Panel up­holds bishop’s 3-year sus­pen­sion

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Hil­lary Davis hil­lary.davis@la­times.com Davis writes for Times Com­mu­nity News.

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.

Richard Har­tog L.A. Times

BISHOP J. Jon Bruno locked parish­ioners out of a New­port church.

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