About 600 lay and clergy delegates, meeting in Ontario for the 121st annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, on Dec. 3 elected the Rev. Canon John Taylor as bishop coadjutor to help guide the diocese “Into the Future.”

Taylor, vicar of St. John Chrysostom Church in Rancho Santa Margarita, narrowly surpassed the Rev. Paul Fromberg, rector of St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco, on the eighth ballot, 122 to 113 in the clergy order and 194 to 141 in the lay order. The two had been tied, at 119 clergy votes each, on the previous ballot.

Overseeing election votes was the Hon. Canon Patti Jo McKay, presiding judge of the Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court and an honorary canon of the Cathedral Center. McKay certified that all ballots were handled appropriately by Canon Roger Leachmann, judge of elections.

The close vote prompted Taylor, 62, to note divisions within the diocese and, pending approval by bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of the Episcopal Church, to vow to focus his episcopacy on deep listening, healing and reconciliation (see related story here).

“There is division because we are a human institution and that’s what human institutions sometimes manifest, because we take the things we love very seriously,” said Taylor, who was greeted by a standing ovation and sustained applause.

“I will work tirelessly and do all I can to support you all in your ministries. My only job is to love you and to support you and to care for you. God bless you.”

During initial remarks to convention, Taylor honored Fromberg and the other candidates: the Rev. Rachel Nyback, rector of St. Cross Church, Hermosa Beach; the Rev. Anna Olson, rector of St. Mary’s Church in Los Angeles; the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, bishop-in-charge, Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, and the Rev. Mauricio Wilson, rector of St. Paul’s Church, Oakland, California. More information on the other candidates is available at www.ladiocese.org.

Taylor offered prayers for the nearby city of San Bernardino, recalling the Dec. 2, 2015 mass shooting that killed 14 and injured another 22 at the Inland Regional Center, a government-funded nonprofit agency providing services to disabled persons.

That attack occurred two days before Diocesan Convention met in Ontario in 2015. A married couple living in Redlands, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, carried out the ISIS-inspired attack. Farook was a health department employee who had worked at the center. Police killed both in a subsequent shootout.

Taylor also embraced the leadership of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s “Jesus Movement” and of Bishop Jon Bruno, who presided at convention after a recent hospitalization. “We pray in thanksgiving for the love and the witness to justice and righteousness of our bishop diocesan, J. Jon Bruno,” Taylor said.

Opening Eucharist: Sing a new song
that is ‘loving, liberating, life-giving’

Bishop Suffragan Diane Bruce, whose oversight includes diocesan multicultural ministries, delivered a rousing multi-lingual sermon during the Dec. 2 opening Eucharist. In Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish, Korean and English, Bruce described the ministry of the Bishop Channing Moore Williams, who was ordained a priest in China, served in Japan and eventually was bishop of the church in both countries. His ministry is an example of “seeds of the Episcopal Church” that grew in healthy, life-giving ways, she said.

“The Episcopal Church has a long history of missionary work around the world. We have made a lasting impression on those among whom we have served — mostly very positive,” she said, citing the development of Trinity Church, also known as “the Red Cathedral,” in Shanghai, and the Rikkyo University in Japan.

Those seeds took root in healthy ways because “the missionaries were able to successfully knit together two important aspects of our Christian faith — the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.”

Adapting a phrase used by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Bruce challenged the gathering to continue in that tradition and to always speak “the language of love and to plant seeds … that are ‘loving, liberating and life-giving.’ Those are Jesus seeds, and we are called to spread them throughout our communities.”

While spoken language — and particularly religious language — can create barriers to communication, “the Great Commandment language is so powerful — a smile, being present, being open — people can hear and understand that language perfectly,” she told delegates, visitors and guests.

“The hard truth here is this — if we don’t open our doors wide, allowing the Great Commandment to fill our hearts and actions and live out the Great Commission, we are going to find ourselves alone in our churches preaching to cobwebs. And I don’t know about you, but I did not sign on for cobweb maintenance duty when God called me to this work.”

Paraphrasing Psalm 96, Bruce challenged the gathering to “sing to the Lord a new song” by “not regarding people of color as minorities but as who they are,” and not regarding multicultural ministry as outreach.

“When we call what we are doing in multicultural settings ‘outreach’ we are not living into the dream of God for this world, for this is not the way of Christ, and done in that way it becomes an unholy work.

“Singing a new song — in the language that everyone understands, the language of love — will lead to revitalization of our congregations and communities, she said, adding: “and we will clean out those cobwebs powered by that great duster in the sky!”

Bishop Bruno: thanksgivings and
blessings; evangelism, hope and healing

Bishop Diocesan Jon Bruno invoked the signature “Hands in Healing” theme of his 16-year episcopacy, adding that it “remains especially pertinent both to our current national context and to our shared diocesan life.”

“What we have done in this diocese in the last 16 years has been magnificent and it’s only been done because you are magnificent,” he told enthusiastic convention delegates, visitors and guests. “We are the people of God called together to celebrate the abundance of our life.”

Bruno, who has said he will “pass the crozier” to his successor at the beginning of the 2017 meeting of convention, recalled “thanksgivings and blessings” of ministry among some 70,000 Episcopalians in 136 neighborhood congregations and mission centers, some 40 schools and 15 other specialized service institutions in the six-county diocesan geographical area.

He said that evangelism and the gospel call to help the stranger has infused a host of ministries, including:

  • preservation of the landmark Epiphany Church, Los Angeles, where labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez preached and where Bruno himself first attended the Episcopal Church;
  • St. Michael’s Ministry Center in Riverside, which is collaborating with the city and expanding ministry to homeless persons while also considering plans to add a campus religious community and for an environmentally green renovation;
  • One cathedral ministry active in two locations, at St. John’s ProCathedral and at the Cathedral Center.

Bruno also described as prudent the repurposing of sites for greater community use. For example, the former St. Martin’s Church in Compton is now a site for St. John’s Well Child & Family Services, which has spawned numerous other locations throughout Los Angeles.

As a ministry center St. Luke’s Fontana is a beacon for those recovering from addiction, and St. Francis’ Church, Atwater Village (Los Angeles), is now home to IRIS, the Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Services, among others.

Formational ministries abound, including excellent schools, as well as the Fresh Start Clergy Wellness programs facilitated by the diocesan Deployment Office. More than 120 of the diocese’s current 136 active congregations have engaged Fresh Start in some way, Bruno said.

Similarly, the upcoming Jan. 14 – 16, 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA), at which Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will be guest preacher, is an example of increased diocesan collaborative and ecumenical outreach, he said.

Evangelism is the basis of numerous intergenerational pilgrimages and such diocesan ministries as the Instituto de Liderazgo training for Spanish-speaking lay leaders; the Li Tim-Oi Center’s resources and assistance to Asian American congregations; and the Kaleidoscope Institute, led by the Rev. Canon Eric Law, providing anti-racism and leadership training.

Bishop Suffragan Diane Bruce’s groundbreaking Korean-language chaplaincy program at Good Samaritan Hospital in collaboration with the Anglican Church in Korea, and the Program Group on Global Partnership’s advocacy also extend the vibrancy and reach of the diocese.

Bruno also provided, as promised to Convention in 2015, an overview of assets and holdings of Corporation Sole, with the most recent annual audit posted on the diocesan website.
The bishop’s complete address is available at www.ladiocese.org.

Convention business: becoming a
sanctuary; abolitionist diocese

In other convention business, delegates approved a $7 million budget; elected representatives for diocesan offices and eight deputies (and alternates) to General Convention. A list of elected officers is on page 5. The budget is available for reading in numerical, narrative and graph forms here.

Convention also approved separate resolutions continuing a companion relationship with the Diocese of Jerusalem and naming Los Angeles both a “sanctuary diocese” and also an “abolitionist diocese.”

The sanctuary resolution, submitted by the Rev. Francisco Garcia Jr., rector of Holy Faith Church in Inglewood, called upon Episcopalians to make churches places of sanctuary, to work with other like-minded institutions and to “resist the stated policy proposals of the newly elected Trump administration to target and deport millions of undocumented immigrants, and to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that has granted temporary relief for thousands of young people in our comsmunities and families.”

The Rev. Nancy Frausto, priest-in-charge at Trinity Church and associate rector at St. Mary’s, both in Los Angeles, brought cheering and applauding convention delegates to their feet as she described crossing the border with her parents at age eight.

“I have stayed in this country, living in the shadows for most of my life,” Frausto said. “It was the church who gave me hope. The people of All Saints, Highland Park, got me through school, through college and seminary … and gave me faith to continue moving on.”

She urged the resolution’s passage. “It is such a scary position to be in right now,” she said. “I could lose my work permit and be deported back to a country I do not know. I am one of over 700,000 DACA recipients. I know there are people here who will willingly hand me over [to immigration enforcement officials].”

Similarly, Canon Jim White, a lay leader at All Saints, Pasadena, and three-time deputy to General Convention, urged the resolution’s passage, saying that as a gay man, “now suddenly I find myself in the position where I’m afraid. This diocese has done everything imaginable to stand behind me, support my ministry, to do everything to make me feel like a fully loved child of God. I urge you to support this resolution.”

Delegates also approved a resolution calling upon churches to become abolitionist congregations, to support the struggle against human trafficking through education, awareness and consumer choices, such as purchasing only fair trade chocolate and coffee.

A substitute was approved for a resolution postponed from 2015 that proposedproperty transfers from Corporation Sole to the Corporation of the Diocese. The substitute affirmed the action of Diocesan Council and commended the work of the Special Committee Concerning Corporation Sole. At a Nov. 10 meeting, Diocesan Council had unanimously accepted a report recommending that the issues of transparency and governance of Corp Sole be addressed without delay with cooperation by the bishop, bishop coadjutor-elect and other diocesan representatives.

The report did not endorse a 2015 resolution from convention to transfer all properties from Corp Sole to the Corporation of the diocese.

Because it is no longer constituted as a mission congregation, absent from the convention proceedings were delegates from St. James the Great, Newport Beach. Leslie Paton, a lay leader from St. Aidan’s, Malibu, attempted to challenge a prior ruling that members of the Newport Beach congregation could not be seated at convention. She was ruled out of order.

A resolution regarding healing in the diocese after the Title IV disciplinary process brought against Bruno by members of the disputed Newport Beach property sparked considerable debate. Proponents said the publishing of confidential proceedings on social media by the Newport Beach church members was a violation of the process and had been damaging to the diocese, “leading to gossip, speculation and mistrust,” according to the Rev. Mary Trainor, rector of St. Joseph’s Church, Buena Park, a resolution sponsor.

“We had people disenchanted after leaked information and partial truths. We want to name what we see as not our best selves. We are looking for a dignified and grace-filled way forward.”
But opponents called the resolution punitive and requested it be withdrawn. The convention voted to postpone the resolution indefinitely.

A chapel holding the space;
Hope & Freedom Quilt

Based in the convention chapel space, members of Stillpoint: The Center for Christian Spirituality, a diocesan institution specializing in spiritual direction,prayed at various stations throughout the meeting. The worship band from Thad’s provided music during the Eucharist. Frequent convention musician Fran McKendree also performed at various breaks in the proceedings.

Additionally, the Rev. Canon Jamesetta Hammons, a deacon serving at St. Barnabas’ Church, Pasadena, circulated a “Hope and Freedom Quilt” she stitched together on behalf of BAM — Black African American Caribbean Ministries.

The quilt was inspired after a February “Black Lives Matter” meeting in Phoenix, Hammons said. “Participants could write or draw on a block of material how they felt about hope and freedom, about what the kingdom of God looks like to them.”

Some squares quoted Scripture, such as “Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God,” while others offered personal hopes: “Releasing the pain of the past, blazing the path to the future. Risen, Overcome, Supernatural, Eternal.’

The quilt has been signed by Province 8 bishops and is making the rounds of Province 8 diocesan conventions, already appearing in Arizona, San Diego and Oregon and now, Los Angeles, Hammons said.

Also addressing convention were: the Very Rev. Sylvia Sweeney, Bloy House dean; Marge Cooper, president of the diocesan altar guild; Beth Bojarski, Camp Stevens director; Patricia Terry, a lay leader at St. Cross Church, Hermosa Beach, and other members of the Joint Episcopal-Lutheran Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention; and by Christian Kassof and the Rev. Lisa Jacoby, diocesan representatives of Episcopal Relief and Development, the disaster relief agency of the Episcopal Church.

Terry urged convention delegates to participate in the 2016 National Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend Dec. 14 – 18.

Additionally, Bruno named five honorary canons of the Cathedral Center: Carol Lanning of St. Matthew’s Church, Pacific Palisades; Julie Dean Larson, member of St. Margaret of Scotland Church, San Juan Capistrano; the Rev. Michael Archer, rector of St. Wilfrid’s Church, Huntington Beach; Ann Seitz, member of Immanuel Church, El Monte and Diocesan Council; and the Rev. Ada Wong Nagata of Church of Our Saviour, San Gabriel, now serving a two-year assignment facilitating Chinese-language ministries in the Diocese of New York.

Bruno also appointed Canon Richard Zevnik diocesan chancellor for 2017 and Canon Julie Dean Larson as vice chancellor; Canon David Tumilty as diocesan registrar; the Rev. Kirby Smith as diocesan treasurer and Canon Robert Williams as historian and archivist.

A consecration date has been set for July 8, 2017 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, pending approval of Taylor’s election by a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of the Episcopal Church.

A resolution offering appreciation for Bishop Bruno was vigorously adopted. Bruno received several special gifts, including a vintage Zenith radio from a St. Andrew’s, Fullerton, delegation and a special presentation honoring Bruno’s support of the Cathedral Center Thanksgiving meal program and a Friday food bank that has helped more than 260,000 families.

“If I can say anything to you that I want to say, it’s thank you for the journey,” Bruno told the gathering. “I have been honored to carry that crozier, to participate in life here. And I couldn’t do any of it if it wasn’t for you, the people of the diocese at this time.”