[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles released a statement Nov. 9 outlining a plan for future use of a disputed church property in Newport Beach, California, including the eventual resumption of worship services there by the St. James the Great congregation.
The property has been at the heart of disciplinary proceedings this year against Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno for his attempts to sell the church, and members of St. James the Great have been forced to worship in a Civic Center community room while the property remains in dispute.
The disciplinary hearing panel found Bruno guilty of the St. James complainants’ allegations and said he should be suspended from ordained ministry for three years because of misconduct. Bruno has appealed the hearing panel’s ruling.
Los Angeles Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor and the Rev. Rachel Anne Nyback, president of the diocese’s Standing Committee, said in October that the diocese would help St. James the Great regain mission status, but such efforts did not include the immediate return of the congregation’s pastor, the Rev. Cindy Evans Voorhees.
The statement released Nov. 9, signed by Taylor, Nyback and Voorhees, said that after St. James the Great regains mission status, it will be invited to resume use of the church, and Taylor will name Voorhees vicar. The diocese also plans to use part of the facility for its Redeemer Center for Diocesan Ministries.
The full text of the statement is below, and an additional message from Taylor can be found here.
Making All Things New: St. James the Great Episcopal Church and the Redeemer Center for Diocesan Ministries
— The church’s sudden closing hurt the people of St. James. Their leaders countenanced hurtful statements and tactics. This cycle of hurt strained relationships in the diocese. We will end the cycle by sharing our narratives openly and honestly, using reconciliation in relationship to rediscover our unity and purpose as a diocesan family in Christ.
— The diocese will continue to engage in discernment about mission and ministry in south Orange County. The diocese has no plans to sell the church. The diocese reserves the right to make whatever decisions about its resources that it may think best for the glory of God and in service of God’s people.
— While this reconciliation and discernment work goes on, the people of St. James should be able to worship in the church and experience renewal and inspiration from the celebration of Holy Eucharist and service to God’s people in community. St. James pledges to participate fully in the work of diocesan reconciliation and discernment and abide by their outcomes.
— The diocese will use a portion of the facility as the Redeemer Center for Diocesan Ministries. Tenancy will be at the bishop’s discretion. The bishop will oversee its work, and those leading its justice, outreach, service, or spirituality ministries will report to the bishop.
— Once St. James has been granted mission status, it will be invited to resume use of the church. Once Bishop Taylor, by the grace of God, is diocesan bishop, he intends to name Canon Voorhees as vicar. All understand that vicars and bishop’s wardens serve at the discretion of their bishops and that bishops, as rectors of mission churches, oversee all their operations, mission, and ministry. Once formed and seated, the St. James Bishop’s Committee and wardens will enter into a standard letter of agreement with the vicar, requiring the signature of the bishop.
Until this preparatory work is complete, the diocese may reopen the church for weekly celebrations of Holy Eucharist by supply clergy. Bishop Taylor and Canon Voorhees will be among those on the rota.
The diocese and St. James will diligently observe all canonical and diocesan requirements and procedures governing mission churches. St. James understands that the proposed 2018 Mission Share Fund budget for mission churches is fully obligated for the sake of communities where the need is great. The diocese will do all it can to assist St. James in restarting.
— St. James will stop using communications strategists and social media to advocate in connection with its relationship to the diocese. The diocese and St. James hereby repudiate all past and future anonymous correspondence sent on their behalves. If those responsible for Save St. James The Great wish it to persist as a non-profit organization, they will change its name and devote it to a religious or charitable purpose.
The Rev. Dr. Rachel Anne Nyback [for the Standing Committee]
The Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor
The Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees