer didn't contain one syllable that was pastoral to the community. No empathy, it didn't leave the door open to hope, it didn't offer them anything, it implied they had no standing. Now you're talking about discernment and dialogue, after being embarrassed. Sure, I will pray that the church finds its heart in the midst of this betrayal.

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Member

Thanks, Cynthia. You make reasonable points. It's a complex and fraught situation. We'll continue to make our way as best we can.

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Cynthia Katsarelis
Member

"As best we can..." One option would be to put people first. Save St. James raised money to make a counteroffer. With the buyer back out and the congregation back home, that money could go into some mighty fine ministry to do the work we're actually called to do in this very troubled world. Jesus was usually more concerned about the well-being of people than complex and fraught spreadsheets and bank accounts. In the current zeitgeist, we are all hungry for a church that looks much different than our secular polity. We are craving justice, empathy, and human priorities. If the leadership in the diocese of LA can't put people first, then it might be time for a new team. The Hearing Panel seemed onboard with that... I think Bishop +John, that no one is buying what you are selling. That knee-jerk release made it perfectly clear that the people didn't matter. It is almost unrecoverable except that I do believe that in Jesus miracles of reconciliation do happen. Let's see it. We're waiting

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Quentin Durward
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Quentin Durward

But does it have to be "complex and fraught"? Quoting from the letter you wrote to us on August 14th:

1. "We understand that the Hearing Panel's ruling, which awaits the possibility of Bishop Bruno's appeal, calls on us to return the congregation to the building."

2. "We are not here to relitigate Bishop Bruno's actions or the Hearing Panel's verdict."

3. "Once the St. James matter is settled, our diocese needs a season of open, face-to-face dialogue, accountability, and reconciliation."

It doesn't have to be "complex and fraught" when it can be as simple as 1,2,3! It's past time to move on to number 3.

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Brad Burr
Guest
Brad Burr

Absolutely correct. The best way to heal is to open the doors to this Parish / Mission Church. Restore it to full ministry as quickly as possible. ( hint, this Sunday ).

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Quentin Durward
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Quentin Durward

Thank you Bishop. I'm glad you piped in but I don't understand why returning to the status quo ante wouldn't be helpful to the St James congregation and Canon Voorhees. This may be naive but wouldn't it be helpful to support an existing congregation? Not doing so sends an awful message to the rest of us. I truly want to believe that dialogue and discernment is not simply a euphemism for holding out in the hope one of the failed deals can be resurrected or so another buyer can be found.

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Member

Thanks for your comment, Quentin. I can understand why that worries people. But we really do mean dialogue and reconciliation. Notwithstanding the voices in the church warning that we're weighed down by real estate and destined for an era of consolidation, we don't want to sell churches. St. James is a beautiful facility, fashioned by faithful hands, and we're excited to have it back.

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Dave Thomas
Guest
Dave Thomas

I'm sorry to have to say this, Bishop, but diocesan actions concerning the St. James congregation have not (and do not now) reflect a willingness for dialogue or reconciliation. To continue to lock out the congregation and clergy at this point in time shows diocesan leadership has no intention of reconciliation. The faithfulness of the congregation and clergy of St. James is inspiring and admirable......the actions of the diocese have (thus far) been nothing more than an embarrassing spectacle and a black mark on the reputation and witness of the entire Episcopal Church. It is way past time to come clean, do the right thing, and put a stop to this mess.

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Gary Paul Gilbert
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Gary Paul Gilbert

Bishop Taylor, You didn't answer the question about the congregation of St. James and Canon Voorhees.

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Kendall Haynes
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Kendall Haynes

How is this that hard? This entire case is a blight on the whole Church and dilutes the ministerial effectiveness of everyone. At what point does the leadership in this diocese wake up and realize that buildings and budgets aren’t more important than people? How do you justify with any shred of Gospel integrity any other position than restoring this mission to its rightful location? I have parishioners, some new to the Church, 1100 miles away from you saying, “What the hell? Is this really what the Church is all about?” Real reconciliation requires more action than talk and pastoral potency is a timed exercise. The longer this goes on, the worse it is for all of us.

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Maria Oleson
Guest
Maria Oleson

Have it back? It never left! It was usurped from a faithful, active, growing congregation. Restore the church to its rightful inhabitants: the dedicated people of St. James the Great! The dialogue and reconciliation shtick is getting old!

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Member

Thanks, Maria. What I meant to say was that we were glad it wasn't going to be sold.

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Michael Strong
Guest
Michael Strong

If you unlocked the doors of St James today and gave the keys to Rev Cindy, there would be at least 100 people there next Sunday probably more than the congregations of either St Michaels or St John the Divine. Then the process of reconciliation between the evicted congregation and the folks at Echo Park could begin in earnest and we could all learn how to avoid such a scandal from staining our church and the Lord's name in the future.

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Barbara
Guest
Barbara

We are glad it was not sold also. Please remember under Cindy's care, we had over 16 children in Sunday School and it was growing, we had a revolutionary Holy Coding school bringing in income, Chef Patrick cooked wonderful meals and taught children with autism how to cook. In all of my 56 years as an episcopalian, I have never experienced such an amazing group of parishioners. This is an amazing group of people who are very passionate about their church and want to keep the magic of God moving forward in St. James. Please let us move forward.

[In the future please sign your comment with your full name. - eds.]

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Joe Rawls
Guest
Joe Rawls

Bp, you get credit for taking part in this thread, but not for all the handwaving. Let the St James community go home!

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Gary Paul Gilbert
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Gary Paul Gilbert

Yes, Joe Rawls, the congregation should be allowed to go home, finally.

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Member

If I were in that diocese, by now I would be seriously considering Unitarianism.

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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
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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
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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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