Updated again 2 August
The Los Angeles Times reports: Episcopal bishop faces suspension over efforts to sell Newport Beach church
An Episcopal Church disciplinary panel has recommended a three-year suspension for the bishop who locked worshippers out of St. James the Great church in Newport Beach after a failed sale attempt two years ago.
The panel also recommended that the shuttered church be restored to its displaced members.
The tentative ruling, which came down late Friday afternoon, determined that the Right Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, was guilty of all allegations brought against him by the congregation during a hearing the panel conducted in March: that he attempted to sell consecrated property without consent of diocesan leadership, that he made several misrepresentations along the way and that he acted in a manner unbecoming of a clergyman.
The Living Church explains further in its report (do read all of it) Panel: Suspend Bruno, Save St. James:
…According to Title IV 14.5 of the church’s canons, the presiding bishop is charged with reviewing this sentence and then pronouncing it or lessening it.
In a 4-1 decision, the panel wrote that “the scope and severity of Bishop Bruno’s misconduct … have unjustly and unnecessarily disturbed the ministry of a mission of the Church. St. James the Great is a casualty of Bishop Bruno’s misconduct.”
Neva Rae Fox, public affairs officer for the Episcopal Church, said late that evening, “This document is marked as a draft, and that is what it is. We will offer no comments as the Hearing Panel’s work continues.”
Episcopal Café also has a report: Hearing Panel to recommend suspension of ministry for Bruno. Their report (also worth reading in full) includes this summary of the decisions:
A) Bishop Bruno is suspended for three years. During the period of his suspension Bishop Bruno will refrain from the exercise of the gifts of the ministry conferred by ordination (Canon IV.2, definition of “Sentence”) and not exercise any authority over the real or personal property or temporal affairs of the Church (Canon IV.19.7)
B) The Hearing panel declines to depose Bishop Bruno
C) The Hearing Panel is not aware of any evidence supporting a need for forensic accounting. IF the Church Attorney possesses such evidence he should present it to the appropriate authorities.
D) After thorough and detailed consideration of the facts, positions, contentions, testimony and documents, the Hearing Panel has concluded that the scope and severity of Bishop Bruno’s misconduct, as described above, have unjustly and unnecessarily disturbed the ministry of the Church. St James the Great is a casualty of Bishop Bruno’s misconduct acting as Diocesan and Corp Sole. While it is beyond the authority and ability of the Hearing Panel to fully assess what might have happened if St James the Great had been allowed to continue its ministry in its church facility, there is ample evidence of its viability and promise to convince the Hearing Panel that St James the Great was robbed of a reasonable chance to succeed as a sustainable community of faith.
Episcopal News Service now has a report: Draft order calls for Bruno to be suspended from ministry for three years.
…The hearing panel did not publicly release its draft order. It apparently gave the draft to the complainants and the presiding bishop for comment. Title IV.14.7 (page 153 here) calls for those parties “to be heard on the proposed terms of the order.” Comments to the hearing panel are due by July 26.
Bruno is not allowed to comment on the draft to the hearing panel. The diocese released a statement July 21 saying in part that no one from the diocese would make any public statement on the draft, “continuing their commitment to respect the integrity of the Title IV process, a priority that Bishop Bruno has upheld through the duration of the two-year proceedings.”
Neva Rae Fox, Episcopal Church public affairs officer, said the church would not comment while the Title IV process continues.
Roger Bloom, a communications consultant working for St. James, released the draft late July 21, reportedly after consulting a lawyer who told him Episcopal Church canons did not prevent its release.
Forty days after the final order is issued, the Rt. Rev. Catherine Waynick, president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, has 20 days to sentence Bruno. He can appeal that sentence and, if he does, the sentence is not imposed while the appeal proceeds. Meanwhile, however, the draft order is clear that Curry’s partial restriction on Bruno remains in force.
2 August update
The Presiding Bishop has taken additional steps, see here: Presiding Bishop removes disputed Newport Beach congregation from Bruno’s authority
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on Aug. 1 removed Diocese of Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno’s authority over St. James the Great in Newport Beach, California.
The presiding bishop’s action, which includes placing St. James in the jurisdiction of Los Angeles Bishop Coadjutor John Taylor, came as the Episcopal Church awaits the final order from the hearing panel considering disciplinary action against Bruno.
The Further Partial Restriction is intended to chart a way forward that clarifies and respects the appropriate role and authority of Taylor and the Standing Committee as well as the Title IV disciplinary process and the hearing panel, according to an Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release…