Presiding Bishop Conveys Concern About Pastoral Boundaries, Affirms L.A. Bishop's Ministry of Reconciliation

Episcopal News Service. August 25, 2004 [082504-1]

Bob Williams

Emphasizing the Anglican Primates' agreement that "bishops are to respect the boundaries of one another's dioceses and provinces," Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold today sent a letter of concern to Archbishop Henry L. Orombi after a third Southern California congregation yesterday aligned with the Ugandan Diocese of Luweero.

Griswold also issued the following statement to media:

"I am saddened by the action of clergy and members of three congregations in the Diocese of Los Angeles and their desire to separate themselves from the life of the Episcopal Church. I know how assiduously Bishop Bruno has sought to be a minister of reconciliation and a pastor to those of all views within the life of the Diocese of Los Angeles and its 147 diverse congregations.

"I have written to the Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Uganda expressing my concern that he claims jurisdiction within the boundaries of the Episcopal Church. The bishops of the Anglican Communion and the primates in their statement of last October have made it clear that bishops are to respect the boundaries of one another's dioceses and provinces. Living in communion with one another involves not only the sharing of a common faith in the Risen Lord but how we treat and respect one another in the Body of Christ."

Bruno, who today thanked the Presiding Bishop for his action, continues to emphasize the importance of reconciliation and the inclusion of all people across the church. "I hope that this situation is resolved through the openness and willingness of the people of St. James, Newport Beach; All Saints, Long Beach; and St. David's, North Hollywood, to return to the Episcopal Church," Bruno told the Episcopal News Service.

"Our diocesan boundaries have been violated by the Primate of Uganda," Bruno said, "even after he agreed to the statement made last October by all the Primates that they should respect diocesan boundaries." He added: "I will continue to pray for these people, from Archbishop Orombi to each parishioner of those congregations."

Bruno has consistently affirmed the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church, including the consecration last year of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire, actions that are opposed by the three congregations which have aligned with the Ugandan diocese.

Bruno said he is contemplating the situation in relation to the scripture lessons appointed for August 29 when he will preach during his regular Sunday visit to St. John's Church in Los Angeles.

After receiving word on August 24 that the parish of St. David's, North Hollywood, had voted to align with the Ugandan Diocese of Luweero, Bruno said in a statement: "As with the Long Beach and Newport Beach congregations, I have worked hard in the past for reconciliation with this parish. It was one of four to which I offered pastoral oversight by an Episcopal bishop with whom they are in agreement. The Rev. William Thompson, rector of All Saints', Long Beach, declined that offer two weeks ago on behalf of all four parishes, and assured me of their continued loyalty to me and to this diocese."

Bruno further noted in the statement that "the Rev. Jose Poch, rector of St. David's, has been temporarily inhibited from exercising the ministry of a priest. I have offered him and the people of St. David's Church the opportunity to rescind this decision and be reconciled to me, to the Diocese, and to the Episcopal Church."

Poch hand-delivered to Bruno on August 24 a letter that reads as follows: "This is to inform you that the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of St. David's Parish in North Hollywood, California, by vote of its vestry and members has disassociated itself from the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and the Diocese of Los Angeles, and has aligned itself with the Diocese of Luweero, Anglican Province of Uganda. The Rt. Rev. Evans M. Kisekka of the Diocese of Luweero had also accepted the Rev. Jose A. Poch under his ecclesiastical authority.

"We have delivered this letter to you personally in order to honor you by having you learn of these actions from us instead of from any other source." [Signed by] The Rev. Jose Poch, Rector, St. David's Church; [Signed by] Primi Esparza, Senior Warden, St. David's Church.

Poch told ENS today: "I have nothing further to say. I've spoken to Bishop Bruno. He knows all I have said. I did go and meet with him, and we had a face-to-face meeting. We presented our letter, and that was it. We have been at this a long, long time. We've been to every reconciliation meeting possible, and we cannot do more. We must go forward."

The parish voted 68-12 on August 23 to align with the Ugandan diocese, with four abstentions, Poch told the Los Angeles Times. The parish was founded in 1931 and is reported to have about 200 members.

Representatives of two other Southern California parishes -- St. Luke's, La Crescenta, and Christ the King, Santa Barbara -- told the Times August 24 that they did not anticipate any action to leave the diocese at this time, and that they are awaiting the outcome of the report this fall of the international Lambeth Commission on Communion.

Meanwhile, through a spokeswoman, the Rev. William Thompson, rector of All Saints, Long Beach, and the Rev. Praveen Bunyan, rector of St. James, Newport Beach, declined to answer questions posed to them by ENS. The Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, president of the American Anglican Council, is a former rector of St. James.

Among the Episcopal Church's 7300 congregations nationwide, fewer than 10 are known by ENS to have formally left the Church.