Category : TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles
Comes now Bishop Bruno, he of the forkÃ¨d tongue, and for a response to the charges files a motion to dismiss the Title IV proceedings against him in their entirety. His reasons stated are twofold:
(1) The complainants violated the confidentiality provisions of Title IV by disclosing the substance of their charges, and of ECUSA’s responses to them; and
(2) [Now get this] The complainants violated Canon IV.19.2 by resorting to a proceeding in the secular civil courts before filing their charges against +Bruno under Title IV.
Note that while +Bruno is technically correct that the earlier stages of the Title IV proceedings against him were confidential, the violation of that confidentiality by the Complainant (i.e., the members of St. James the Great) does not furnish canonical grounds for a dismissal of the charges. Under the Canon he cites (IV.13.9[a]), it is only misconduct “that the Hearing Panel deems to be disruptive, dilatory or otherwise contrary to the integrity of the proceedings” on the part of the Respondent (i.e., Bishop Bruno) or the Church Attorney that can provide grounds for the imposition of sanctions — which, by the way, do not include the dismissal of all charges, as +Bruno requests.
A hearing date of 20 June 2016 has been set for the Bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, to answer charges of misconduct brought by St James the Great Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, California. On 6 July 2015 members of the Orange County congregation filed a complaint under Title IV alleging “140 canon violations” by their bishop including: “negligent, grossly negligent, reckless or intentional misrepresentation”, “conduct unbecoming” a bishop, and unlawful sale or conversion of consecrated property.
The misconduct complaint filed against the Bishop of Los Angeles by members of St James the Great Episcopal Church in Newport Beach has been handed back to the national church’s disciplinary panel for bishops after the parties were unable to reach an amicable resolution.
The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno appears to have adopted a scorched earth in dealing with complaints of bullying and dishonesty levelled against him by ignoring a request for the national church that he not prejudice the proceedings. Though all parties had been charged to “enter into this process in good faith,” the bishop’s attorneys have not relented in their legal campaign, and have sought to depose a Girl Scout leader whose troop had planted an herb garden at the parish, and the daughter of a woman whose ashes are interned at the church.
The Bishop of Los Angeles has retaliated against clergy and lay members of St James the Great Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, Cal., for having brought misconduct charges against him under the Episcopal Church’s Title IV disciplinary canons, alleges the Save St James the Great coalition.
According to a supplement filed last week to the complaint, (printed below) attorneys for the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno have harrassed witnesses and members of the parish who had brought charges against him. Bishop Bruno is accused of trying to depose the husband of parish vicar the Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees and seeking legal sanctions for his alleged non-cooperation with his attorney’s demands, and have threatened to bring civil legal charges against those who signed the complaint, accusing them of “malicious prosecution.”
The Bishop of Los Angeles urged members of St James the Great Episcopal Church to trust him, because he was their bishop and his word was his bond. However, members of the Newport Beach, Cal., parish have now filed a complaint under the Episcopal Church’s disciplinary canons against the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno alleging fraud, lying, abuse of authority, corruption and conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.
On 6 July 2015 members of the Orange County congregation, who have been locked out of their church since the beginning of July on the orders of the bishop, filed a complaint under Title IV alleging “140 canon violations” by their bishop.
And now — enter God’s poetic justice. It seems that Bishop Bruno, who is as quick as any Episcopal Church diocesan to recognize a Dennis Canon interest in property when he comes across one, forgot about an earlier reversionary interest in the St. James parish property. It turns out that the original developer of the area, Griffith Company, donated in 1945 the land on which the beautiful St. James building was erected, to the Protestant Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, upon “the condition, covenant and restriction” that
The property conveyed shall be used for church purposes exclusively and no building other than a church and appurtenances shall be erected, placed or maintained thereon. The foregoing restriction shall be binding upon the [Bishop], his successors and assigns. Upon the breach of the foregoing condition, the title to said property … shall become at once divested from the [Bishop], his successors and assigns, and shall revert and revest in the grantor [Griffith Company], its successors or assigns.
Thus if Bishop Bruno carries out his plans to sell the property to the current developer, the only thing that developer could do with the property is maintain the existing church building on it (or build a brand-new one). And thus there is no way a developer would pay $15 million for land that is so encumbered.
The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is nearing the end of negotiations to sell St. James the Great Episcopal Church in Newport Beach to real estate developers.
Bishop J. Jon Bruno announced the sale to congregants Sunday, Diocese spokesman Robert Williams said. The sale of the church could bring in roughly $15 million — twice the appraised value of the site, Williams said.
Services at the church will likely continue into the fall, Williams said. No information on where congregants will be moved or whether the congregation may reopen at a different site was available on Monday, he said.
A scorched earth policy. That’s how Anglicans who have left The Episcopal Church (TEC) and its endorsement of unbiblical beliefs and actions often describe TEC’s response. From depressed Binghamton, N.Y., to affluent Newport Beach, Calif., TEC leaders have fought dozens of court battles to force congregations leaving the denomination to forfeit the buildings they, their parents, and their grandparents paid for.
[This policy]… is evident…at St. James Anglican Church, which for more than half a century owned property in Newport Beach: The 300-member congregation now meets in a fluorescent-lit room with exposed pipes and concrete walls. It’s a humble setting for an affluent congregation accustomed to soft lighting and stained glass, but a fitting one this month for celebrating the birth of a Savior in a barnyard stable””and that’s one of the providential results of the scorched earth policy.
St. James lost its building even though the church had a written agreement with its diocese that seemed to ensure the congregation’s ownership of the building””but when it was time to part, the diocese and TEC sued the congregation, and a judge cited an Episcopal Church canon declaring that all church property belongs to the diocese and the denomination.
Parishioners from St. James Anglican Church in Newport Beach wiped tears from their eyes as they left the church after its final service, leaving a house of worship filled with memories.
Jim Dale, 63, said he had been attending church at St. James since he was a boy.
“Being in there today, all the memories came flooding back,” he said after services Sunday. “There are so many memories: my Communion, meeting my wife, marrying my wife.
“It all happened here,” he added.
About 80 people Sunday attended the last Mass that will be celebrated at St. James Anglican Church. It was a bittersweet service that brought some parishioners to tears.
The Anglican parish, which has been feuding with its parent affiliation for nearly a decade, was ordered by an Orange County Superior Court judge in May to surrender the property to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” the Rev. Richard Crocker said….
Now comes a task I would rather not face, given that I count many non-canon lawyers who are bloggers on Episcopal matters at least as colleagues, if not as personal friends. But in the wake of my commentary on the recent St. James ruling, a host of lay would-be canonists have rushed in to assure everyone that the ruling is not as bad as it is, or that it does not really say what it says. The latest comes from the estimable Father Haller, but he and others have also been contributing to the comments on other blogs. (Note that no one has seen fit to come here and question me directly.)
Let’s clear up one simple matter first: the ruling is not yet precedent for California courts, because it is only the decision of a single trial judge in Orange County, California. As I pointed out in my original post, it will become problematic only if it is affirmed upon appeal. (But as I also pointed out in my post, all of the appeals taken thus far by St. James in this case were decided against them initially by the Court of Appeals.)
The court order, which comes at what could be the end of a series of court battles over three church properties on 32nd Street, was reaffirmed Monday by Judge Kim G. Dunning.
“I give thanks for the culmination of this marathon litigation, and I pray this action will settle the fact that people can disagree but cannot take property that has been entrusted to the Episcopal Church for ministry,” Right Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the six-county diocese, said in a statement. “I give thanks to God that, after these cases spanning more than eight years, we now can proceed with the continuing ministry of the Episcopal Church in Newport Beach.”
St. James leaders said they were “obviously disappointed by this ruling.”
Judge Kim Dunning of the Orange County Supreme Court handed down on May 1 a surprise ruling in the case involving the property of St. James’s parish in Newport Beach, and held that St. James could not retain title to its property after it voted in 2004 to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church (USA). But due to the bizarre reasoning she used to reach that conclusion, the ruling — if upheld on appeal — would put a cloud on the title of every previous sale or disposition of any Episcopal parish property in the State since 1980.
The wrinkle in the St. James case — a feature which distinguished it from the cases of two other parishes in the Diocese of Los Angeles (St. David’s Hollywood; and All Saints, Long Beach) which Judge Dunning ruled last September could not retain their properties either — was that St. James had been given an explicit letter from the Diocese in 1991 prior to purchasing the property at issue here, and undertaking the multi-million-dollar expense of developing it….