Misconduct charges filed against LA bishop to be heard by Title IV Conference panel next month
Dear members of the L.A. Diocese, bishops and friends,
Thank you for your overwhelming support and feedback from our last letter. We genuinely appreciate your concern for us as we work to save St. James the Great.
We have news! We finally have a date for the Title IV Conference Panel session, after almost eight months since our complaint was referred to the panel. It will be Monday, June 20, 2016, in Southern California, with the venue to be announced. We pray this will afford an opportunity for a long-absent communication with Bishop Bruno that can lead us all to reconciliation rather than further disciplinary proceedings under the canons.
We also thought we would give you a brief update to keep you apprised of recent Corp Sole activity, since Bishop Bruno has not released the audit of Corp Sole as promised at our Diocesan Convention last December.
On January 15, 2016, Bishop Bruno sold St. Clare of Assisi, in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, for $1.8 million to a developer. For the sake of the diocese and transparency, where did the money go? What will be done with the funds? Why couldn’t the property have remained in the Corporation of the Diocese so the proceeds of the sale could be used to ease the diocesan budget shortfall?
In late February we wrote to you regarding our concern about the closure of St. Stephen’s in Whittier, CA, and hoped for “communication and transparency from the diocese in the months ahead.” We now know that Bishop Bruno closed St. Stephen’s on March 13, 2016 and the property was signed over to Corp Sole on March 22, 2016. What are his plans for the St. Stephen’s property (pictured above)?
One might ask with these two church closures, plus others during Bishop Bruno’s tenure and the attempted sale of St. James the Great in Newport Beach, how many more churches will he close and liquidate before he retires? Will he open any new churches with seed money? Start new ministries? What is his plan?
From our continuing investigation of public records we also know that Bishop Bruno has been actively transferring properties within Corp Sole since Diocesan Convention. At best, there continues to be a complete lack of transparency.
Regarding the status of the St. James the Great property, you may be wondering: is the sale agreement from April 12, 2015, still in force? Is the Bishop still bound to sell the St. James the Great property to Legacy Residential Partners? The short answer to these questions is no. There is no current legal agreement for the St. James the Great property between the Bishop and Legacy.
(The somewhat longer answer is that the April 2015 agreement provided that Legacy would not have to purchase the St. James the Great property unless it delivered a “Buyer Approval Notice” by the “Contingency Date.” The Contingency Date was originally set as May 25, 2015 and extended several times, finally to July 6, 2015. When the July 6, 2015 date passed without Legacy delivering the approved notice, the purchase and sale agreement by its terms terminated.) (The April 2015 purchase and sale agreement and the four amendments to that agreement are on the Save St. James the Great website.)
At this time Bishop Bruno is not bound to sell the St. James the Great property. There is no current sale agreement. There certainly is no financial penalty for not pursuing a sale. And there is no reason he could not, if he wanted, give the congregation back the keys rather than leave the building abandoned and unused.
The Bishop may hope that, if and when the civil courts should rule in his favor on the church use deed restriction that the original donor seeks to confirm, that he and Legacy may reach a new agreement, so that he could proceed with the sale. However, it may be difficult, indeed impossible, for Legacy or any person to obtain all the permits and entitlements needed from the City of Newport Beach and the California Coastal Commission to destroy our beautiful church and re-zone and re-develop the property for commercial or residential purposes.
Why not establish a positive vision of growth? We wonder, instead of closing churches and locking out viable congregations, why not develop a positive vision for the future of our diocese? Why accept that closing churches to accumulate financial resources is an appropriate option? We think most everyone is yearning for inspiring leadership on how to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. Why not find out what successful, growing Episcopal churches are doing right and inspire change?
Finally, we are pleased Bishop Bruno finally published a visitation schedule for 2016 since our last letter. Unfortunately, St. James the Great was not scheduled for a visit by any bishops in the diocese this year, but we remain hopeful for full conciliation soon.
We ask that you keep us in your prayers and help spread our message to be restored to our church by writing, texting, and posting on social media your support for St. James the Great and the future of The Episcopal Church. (See appropriate contacts listed below).
Please feel free to forward this letter to your family and friends.