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.
On 23 Sept 2015 a spokesman for the parish said: “We are sad, however, to report that we were unable to reach an accord in our presentment involving Bishop Bruno. The Episcopal Church (TEC) appointed an able, extremely dedicated and experienced conciliator to try to mediate a solution. His efforts are deeply appreciated by the St. James the Great congregation and we are glad to have worked with him and supported his efforts. At this point, TEC will either seek a conference or more likely, begin an investigation of Bishop Bruno based on the matters included in our presentment.”
In response to charges of “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation”, “conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy”, and “failing to abide by promises and vows made when ordained,” filed against the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles, by members of St James the Great on 6 July 2015, the Presiding Bishop’s Office convened a “Reference Panel”. In a letter dated 10 August 2015, the Bishop for Pastoral Development in the Presiding Bishop’s Office, the Rt. Rev. Clayton Matthews, informed the complainants the panel had recommended the dispute be resolved with “conciliation pursuant IV.10” of the church’s disciplinary canons.
Section 10 of Title IV states:
Sec. 1. Conciliation shall seek a resolution which promotes healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation among the Complainant, Respondent, affected Community, other persons and the Church.
Sec. 2. Where a matter is referred for conciliation, the Bishop Diocesan shall appoint a Conciliator to assist the Complainant, Respondent, other affected persons and the Church in reconciling. The Bishop Diocesan or a representative appointed by the Bishop Diocesan may participate in the conciliation.
Sec. 3. If the conciliation is successful in reaching agreement among the parties on a suitable resolution of all issues, an Accord will be prepared as provided in Canon IV.14. If conciliation cannot be achieved within a reasonable time, the Conciliator will report such to the Bishop Diocesan, and the matter will be referred back to the Reference Panel.
Sec. 4. A Conciliator shall be a person skilled in dispute resolution techniques and without conflict of interest in the matter. All communications between the Complainant and the Conciliator, the Respondent and the Conciliator and other participants in the conciliation and the Conciliator shall be confidential except as the Conciliator may have the permission of the respective person to disclose the information to the other participants in the conciliation in order to promote efforts towards conciliation.
Under the church’s disciplinary canons, if the parties are unable to reach an agreed settlement, the matter returns to the panel, which may dismiss the charges, investigate them further or pass the matter onto the Presiding Bishop’s office.
The letter from Bishop Matthews to the Save the St James the Great coalition further asked all parties to refrain from actions that would jeopardize the conciliation process. “[I]t is our desire that all parties will enter into this process in good faith,” the letter stated.
However, in their press release, the congregation said Bishop Bruno declined to honor the request and continued to harass members of the congregation.
Meanwhile, despite being in the conciliation process, and counter to accepted protocol, Bishop Bruno and his lawyers continued to depose witnesses. Their latest efforts include seeking depositions from those within the community, beyond congregants, who viewed St. James the Great as a community asset. In specific, he is seeking depositions from the Brownie leader whose troop planted an herb garden to support our chefs, as well as a woman whose mother’s ashes are buried in the church’s rose garden where she is no longer able to visit.”