Bruno Inhibits Breakaway Los Angeles Clergy

Episcopal News Service. August 19, 2004 [081904-1]

Jan Nunley

Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles has temporarily inhibited four clergy serving the two Southern California parishes that announced their intention August 17 to leave the Episcopal Church and join the Diocese of Luweero in the Anglican Province of Uganda.

Bruno declared that priests Praveen Bunyan, William Thompson and Richard Menees and deacon Kathleen Adams "abandoned the communion of this Church" by their action, and requested that the two rectors meet with him and rescind their decision, but said they refused the invitation. Bunyan is rector of St. James' Church in Newport Beach []. Menees is associate rector and Adams the deacon in that congregation. Thompson is rector of All Saints Church in Long Beach [].

An emergency meeting of the diocesan Standing Committee was called, during which the committee ruled that there was "sufficient evidence" the four had abandoned the Episcopal Church USA.

"I have responded by inhibiting them from the exercise of the ordained ministry," Bruno wrote in a pastoral letter to be read to all 147 congregations in the diocese on Sunday, August 22. "Should they wish to return to the communion of this Church during this period, a process of restoration will take place. Should they not change their minds, they will be deposed. My sincere hope for these clergy and vestries is that they will reconsider their decision and return to full communion with me, the Episcopal Church and indeed with the Anglican Communion."

Bruno said he had also written a letter of protest to Bishop Evans Mukasa Kisekka of Luwero, with a copy to Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, the primate of the Province of Uganda.

"No bishop outside the diocese has the jurisdiction to oversee ministry within that geographical diocese. The fact that a bishop from another autonomous church within the Anglican Communion has chosen to exercise oversight in this diocese flies in the face of our ethos as Anglicans and of the catholic unity of the Church. It is a clear statement that the Diocese of Luwero and its Bishop and the Province of Uganda and its Primate have broken with the established historic authority of the Anglican Communion," Bruno said.

Bruno made it clear that it was his intention to "protect and preserve the properties of these congregations as part of the Diocese of Los Angeles." He promised to develop plans for the pastoral care of members who want to remain part of the Episcopal Church.

According to the letter, the decisions took Bruno by surprise. "The rectors of these congregations appeared unexpectedly, and without an appointment, at the Cathedral Center on Tuesday morning, August 17, and delivered written notice of their actions," he wrote. "They also left a voice-mail message for me and seem to have believed that this served as sufficient communication with me.

"I have attempted to honor the congregations and clergy who have dissented from the decisions of General Convention and even offered them the oversight of a bishop of our Church whose opinions on these issues are more in keeping with theirs. The rectors of these congregations did not avail themselves of this opportunity and even up to two weeks ago affirmed their love and loyalty to me as their Bishop. How distressing their recent decision has been to me," he said.

Bruno blasted statements issued by the two congregations, declaring "these clergy have also framed their leaving in terms I find unfair and false" by saying that the Episcopal Church is "not orthodox biblically or theologically."

"I will not let the Holy Scriptures be compromised by those who seek to make their literalist and simplistic interpretation the only legitimate one," he concluded. "Further, I uphold the orthodox faith given to us by the apostles in all the essentials laid down in the historic creeds of the Church. In these necessary things there must be unity of faith, but in other things there may be diversity within this roomy house we call the Anglican Communion."