Friday, October 2, 2015

By G. Jeffrey MacDonald

The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles, reportedly offered $1 million to parishioners of St. James the Great Church in Newport Beach during an ill-fated mediation process to resolve grievances pending before an ecclesiastical court.

The Rev. Cindy Voorhees, vicar of St. James, says Bishop Bruno made the offer while both sides were working with a church-appointed mediator to resolve differences stemming from Bruno’s moves to evict the congregation in June and proceed with a deal to sell the property.

The diocese says Bishop Bruno simply renewed an offer he first made in the spring, and that the offer was not an attempt at settling the dispute.

Conciliation talks broke down in September, with the two sides failing to reach agreement. The congregation, which alleges in its complaint that Bruno is culpable in 147 violations of church law, was not interested in Bruno’s $1 million offer, Voorhees said.

“The church building that we were in cost $6 million to build, and the land alone would be $15 million,” she said.

Voorhees said Bruno wanted the congregation to drop its complaint in exchange for the $1 million.

Bob Williams, the diocese’s canon for community relations, said no such quid pro quo was ever on the table.

Williams confirmed that Bruno had indeed offered a sum during the conciliation process, though he declined to disclose the amount. He emphasized, however, that Bruno had previously made the same offer in the spring, before the congregation filed its complaint, which is known as a presentment in the church judicial process. It was a standing offer of support for the congregation’s continuing mission, Williams said, and was never intended as a settlement.

“It would be absolutely wrong to characterize it that the bishop was offering them money to somehow settle the situation,” Williams said. “That would be absolutely inaccurate.”

Ever since the locks at St. James were changed on June 29, the congregation has been without a building to call home. Voorhees now leads Sunday morning services in a nearby park. Before losing access to the building, St. James averaged around 125 in average Sunday attendance.  Continue Reading