Citing the end of litigation involving several church properties that have been in dispute since 2004, Bishop J. Jon Bruno has issued a pastoral letter to the people and congregations of the Diocese of Los Angeles announcing resolution of those issues and calling on Episcopalians to concentrate their energies on ministry and unity.
Bruno explains in the letter that all four disputed churches have been returned to the diocese by court action after dissident congregations attempted to claim the properties as their own. St. James the Great Church, Newport Beach, and St. Luke’s of the Mountains, La Crescenta, will continue as Episcopal congregations. He wrote that “congregations will not be restarted as All Saints, Long Beach, or St. David’s, North Hollywood. The Corporation Sole currently holds title to the church property in Long Beach – a city where there are three neighboring Episcopal Church congregations – and a negotiated settlement allows the present congregation to worship on site while remunerating the Diocese for use of those facilities. Meanwhile, the Oakwood School has purchased the North Hollywood property, a fitting use in the mission of local secondary education.”
Bruno continues, “It is important that we remain in community, not in isolation, and that in charity we create space for people whose views may differ from our own. We are not here to judge one another but rather to be in joy with each other in the name of Jesus.” He encourages parishioners to engage wholeheartedly in local and diocesan ministries, especially environmental and food security programs under Seeds of Hope and reconciliation programs under Hands in Healing.
Full text of the letter, which is to be read in all congregations of the Diocese of Los Angeles on Sunday, May 11, is below. Text is also available in a PDF document here.
May 7, 2014
To the People and Congregations of the Diocese of Los Angeles
This new Easter season unites us in responding to the ways in which God is calling us into new, resurrected life in Christ. We enter this Eastertide as a united diocesan community, joined together in daily ministry and shared service in our neighborhoods. This unity has been strengthened through the years by coming together around challenging issues and seeking common ground for understanding as we are led by the Holy Spirit.
Vitality continues to emerge from the firm stands the Diocese of Los Angeles has taken in respecting the dignity of every human being – the calling of our Baptismal Covenant. It is wonderful again to live within the full Christian promise of Easter.
After a May 7, 2014, appearance in Orange County Superior Court brought final resolution to the litigation, the Episcopal Church of St. James the Great, Newport Beach, will continue in ministry free of the challenge of appeal by parties who left the parish in August 2004. This action follows the California Supreme Court’s January 2009 decision affirming that all Episcopal Church parish properties are held in trust for the present and future ministry of the local diocese and wider denomination.
In steadfastly supporting this position, the Diocese of Los Angeles has secured assets given by generations of Episcopalians and assisted in establishing favorable precedent for the future, and particularly for other dioceses to prevail in similar cases.
Invested in this position is more than $8 million in costs incurred on behalf of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Episcopal Church by the Bishop as Corporation Sole. This expenditure resulted in retaining multimillion-dollar properties in Newport Beach, La Crescenta, Long Beach and North Hollywood, and in establishing important legal precedent. While the congregations of St. James the Great, Newport Beach, and St. Luke’s of the Mountains, La Crescenta, continue in ministry within the Episcopal Church, congregations will not be restarted as All Saints, Long Beach, or St. David’s, North Hollywood. The Corporation Sole currently holds title to the church property in Long Beach – a city where there are three neighboring Episcopal Church congregations – and a negotiated settlement allows the present congregation to worship on site while remunerating the Diocese for use of those facilities. Meanwhile, the Oakwood School has purchased the North Hollywood property, a fitting use in the mission of local secondary education.
As we move forward I ask your prayers that understanding will continue to grow among us as we experience resurrection anew in Christ. In that Easter spirit, we are called to look forward and, as leaders of local congregations, to strengthen the work that our parishes and missions are called to do. We can also share in current diocesan initiatives, including the Seeds of Hope nutrition and wellness program, the Hands in Healing outreach to youth and young adults, and Horizons & Heritage, the upcoming observance of the Episcopal Church’s 150th year in Southern California.
It is important that we remain in community, not in isolation, and that in charity we create space for people whose views may differ from our own. We are not here to judge one another but rather to be in joy with each other in the name of Jesus. As resurrection people, we are looking forward to doing those things that would reflect the will of Jesus Christ, working to include people of all views and positions, making the Diocese of Los Angeles a beacon of inclusive, loving, joyful action in Christ Jesus.
So I call each of you to renew your local ministries and to share in the ministries of the Diocese. The door to the future is open. We will participate in our diocesan community by continuing to develop Hands in Healing and taking seriously reconciliation. Through Seeds of Hope we will keep nurturing new ministries in this Diocese for food security and care of our environment through curriculum in our primary, secondary and Sunday schools. We will continue to dwell in the new life and abundance of our diocesan community.
Within the Episcopal Church, we go through careful processes to examine what is best for the whole community. In General Convention, we come to places of corporate decision, and whether we agree or disagree, we move forward in joy. We do the same in our Diocese, where there will be no declarations of “I told you so” or “we won” regarding important deliberations. Here I think of times when General Convention meetings have observed times of silence and prayer before the announcement of significant votes taken, and it has been through such prayer that God has guided us from positions of separation to being made whole.
I call you to pray for one another and for the unity of the entire Episcopal Church.
Almighty God, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
— The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for the Unity of the Church
Together in Christ,
+ J. Jon Bruno
Sixth Bishop of Los Angeles