St James Newport Beach coalition writes to its supporters after the misconduct trial of Jon Bruno
Our story has been heard
Dear members of the L.A. Diocese, bishops, and friends:
Our story has been heard.
The Hearing Panel proceedings of the Episcopal Church vs. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles have concluded. During the three days of sworn, sometimes tearful testimony, the story of how we took an empty church and in a few short months built a vibrant growing Episcopal congregation on the brink of financial self-sufficiency was told. Witness after witness talked about the miracle that took place near Lido Isle where those seeking a spiritual home were moved to invest their time, talent and treasure into building a modern, relevant, faithful Episcopal congregation with broad outreach into the Newport Beach community. Phrases such as “breathtakingly generous and kind, I’ve never met better people in my 61 years,” and “the church fits the community,” and, “volunteers just showed up,” to “support Reverend Cindy; she has the heart of a lion,” were spoken by congregants and community members alike.
Unfortunately, the Hearing Panel also heard the story to our “utter bewilderment” that Bishop Bruno locked out this faithful Episcopal congregation from a consecrated church he personally charged them to grow—all done so that he could sell it to a luxury townhouse developer and use the proceeds buy commercial property in Anaheim. The Hearing Panel is now charged with weighing the evidence presented and prayerfully arriving at a judgement.
This is not a conflict we wanted. For some of us, this was the second time the church has been lost. We are saddened that it has been necessary to invoke a Title IV process against our Bishop in order to be heard. Our goal has been and remains, to be allowed to worship as faithful Episcopalians in the Newport Beach church Bishop Bruno rededicated for this purpose in October 2013.
Nor did we want Bishop Bruno’s legacy to be about this. His legacy should be about the good he has done in his 40 years of ministry. Instead he could be remembered as the bishop who caused great controversy by fighting a congregation which only wanted to be let back into the church he once reopened for them.
We hope to continue the remarkable journey we started in October 2013: to serve Christ in all people, to continue our worship as Episcopalians and to fulfill the relevant role we play in the life of Newport Beach and its citizens. The Griffith family built much of Newport Beach—they set aside a special piece of land so that there would be an enduring place of worship to meet the ongoing spiritual needs of the community. Carrying out this mission has been our fervent focus in all we’ve done.
Our exile has not been easy. A longtime Episcopal parishioner of 60 years with St. James just passed away and her family hoped she would be buried in the chapel’s columbarium. Holding regular services, developing special programs, and continuing ministries in a series of temporary locations is taxing. The ongoing set-up and take-down of a traditional Episcopal liturgical service including altar, music, seating, and Sunday School is only possible through the ongoing dedication of our fearless priest and congregation.
Imagine a Lent that has lasted for 22 months! We pray for another Easter miracle.
Please pray for the decision makers: The Hearing Panel—that they may discern a fair and equitable solution; and the parties—for if any conciliation is to happen, both sides must decide to come together.
Wishing you a blessed Holy Week,
The congregation of St. James the Great Episcopal Church