St James Newport Beach responds to Bishop Bruno’s claims
Re: Moving on… Taking the next step
July 15, 2015
Dear Members of the LA Diocese:
The July 12, 2015 edition of Episcopal News Update is out and we feel compelled to provide an update to the members of the LA Diocese.
Before we begin, it saddens us to have this play out in the court of public opinion. We have made multiple attempts to communicate with and collaborate with the Bishop and his Diocesan Leadership. All letters, e-mails and calls are being ignored, so we’ve had to use this as a primary means of communication.
If there is a single gratifying point to be found in all of the recent Diocesan Leadership communications from the Bishop and the Standing committee it is that they no longer attempt to use the preposterous excuses for the sale of the St. James the Great property – that the congregation was costing the Diocese $25,000/month and that we had run afoul of Newport Beach authorities over 40 parking spaces. Clearly these fabrications didn’t gain a toe-hold.
Here are some facts:
1) St. James the Great holds its second service in Lido Park across the street from the locked out St. James the Great church property. This despite the fact that the church is NOT sold. The Diocese prefers to expel a growing, faithful, Episcopal congregation from a building the Bishop sued to recover for the use by Episcopalians; than to allow it to use the church.
2) The Bishop and his attorneys continue to depose representatives of the donor of the land for the church, the Griffith Company, and are suing the donor for Slander of Title. The Griffith Company’s crime: they want the land they donated for a church to remain a church. The Bishop and his attorneys also plan to depose the husband of the Vicar of St. James the Great as well as a member of the congregation that volunteered to head up the Association formed to engage the neighboring community and attempt to prevent a mistake by Diocesan Leadership in trying to sell a property with use restrictions- Save St. James the Great.
3) The Standing Committee in its latest communication continues to try to absolve themselves of any fiduciary responsibility towards the congregation of St. James the Great. While they must approve any sale of any consecrated property according to the Canons (specifically, Canon II.6 Section 3) they have yet to produce any audited, independently verified, Minutes of 2004, 2009, or present Standing Committee clearly indicating approval to sell the St. James the Great property.
4) As an unfortunate and important measure, and as instructed by the office of the Presiding Bishop, in order to be heard we have had to file a formal Letter of Complaint & Emergency Supplement to begin the process of communication and reconciliation. The letters have been sent to the Presiding Bishop’s office, to Bishop F. Clayton Matthews, Intake Officer of the Disciplinary Board specifically, with more than the required signatures from around the Diocese. We felt compelled to take this action as our efforts to receive a fair hearing from the Bishop (our Rector), the Standing Committee and Diocesan leadership went unanswered. Copies of both documents are available on www.savesaintjamesthegreat.org. An additional supplement was submitted yesterday.
A reading of both the Bishop’s and the Standing Committee comments in the July 12 Episcopal News seems to indicate the reason for the sale of the recovered properties was to recoup costs associated with their recovery. If the goal of the Bishop and the Standing Committee was to sell the properties associated with the breakaway congregations, why rededicate the Via Lido church property in October 2013? Why empower Rev. Canon Voorhees to open the church, grow a congregation, encourage members to pledge their time, talent and treasure if it were pre-ordained that the property was to be sold? In fact, one could make the case that the property’s value was increased by having a growing congregation using the space than an empty shell as the Bishop has now made to happen. How is this not a fraudulent proposition?
No one is fooled. The sale of St. James the Great property is no more about reimbursing the bishop for legal expenses than it was about our alleged inability to pay our bills or find 40 parking spaces. The sale is about generating money. St. James the Great is merely a pawn in the Bishop’s Game of Thrones. But we don’t see ourselves as an expendable pawn in his game. We are a vibrant, growing, faithful Episcopal congregation – his very own – not a dissident renegade group. And we won’t be used in this way. No congregation should have to go through what we are going through and we are working with local clergy members to address this at our upcoming convention.
As both the Bishop and the Standing Committee talk about due diligence, due process and fiduciary responsibilities, we suggest a complete, thorough, independent audit of all Standing Committee Meeting Minutes. Further, we recommend that an independent forensics financial audit be made of Corporation Sole now and for the duration of Bishop Bruno’s tenure. It will be instructive to know how much legal expense the Bishop actually incurred in order to recover the properties versus what he has been able to recover thus far and intends to make on the sale of the St. James the Great property. The audit should also include a complete listing of all church properties that have passed through, or are currently held by, Corporation Sole.
Finally, we’d like to understand, in the interests of transparency, the scope of the real estate activities currently underway by the Diocese and the Bishop as Corporation Sole – especially the property in Anaheim. Is this a Diocese dedicated to the Episcopal Church’s mission “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ?” Or has it become something else?
If you’d like to add your signature to our letter of complaint sent to Bishop Matthews, please reply to this message and we’ll connect you with the Association members who are leading that work.
The Parishioners of St. James the Great Episcopal Church, Newport Beach CA