[The Episcopal News] Several hundred clergy and lay delegates gathered at the Riverside Convention Center Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, while hundreds of others participated online from churches and homes in the first hybrid annual meeting of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
The “Truth and Love”-themed 126th such gathering was bittersweet, as delegates approved a historic $4.25 million balanced mission share fund budget and several justice-related resolutions but also bid a fond farewell to Bishop Suffragan Diane M. Jardine Bruce. She begins serving Dec. 1 as bishop provisional of the Diocese of West Missouri.
The proceedings opened with an acknowledgment that the convention center is located “on unceded land of the Cahuilla, Gabrieleno, Serrano, Luise’o, Chemehuevi, and Mohave tribes. Had treaties made with the U.S. Senate been honored, according to a statement read by Bruce, “tribes would possess more than 7.5 million acres of land in the state, but today California tribes own about 7% of their unratified treaty territory.”
“We are honored to add our blessings today to the land that was and is held sacred by the Indigenous peoples who called it home,” Bruce concluded.
Bishop Diocesan John Harvey Taylor’s address to convention highlighted “Amazing Episcopalians,” from Bruce to U.S. Rep. Katie Porter of Orange County to the late Bishop J. Jon Bruno, along with a host of churches and ministries across the diocese that throughout the pandemic have continued to offer food, housing, showers, clothing, and other essentials to those in need.
The Episcopal Church is a voice for justice in the world, he said. “Notwithstanding its own unaccounted-for sins, our church proclaims the orthodoxy of the risen Christ twinned with an insistence on the plural face of God, representing all God’s children across all divisions of difference, privilege and prejudice. This is our truth and love.
“Think about the light we shine! To those who would sacrifice our democracy in this country because they fear our plural future, let us show the loving, beautiful, tender face of the plural Christ. To those who won’t lay down their privilege because they’re afraid they’ll lose out, let us show the abundance of our community and the Eucharistic table.
“Since the world has never needed our church more than it does today, I refuse to participate in the prevailing pessimism about our future. But when I’m tempted by worry and care – and all of us are, from time to time – I just remember, every day, that I get to work with amazing Episcopalians!”
Invoking the familiar three-legged-stool metaphor, Taylor discussed efforts to achieve financial stability for the diocese, including a balanced budget, expanding the Corporation of the Diocese’s role with mission congregations, and “Everlasting Transformation: The Generation to Generation Capital Campaign.”
A video of Taylor’s address is here.
Tributes to Bishop Bruno, farewells to Bishop Bruce
Amid standing ovations, Taylor paid tribute to Bruno, who died in April 2021, and to Bruce as “the holy of holy of amazing Episcopalians.”
Taylor described Bruce as “a pastor who always comforts, with a spirit that always enlivens, a prophet who calls us to account, an innovator in imagining new ways to do mission and ministry, a team builder whose legacy will live among us as she heads East.”
Bruno’s ministry was summed up in a word, “the almighty Yes,” Taylor told the gathering. “Yes to a child welcomed at the altar, yes to a colleague needing help, to a priest-to-be stymied in another diocese, yes both to Israelis and Palestinians; yes to a mayor wanting a word of advice or prayer; yes to an unconscious patient in the ICU whose family knew that if one whispered voice could get through, it would be Jon Bruno’s; yes to those who heard the Holy Spirit’s invitation to our inevitable future as a pluralistic, multicultural, multi-lingual church; yes to the Spirit’s demand for equity in all orders and sacraments for our LGBTQ+ siblings.”
Taylor had invited Mary Bruno to join convention, and read aloud a greeting from her:
“Bishop Jon and I could fill a book with memories and stories of being there to work out the issues of our church with you,” she wrote.” Jon’s death in April is still so fresh and I know you understand that I still am in a time of healing. COVID did not allow us to celebrate his life to the fullest and you are kind to have invited me to be with you.
“I know, you know, how much Jon loved this diocese and even more, all of its people. His heart was large and embracing. He fought the battles to make a place for everyone at the table. Dear friends, thank you for loving Jon and loving me, and for your outpouring of love to the Bruno family. You will always be in our hearts and prayers and, as he would always say, ‘remember, you are his beloved.’”
The necrology video shown during the Eucharist also lingered on photos of Bruno taken throughout his tenure as sixth bishop of the diocese.
3-legged stool: a sure financial foundation
Convention delegates approved 345-12 a balanced 2022 budget, “which is to say it is balanced across all departments and ministries without burning any capital from Corp Sole or the Corporation of the Diocese,” Taylor said. Details of the budget may be found here.
Additionally, Corporation of the Diocese members “are imagining all the ways we can help missions and parishes thrive, all the ways we can relieve the burden of financial anxiety, freeing your hearts and hands for mission and ministry, whether helping you leverage your real estate or make the most of the entrepreneurial wisdom of Episcopal Enterprises,” he said.
The Very Rev. Gary Hall, interim dean of Bloy House, introduced “Everlasting Transformation: The Generation to Generation Capital Campaign,” which has already raised about $5.3 million of its $40 million goal, with an additional $1.2 million in the process of being documented, is available on the diocesan website here. A campaign brochure (available here) was presented for the first time at the convention.
The campaign would create three major endowment funds: the diocesan operating fund; aiding ministry to neighbors in need; and cultivating future congregational leadership and congregational partnerships.
In response to Hall’s introduction, the Rev. Patrick Crerar paid tribute to Bruce, his predecessor as rector of St. Clement’s Church, while presenting the bishops with a $75,000 check as part of the San Clemente congregation’s $250,000 commitment to the capital campaign.
“We stand on the shoulders of one who, when she was at St. Clement’s, established a culture that helped us to understand we are part of the Body of Christ,” Crerar said. “She had vision to see 10, 20, 30 years into the future of what this parish would need and we benefit from that leadership and give thanks.”
Taylor also noted that throughout the pandemic, the diocesan emergency fund disbursed about $300,000, enabling 37 grants to assist churches and ministries in need.
Volunteer treasurer Canon Andy Tomat, who presented the budget to convention, said a successful capital campaign is critical to ensure future financial stability “because several current income streams will end soon, a number of critical diocesan staff hires have been deferred and no money was provided for mission growth.”
Resolutions; other convention business
Mary Nichols, an environmental attorney and climate change activist and convention’s Margaret Parker lecturer, brought greetings from Glasgow, where she had attended the United Nations COP26 conference. McCarthy, who had also served as one of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s delegates to the conference, introduced Nichols as “the queen of green.” (See related story here. A video of Nichols’ lecture is here.)
Camp Stevens Director Kathy Wilder also addressed delegates, visitors and guests. She said that although Camp Stevens had experienced extreme revenue loss during the pandemic, the Julian-based ministry nonetheless was able to continue to function, and to provide housing and health care benefits for and to maintain its staff, through diocesan and other support.
During the pandemic the camp staff held weekly online singalongs, produced a series of outdoor educational classes for school partners, hosted a gathering for seniors at St. Margaret’s in San Juan Capistrano, served 267 campers over 5 weeks during the summer, partnered with Sage Mountain Farms to provide fresh vegetables to some 40 families over a six-week period, and engaged in antiracism work. The camp has also hosted a state COVID testing site.
Wilder added that March 13, 2022, will be Camp Stevens Day, and asked congregations to designate plate offerings that day for the campership fund. The camp, a shared ministry of the dioceses of Los Angeles and San Diego, will celebrate its 70th anniversary next year, she said.
In other business, delegates elected candidates for diocesan committees and offices (see election results here); recognized retiring clergy; and reaffirmed a companion relationship with the Diocese of Jerusalem.
Delegates approved a resolution asking General Convention to add Massachusetts Suffragan Bishop Barbara Clementine Harris to The Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints, also known as Lesser Feasts and Fasts. They also adopted a resolution establishing Juneteenth as a diocesan observance beginning June 19, 2022.
The Rev. Guy Leemhuis addressed convention in support of both resolutions, which were presented by the H. Belfield Hannibal Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians. He noted Harris’s advocacy for the LGBTQ community, as well as her legacy as the first woman and first African American woman consecrated a bishop in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
Juneteenth, recently named a federal holiday, celebrates the end of slavery in 1863, although it took two and a half years more, until June 19, 1865, for slavery to end in Texas. At a time of the nation’s racial reckoning and heightened unrest, the symbolic date of freedom for African Americans, carries an even deeper and more lasting meaning, Leemhuis said.
The resolution also directs the Los Angeles deputation to General Convention to begin working toward inclusion of the holiday in Lesser Feasts and Fasts. The 80th General Convention, the triennial gathering of member Episcopal churches from 17 nations, was postponed, to July 7-14, 2022, in Baltimore, Maryland.
“The Diocese of Los Angeles is a trailblazer for truth and love, because that’s what we’re about,” Leemhuis said.
Church in a time of pandemic
If truth and love are themes for convention, “welcome and safety” are themes for the upcoming holiday season, as numbers of COVID-19 infections creep up in some counties, Taylor told delegates.
“Get vaccinations and boosters, preach to people to wear our masks when required, and then let’s deck the halls and say prayers and sing songs and without worry and fear welcome back those Christmas Eve-only neighbors we’ve missed.”
Taylor also named Canon Richard Zevnik as chancellor and as vice-chancellors Jeffrey Baker, Nancy White and Canon Julie Dean Larsen; Canon for Common Life Bob Williams as archivist; and Canon Andy Tomat as volunteer treasurer.
Archdeacon Laura Siriani preached at the service of Eucharist that concluded convention. Deacons are drawn to the margins, to the ever-widening gaps where the vulnerable and needy have been pushed, she said. “Deacons are called there to listen and grieve with those who are most at risk; and then, we advocate for justice at city council meetings, the state house, and Congress,” she said.
She issued a charge to convention: “The Spirit knows us. The Spirit knows that everyone here understands how to reveal the heart of Christ in the world. That is an invitation. Join us, knowing that this invitation comes with a warning label: Every time we enter the gap, our hearts will be broken. We will see things we did not know exited and our hearts are expanded, as we grow and see as the spirit sees. Imagine it. Come with us. We will show you the way.”
A video of Siriani’s sermon is here.
A convention photo gallery is here.
The 127th annual meeting is planned for Nov. 11 – 12, 2022 at the Riverside Convention Center.