Letter from the Los Angeles Standing Committee defending the sale; Parish letter in response
To The Very Reverend Melissa McCarthy –
From: Save St James the Great coalition
24 June 2015
We’ve recently received a copy of your letter to the Diocesan Council dated June 11, 2015. We are pleased to finally hear something from the LA Diocese Standing Committee – even if the parish was not the addressee, copied on the letter, nor ever contacted. Forgive us if we find the “listening” done by you and your colleagues at best incomplete and at worst selective. You have not heard, nor have you sought to hear, the voice of the congregation of St. James the Great. We are pleased that our communications are being widely read and apparently appreciated.
In paragraph 2, you state that your due diligence included a review of the Canons, the St. James the Great 2014 Parochial Report and minutes from the Corporation of the Diocese. You then state that the Corporation moved the property to Corporation Sole in May 2014. Surely your due diligence uncovered the reason why the property was moved to Corporation Sole? At the beginning of the 3rd paragraph, you state that the Bishop (as Corporation Sole) has bought and sold properties over the years. Clearly the implication is that the property was transferred to Corporation Sole in order to sell it.
This brings up a number of questions:
1) Was this due diligence done prior to the May 2014 decision to move the property to Corporation Sole, in preparation to support the move of putting the property up for sale?
2) If done prior to May 2014, when did this due diligence take place? Keeping in mind that Bishop Bruno rededicated St. James the Great in October 2013, making it a scant 6-7 months after our start as a new congregation. Even babies are given longer in the womb.
3) If not, is this a recent review of the actions taken in May 2014 in order to bless them ex post facto?
4) If ex post facto, why would you look at year-old parochial data? Did you seek recent figures on St. James the Great? If so, you would have seen that our growth in congregants and pledges is significant, greater than 100%. Why agree to sell a vibrant, growing congregation’s property?
At the end of the 3rd paragraph, you indicate that the Standing Committee has no authority over Corporation Sole, yet that the Standing Committee concurs with the decisions made. What decisions does the Standing Committee concur with? Is it the decision to move the property to Corporation Sole, or the decision by the Bishop to sell the property? A discerning reader of your letter could quite comfortably come to the following conclusion: the Standing Committee agreed to move, or allowed the property to be moved to Corporation Sole, so that it could be disposed of by the Bishop at his discretion and the Standing Committee could claim that it had no authority (read: responsibility) for the sale of the property. It’s like having your cake and eating it, too. One is reminded of the gospel, Matthew 27:24, “When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” Whether your actions are in keeping with Canon II.6 Section 3, will be for others to decide:
“Sec. 3. No dedicated and consecrated Church or Chapel shall be removed, taken down, or otherwise disposed of for any worldly or common use, without the previous consent of the Standing Committee of the Diocese.”
The most telling part of your entire letter is found in paragraphs 3 and 4. You speak about the commitment of the Diocese and the Standing Committee in particular with the “building and the growth of the congregation of St. James the Great,” and the Pastoral Care of our congregation. However, when have you or any members of the Standing Committee ever visited St. James the Great? What services or ministries of ours have you come to know? Tell us of your interactions with the congregation of St. James the Great over its 18 months?
In conclusion, we find that your attempts to create a defense of your actions and those of the Standing Committee (or inactions) constitute a weak, three-legged stool. Each leg is broken and suspect:
Leg 1: a claim of “due diligence” that leaves more questions than it answers
Leg 2: an ambiguous concurrence with decisions made while denying your oversight responsibilities via transfer to Corporation Sole
Leg 3: an explicit commitment to the growth and pastoral care for the congregation of St. James the Great yet no manifestation of any attempt to come to know us or support us
This stool of your making shows systemic issues inherent in the LA Diocese Standing Committee and is not a solid platform upon which to stand when others conduct their inquiries and reviews. Nor is it one any discerning Episcopal Church body would hold up as a shining example of fiduciary responsibility or due process, Christian compassion, or how to rebuild a shrinking denomination.
The Congregation of St. James the Great
CC: LA Diocese Standing Committee, Corporation of the Diocese, Bishop Bruno, USA Bishops, Clergy