Comments: Los Angeles bishop Jon Bruno faces suspension

Looks like this case has a long history. A lot of lawyers' kids have gone to college on the back of this. See how these Christians love each other.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Sunday, 23 July 2017 at 9:18pm BST

This is awful all around. Bp Bruno has always been one of the Good Guys, with an amazing history (football player, policeman, priest, bishop). He has been a generous part of the greater Los Angeles Community--ask the Jewish Community Center how he arranged for the Episcopal Diocese to rescue their programs when they were going to lose their facility! This all seems so out of character and so very very sad for all concerned.

Posted by IT at Monday, 24 July 2017 at 12:36am BST

This thing is a real mess. A conservative congregation seeks to leave with its "independent" property. +Bruno defeats that and provides seed money to keep the place alive after the main congregation leaves. He then seeks to sell the property and merge the remaining congregation with a church nearby. He is a corporate sole and his standing committee never opposed him. Enter "Title IV" which has no standing in CA law. They admit as much and rule against him as Bishop. Bishop Smith's evaluation of the tragedy on all sides is generous but an accurate reading.

Posted by crs at Monday, 24 July 2017 at 6:28am BST

I don't believe that there is an "h" in the name Bishop Jon Bruno.

ED: You are quite right, and I have corrected this,

Posted by Father David at Monday, 24 July 2017 at 8:35am BST

Dr Seitz
Perhaps you could explain how any part of the internal rules of any religious body, e.g. TEC canons, can have any standing in the civil law of any state of the USA.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 24 July 2017 at 8:53am BST

Mr Sarmiento

The general sense in earlier accounts was the Title IV could forbid property conveyance by +Bruno. Title IV Hearing Panel has clarified that is beyond their remit. These were not my claims, needless to say.

It was further claimed in previous cases that the property of the dioceses of Springfield, or SC, or Ft Worth belonged to 'the national church' and those claims have not been upheld.

Posted by crs at Monday, 24 July 2017 at 9:21am BST

It is sad a good bishop has fallen victim to a legal dispute between Christians It is a shame this case can't set a precedent, enabling the bishop of Newcastle the right to sell Jesmond Parish Church to turn it into something more useful - like a car park.

Posted by FrDavidH at Monday, 24 July 2017 at 12:29pm BST

Wasn't this property also given to the church with a clause in the contract that required it to remain a church in order for TEC to keep it? If not, previous owners got it. How did Bruno break that? As to whether TEC owns property or not, depends on the state. Some states ruled for "breakaway" conservatives and some didn't when the national TEC became involved.

Posted by Chris H at Monday, 24 July 2017 at 1:35pm BST

Chris H -- it is easy to forget the distinction between congregations seeking to keep their property vis-à-vis dioceses (since in these cases the dioceses are typically on side with the national church; pace LA) and dioceses as dioceses disputing claims the national church somehow owns its property; in the most recent cases this has failed.

FrDH -- actually the analogy is broken almost completely in this case since the diocese prevented a single congregation from leaving and then subsequently the Bishop decided to sell the property.

Posted by crs at Monday, 24 July 2017 at 2:57pm BST

Anthony Archer, aside from sarcasm about lawyers, what is your theory of this situation?

If someone tried to sell my church home without the consent of the members I'd be hopping mad--and I would seek legal advice on how to prevent it.

Nothing about being a Christian requires one to tolerate unlawful behavior.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 24 July 2017 at 5:55pm BST

The Episcopal Church is led by its bishops and governed by its diocesan and general assemblies (the equivalent to synods in other provinces). That being the case I am puzzled by the frequent congregationalist attitudes toward property ownership I see being presented.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 24 July 2017 at 7:36pm BST

Who is speaking of congregationalism...Jesmond Parish?

This topic is about a Diocesan Bishop and the proper relationship between Title IV authority and his legal and canonical authority in LA.

Posted by crs at Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 6:52am BST

The attitude that the parish property belongs to the congregation and not the diocese or the national church is a very congregationalist approach, wouldn't you say?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 11:17am BST

Goodness and doing good is not always rewarded -- on the contrary.

Posted by Laurie Roberts at Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 2:36pm BST

The Episcopal Church is not "led by its bishops..." They have an important office of ministry but have not historically had great power until recent years. Their power has increased since the 1950s, but many people still believe that to be a mistake. (At the Revolution and in the early days of the Episcopal Church there was strong opposition to bishops as a holdover of hated royalist tradition.) (It has only in recent decades that the role of Presiding Bishop has changed from being the person who chaired meetings of the bishops to an actual leader of the church.)

Dioceses have their own convention that meets annually, with different houses for laity and clergy. Most have a robust set of committees for oversight. There is also a "standing committee" elected by the diocese that must give approval to every decision by the Bishop of any substance (business, legal, hirings, appointments). The whole system was designed at practically the same time that the US Constitution was written, with the same intention of speration of powers.

We take very seriously the concept of lay leadership of the church. The Bruno case is so shocking to so many Episcopalians because he seems willing to override norms and expectations that have generally held in this church. And the diocese seems to have given up on oversight.

Most American Episcopalians would not accept bishops who imagine that they have the unchecked power of English bishops. Who knows what happened in Los Angeles for this to break down.

Posted by Dennis at Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 2:53pm BST

Church property issues are complex, in part because of the variance in state property law and state involvement in religious corporation law from one civil jurisdiction to another. Most parishes in most states own their property under civil law; that is, they hold title to the real estate. In some states, the civil law also requires that the congregation (through their vestry) hold this property as trustees; that is, they are not free simply to sell it and pocket the money for a trip to Bermuda. The church law (the canons) are clear that the parochial real property is held in trust, requiring diocesan permission for alienation (long before the "Dennis Canon") but this is only enforceable (under civil law) in civil jurisdictions where the civil law holds the local bodies responsible as trustees for the larger or general church structures. This is one reason we have seen various judgments rendered in disputes between parishes and their dioceses and between dioceses and the church. Of course, the civil authorities have no say whatsoever in any disciplinary actions the church may choose to impose.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 3:42pm BST

I am a layman and communicant of the church four hundred miles north in San Francisco. I have no expertise in canon law,and my knowledge of civil law is limited to forensic medical expertise.

I have followed this case with interest because it seemed at the beginning and still appears that Bishop Bruno violated the spirit and ethos of the Episcopal Church at this point in its history. There are no Prince Bishops in our church, and unlike in England there are no Lords Spiritual.

While bishops sometimes make unpopular decisions, the general approach is cooperative, collegial, conciliatory, generous, honest and kind. These traits are expected, not just valued.

Bishop Bruno violated the culture of TEC, and the proposed punishment is the result.

Posted by Andrew at Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 7:05pm BST

I'm left wondering. The property in question was exceedingly valuable and it cost the diocese a great deal of money to retake it from the break-away congregation. Could Bp Bruno, knowing that his episcopal ministry was coming to an end, have seen all this as a personal sacrifice to benefit his diocese? Is he sacrificing his own good name to make the diocese whole again? i.e.,the ignoble act (locking out a viable mission congregation) for the larger good. It might have seemed a wise choice before the mission proved it was viable. Now he hangs on, perhaps long enough to legally sell before he is finally sentenced and removed from his position of authority. I wonder.

Posted by Tom Downs at Tuesday, 25 July 2017 at 7:11pm BST
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