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Updated: 23 min 54 sec ago

Anglican appeal launched for cyclone victims in Australia

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 11:05am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid has launched an appeal for the victims of Cyclone Debbie in North Queensland, Australia.

One of the most powerful cyclones ever to hit Queensland devastated a large swathe of the coastline on March 28 and caused further damage as it moved inland. Local residents, churches and community groups, as well as the army and police, have begun the slow cleanup in centers such as Airlie Beach, Shute Harbour and Proserpine, as well as offshore islands Hamilton, Hayman and Daydream that were hit hard.

Full article.

Marie Tatro named Long Island vicar for community justice

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 11:01am

[Diocese of Long Island] Long Island Bishop Lawrence C. Provenzano announced March 29 the appointment of the Rev. Marie A. Tatro as vicar for community justice, a newly created position.

“I am very grateful to Mother Marie Tatro for accepting my invitation to join the staff of the diocese to shepherd the efforts of our clergy and people to serve the vulnerable in our communities in areas of immigration, housing, and equal rights and treatment,” Provenzano said. “Mother Tatro will provide strong and focused leadership in areas of community justice and provide direction to the diocese in tangible ways of living the Baptismal Covenant. She will be a resource to parishes and a liaison to the many commissions and agencies that serve at-risk populations.”

The Rev. Marie Tatro

As vicar for community justice, Tatro will have primary oversight of diocesan representation regarding social justice ministry and will serve as a key adviser to the bishop and to diocesan staff on social justice issues. She will also work closely with the staff of Episcopal Ministries of Long Island to develop funding support for social ministries within the diocese.

“I am honored to be part of creating this new position in the Diocese of Long Island,” Tatro said. “In these times when many of our sisters and brothers are at risk, I am encouraged by the witness of many good souls, both inside and outside the church, who stand with and defend the most vulnerable, the outcast and the oppressed. Rather than falling into despair, we have mobilized. With God’s help, I will do my best to put the beauty and power of the Gospel into action. As disciples of Jesus, our diocese will continue to work to bend the arc of history toward justice for all of God’s people.”

Tatro received a master’s degree in divinity studies from The General Theological Seminary and has a doctorate from C.U.N.Y. Law School.  She has a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College. Prior to seminary, Tatro worked as an attorney in nonprofit organizations that provide free legal representation.

Tatro was curate at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, where she launched The Messengers of Justice Project, a service providing legal and pastoral support, referrals to individuals and educational workshops for the community. Over the past year, she served as supply priest at Trinity-Morrisania Church in the South Bronx and at All Saints Church, Sunnyside, in Queens. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Faith in New York and has worked closely with other interfaith social justice organizations including The New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC.

Tatro began her diocesan position on March 29.

Le duo Lent Madness* braque l’attention sur les histoires inspirantes des saints

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 9:10am

Légende de la photo : Le révérend Scott Gunn, à gauche, et le révérend Tim Schenck posent avec une image grand format du gagnant du Golden Halo 2015 : Saint François d’Assise. Photo : Lent Madness

[Episcopal News Service] Le révérend Tim Schenck, recteur d’une église épiscopale du Massachusetts, a créé Lent Madness en 2010 sur son blogue. Deux ans plus tard, il s’est associé à Forward Movement et s’est adjoint un « co-conspirateur », le révérend Scott Gunn, directeur exécutif de Forward Movement. Depuis lors, Lent Madness est devenu si populaire parmi les chrétiens de toutes confessions que le site Web du tournoi attire habituellement environ 100 000 personnes pour une compétition entre trente deux saints.

Chaque jour, les supporteurs sont invités à voter pour l’un des deux saints proposés après s’être renseignés sur les saints en lisant leur biographie soigneusement préparée par Lent Madness. Jusqu’à 10 000 personnes votent chaque jour, déclare Scott Gunn, et les joueurs peuvent inscrire leurs résultats sur une fiche officielle intitulée Saintly Scorecard .

Tim Schenck et Scott Gunn n’approuvent pas les jeux d’argent mais les églises et autres organisations sont invitées à se servir des « bracket pools** » comme outils de collecte de fonds à but caritatif.

« Qui ne veut pas dire à tout le monde dans sa paroisse qu’il a gagné Lent Madness ? » conclut Tim Schenck.

Tim Schenck et Scott Gunn ont parlé à Episcopal News Service par téléphone le 22 mars, à l’approche de la finale de Lent Madness pour remporter le Golden Halo de cette année, le 12 avril, le mercredi avant Pâques.

Article complet en anglais.

* NDT : Lent Madness [La folie du Carême] se réfère à « March Madness », les très fameux paris sportifs sur les championnats de basket qui ont lieu chaque année en mars aux États-Unis.

** NDT : Les Bracket pools sont les grilles présentant toutes les équipes du championnat où les participants prédisent et parient sur les résultats de chaque match.

Disciplinary hearing for Los Angeles’ Bruno concludes without decision

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 7:22am

Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno spent nearly seven hours March 29 and 30 talking to the Hearing Panel considering the disciplinary action against him. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Pasadena, California] Three days of testimony in the ecclesiastical disciplinary hearing for Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno ended here March 30 without a resolution.

Church Attorney Raymond “Jerry” Coughlan, appointed to represent the Episcopal Church, and Diocese of Los Angeles Chancellor Richard Zevnik did not make oral closing statements. They will submit written briefs for the Hearing Panel to consider before making its decision.

“I have no idea how long our decision will take but there are other canonical processes involved that could mean this could go on for a while,” Diocese of Southern Virginia Bishop Herman Hollerith IV, president of the Hearing Panel, told spectators at the end of the session. “This is not going to be something that is going to happen before Easter.”

The allegations detailed at the hearing stem from Bruno’s behavior during and after his unsuccessful 2015 attempt to sell St. James the Great Episcopal Church in Newport Beach to a condominium developer for $15 million. Members of the church initially filed the disciplinary complaint against him.

Bruno is alleged to have violated Title IV Canon IV.4.1(g) by failing to exercise his ministry in accordance with applicable church canons (specifically Title II Canon II.6.3 requiring prior standing committee consent to any plan for a church or chapel to be “removed, taken down, or otherwise disposed of for worldly or common use”), Title IV Canon IV.4.1(h)(6) by engaging in “conduct involving dishonesty, deceit or misrepresentation” and Title IV Canon IV.4.1(h)(8) for “conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.” The applicable subsections of Title IV Canon IV.4.1 begin on page 135 here.

The St. James the Great complainants allege that Bruno violated church canons because he:

  • failed to get the consent of the diocesan standing committee before entering into a contract to sell the property;
  • misrepresented his intention for the property to the members, the clergy and the local community at large;
  • misrepresented that St. James the Great was not a sustainable congregation;
  • misrepresented that the Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, St. James’ vicar, had resigned;
  • misrepresented to some St. James members that he would lease the property back to them for a number of months and that the diocese would financially aid the church; and
  • engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy by “misleading and deceiving” the clergy and people of St. James, as well as the local community, about his plans for the property and for taking possession of the property and locking out the congregation.

The Rev. Canon Kelli-Grace Kurtz, convening chair of Los Angeles’ program group on missions, discusses with the Hearing Panel what the diocese requires of those congregations. She said the group classified St. James as a “mission station” and thus it had to comply with certain reporting requirements. The Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, St. James’ vicar, had testified that she reported verbally to Bruno and did not think she needed to submit those reports. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Bruno said in his response brief to the Hearing Panel that five of the allegations must be decided in his favor because “undisputed evidence establishes no canonical violation.” He said the sixth allegation concerning alleged misrepresentations to Voorhees presents conflicting evidence for the panel to weigh. However, he called it a “she said (he told me he wouldn’t sell the property), he said (I never said I wouldn’t sell the property) dichotomy.”

The Hearing Panel has a number of actions it can take, ranging from dismissal of the allegations to removing Bruno from his ordained ministry. Bruno or Coughlan would have 40 days to appeal the Hearing Panel’s decision to the Court of Review for Bishops.

March 30 began with Bruno spending nearly two hours answering questions from Coughlan and Zevnik about his March 28 testimony. The questions ranged over a number of topics aimed at understanding the bishop’s actions surrounding his attempt to sell St. James the Great, and his motivations for those actions. High on the list of motivations was providing money to fund the ongoing mission and ministry of the diocese.

Money was an issue, Bruno and other witnesses said because the diocese had spent more than $10 million on the lengthy litigation that eventually returned four properties to the diocese that had been held by disaffiliated Episcopalians. Bruno said the expense was worth it to set a precedent about church property ownership in the diocese and in the state. He went forward with the actions even after then-Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and the presiding bishop’s chancellor, David Booth Beers, advised against it, he said.

Bruno and others discussed evidence showing that the sale of St. James was also one possible way for the diocese to have the money to buy the remaining interest in some commercial properties in Anaheim, California. Donors had bequeathed to the diocese a partial interest in those properties. The properties produce income for the diocese and the diocese also thought it might be able to sell the property near Angel Stadium. One document showed that the properties appraised at $140 million. The diocese has since borrowed the money to acquire a 100 percent interest in the properties.

Some of the other March 30 witnesses said Bruno also wanted to leave the diocese in good financial health when he retires. Bruno turns 72, the Episcopal Church’s mandatory retirement age for clergy, in late 2018. His successor, Bishop Coadjutor-Elect John Taylor, is due to be ordained and consecrated on July 8 of this year.

Diocesan Chief of Staff David Tumilty tells the Hearing Panel about Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno’s concerns over the financial health of the diocese and how those concerns informed his decisions about St. James. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

They said the diocese had been hard-hit not only by the litigation costs but also by the 2008 recession that came as the diocese was spending capital to pay for the litigation, according to diocesan Chief of Staff David Tumilty.

Tumilty said that spending resulted in staff cuts and cuts to programs such as one that provided counseling for priests. He also explained that the California “corporation sole” through which Bruno controlled some but not all of diocesan property and other assets was getting strapped by having frequently to cover operating deficits in what is known as the Mission Share Fund budget.

The need for recovering capital was a theme in the March 30 testimony. For instance, when Coughlan asked the bishop who now was liaison to the Anglican Communion Compass Rose Society, an $110,000 job that he had offered to Voorhees, Bruno said the job was unfilled. “I don’t have the money to have it now because I am paying for two years of litigation,” he said, referring to the Title IV proceedings.

“Whose fault is that?” a few members of the audience asked softly but clearly. Voorhees turned and hushed the audience and later Hollerith reminded spectators of his requirement that they not speak out.

Testimony March 30 also showed that the sale of St. James the Great caused controversy between at least two diocesan leaders. The Rev. Canon Melissa McCarthy, Standing Committee president during 2015 and 2016, told the panel that then-Bishop Suffragan Mary Glasspool called her to inquire about a possible sale of St. James. McCarthy said Glasspool told her that, as standing committee president, McCarthy had a duty to block the sale. She said Glasspool asked her to contact a Episcopal diocesan chancellor in the state whom MCarthy knew and whom Glasspool thought could help develop an argument against the sale.

The Rev. Canon Melissa McCarthy, who chaired the Diocese of Los Angeles’ Standing Committee during 2015 and 2016, tells the Hearing Panel about the committee’s actions surrounding Bruno’s attempted sale of the St. James the Great Episcopal Church property. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Glasspool planned to contact other Episcopal bishops about the sale, McCarthy said. After praying for a day, McCarthy said she contacted Bruno to tell him about the conversation because she found out that the bishop had confidentially disclosed the offer to buy St. James during a meeting of diocesan executive leadership.

“The bishop suffragan had called the president of the standing committee and enlisted her support to undermine what the bishop diocesan was doing,” McCarthy said, explaining her reason for calling Bruno. “And [because she] had broken his confidentiality, I felt like he needed to know.”

The standing committee approved Bruno’s effort to sell St. James during a special June 8, 2015, meeting more than two months after Bruno accepted the offer. The members gave their approval, she said, even though Bruno did not ask for it. Because the title to the property resided in the corporation sole, McCarthy said, Bruno believed he could act without their approval. McCarthy noted that her committee eventually would have to approve deconsecrating the church if the sale went through.

“We want to have some way to clearly show our support,” she said. “Unique circumstances” surrounded that decision because, by June 8, McCarthy said, “there had already been a social-media campaign launched” and other opposition to the sale had formed.

Moreover, McCarthy said, the committee knew the bishop was looking for ways to recoup the litigation costs and he was concerned about the financial shape of the diocese when he retired. Committee members also talked about how “a congregation and a building are two different things” and that the sale of the property was “in line with the plan that the bishop had had for a number of years.”

When Bruno formed the intention to sell St. James and whether and when he disclosed that intention to Voorhees and the members of St. James has been in dispute. Voorhees and others have insisted that they believed Bruno wanted them to revive St. James so that it could continue in the hard-won building.

The Title IV disciplinary process based on professional-conduct model
Although the Episcopal Church Title IV disciplinary canons in 2011 moved clergy disciplinary actions from a legalistic process to a professional-conduct model, many legal terms persist. For instance, Hollerith and the attorneys referred questioning as “cross-examination” and there were “objections” about some questions or whether certain “evidence” was “admissible.”

Clare Zabala-Bangao, Diocese of Los Angeles coordinator for mission congregations, tells the Hearing Panel about her efforts to have St. James’ lay leaders and the Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, the vicar, file required monthly financial reports. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

However, the ultimate goal, according Title IV’s introduction (page 131 here), is that “the Church and each Diocese shall support their members in their life in Christ and seek to resolve conflicts by promoting healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation among all involved or affected.”

Each day’s session began and ended with prayer led by Hearing Panel member the Rev. Erik Larsen of Rhode Island. The opening prayer concluded with all participants and onlookers saying the Lord’s Prayer aloud in unison. At the end of the March 30 afternoon session, Larsen prayed that God would guide the panel to “discern the truth and find your will for us as we move forward.” Larsen prayed that as that discernment continued and people waited on the outcome that “above all we would not lose the charity that you reveal in your son Jesus.”

Hollerith concluded the session with a blessing and liturgical dismissal.

In addition to Hollerith and Larsen, the members of the Hearing Panel considering the allegations against Bruno include Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, and Deborah Stokes of Southern Ohio. All are members of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, which appointed them.

The Hearing Panel met at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Pasadena, about 90 minutes northeast of Newport Beach. Save St. James the Great organized buses to travel to and from the hearing each day. Close to 120 people at times sat in the gallery during the daily sessions.

Previous ENS coverage of the hearing is here.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is senior editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

L’eau : bien commun ou marchandise ?

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 6:17am

[Episcopal News Service] La demande en eau devrait augmenter de 55 % d’ici 2030, selon les prévisions et, dans le même temps, il est possible que les ressources globales en eau ne répondent qu’à 60 % des besoins mondiaux.

« L’Afrique, l’Inde, le Moyen-Orient et l’Australie sont en crise », a déclaré Maude Barlow, ancienne conseillère principale aux Nations Unies, responsable de la question de l’eau et auteure, militante politique et critique politique. Certains disent que « la solution à la crise de l’eau est la marchandisation de l’eau », a-t-elle ajouté, lors de la séance du 23 mars sur le thème : « l’eau : bien commun ou marchandise », dans le cadre de la conférence mondiale intitulée Water Justice, qui s’est tenue du 22 au 24 mars à Trinity Church Wall Street à New York et par webcast au niveau mondial.

Le révérend Brandon Mauai, diacre du diocèse du Dakota du Nord et membre de la Nation sioux de Standing Rock a parlé de l’appui de l’Église épiscopale à la Nation sioux de Standing Rock, elle et ses alliés ayant lutté contre le tracé de l’oléoduc de Dakota Access. Photo : Leo Sorel/Trinity Wall Street

Le but de la conférence était de présenter des directives pour encourager les initiatives individuelles, des congrégations et la communauté de foi au sens large, en faveur d’une « justice de l’eau »,  dans les domaines de l’accès à l’eau, de la sécheresse, de la pollution, de l’élévation du niveau des mers et des inondations. Water Justice est la 46e conférence annuelle organisée par Trinity Institute, les conférences passées ayant traité de justice raciale et d’inégalité économique.

Si les Grands Lacs, le plus vaste système d’eau douce de surface sur terre, « étaient pompés aussi impitoyablement que les eaux souterraines, ils seraient asséchés en 80 ans », avertit Maude Barlow. La Mer d’Aral en Russie, jadis le quatrième plus grand lac d’eau douce au monde, est à présent réduite à 10 % de sa dimension antérieure. La moitié des eaux de Chine, pays riche en eau, ont disparu. Sao Paulo, la deuxième plus grande ville du monde, est frappée par la sécheresse parce que la destruction rapide de la forêt tropicale d’Amazonie a diminué les nuages de vapeur d’eau qui transportaient l’eau jusqu’au centre et au sud du Brésil.

Tout ceci se produit, explique Maude Barlow, alors que les sociétés, les gouvernements et la Banque mondiale envisagent un marché mondial de l’eau, avec à terme des contrats pour vendre l’eau comme le pétrole et le gaz.

« [L’eau] est-elle un droit de l’homme, un bien d’intérêt public ou un actif privé ? » demande Maude Barlow.

Comme l’a souligné Christiana Zenner Peppard, professeure à Fordham University, théologienne et spécialiste de l’eau douce, dans sa réponse à l’intervention de Maude Barlow, un être humain ne peut survivre au delà de sept jours sans eau.

L’« eau n’est pas remplaçable par quoi que ce soit d’autre, c’est le référentiel pour les systèmes humain, écologique et planétaire », poursuit-elle. « On ne peut pas parler d’eau et de justice comme de deux choses séparées ».

En termes de valeurs et d’éthique religieuses de l’eau : « elle est fondamentale à la vie et comprise comme une ressource finie » et, pour le moins du point de vue chrétien, l’accès à l’eau signifie se préoccuper des « plus petits d’entre nous ».

À la suite de l’intervention de Maude Barlow et de la réponse de Christiana Peppard, le public présent à Trinity a écouté les récits de trois intervenants confrontés à trois formes très différentes de crises de l’eau.

Trois ans après la crise de l’eau à Flint (État du Michigan), les habitants continuent à dépendre de l’eau en bouteille pour leurs besoins en boissons et hygiène, a déclaré Nakiya Wakes, militante et porte-parole de Flint Rising, une coalition d’organisations communautaires qui préparent les habitants de Flint pour le long terme.

« On nous a menti pendant trop longtemps et nous n’avons pas confiance en notre gouvernement », a-t-elle expliqué. « Cela fait trois ans que nous buvons de l’eau en bouteille… nous n’avons pas accès à l’eau potable aux États-Unis d’Amérique. Ils appellent le Michigan « Pure Michigan » et nous sommes purement empoisonnés ».

Le révérend Brandon Mauai, diacre du diocèse du Dakota du Nord et membre de la Nation sioux de Standing Rock a parlé de l’appui de l’Église épiscopale à la Nation sioux de Standing Rock, elle et ses alliés ayant lutté contre le tracé de l’oléoduc de Dakota Access. Le tracé de l’oléoduc de 1 885 km passait à l’origine près de Bismarck (État du Dakota du Nord) mais a été modifié après que les habitants ont exprimé leur préoccupation par rapport à un accident qui contaminerait l’eau potable de la ville. Au lieu de cela, l’oléoduc passe sous le fleuve Missouri au lac Oahe, réservoir qui fournit l’eau pour la réserve de Standing Rock et d’autres en aval.

En septembre 2016, des fonctionnaires fédéraux ont interrompu la construction de l’oléoduc sur les terres bordant ou sous le lac Oahe qui appartiennent à l’Army Corps of Engineers des États-Unis, l’agence fédérale chargée des autorisations sur les terres publiques et les voies fluviales. En décembre, le président Barack Obama a bloqué la construction sur le segment contesté de l’oléoduc.

« Nous allons continuer à parler à quiconque nous écoutera. L’Église continuera à jouer un rôle actif, nous avons participé activement au nettoyage… nous continuerons à faire ce que la tribu a besoin que nous fassions en tant qu’Église, nous serons là pour apporter une aide de toutes les façons possibles », a-t-il déclaré.

Des milliers d’épiscopaliens ont rejoint ceux qui soutiennent la Nation sioux, le plus récemment pour la manifestation et rassemblement Native Nations Rise, le 10 mars à Washington.

L’archevêque Winston Halapua, l’un des trois primats de l’Église anglicane en Polynésie et à Aotearoa en Nouvelle-Zélande, responsables des congrégations samoanes, tongiennes, indo-fidjiennes et fidjiennes, a parlé de son enfance et comment il a grandi à Tonga, où sa vie était synchronisée avec le cycle des marées.

La montée du niveau de la mer continue à engloutir des îles entières dans le Pacifique, où l’Église anglicane d’Aotearoa en Nouvelle-Zélande et de Polynésie établit une « stratégie claire de résilience » pour renforcer ses moyens face à de futures catastrophes naturelles dans les îles du Pacifique.

« L’eau est le reflet de Dieu, vous et moi ne vivons pas sans eau », a conclu Winston Halapua.

Article complet en anglais.

Filipino group urges Canada to hold mining companies accountable

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 8:38am

[Anglican Journal] A delegation from the Philippines that includes an Anglican bishop wants the government to appoint an ombudsperson to monitor Canadian mining operations overseas and to support formal peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front.

“We want the Canadian people to hear our story and we want that foreign corporations operating in the Philippines, especially Canadian mining companies, be held accountable for their complicity in human rights violations against our people,” said Bishop Antonio Ablon, speaking at a news conference on Parliament Hill March 23.

Full article.

Growth in two very different Maryland congregations, similar strategies

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 8:19am

[Diocese of Maryland] The Rev. Margarita Santana didn’t know how many people would show up for her first Sunday at the Iglesia de la Resurrección on Baltimore, Maryland’s eastside, but she thought there would be more than eight.

“I was very surprised,” said Santana, who splits her time as vicar and Latino missioner for the Diocese of Maryland.

Now, almost five years later, 65 people might show up on a good Sunday for the Spanish-language service.

A similar phoenix-like story is playing out 50 miles north of Santana at St. John’s in Havre de Grace. There, Pat Hopkins, junior warden, remembers a Sunday when six people showed up, three in the pews and three in the choir. In February, 100 people showed up for the Maryland Bishop Eugene T. Sutton’s visitation.

“It was really, really one of those extraordinary moments that one has in the ministry,” said the Rev. T. James Snodgrass, priest-in-charge. “It was glorious. You could just feel it. The congregation was overflowing. They were just joyful.”

In both cases, a focus on mission, hospitality and being part of the neighborhood helped spark the revival. Outdoor services and picnics are regular events. Santana’s first Sunday led her to engage in some old-fashioned shoe-leather ministry.

“We walked around the neighborhood to see the people,” said Santana, who is from the Dominican Republic. “We knocked on doors and had flyers in Spanish.”

But the church did not have a sign in Spanish. That changed after a visit by Sutton.

“He asked me, ‘What do you want me to do? What do you need?’” said Santana. “I said, ‘Bishop. We need a sign.’”

“Misa en Espanol” (Mass in Spanish), it read. And the people responded.

“When I ask [newcomers] how did you come here. They say, ‘I saw the sign,’” said Santana, who has learned to navigate the cultural currents of her parish. Membership includes immigrants from at least 10 countries in the Latin American diaspora.

The Rev. Lew Bradford joined Santana last year as deacon. He, too, is learning the different cultures at Resurrección as he improves his Spanish.

“You need to be sure that everybody feels included,” said Bradford, who will be ordained a priest later this year.  “And I think you have to have the attitude that Margarita has, to be positive.”

Around the time Santana was knocking on doors near Resurrección, the people at St. John’s were asking themselves if their church, founded in 1809, was going to close its doors. Attendance had dwindled. The $600,000-plus endowment was down to $11,000.

“It was depressing. I remember one day praying for a sign,” said Jan Biondo, senior warden at that time. Then the phone rang. A local church was looking to rent worship space. “That was my sign that God wanted to keep us open.”

Snodgrass arrived about a year later, bringing with him nearly 40 years of ministry experience. And, because he had full-pension benefits and was part time, he didn’t bring the financial obligations that cripple many small churches.

Slowly, a turn-around began. The finances stabilized. The church has even started a $1.6 million capital campaign. Already known for participating in ecumenical outreach programs, St. John’s began its own ministry to feed and help those in need.

“It means as much to us as to the people who come here,” said Hopkins, who once wondered where she would go if St. John’s closed. “We wanted to keep the church open, but it was very bleak. Now? It’s great to see the change and the enthusiasm.”

Hospitality and mission are two of the reasons Sandra Capezio decided to join St. John’s. Now about 60 people show up for Sunday worship.

“To me [mission] is the heart of the church and what it represents,” she said. “You want to make a difference, and you want to make it through Christ.”

Santana and Snodgrass point to the combination of time, dedicated pastoral ministry and a sense of purpose within the community as key growth factors.

“You hope. But you don’t know. But you do everything you can to open up for the Spirit and then get out of the way,” said Snodgrass. “But you prepare. You work. You till the soil. Then you pray that if it’s God’s will, God will give the growth.”

— The Rev. M. Dion Thompson is a priest in the Diocese of Maryland.

J. Jon Bruno tells disciplinary hearing about attempt to sell Newport Beach church

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 7:37am

Church Attorney Raymond “Jerry” Coughlan, left, shows Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno documents during the bishop’s testimony March 29. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Pasadena, California] The second day of a March 28-30 ecclesiastical disciplinary hearing for Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno included the bishop’s explanation of his behavior during the events in question as well as more testimony from a vicar who said she became uncomfortable talking to him alone about the situation.

The allegations detailed at the hearing stem from Bruno’s behavior during and after his unsuccessful 2015 attempt to sell St. James the Great Episcopal Church in Newport Beach to a condominium developer for $15 million. Members of the church initially filed the disciplinary complaint against him.

Bruno is alleged to have violated Title IV Canon IV.4.1(g) by failing to exercise his ministry in accordance with applicable church canons (specifically Title II Canon II.6.3 requiring prior standing committee consent to any plan for a church or chapel to be “removed, taken down, or otherwise disposed of for worldly or common use”), Title IV Canon IV.4.1(h)(6) by engaging in “conduct involving dishonesty, deceit or misrepresentation” and Title IV Canon IV.4.1(h)(8) for “conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy”. The applicable subsections of Title IV Canon IV.4.1 begin on page 135 here.

The St. James the Great complainants allege that Bruno violated church canons because he:

  • failed to get the consent of the diocesan standing committee before entering into a contract to sell the property;
  • misrepresented his intention for the property to the members, the clergy and the local community at large;
  • misrepresented that St. James the Great was not a sustainable congregation;
  • misrepresented that the Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, St. James’ vicar, had resigned;
  • misrepresented to some St. James members that he would lease the property back to them for a number of months and that the diocese would financially aid the church; and
  • engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy by “misleading and deceiving” the clergy and people of St. James, as well as the local community, about his plans for the property and for taking possession of the property and locking out the congregation.

Bruno says in his response brief to the hearing panel that five of the allegations must be decided in his favor because “undisputed evidence establishes no canonical violation.” He says the sixth allegation concerning alleged misrepresentations to Voorhees presents conflicting evidence for the panel to weigh. However, he calls it a “she said (he told me he wouldn’t sell the property), he said (I never said I wouldn’t sell the property) dichotomy.”

Diocese of Los Angeles Vice Chancellor Julie Dean Larsen, right, handled the questioning of people speaking in support of the disciplinary action against Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno. Chancellor Richard Zevnik, second from right, led Bruno, third from left, through his March 29 testimony to the Hearing Panel. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

During the March 29 morning session, Diocese of Los Angeles Vice Chancellor Julie Dean Larsen led Voorhees through more than two hours of questioning about her testimony the previous day. Her questions seemed intent on uncovering inconsistencies between Voorhees’ statements during those three hours, and what she had previously said, written or done. Larsen also questioned Voorhees’ understanding of diocesan policies, her recall of the precise sequence of events that led to Bruno closing St. James on June 29, 2015, and her interpretation of certain actions and statements by Bruno.

A controversial moment occurred when Larsen asked Voorhees about an encounter she had on June 16 in a restroom with then-Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Mary Glasspool. The bishop, Voorhees said, told her she was sorry for what was happening to her and St. James and offered a sympathetic hug. Voorhees said she told Glasspool she “preferred action rather than a hug.”

When Larsen asked Voorhees about the bishop’s response, Voorhees replied, “I would rather not say what she said to me in the women’s room.” When Diocese of Southern Virginia Bishop Herman Hollerith IV, president of the Hearing Panel, asked her why she was hesitant, Voorhees said she knew that Glasspool was “in a lot of trouble” with Bruno and she did not know if the conversation was confidential.

After a short break, Hollerith told Voorhees she needed to relate the rest of the conversation.

Voorhees recalled that Glasspool told her she had “gotten into a lot of trouble” by trying to talk to the diocesan standing committee about the sale of St. James. Glasspool said that attempt “upset the bishop so much that they had to have mediation. I had no idea that had happened and I felt terrible for her that she had to go through that,” Voorhees said.

Voorhees recalled Glasspool saying that the mediation had resulted in some kind of agreement. “And then she just said the bishop scared the s— out of her and that she needed to get out of there and she was just trying to make it through General Convention.”

Glasspool is currently an assisting bishop in the Diocese of New York.

In reply to a question from Larsen, Voorhees denied that she and Glasspool discussed the Title IV disciplinary complaint against Bruno.

Larsen later asked Voorhees why she did not talk to Bruno after he told her in an emailed letter that he interpreted her June 26 “last pastoral letter” to the congregation the day before its last service in the building as her resignation.

“I didn’t feel comfortable being alone with him,” Voorhees said.

Also on March 29, Diocese Chancellor Richard Zevnik led Bruno through nearly 4.5 hours of detailed questions about his authority, the diocese’s finances, the lengthy litigation to recover the property of four parishes that had voted in 2003 to disaffiliate with the diocese and the sequence of events connected with the attempted sale of St. James.

Bruno said that he went to court over those properties because of the precedent it would have set had he not. The bishop said that as early as 2008 he intended to sell the properties once they were recovered to cover the litigation costs and because the four parishes were “redundant” because there were other nearby parishes where Episcopalians could worship. He has since sold two of the four and reopened a third.

The St. James sale fell through and the church sits empty because Bruno locked out the congregation in mid-2015. A new community that calls itself Save St. James the Great worships in the community room of Newport Beach City Hall with Voorhees as its priest.

Bruno said he allowed Voorhees to attempt to restart St. James, one of the properties involved in the litigation, because she was passionate about the congregation and he hoped she could make a go of it. He said he promised to give her “as much help as I could.”

When he reconsecrated the church property in the fall of 2013 as St. James the Great Episcopal Church, Bruno said he gave the small congregation a pep talk of sorts. “I was trying to convince the congregation to make a miracle,” he told the Hearing Panel.

“And we did,” some members of the audience replied, drawing a caution from Hollerith to remain silent.

Bruno repeatedly insisted that Voorhees did not give him required status reports about St. James’ finances but said he had not personally asked for the reports, relying instead on staff to do so. Voorhees said staffers told her St. James’ status as a “forming congregation” meant she did not have to comply with the requirement for those reports included in the diocese’s policies for mission congregations.

Newport Beach City Council member Diane B. Dixon, who was mayor pro tempore in 2015 when Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno attempted to sell St. James the Great Episcopal Church, told the hearing panel that she did not want the city to lose the “iconic” church. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Church Attorney Raymond “Jerry” Coughlan, appointed to represent the Episcopal Church in the case, sharply questioned the bishop about using scant financial information from St. James as he decided whether to accept the $15 million offer for the property. Bruno admitted that he used a 2013 parochial report that only included statistics from the three months of the new congregation’s existence and a budget included in a July 2014 application for a diocesan grant.

The latter showed that the congregation had taken in $156,046 in the first three months of the year, more than one-third of projected annual income of $349,680. The document projected 2015 income of $386,900. The document showed that such revenue would cover the congregation’s expenses. However, Bruno told people including Newport Beach City Council member Diane B. Dixon, who was then Newport Beach mayor pro tempore, that the congregation was unsustainable.

Coughlan also challenged Bruno’s contention that the $15 million offer was unsolicited, attempting to show that the bishop had instructed staff members to look at offers higher than two earlier unsolicited offers that he rejected.

He sharply questioned Bruno about his explanation to St. James members on May 17, 2015, that $6.3 million of the possible sale would go into the diocese’s Poor and Needy Fund, $1 million would go to St. James to help it establish what he called “a church without walls” and the rest would be invested in a trust fund, named in honor of the congregation, to fund other mission and ministry in the diocese.

Under Coughlan’s questioning, Bruno denied that he had accepted the $15 million offer to gain $6.3 million to buy the remaining interest in some commercial properties in Anaheim, California, that had been donated to the diocese. The bishop said using part of the St. James proceeds was only one option for financing that purchase, which would allow the diocese to use the properties to produce more income for ministry. Another option was a bank loan, which the diocese has since obtained and used to purchase the remaining interest in the Anaheim properties, according to the bishop.

Bruno, describing the diocese as “property-rich and cash-poor,” said he had an ongoing effort to trim the number of congregations by consolidating some and “liquidating” some of the property involved.

In another line of questioning, Bruno said he did not reply to an email from Voorhees on which he was copied in which she reported a phone call she had gotten from a realtor who said he had heard St. James was for sale. In the email, Voorhees asked if there was anything she needed to know because she said she had “devoted my life” to growing the congregation. She said she wanted to know if she was “wasting her time.”

The bishop said he didn’t think any ministry was a waste of time. However, he said, “if I answered every email where somebody had a concern or a worry and it’s not addressed to me, I would not sleep.”

The bishop will continue to answer questions on March 30, the last scheduled day of the hearing. Other people will also answer questions that day.

St. James the Great Episcopal Church member Michael Strong tells the Hearing Panel March 29 about his experience before and after Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno’s attempt to sell the church property. Strong and another St. James member, Kathi Liebermann, were the only other people who spoke to the Hearing Panel on March 29. Liebermann’s parents, Dan and Betty Connelly, were active in the diocese and the wider church and Bruno and Dan Liebermann were longtime friends. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

While the Episcopal Church Title IV disciplinary canons in 2011 moved clergy disciplinary actions from a legalistic process to a professional-conduct model, many legal terms persist. For instance, Hollerith and the attorneys referred to Larsen’s questioning as a “cross examination” and there were “objections” about some questions or whether certain “evidence” was “admissible.”

However, the ultimate goal, according Title IV’s introduction (page 131 here) is that “the Church and each Diocese shall support their members in their life in Christ and seek to resolve conflicts by promoting healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation among all involved or affected.”

Each day’s session began and ended with prayer led by Hearing Panel member the Rev. Erik Larsen of Rhode Island. The opening prayer concluded with all participants and onlookers saying the Lord’s Prayer aloud in unison.

In addition to Hollerith and Larsen, the members of the Hearing Panel considering the allegations against Bruno include Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, and Deborah Stokes of Southern Ohio. All are members of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, which appointed them.

The Hearing Panel is hearing testimony in a meeting room of the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Pasadena, about 90 minutes northeast of Newport Beach. Save St. James the Great has organized buses to travel to and from the hearing each day. Close to 120 people sat in the gallery at times during both the March 28 and 29 sessions.

Previous ENS coverage of the hearing is here.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is senior editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Anglican women pledge to ‘change the world’ after UN conference on economic empowerment

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 11:46am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglican delegates attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York have returned home pledging to “change the world” after what they described as a life-changing time at the UN.

The group, drawn from more than 20 countries, said UNCSW61 –which focused on women’s economic empowerment – had been “an invaluable experience of spiritual and political benefit to us and to our communities.”

Full article.

EPPN: Act on climate, march on Washington

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 11:41am

[Episcopal Public Policy Network policy alert] On March 28, President Donald Trump released an executive order that rolled back critical government policies curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Through this action, the Trump administration limits the ability of the U.S. to confront and address our changing climate and to preserve our clean air and water. His executive order fails to protect the American people of today–and generations to come–from the harmful impacts of climate change.

The Episcopal Church recognizes climate change’s damaging effects on communities around the world and calls on Episcopalians to advocate for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Next month, marchers will gather in Washington, D.C., to raise their voices to President Trump, urging him to take bold action on climate change. Will you join them?

Will you attend the People’s Climate March?

First day of Bruno hearing brings testimony about bishop’s behavior

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 3:41am

The Hearing Panel considering the disciplinary case against Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno prepares to hear from another witness for the prosecution. They are, from left, the Rev. Erik Larsen of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely, Diocese of Southern Virginia Bishop Herman Hollerith IV (panel president), panel legal advisor Brad Davenport, Deborah Stokes of Southern Ohio and North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Pasadena, California] The three-day ecclesiastical disciplinary hearing for Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno began March 28 with opening statements from the prosecution and defense, followed by at times emotional testimony from members of the congregation at the center of the dispute.

Some of those witnesses cried as they testified about the allegations, initially brought by the members of St. James the Great Episcopal Church, stemming from Bruno’s behavior during and after his unsuccessful 2015 attempt to sell the church in Newport Beach to a condominium developer for $15 million.

Bruno is alleged to have violated Title IV Canon IV.4.1(g), failing to exercise his ministry in accordance with applicable church canons (specifically Title II Canon II.6.3 requiring prior standing committee consent to any plan for a church or chapel to be “removed, taken down, or otherwise disposed of for worldly or common use”), Title IV Canon IV.4.1(h)(6) (“conduct involving dishonesty, deceit or misrepresentation”) and Title IV Canon IV.4.1(h)(8) (“conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy”). The applicable subsections of Title IV Canon IV.4.1 begin on page 135 here.

The St. James the Great complainants allege that Bruno violated church canons because he:

  • failed to get the consent of the diocesan standing committee before entering into a contract to sell the property;
  • misrepresented his intention for the property to the members, the clergy and the local community at large;
  • misrepresented that St. James the Great was not a sustainable congregation;
  • misrepresented that the Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, St. James’ vicar, had resigned;
  • misrepresented to some St. James members that he would lease the property back to them for a number of months and that the diocese would financially aid the church; and
  • engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy by “misleading and deceiving” the clergy and people of St. James, as well as the local community, about his plans for the property and for taking possession of the property and locking out the congregation.

Church Attorney Jerry Coughlan, appointed to represent the Episcopal Church, told the five-member Hearing Panel that the evidence would meet the “clear and convincing” canonical standard that Bruno was dishonest with the congregation and the Newport Beach community about his plans, about St. James’ ability to thrive and about the status of their vicar.

After the diocese recovered the St. James property in 2013 following a nearly 10-year legal battle with a group of disaffected Episcopalians who had voted to leave the Church and affiliated with what became known as the Anglican Church in North America, Bruno re-consecrated the property as St. James the Great.The bishop appointed Voorhees as vicar and she and a small group of members worked tirelessly, Coughlin said, to rebuild the congregation.

They and Voorhees “were led to believe that this was an ongoing future; that this was something that if they threw themselves into it would be a wonderful place to worship, and they did it,” Coughlan said.

Instead, he said, the bishop misrepresented his intentions for the 40,000-square-foot property in the face of canons that define “an affirmative duty” for all clergy to refrain from any behavior or communications that are dishonest or deceitful or that misrepresent a situation.

“We all rely on our clergy being honest,” he said.

Diocese of Los Angeles Vice Chancellor Julie Dean Larsen said during her opening statement that 90 percent of the facts in the case are undisputed. Bruno, she told the Hearing Panel, acted based on the knowledge he believed he had at the time when he accepted an unsolicited $15 million all-cash offer for the St. James the Great property. That property appraised five years earlier for $7.8 million, Larsen said.

“The facts will show that he carefully and prayerfully considered that decision as quickly as possible, that he looked at the information that he had at the time regarding the finances and the sustainability of the congregation that was there,” she said.

Larsen told the Hearing Panel members that when they consider the evidence, they would see that Bruno “did not misrepresent his intentions with regard to the property to anyone.”

“These charges should be dismissed,” she concluded.

Diocese of Southern Virginia Bishop Herman Hollerith IV is president of the Hearing Panel considering the case against Bruno. The panel, appointed by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops from among its members, includes Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, the Rev. Erik Larsen of Rhode Island and Deborah Stokes of Southern Ohio.

Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno, right, talks with Hawaii Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick, appointed as Bruno’s advisor, before the March 28 session opened in a meeting room of the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Pasadena. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Testimony began with lay leader Bruce Bennett detailing how he and his wife, serving as co-bishop’s wardens, helped the small group of Episcopalians repair and refurbish a campus that he said had not been kept up by the group of disaffected Episcopalians. He and his wife initially worked 80 or more hours a week, even as he was being treated for advanced prostate cancer.

Bennett said they worked so hard because Bruno’s early actions and words had led them to believe that it was his “desire and his belief” that St. James the Great would exist for years to come.

Evangeline Kroner Andersen testified, at times emotionally, about how her family came to St. James soon after the remaining Episcopalians reopened the building. Voorhees quickly recruited Andersen, an internal auditor for a utility company, to help set up the congregation’s financial systems. She was part of a financial team that worked with Voorhees, she said, to develop budgets, project finances for future years and develop stewardship in the congregation.

St. James’ financial footing got surer, Andersen told the panel. “The actual condition was zero dollars” when they began in late 2013, she said. By May 2014, there was $100,000 in the bank. Pledge and plate giving increased all year, Andersen said, calling it “amazing financial growth.”

When Bruno told the congregation on May 17, 2015, that he had sold the church property, in part because its expenses were high and it was not sustainable, Andersen disagreed. The trend was pointing upward and “imagine what we could have done” if the congregation had been allowed to continue, she said.

Andersen grew up Episcopalian, attending school at Washington National Cathedral, but her husband had not gone to church. In the midst of the conflict, he was baptized. “As much as it has tried my faith, he has found faith through this,” she said, wiping away tears.

St. James the Great Episcopal Church member Evangeline Korner Anderson testified before the Hearing Panel March 28 during the disciplinary hearing for Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno. Anderson said as a member of the congregation’s financial team she believed the congregation was close to being self-sustaining when Bruno closed it in mid-2015. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Some of the church’s annual income came from renting the kitchen to Patrick DiGiacoma, a former Marine and stockbroker turned chef. He and a business partner leased St. James’ kitchen as they started a catering business. They invested money to upgrade the kitchen and they cooked brunch for members on Sunday mornings, feeding anyone who showed up.

“I called it a backdoor ministry,” DiGiacoma, a self-described lapsed Roman Catholic, told the committee.

Homeless people in the neighborhood smelled the cooking and came to the back door, asking for food. They always got it, he said, and some stayed for church or the cooking classes he offered. He also taught cooking to autistic children and young adults with Asperger’s syndrome.

“This community at the church has been amazing,” he said of the people with whom he began to worship. “Everybody just steps up [to volunteer to get things done], they were always there. The parishioners here, which gets missed in this trial, are the most amazing people I have ever met. They are breathtakingly generous and kind.”

All three members described the May 17, 2015, meeting at the church during which Bruno announced he had sold the property as being in similar terms to Bennett’s summary. “There was indignation. There was anger. There were tears. There was frustration,” he said.

Warren Wimer, who lives in the Lido Isle development where St. James the Great is located, told the committee that as president of the homeowners association, he conducted a survey of residents about the plan to demolish St. James. He said 92 percent opposed it.

The Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, vicar of St. James the Great Episcopal Church, spent more than three hours testifying to the Hearing Panel March 28 and will be cross examined when the hearing resumes March 29. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Coughlan then led Voorhees through a three-hour recounting of her leadership at St. James, how the sale was disclosed and the aftermath of that disclosure. Voorhees, who designed churches before she was ordained, continued that work after she became a priest and consulted on the construction of a new St. James building in 2000. That work was part of what called her back to the congregation when she knew Bruno would be looking for a vicar after the property was recovered, she said.

“I actually felt that out of the fire, there could be a phoenix,” she told the panel, explaining she told him she would work without pay for two years while rebuilding the mission of the congregation.

She said the bishop never told her he planned to sell St. James, even though she knew he had considered at one time what would happen to it and three other properties that were recovered from departing Episcopalians.

Voorhees described how she worked to increase not only ministry but also revenue coming into St. James. She negotiated a deal with another developer who needed to rent parking spaces to meet city regulations. The deal would have brought in $6,800 a month but approval languished in the diocesan offices, she said, while the bishop said the congregation was having trouble with parking and was not bringing in enough revenue to sustain itself.

By the middle of 2015 when Bruno tried to sell the property, the congregation was paying Voorhees the equivalent of $60,000 on an annual basis and she was due to get two salary increases in the remainder of the year, she said. The congregation, both Voorhees and Andersen said, had planned a $500,000 budget for 2015, hoped to be able to drop its diocesan assistance by 2016 and hoped to be able to become a parish soon after that.

It was against this backdrop that Voorhees said that Bruno told her he had a contract to sell the property and began telling people, including the Newport Beach mayor, that the congregation could not sustain itself.

“I felt deceived. I felt used. I felt all sorts of emotions after all the work we’d put in,” she said. “There was no conversation. It was so cold, so brutal.”

After the parish learned of the sale, Voorhees said she was consumed by trying to care pastorally for church members while she was dealing with her own emotions.

“Some people had lost their church twice now; once when the Anglicans took it and now with the sale,” she said, describing people “falling on the ground outside my office sobbing.”

The vicar sent a series of letters to the congregation updating them on the sale and the transition of the parish. On June 21, 2015, she issued what she called a “Here I Stand” letter challenging some of Bruno’s statements and then wrote on June 26 a “last pastoral letter” the day before the congregation’s last service in the building.

“I have decided that I cannot lead you into a diaspora situation, not only for personal reasons but for professional reasons as well,” she wrote in that last letter.

Voorhees testified that she had begun to feel overwhelmed and initially agreed to take a $111,000 diocesan-funded job with the Anglican Compass Rose Society. A main reason, she said, was because “my world was spinning and collapsing and I was trying to be obedient to what I thought my bishop wanted me to do.”

However, Voorhees said, during coffee hour on the day of the final service at St. James, the congregants asked her to stay with them. Fighting back tears, Voorhees said, “I took a vow to take care of the flock that was entrusted to me and I looked at the whole room and thought I can’t abandon them right now.”

She later turned back her first paycheck from the new job, she said, after it became clear to her that Bruno was not being honest about what was happening.

On June 29, a diocesan staffer emailed her a letter from the bishop, saying that he interpreted the June 26 letter as her resignation from St. James. Later that day other diocesan officials told her via email that the locks on the church doors were changed and she would have to arrange to remove her personal items.

Voorhees told the panel she was “frankly blown away by the tone.”

“I didn’t think it was necessary. I thought it was ridiculously hostile to just come in and lock a building down and not trust that I wouldn’t remain professional and do the right thing,” she said.

The Hearing Panel is hearing testimony in a meeting room of the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Pasadena about 90 minutes northeast of Newport Beach. Save St. James the Great has organized buses to travel to and from the hearing each day.

Previous ENS coverage of the hearing is here.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is senior editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Editor’s note: This story was updated March 29, 2017, at 10:30 EDT to recast a portion of the Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees’ testimony.

Anglicans in South India recommit to gender equality in society

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 4:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of South India leadership has stated in unequivocal terms that it is committed to gender equity in society. Speaking on the occasion of the inauguration of the two-day orientation to representatives from the different CSI dioceses covering the five southern states in India, the Rev. Thomas K. Oomen, the CSO moderator, said that the Church has always been committed to gender equity and will continue to do that in both society and in the Church.

Full article.

Coalition of Episcopal bishops issue statement in response to Trump’s executive order on climate change

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 2:51pm

[Episcopal News Service] President Donald Trump on March 28 signed an executive order instructing regulators to rewrite rules aimed at curbing carbon emissions and other environmental regulations at the center of the previous administration’s policies to combat global warming.

 

A coalition of Episcopal bishops who have worked on environmental issues immediately issued a statement in response to Trump’s executive order.  

“We know there is widespread support for the environment protections and measures that seek to curb climate change across the House of Bishops and in dioceses and congregations across the Church,” said California Bishop Marc Andrus, who drafted the statement. 

Bishops from across the Episcopal Church have continued to sign on. 

The full statement follows.

We live in a time of unprecedented global change spanning scientific discovery, technological innovation, and human development. This extraordinary moment offers an equally unprecedented opportunity to leverage our abundant resources for positive and scalable societal impact. As bishops of the Episcopal Church, we believe that climate change menaces the lifeblood of our economy, our national security, and the very future of humanity and that of many other species, and the United States of America must rise to the occasion to confront this enormous threat, assuming a leadership role in partnership with the community of nations. We consider this a matter of profound spiritual importance and a manifestation of our call to be stewards of God’s creation. 

We are faith leaders who believe in the scientific community’s overwhelming finding that climate change is real, human-caused, and undeniably destructive to human society and the priceless ecology of our planet. To effectively address this threat, Americans must act at local, state, national, and international levels to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and support communities impacted by climate change. Since its founding, our great nation has rigorously strived to craft policy based on the best available science of our time. The Trump Administration’s unique departure from this tradition, through the rolling back of critical climate change policy, endangers the lives of American citizens everywhere.

Climate change mitigation and economic productivity are mutually supported, interconnected goals, and by drastically curtailing our work on climate mitigation, President Trump’s Executive Order on Climate Change leaves America vulnerable to national security, economic, and environmental threats. As we witness the detrimental effects of climate change on national infrastructure, financial productivity, and global stability, we also recognize the inherent economic potential of clean and renewable energy technologies. International economic competitors like China are already seizing proven investments and energy development opportunities in wind and solar to challenge American energy production. Now is the time to look forward –not back –and channel the spirit of American enterprise to mitigate climate change while adopting and developing technologies that harness and sustain God’s creation.

We live in a moment that demands urgent action. In the Episcopal Church alone, our members are already experiencing hunger, drought, and human loss due to climate change. From the Alaska Native Gwich’in hunter facing food insecurity as winter approaches to the Navajo grandmother praying for drought relief, Episcopalians are eager to confront our changing climate through local action and national policy.

While Obama-era policies can be improved under our current Administration, rolling back environmental safeguards without replacing them with strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions further exacerbates climate change’s impacts. As Episcopal bishops, we call on the Trump Administration to protect the American people through implementing, strengthening, and improving critical climate change policies in our national agenda, building an American dream that courageously confronts the climate crisis. As former Secretary of State and Episcopalian George Shultz said in November of 2016, we must act on climate change “for our children and our grandchildren,” for the generations who come after us on the Earth.

The Rt. Rev. Marc H. Andrus
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Douglas John Fisher
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts

The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire

The Rt. Rev. Gregory Rickel
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia

The Rt. Rev. Mark M. Beckwith
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark

The Rt. Rev. Bud Cederholm
Retired Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

The Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Islan

The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

The Rt. Rev Prince G. Singh
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

The Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont

The Rt. Rev. David C. Rice
Provisional Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin

The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego

The Rt. Rev Dan Edwards
Bishop of Nevada

The Rt. Rev. Mark A. Lattime
Bishop of Alaska

The Rt. Rev. Whayne M. Hougland Jr.
Bishop of Western Michigan

The Rt. Rev. Barry Beisner
Bishop of Northern California

The Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves
Bishop of El Camino Real

The Rt. Rev. DeDe Duncan-Probe
Bishop of Central New York

The Rt. Rev. Stephen Lane
Bishop of Maine

The Rt. Rev. Bavi E. Rivera
Retired Bishop of Eastern Oregon

The Rt. Rev. Andrew M. L. Dietsche
Bishop of New York

The Rt. Rev. Bishop Mary D. Glasspool
Assistant Bishop of New York

The Rt. Rev. Allen K. Shin
Bishop Suffragan of New York

Gretchen M. Rehberg consecrated ninth bishop of Spokane

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 9:12am

The Rt. Rev. Gretchen M. Rehberg was ordained and consecrated as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Spokane on March 18 at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Spokane, Washington. Photo: Diocese of Spokane

[Diocese of Spokane] The Rt. Rev. Gretchen M. Rehberg was ordained and consecrated as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Spokane on March 18 at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Spokane, Washington. During the course of the service, the new bishop received a number of gifts including a pectoral cross, ring, stole, miter and crozier. During the service, she was “seated” in the “cathedra” or bishop’s chair that is symbolic of the bishop’s office.

 More than 650 people attended the festive consecration and ordination service, and more than 6,850 joined the service by live-streaming video. Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry led the service as chief consecrator. The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, former presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, was the preacher for the service.

Banners representing the diocese’s congregations and several organizations led the procession of diocesan and interfaith clergy, regional dignitaries, and choristers from congregations around the diocese. The choir of more than 100 voices joined awe-inspiring carillon, brass, and pipe organ music before, during, and after the service. Following the service, worshippers enjoyed a celebratory reception in the cathedral’s Great Hall.

 The entire service may be viewed on the diocesan website at this link.  

Rehberg was elected ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane on Oct. 18, 2016, during the diocese’s 52nd annual convention. Prior to her election, she was the rector of Episcopal Church of the Nativity, in Lewiston, Idaho, a position she had held since 2006. 

 Before being elected, she served the diocese as chair of the Commission on Ministry, a canon for regional mission, and a trainer for the College for Congregational Development. In these ministries, she combined her passion for equipping people for ministry and assisting congregations in becoming more faithful, healthy and effective communities of faith.

 She has a master of divinity from General Seminary, a doctor of ministry from Wesley Seminary, and a doctor of philosophy in chemistry.  She was a professor of organic chemistry at Bucknell University, in addition to having served her community as an emergency medical technician and firefighter.

 Rehberg succeeds the Rt. Rev. James E. Waggoner, Jr., who served as the eighth bishop of the diocese for more than 16 years. The Episcopal Diocese of Spokane is the Episcopal Church in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

Church disciplinary hearing due to begin for Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 8:49am

The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno became the sixth bishop of Los Angeles on Feb. 1, 2002. Photo: Diocese of Los Angeles

[Episcopal News Service – Pasadena, California] Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno faces a rare disciplinary hearing here March 28-30 on accusations that he violated church canons, including engaging in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.

The allegations, initially brought by the members of St. James the Great Episcopal Church, stem from Bruno’s 2015 attempt to sell the church in Newport Beach to a condominium developer for $15 million.

Bruno is accused of violating Title IV Canon IV.4.1(g) failing to exercise his ministry in accordance with applicable church canons (specifically Title II Canon II.6.3 requiring prior standing committee consent to any plan for a church or chapel to be “removed, taken down, or otherwise disposed of for worldly or common use”), Title IV Canon IV.4.1(h)(6) (“conduct involving dishonesty, deceit or misrepresentation”) and Title IV Canon IV.4.1(h)(8) (“conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy”). The applicable subsections of Title IV Canon IV.4.1 begin on page 135 here.

Diocese of Southern Virginia Bishop Herman Hollerith IV is president of the Hearing Panel that will consider the case against Bruno. The panel, appointed by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops from among its members,  includes Rhode Island Bishop Nicholas Knisely, North Dakota Bishop Michael Smith, the Rev. Erik Larsen of Rhode Island and Deborah Stokes of Southern Ohio.

The St. James the Great complainants allege that Bruno violated church canons because he

  • failed to get the consent of the diocesan standing committee before entering into a contract to sell the property;
  • misrepresented his intention for the property to the members, the clergy and the local community at large;
  • misrepresented that St. James the Great was not a sustainable congregation;
  • misrepresented that the Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, St. James’ vicar, had resigned;
  • misrepresented to some St. James members that he would lease the property back to them for a number of months and that the diocese would financially aid the church; and
  • engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy by “misleading and deceiving” the clergy and people of St. James, as well as the local community, about his plans for the property and for taking possession of the property and locking out the congregation.

Bruno says in his defense brief to the hearing panel that he will establish during the hearing that the issue of the standing committee’s approval does not apply because the property never sold. He admits that he did not have the standing committee’s approval when he entered into a contract to sell the property but he obtained it two months later before the then-still expected closing.

He says that the alleged misrepresentations were either not made or that he based his statements on what he believed were “true facts.” Bruno also says that Voorhees determined the date of St. James’ last service and that “prudent business practices” required him to “secure the property” after that date.

Bruno says that five of the allegations must be decided in his favor because “undisputed evidence establishes no canonical violation.” He says the sixth allegation concerning alleged misrepresentations to Voorhees presents conflicting evidence for the panel to weigh. However, he calls it a “she said (he told me he wouldn’t sell the property), he said (I never said I wouldn’t sell the property) dichotomy.”

Members of St. James the Great Episcopal Church have not worshiped in the Newport Beach, California, building since mid-summer 2015. Photo: St. James the Great Episcopal Church

Church Attorney Jerry Coughlan, appointed to represent the Episcopal Church, says in the complainant’s brief that Bruno was “seduced” by a $15 million business opportunity and then “tried to cover up the real reasons for the sale.”

“In doing so, he gave no real heed to the feelings of the many people who had relied on his positive statements” about St. James’ future, Coughlan, a former federal prosecutor, claimed.

Bruno, he said, has ignored Title IV’s goal of resolving conflicts by “promoting healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation among all involved or affected.” In fact, the attorney said. Bruno has acted “in exactly the opposite fashion, by his continued attacks on everyone involved in this case.”

Bruno is at least the tenth bishop in Episcopal Church history to have a disciplinary accusation against him reach the level of a formal hearing under the Church’s process for handling complaints applicable at the time. Those processes have changed many times during the life of the Church.

A decision will follow at some point after the end of the hearing. The Hearing Panel has a range of actions it can take, ranging from dismissal of the allegations to removing Bruno from his ordained ministry. Bruno or Coughlan would have 40 days to appeal the Hearing Panel’s decision to the Court of Review for Bishops.

Bruno turns 72, the Church’s mandatory retirement age, in late 2018. His successor, Bishop Coadjutor-Elect John Taylor, is due to be ordained and consecrated on July 8 of this year.

A timeline of the events leading up to the hearing

The Griffith Co. donated the land on what is known as the Balboa Peninsula on which St. James sits to the Episcopal Church in 1945 with a deed restriction requiring that the land be used “for church purposes exclusively.” The small congregation that existed at the time of the donation grew to the point where, with help from the diocese, it built a small church on the land in the late 1940s. The congregation outgrew that building and, 50 years later, started building a large complex, which Bruno consecrated in 2001.

Three years later a majority of the congregation’s members voted to disaffiliate with the Episcopal Church but vowed to keep the church property. They affiliated with what later became known as the Anglican Church in North America. Bruno sued in California civil court and, after costly litigation, recovered the property in 2013. He re-consecrated the building as St. James the Great in October of that year. He asked the Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, whom he appointed as vicar, and the remaining Episcopalians to form a new congregation.

Those congregants say that by the following spring, as many as 100 people attended Sunday worship and the church’s mission activities attracted and served many others. The 2015 budget envisioned $500,000 in income, according to documents St. James says it filed with the hearing panel.

Five days after Easter 2015, Bruno signed an agreement with Legacy Residential Partners to sell the property. St. James congregants say he told them of the plan on May 17, 2015.

Griffith Co., the donor of the land, reminded Bruno in a letter in early June of that year about the deed restriction and, that same month, members of the Newport Beach City Council voiced skepticism about the deal.

St. James members formed Save St. James the Great and sued Bruno in local civil court in his capacity as the California “corporation sole” for the diocese on June 23, 2015, based on the deed restriction. The court ruled that the members could not sue because neither they nor their group is listed on the deed. Save St. James is appealing. (The purpose of the “corp sole” is to hold real property and other assets for the use and benefit of the diocese and the church.)

Bruno as “corporation sole” sued the Griffith Co. in Orange County, California Superior Court on June 26, 2015, arguing that a 1984 quitclaim deed eliminated the restriction. Bruno sought not only to end any challenges or claims to the title; he also said the company had slandered the title and sought punitive damages from it. The court ruled in favor of the bishop and the diocese. Griffith Co. appealed, and Third District of the California Court of Appeal agreed on Feb. 24 with the company.

Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno consecrated a new St. James the Great Episcopal Church building in 2001. The congregation formed in the 1940s. Photo: St. James the Great Episcopal Church

The bishop changed the locks on St. James’ buildings on June 29, 2015, according to the members who have not been able to worship in the church since.

The sale fell through in the midst of these disputes and St. James members claim that Bruno has no prospect of selling the property, in part because of Newport Beach community opposition to such a development.

Those members filed a canonical complaint, signed by 117 people, against Bruno on July 6, 2015, initiating a Title IV process that has led to the March 28-30 hearing. The prior steps outlined in Title IV to reconcile the parties failed, and a July 1, 2016, notice announced that Bruno would face a Hearing Panel on the accusations. Last October, the panel refused Bruno’s request to dismiss the case and said it would not order him to let St. James members back into the building until it had considered the complaint during the scheduled hearing.

Save St. James has published a timeline of the dispute here that includes many documents.

The Title IV disciplinary process

Bruno’s trial is the first of a bishop since the Episcopal Church’s extensively revised Title IV disciplinary canons went into effect July 1, 2011. The revision was intended to move clergy disciplinary actions from a legalistic process to a professional-conduct model, such as those used in the medical, legal and social work profession, balanced with a sense of pastoral care and theology, according to those who worked on the revision.

Title IV’s introduction (page 131 here) says that “the Church and each Diocese shall support their members in their life in Christ and seek to resolve conflicts by promoting healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation among all involved or affected.”

In general, concerns about clergy behavior are reported to an intake officer who creates a written report. Following that, the matter could be resolved by pastoral care, conciliation, an agreement with the bishop (or presiding bishop in this case), an investigation, or any combination of these.

If the complaint moves to an investigation, some of the allegations could go to a more formal mediation and, finally if necessary, a hearing panel. The complaint against Bruno has reached the latter stage.

The hearing is taking place at the Courtyard by Marriott in Pasadena.

The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is senior editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.