Panel upholds bishop’s 3-year suspension
An Episcopal Church panel on Wednesday reaffirmed its recommendation of a three-year suspension for the bishop who locked worshippers out of St. James the Great church in Newport Beach in a failed sale attempt two years ago.
The panel’s final ruling against J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, was essentially unchanged from its tentative decision July 21, in which it also recommended reopening the church and halting Bruno’s renewed efforts to sell the property. St. James members were given an opportunity to respond before the final ruling.
Wednesday’s judgment came a day after the Most Rev. Michael Curry, the highest-ranking bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, transferred pastoral and property oversight from Bruno to Bishop John Taylor, who has been named Bruno’s successor upon Bruno’s planned retirement at the end of the year.
The panel’s decision is the result of a three-day hearing in March in which Bruno answered to allegations of misconduct related to his 2015 attempt to sell St. James to would-be townhouse developer Legacy Partners. The transaction fell through after Legacy’s investment partner dropped out, but the church remained closed.
The panel found Bruno guilty of all allegations brought against him by the congregation: that he attempted to sell consecrated property without consent of diocesan leadership, made several misrepresentations along the way and acted in a manner unbecoming a clergyman.
Bruno more recently tried to sell St. James to Newport Beach-based developer Burnham-Ward properties, drawing a separate round of admonitions and restrictions from top church officials. That sale was set to close in July and is in a holding pattern, a diocese spokesman said Tuesday.
A representative of Burnham-Ward did not return a call seeking comment.
Amid the series of Episcopal Church restrictions, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled July 11 that Bruno had legal control over the St. James property, nullifying a claim by the land’s donor, the Griffith Co., that deed restrictions meant it could only be used as a church.
Bruno’s secular attorney, Brian Bauer, did not return calls seeking comment.
Bruno has an opportunity to appeal the hearing panel’s decision to the Court of Review for Bishops, composed of nine bishops. He has 40 days to file an appeal, said St. James parishioner Walter Stahr, one of the complainants in the Bruno case.
BISHOP J. Jon Bruno locked parishioners out of a Newport church.