Episcopal panel to look into charges against L.A. bishop

NEW YORK – The national Episcopal Church has referred charges against L.A. Bishop J. Jon Bruno to a three-bishop panel “for further review and action,” according to Bishop F. Clayton Matthews, head of the church’s Office of Pastoral Development.

The charges were brought by members of St. James the Great Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, CA, and other clergy and lay members of the Los Angeles Diocese. The charges – called a presentment - include many instances of alleged “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation” by Bishop Bruno in connection with the pending sale of the St. James the Great property. The presentment also alleges conduct unbecoming a bishop and violations of the vows of ordination.

In May, Bishop Bruno announced to the stunned St. James the Great congregation that he had entered into a sale agreement with a developer who intends to build luxury condos on the Newport Beach property. When congregants and the vicar, Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees, objected that proper procedures had not been followed, Bishop Bruno attempted to fire Voorhees and changed the locks on the church, shutting the congregation out. Rev. Voorhees and the congregation have been holding services in a park across the street from the church since that time. The sale has yet to close escrow.

“I have been conducting interviews and reviewing correspondence with persons relevant to the matters you have raised,” Bishop Matthews wrote to representatives of the St. James congregation. “I have determined that if the allegations presented are true, canonical violations may have occurred.”

Bishop Matthews forwarded the allegations to the Reference Panel of the church, which consists of himself, the church’s presiding bishop, and the head of the church’s Disciplinary Board. The Panel has a range of options available, from mediation to sanctions against Bishop Bruno to his removal.

“I hope this can quickly bring some sanity to the current situation where the Diocese has locked out the congregation from the building, has claimed that I have resigned and is otherwise completely unresponsive,” said Rev. Voorhees.