After many twists and turns, not to mention ruptured relationships, deceits, and frustrations, the Diocese of Los Angeles and the people of St James the Great in Newport Beach appear to have found a path forward in reconciliation. A joint statement (see below) from the diocese and St James priest, the Rev Canon Cindy Vorhees was released outlining a path forward that puts the people of St James back worshipping in the St James church building.
In a separate statement(pdf), Bishop Taylor said;
“A new season, we pray, begins this morning. Before too long, as standard operating procedures dictate, the mission church of St. James the Great will open its doors on Via Lido. Mission and diocese, vicar and bishop’s office will work collaboratively, collegially, and by the book. Then all of us will have the opportunity to turn faithfully and purposefully to the hard but necessary work of truthtelling and reconciliation.”
Speaking of the joint statement, the bishop continued;
“It is the product of considerable discernment and prayer and frank conversation among the parties. It is also likely to leave few feeling completely vindicated. Thus it has been these two and a half grueling years. Many advocates of St. James were frustrated in August when the Standing Committee and I decided not to run the legal and financial risk of violating the existing sales contract. Some said that our appearing to reward Bishop Jon Bruno flew in the face of the case that had been mounted against him for conduct unbecoming a bishop during March’s ecclesiastical trial before a hearing panel of The Episcopal Church. Loyal advocates of Bishop Bruno may well be unhappy with today’s announcement, since it appears to reward the leaders of St. James for what some feel was conduct unbecoming a Christian community.
Winners and losers. Polarization and accusations of duplicity and betrayal. Inflexible positions and disrupted friendships. Not the church at its best — but inevitable consequences whenever controversy erupts, the fog of conflict descends, and colleagues in leadership and ministry take up sides instead of tending relationships. In the midst of conflict, we’re often at our worst when we think or know we’re right. As the parties wrote in our statement, “We will end the cycle [of hurt] by sharing our narratives openly and honestly, using reconciliation in relationship to rediscover our unity and purpose as a diocesan family in Christ.”
Here is the joint statement in full;
Making All Things New: A Statement From Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor, Standing Committee President Rachel Nyback, and Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees
Making All Things New:
St. James the Great Episcopal Church and the Redeemer Center for Diocesan Ministries
The church’s sudden closing hurt the people of St. James. Their leaders countenanced hurtful statements and tactics. This cycle of hurt strained relationships in the diocese. We will end the cycle by sharing our narratives openly and honestly, using reconciliation in relationship to rediscover our unity and purpose as a diocesan family in Christ.
The diocese will continue to engage in discernment about mission and ministry in south Orange County. The diocese has no plans to sell the church. The diocese reserves the right to make whatever decisions about its resources that it may think best for the glory of God and in service of God’s people.
While this reconciliation and discernment work goes on, the people of St. James should be able to worship in the church and experience renewal and inspiration from the celebration of Holy Eucharist and service to God’s people in community. St. James pledges to participate fully in the work of diocesan reconciliation and discernment and abide by their outcomes.
The diocese will use a portion of the facility as the Redeemer Center for Diocesan Ministries. Tenancy will be at the bishop’s discretion. The bishop will oversee its work, and those leading its justice, outreach, service, or spirituality ministries will report to the bishop.
Once St. James has been granted mission status, it will be invited to resume use of the church. Once Bishop Taylor, by the grace of God, is diocesan bishop, he intends to name Canon Voorhees as vicar. All understand that vicars and bishop’s wardens serve at the discretion of their bishops and that bishops, as rectors of mission churches, oversee all their operations, mission, and ministry. Once formed and seated, the St. James Bishop’s Committee and wardens will enter into a standard letter of agreement with the vicar, requiring the signature of the bishop.
Until this preparatory work is complete, the diocese may reopen the church for weekly celebrations of Holy Eucharist by supply clergy. Bishop Taylor and Canon Voorhees will be among those on the rota.
The diocese and St. James will diligently observe all canonical and diocesan requirements and procedures governing mission churches. St. James understands that the proposed 2018 Mission Share Fund budget for mission churches is fully obligated for the sake of communities where the need is great. The diocese will do all it can to assist St. James in restarting.
St. James will stop using communications strategists and social media to advocate in connection with its relationship to the diocese. The diocese and St. James hereby repudiate all past and future anonymous correspondence sent on their behalves. If those responsible for Save St. James The Great wish it to persist as a non-profit organization, they will change its name and devote it to a religious or charitable purpose.
The Rev. Dr. Rachel Anne Nyback [for the Standing Committee]
The Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor
The Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees
image: The Rev. Cindy Voorhees, vicar, addresses the St. James congregation before a Eucharist at Newport Beach City Hall. • Lissa Schairer