Dear Orange County Register editors: Some Episcopal stories require a bit of research

TMatt asks why the Orange County Register omitted mention of the first St James Newport Beach court fight

If you have been a religion-beat reporter for a decade or two (or longer), then you probably have a large “box” (analog, digital or both) stashed somewhere with a label that says “Episcopal Church Sex Wars,” or words to that effect.

It’s hard to know precisely where to start the clock, when creating a timeline for Episcopal conflicts about doctrines defining marriage and sex. OutHistory.org has a helpful view from the left that starts in 1962. At GetReligion, we normally start with the 1979 General Convention in Denver, which affirmed traditional doctrines, but also saw the release of a protest document from 21 liberal bishops, including the names of several future leaders of the church.

This brings me to a recent story in the Orange County Register: “St. James the Great congregants make joyous return to Newport Beach church.” One Godbeat veteran wrote me to say that this story had “more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese.” Here is the lede:

NEWPORT BEACH – Meg Schuler teared up as she walked out of her church’s sanctuary and into the sunlight.

For her and about 100 other congregants, Sunday morning’s service at St. James the Great Episcopal Church, marked a homecoming of sorts.

For three years, this congregation, evicted from the church on Via Lido by their former bishop J. Jon Bruno, led a nomadic existence, but remained hopeful that they would return to their home church some day.

Pause for a moment to click this link and look at a few pictures of this impressive church building.

Now note the size of the congregation – 100 worshipers – on this historic day in the life of this parish.

It doesn’t quite add up, does it?

As it turns out, there is a lot of history behind this complex local Episcopal conflict, as is often the case. A few paragraphs later readers learn:

After their eviction from this campus in June 2015, the loyal congregation continued to meet in a neighborhood park, at a local museum, and for the last year or so, in a community room at the Newport Beach Civic Center. The process of reconciliation between the congregation and the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles began after Bruno, who planned to sell the piece of prime real estate to developers, twice, retired in December.

Bishop John Taylor, who immediately took the helm, invited the exiled congregation back into the diocese and into their home church. Last year, a national church panel voted to suspend Bruno, restore the congregation and halt efforts to sell the 40,000-square-foot building and surrounding property, which includes a rose garden where the ashes of former parishioners are buried.

For three years, the church remained locked and inaccessible to congregants as the property became ensnared in controversy and a web of lawsuits.

The story goes on to provide lots of details about life in the St. James Episcopal Church during several years on the move.

But here is the key question: So this conflict involving St. James parish began three years ago?

Read the whole story at GetReligion.

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