Supplementary Statement in Support of Bruno Misconduct Complaint

The Right Reverend F. Clay Matthews

The Episcopal Church in the United States

815 Second Avenue

New York, New York

 

Dear Bishop Matthews

This communication supplements the Presentment re Jon Bruno sent 7/6 and acknowledged by your office on 7/7, and is the additional matter referred to in the emergency request submitted to your office on Friday, 7/10.

We are revising that earlier submission of 7/6 with respect to the possible violation of Canon II.6.3. by the transfer of a consecrated church for ungodly use without the consent of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Los Angeles (number 146 of the identified cannon matters).  There is now much new information made available to the public from the Standing Committee of the Los Angeles Diocese (published in the Episcopal News of the Los Angeles Diocese dated July 12 but issued and available July 8) since the submission of the Presentment to your office over one week ago.  That information, together with other information available to some of the signatories, makes clear that the Bishop and the Diocese can only comply with that canonical requirement for consent of the Standing Committee by taking actions, such as locking out the congregation, discouraging further contributions, refusing to facilitate  administrative support by locking out staff, and terminating leases without required notice, all  in order as quickly as possible to make the St James mission and congregation nonviable.  We believe that the condition of non-viability, so as to satisfy a condition imposed by the 2009 Standing Committee on any sale, cannot and should not be allowed  to be caused by the Bishop himself by the announcement of the sale of the building and the lockout of the congregation to facilitate the sale.

From the report in the Episcopal News dated July 12 , issued July 8, 2015, it is apparent to us that the current Standing Committee has not given approval to the sale of the St James building for ungodly use and does not have jurisdiction to do so.  Instead, the Bishop in the same Episcopal News simply  thanks the current Standing Committee for its “support”.  The Standing Committee approval for the sale, according to the Bishop and in the listing of facts provided by the Standing Committee, is stated to be derived from and upon the authority and approval  of an earlier Standing Committee in 2009 at the time of an earlier transfer of the  St James the Great building to Corp Sole.  Those statements by the Bishop and the Standing Committee  omit very essential factual information.  That information, available to the signatories, is that  the 2009 Standing Committee approved the transfer of St James the Great to Corp Sole  with the express understanding and limitation that the St James building NOT be sold for ungodly use if there were a viable congregation and mission church operation there.  

On information and belief, at least a majority and perhaps more of the still living  members of the 2009 Standing Committee are prepared to confirm that such limitation was part of the 2009 Standing Committee action with respect to St James.

It may prove difficult to establish the above limitation from documents provided by the Diocese.  That is because, as noted in the July 6 submission, and contrary to the practice of prior standing committees in the Los Angeles Diocese, the approval of the Bishop is now needed to release the minutes to clergy and that approval has not been forthcoming so far for the relevant 2009 minutes.  In that connection, we note that a number of clergy have reported to us (and some clergy signatories have directly experienced) that the Diocese staff as a routine matter revises, rewrites and alters (in a word “doctors”) the minutes of meetings. Nevertheless, we believe the members of the 2009 Standing Committee will confirm the limitation and absence of consent by the Standing Committee in 2009, whatever the minutes of the meeting that are ultimately made available say or omit. There is some additional support for the absence of approval in the later “Summary of Actions for the Standing Committee 2009 ” issued in 2010 that raises a question whether St. James was even transferred to Corp Sole at all in 2009.  In that report, there are two relevant items reported for the March meeting that year. The first approved the reduction to mission status of St. Luke’s, All Saints, St. James, Newport Beach and St. David’s. The second relevant item reports approval of the request from the Bishop that upon conclusion of, or as part of the legal proceedings, title to the following  congregations be held by Corp Sole; All Saints, Long Beach and St. David’s, North Hollywood.”  This second approval does not mention St. James, and it does not say that “ the Standing Committee as then constituted voted to approve this request for use of the proceeds upon disposition of the properties.”

The 2009 Standing Committee did not approve sale of the St James building under Canon II.6.3 unconditionally but expressly limited and prevented such sale if there  were a viable congregation operating at St James.  Nor does any later transfer of St James to Corp Sole after the litigation ended operate to cause the requirement for such prior approval under the Canon to disappear or no longer be subject to the limitation imposed by the 2009 Standing Committee, particularly where the later transfer is done under the authority of the 2009 Standing Committee action as stated by the Bishop.  So the Bishop and Diocese now find it essential to any sale consistent with the canonical requirement and the limitation imposed by the only Standing Committee action on the matter to lock out the congregation, claim the Vicar has resigned, terminate leases and operations without required notice, and withdraw all forms of support in order to cause a viable congregation operating in a mission church to quickly become nonviable.  Starting with the third quarter the Bishop will be able to demonstrate that official attendance at the St James Sunday worship services has plummeted to zero by ignoring the fact that people are locked out, and ignoring the over 200 members of the congregation so far attending services each Sunday across the street outdoors in the park, and by claiming that giving has also greatly dropped since the May 17 announcement, and ignoring the financial and other resources devoted to the preservation and continuation of the St James congregation that have of necessity been directed elsewhere.  We submit that this does not comply with either the requirements or the intended purposes of the Canon II.6.3.

As an aside that may be of interest to you and the Presiding Bishop, members of the St James congregation are concerned that the 2014 Standing Committee of the Los Angeles Diocese utterly failed to perform any oversight role in this matter but instead chose to recite in the most recent Episcopal news that the 2009 Standing Committee had approved the transfer of St James the Great to Corp Sole without any mention of the significant limitation and condition of no sale if there were a viable mission there.  Even a minimal scrutiny of the existing records should have been enough to cause the members of the 2014 Standing Committee to raise questions and concerns, or ask for information from the Rector of St James (the Bishop) for a current information package.  It seems the Committee simply believed what the Bishop’s office advised without any check.  Or perhaps the Bishop affirmatively misled the Committee as to what had happened in 2009.  In any event, the 2009 Standing Committee served an important oversight role and the 2014 Standing Committee has failed to do so.  Members of the St James congregation and, we believe, other Los Angeles clergy, will be raising this subject directly with the Los Angeles Diocese.

 
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