Bishop and Standing Committee defend their handling of the St James Newport Beach liquidation
Moving Forward by Bishop J. Jon Bruno
Momentous events of these recent weeks have brought our nation new progress in overcoming racism and homophobia. President Obama’s eulogy for the Charleston shooting victims underscored the urgency of controlling weapons while also teaching ethical and culturally competent behavior. In the Episcopal Church, the election of Michael Curry as our next Presiding Bishop brings new perspective, much as the General Convention’s provision of marriage rites for same-gender couples echoes the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling for marriage equality. I give thanks for this progress, and I pray that we as a nation and a church now will move into new, intentional efforts to address poverty, immigration reform, and gun violence, in particular.
As your Bishop, I remain focused on these areas while also strengthening sustainable ministries within our diocesan community. This work involves balancing pastoral care with making responsible fiduciary decisions not only for today but also for the future of the Diocese. This remains the goal of my decision to sell, with the concurrence of the diocesan Standing Committee, Newport Beach property owned by Corporation Sole.
I thank the Standing Committee for its diligence and for its statement and letter released today recounting the transactions related to the sale of the Newport Beach property. I am fully aware that the decision to sell the Newport Beach property is not to the liking of some Episcopalians and other stakeholders, and I sincerely empathize with the sense of loss felt by many, particularly after the joint efforts of local parishioners, the former vicar, and the Bishop’s Office to rebuild the mission congregation there. However, as I stated to the congregation on May 18, there are options available to us for ministry separate and apart from the Via Lido site, and in partnership with the three neighboring Episcopal parishes within a seven-mile radius, including the Corona del Mar parish within the city limits of Newport Beach. Ways forward in these and other areas of ministry will be a focus of considerable prayer and reflection while I am away on a long-scheduled month of sabbatical leave. After this time away with my family, I will return in August with further perspective. I thank you for your prayers, and I assure you of mine as we move forward together in Christ.
July 8, 2015
The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Los Angeles provides the following factual information bearing on the situation involving the mission congregation of St. James the Great, Newport Beach, and the property at that location. The ability of the Standing Committee and that of the Bishop to comment is circumscribed at this time due to various considerations including, but not limited to, pending legal proceedings.
First, the then-parish of St. James caused to be recorded on January 18, 1984, in the office of the Orange County Clerk-Recorder, a deed that omitted any use restrictions on the property.
Second, as the people of the Diocese are aware, in August 2004 the then-parish of St. James, plus two others, announced that a majority of members had voted to terminate their affiliation with the Episcopal Church and to affiliate with the Church of Uganda. In response to this decision, the Diocese of Los Angeles, Bishop J. Jon Bruno as Corporation Sole, and various individual plaintiffs, sued to recover the properties.
Third, in connection with this litigation, Bishop Bruno presented a request to the Standing Committee of the Diocese as it was then constituted, and asked the Standing Committee for permission to use monies of the Corporation of the Diocese to fund the litigation. The Standing Committee, as then constituted, voted to decline Bishop Bruno’s request. Bishop Bruno proceeded to use monies from Corporation Sole to fund the litigation.F
Fourth, in 2009, after the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Episcopal Church Cases, 45 Cal.4th 467 (2009), but before the litigation concluded in the trial court, Bishop Bruno informed the Standing Committee of the prior 2004 decision of the Standing Committee, and that upon recovery of the properties, he would dispose of them in his discretion, and sought the Standing Committee’s agreement that in light of the prior 2004 decision to decline use of Corporation of the Diocese monies to fund the litigation, the proceeds from the properties would go to reimburse Corporation Sole for the monies it expended in the litigation, with any excess to be applied at the discretion of the Bishop Diocesan. The Standing Committee, as then constituted, voted to approve this request for use of the proceeds upon disposition of the properties.
Fifth, in light of the fact that the original deed for the property from the donor was to Corporation Sole, and the prior decisions of the Standing Committee regarding the source of monies to fund the litigation, the Board of the Corporation of the Diocese, pursuant to the authority of the Standing Committee and its 2009 vote cited above, voted on May 20, 2014, to convey title to the Newport Beach property to Corporation Sole. The 2004 and 2009 meetings of the Standing Committee at which the above two votes were taken were both regularly scheduled and conducted meetings of the Standing Committee, as was the 2014 meeting of the Board of the Corporation of the Diocese at which conveyance of title to the St. James property from the Corporation of the Diocese to Corporation Sole was approved, as is reflected by the minutes of each of these meetings.
Sixth, Diocesan Council received at its June 11, 2015, meeting a letter from the Standing Committee (see copy here), which was read aloud to the members and guests present.
The Standing Committee provides the foregoing information in the interest of assisting the people of the Diocese in understanding the present situation.