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Source: (consider it) Thread: Bishop Bruno and St. James the Great
Rossweisse

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I've been reading about Bishop Curry, Bishop Bruno, and the parish of St. James the Great in LA. Has anyone here been following the story? I'd like to know more about why Bishop Bruno decided to close St. James, and more about the situation. It seems to me that this sort of disciplinary action is rare.

Thanks!

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I'm not dead yet.

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Lyda*Rose

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Oh, no. [Frown]

I can't believe he did that ie contract for a sale of the property at this late date after the SHTF on the last attempt.

(I started to attempt writing an explanation of the history of this mess, but I don't think I've got a good enough grasp of all the strands. Hopefully someone knows of a clear online explanation.)

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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mdijon
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I know nothing about this, but it looks really fascinating.

It's quite hard, reading the article, to get the facts in a logical order.

I think it's this;

Diocesan +Bruno decides he wants to sell a church in 2015. He tries to do so in some irregular way (not clear) and a church member apparently tips off someone in authority. A 3-day disciplinary panel meeting occurs (in March this year?) in which the details are confirmed but we apparently don't have a ruling from this panel after a 2-year process and a meeting 5 months ago.

Apparently the church remains locked after +Bruno changed the locks in 2015, and the congregation meets somewhere else. +Bruno is still trying to complete the sale, and has to be barred again from completing the sale by the presiding bishop.

The whole thing sounds extraordinary, both in terms of individual behaviour of Bruno, but also in terms of the institutional response. And the thing missing from the article is any story on the priest of the hapless congregation so affected.

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RuthW

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
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I live in the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles, and I've been following this fairly closely all along. I started to type out the long and twisty saga, but most of the history is covered here at Virtue Online (bet you never thought I'd link to David Virtue's rag!). Bishop Bruno did negotiate in secret to sell the St. James property right out from under the congregation.

I do not know what Bishop Bruno planned to do with the millions of dollars he would have reaped from the sale of St. James. Virtue says this of a letter of complaint from the congregation:
quote:
The letter also lays out the argument that Bishop Bruno is desirous of selling St. James so that he can use the "very large" profit from the sale as funds to speculate in an Orange County commercial real estate venture dubbed "Platinum Triangle," an 820-acre plot which is wedged between the Santa Ana River and Interstate 5 which to be used for apartments, condos and as well as retail and office space. It is anchored by Angel Stadium sports arena.
This is a bit over-dramatic in its phrasing; the diocese owned a partial interest in properties in Anaheim, and the Bishop wanted to buy the rest. Also, the bishop spent a hell of a lot of money fighting the court cases over the properties of the four parishes that left the diocese -- St. James being one of them. The diocese won, but the coffers needed to be replenished.

As far as I know, the disciplinary action is indeed rare, but honestly, I'm glad of it. This whole thing has been a complete nightmare, and no one in the Episcopal circles I travel in has a good word for Bishop Bruno. The Bishop Coadjutor, John Taylor, is regularly in my prayers.

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RuthW

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
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quote:
Originally posted by mdijon:
Diocesan +Bruno decides he wants to sell a church in 2015. He tries to do so in some irregular way (not clear)

Prior to negotiating this sale, Bishop Bruno got the diocesan standing committee (the governing board of the diocese) to agree to put the property into Corporation Sole, a legal entity that exists to allow the Bishop to do stuff without asking others what they think. The standing committee should never have agreed to this, but even so, the bishop had no business selling property without so much as a by your leave to standing committee.

quote:
... and a church member apparently tips off someone in authority.
No, the bishop went to the church on a Sunday in May of 2015 and announced that he was selling the property, and locked them out six weeks later. They worshipped in a public park in the wake of the lock-out, and since then have rented a hall.

quote:
A 3-day disciplinary panel meeting occurs (in March this year?) in which the details are confirmed but we apparently don't have a ruling from this panel after a 2-year process and a meeting 5 months ago.
The hearing was in March of this year. After the hearing but before the ruling, it came to light that the bishop had again tried to negotiate a sale of the property, and the hearing panel and the Presiding Bishop disciplined Bishop Bruno over that. Today the Episcopal News Service is reporting that the Presiding Bishop has removed Bishop Bruno from any authority over St. James. There is a draft of the panel's ruling calling for Bishop Bruno to be suspended from ministry for three years; the draft was issued to the complainants and to the Presiding Bishop for comment. The comment phase ended last week, so now everyone's waiting for the final version to be handed down.

quote:

The whole thing sounds extraordinary, both in terms of individual behaviour of Bruno, but also in terms of the institutional response. And the thing missing from the article is any story on the priest of the hapless congregation so affected.

Read up on the back story of Rev. Canon Cindy Voorhees here. She has soldiered right along in leading the church. I have to be clear that everything I've heard is just that -- stuff I've heard. But everything I've heard says she's a great priest doing very good work.

[ 02. August 2017, 06:00: Message edited by: RuthW ]

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mdijon
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Rev. Canon Cindy Voorhees's example seems like a very positive element to the story. Hopefully she will be recognized for keeping faith.

[ 02. August 2017, 06:10: Message edited by: mdijon ]

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RuthW

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
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She's got folks in this very wealthy, very white little beach city thinking about race and white privilege in the US.
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Lyda*Rose

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I attended the last two diocesan conventions where a lot of this was hashed out. The thing that struck me was that if Bishop Bruno had intentions of selling the property after wresting it back from the old renegade congregation, he shouldn't have installed a vicar to lead a new congregation with their own hopes and aspirations for the future of their church. There were bound to be anger and tears.

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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mdijon
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyda*Rose:
he shouldn't have installed a vicar to lead a new congregation with their own hopes and aspirations for the future of their church. There were bound to be anger and tears.

Reading the Virtue rag RuthW linked to that is my question as well. And it didn't seem to be an immediate decision either. It looks like a sudden change of plan (or stupidity). The sensible move would have been to appoint someone incompetent who would be bound to make a bad situation even worse, and then the church would have closed under its own steam. Appointing someone inspirational would have been the wrong strategy towards a sale.

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RuthW

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The whole thing is just nuts. Bishop Bruno and the diocese fought for the property in the courts for 9 years, and spent something like $9 or $10 million in the process. Having won, the bishop then held a big celebratory service to kick off the new mission church in the old building and install the new vicar. All I can think is that he was approached by the developer subsequent to that. I would hate to think he had it in mind all along that he would sell the place.

But the mess isn't just the bishop's. Why the hell did standing committee let him include the property in Corporation Sole? Why doesn't standing committee have a better idea of what the hell he's doing with Corp Sole? Why haven't they insisted on the promised audit of Corp Sole?

And there are more problems at the diocese as well. My parish went over a year without an associate priest -- and we're big enough to really need one -- because the diocese dragged its feet in sending us candidates, and when it did send candidates they were horribly unsuitable. Fluent Spanish is a requirement, and one candidate didn't even have high-school Spanish.

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Eutychus
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How often does a church fall victim to someone with property development aspirations? This sounds terribly like a notorious case some years ago here in France.

Theres at least one "mission" I sometimes suspect of being little more than a real estate company in disguise.

If there's such a thing as a Jezabellic spirit, it is surely to do with taking over property that doesn't belong to you on pseudo-spiritual grounds.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by RuthW:
The whole thing is just nuts. Bishop Bruno and the diocese fought for the property in the courts for 9 years, and spent something like $9 or $10 million in the process. Having won, the bishop then held a big celebratory service to kick off the new mission church in the old building and install the new vicar. All I can think is that he was approached by the developer subsequent to that. I would hate to think he had it in mind all along that he would sell the place.

I didn't understand this court case until I read virtueonline. In case anyone else is wondering, it looks like the congregation of the church decided to take on the leadership of one of the African Anglican missions in North America and the diocese fought to get the building back.

Another little snip from there which seems astonishing:

quote:
Through researching public records St. James members have identified more than 60 properties which are owned by Bishop Bruno as the corporation sole including 18 Episcopal missions, 15 Episcopal parishes and 26 residences. In addition he apparently owns St. Francis Anglican Friary and Project New Hope low income housing in Los Angeles; the Faith in Action ministry in Barstow; and the Korean Methodist Church in Buena Park, and apparently he also owns as Corporation Sole owns three commercially zoned properties with the planned "Platinum Triangle," with a 50% ownership by Katella Howell LLC , a Delaware corporation with the bishop listed as the sole officer.
What a thoroughly weird state of affairs. Why would a bishop of the EC own a Korean Methodist church?

[ 02. August 2017, 07:18: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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arse

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
How often does a church fall victim to someone with property development aspirations? This sounds terribly like a notorious case some years ago here in France.

Theres at least one "mission" I sometimes suspect of being little more than a real estate company in disguise.

To be fair, a lot of churches go into investing in non-church buildings to pay the bills - including of course the CofE Church Commissioners who have a massive property portfolio (arguably not always managed in the best way, but anyhow).

I suppose the critical point distinction you are making here is about an individual with property management aspirations, although maybe that's quite a small difference in most cases.

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arse

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stonespring
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This reminds me of the RC Archbishop of LA's efforts to force the sale of a convent to Katy Perry over the strenuous legal objections of the sisters who had negotiated its sale to someone else. Katy Perry was offering to pay more I think, but the sisters could not stand the idea of selling it to her. What ever became of that?
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Lamb Chopped
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I'm confused. From what I read about Corp Sole, it sounds like the bishop has essentially complete control over a huge chunk of $ with little or no oversight. Who thought THAT was a good idea?

In my experience human beings shouldn't be trusted with sole oversight of anything more than doughnut money. None of them.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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RuthW

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I didn't understand this court case until I read virtueonline. In case anyone else is wondering, it looks like the congregation of the church decided to take on the leadership of one of the African Anglican missions in North America and the diocese fought to get the building back.

After Bishop Gene Robinson was consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire, four parishes in the diocese of Los Angeles left the diocese. The bishop in response deposed the priests in those parishes and sued them for the properties. The bishop eventually won in court, and then did various things with the properties. All Saints Long Beach now rents from the diocese of LA and is working to raise the money to buy the property. St. Luke's La Crescenta was re-started as a mission church, and it's still going. St. David's North Hollywood was closed -- the old congregation has relocated to Burbank, and there is no Episcopal church in North Hollywood.

quote:
Another little snip from there which seems astonishing:
quote:
Through researching public records St. James members have identified more than 60 properties which are owned by Bishop Bruno as the corporation sole including 18 Episcopal missions, 15 Episcopal parishes and 26 residences. In addition he apparently owns St. Francis Anglican Friary and Project New Hope low income housing in Los Angeles; the Faith in Action ministry in Barstow; and the Korean Methodist Church in Buena Park, and apparently he also owns as Corporation Sole owns three commercially zoned properties with the planned "Platinum Triangle," with a 50% ownership by Katella Howell LLC , a Delaware corporation with the bishop listed as the sole officer.
What a thoroughly weird state of affairs. Why would a bishop of the EC own a Korean Methodist church?
Maybe it was previously an Episcopal parish that closed and he's renting the building to them?
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
I'm confused. From what I read about Corp Sole, it sounds like the bishop has essentially complete control over a huge chunk of $ with little or no oversight. Who thought THAT was a good idea?

In my experience human beings shouldn't be trusted with sole oversight of anything more than doughnut money. None of them.

Could not agree more. I hear people bitching about abuses of the authority of Corp Sole, and all I can think is, why the hell do we give one person that much authority in the first place? So the standing committee has a lot to answer for, IMO.

I rarely go to church anymore, basically just enough to remain a member in good standing. This isn't the main reason -- a dispute over what can and should be done with non-church property the parish owns looms larger because people I know personally are involved, and of course there are a lot of other things as well -- but this whole thing certainly contributes.

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Lyda*Rose

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The report on Corp Sole in Los Angeles , the output of the special committee tasked by the Diocesan convention to investigate the matter is informative, if long. I was most interested in how this form of incorporation emerged in California and how one diocese wound up with two forms of incorporation. If you are, too, read pages 8-11.

I imagine that Bishop Bruno decided that since a bunch of the money spent to retrieve the four churches that members tried to take with them into a denomination other than the US Episcopal Church TEC was money provided by him from Corp Sole, that he wished to refill the coffers. Corp Sole has been used for special situations and emergencies that arise. I'm sure he liked having the discretion to make things happen without all the paper pushing and committee meetings. I'm surprised he decided to push it this far at the end of his term as bishop. He has had serious health issues. I wonder if they affected his judgement.

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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Gee D
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I am interested in his being a corporation sole. Here, that's now only used for public officials, and the incorporation is by statute - for example, the Director-General of the NSW Attorney-General's Dept is created a corporation sole for certain purposes by the Suitor's Fund Act. I can't recall last seeing a private person created in that fashion.

A very unwise step to have taken in any event and with any one person as shown by the example of Bp Bruno.

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Not every Anglican in Sydney is Sydney Anglican

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Lyda*Rose

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Well, the Corp Sole of the Los Angeles Diocese was founded by the first bishop of the diocese, Joseph Horsfall Johnson back in the late nineteenth century. I believe the problem was that California hadn't come up a workable modern model of incorporation for a diocese at that point so it went with a medieval pattern that worked for Catholic dioceses. So corp sole was not established as a nefarious plot by Bruno however shady he got with it in the early twenty-first century.

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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Gee D
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Some interesting history there. The usual procedure here until post WW II was for legislation on a state-by-state basis to give various property holding rights as well as to incorporate them. Even the Baptist Church has such legislation, but not the Salvation Army, at least in my state. Since then, that sort of legislation was again passed for the Anglican Church of Australia, now independent of the C of E and annexing the constitution; and then in the mid-1970s when the Uniting Church was founded as an amalgamation of Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists. AFAIK, the new groups, such as Hillsong and the various community churches have not sought similar legislation.

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Not every Anglican in Sydney is Sydney Anglican

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RuthW

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The hearing panel's decision has come down, unchanged from the draft. Bishop Bruno is suspended for three years. He was going to retire in 2018 in any case, as he'll reach the mandatory retirement age, and the Bishop Coadjutor was consecrated last month. I wonder if the panel moved slowly in arriving at its decision because it was waiting for Bishop Taylor to be in a position to take over.

The narrative of events in the decision (pdf) is damning. Bishop Bruno expressed his intention to sell the property while he was still litigating its ownership, long before the re-launch of the church as a mission. But it was the understanding of the Standing Committee that as long as there was a healthy congregation there, the property would not be sold. The whole thing about needing the recoup the costs of litigation turns out to be false, as the sale of All Saints Long Beach to the Anglican congregation and the sale of St. David's North Hollywood (a property without a congregation) more than covered the costs of litigation for all four contested properties -- costs that Bishop Bruno misrepresented by over 100%. It just goes on and on, very depressing reading.

In the end Bishop Bruno is found guilty of trying to sell a consecrated church building without the consent of standing committee, of lying about several things in relation to that sale, and of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy, i.e., locking the congregation out of the church building and trying again to sell it after the March 2017 hearing. The hearing panel further recommends that "as a matter of justice" the diocese of LA stop trying to sell the property and restore the congregation and vicar to the church.

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mr cheesy
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Maybe I'm missing something important, but if the sales are in his name, don't the buildings and the property portfolio belong to him?

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arse

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RuthW

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
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It turns out that this property was never properly conveyed to Corp Sole, and the hearing panel finds that even if it had been, Bishop Bruno still is not allowed to sell a church to a developer, as Canon II.6.3 says,

quote:
No dedicated and consecrated Church or Chapel shall be removed, taken down, or otherwise disposed of for any worldly or common use, without the previous consent of the Standing Committee of the
Diocese.


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mdijon
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quote:
Originally posted by RuthW:
The hearing panel further recommends that "as a matter of justice" the diocese of LA stop trying to sell the property and restore the congregation and vicar to the church.

Praise the Lord. This and the rest all seems very sensible and faith-restoring.

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Lyda*Rose

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Maybe I'm missing something important, but if the sales are in his name, don't the buildings and the property portfolio belong to him?

I believe Corp Sole is the corporation under the sole control of the diocesan bishop of the Los Angeles Diocese. He doesn't really "own" it, he controls its use while he is bishop and then control is passed to the next diocesan bishop in turn. At least until now. I think we will have a very busy convention agenda come December, voting how to dissolve corp sole without taking too much of a financial hit.

[ 03. August 2017, 20:16: Message edited by: Lyda*Rose ]

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyda*Rose:
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Maybe I'm missing something important, but if the sales are in his name, don't the buildings and the property portfolio belong to him?

I believe Corp Sole is the corporation under the sole control of the diocesan bishop of the Los Angeles Diocese. He doesn't really "own" it, he controls its use while he is bishop and then control is passed to the next diocesan bishop in turn. At least until now. I think we will have a very busy convention agenda come December, voting how to dissolve corp sole without taking too much of a financial hit.
Sort of, but not quite right. He does not own the corporation, he is the corporation as long as he is the diocesan. Then the next diocesan is and so forth, as you say.

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stonespring
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Can an RC bishop just close and sell any church property whenever he wants that belongs to the diocese (and not a religious order)? What about in the C of E?
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Rossweisse

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Thank you, Ruth, for all your digging. It's a depressing story indeed - but one that seems likely to have a happy ending after all.

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I'm not dead yet.

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Golden Key
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About 24 years ago, the RC archdiocese started moving to close 13 churches here in San Francisco. They were to be sold, supposedly because putting in earthquake retrofitting would be too expensive. But another school of thought says that it was to raise money to pay abuse-related legal fees.

One of them was St. Brigid's. The congregation were very devoted to their church, and fought for it, forming the Committee to Save St. Brigid Church.

It was a long story and process. During that time, candles and flowers decorated the front steps. As things turned out, the building was bought by an art school; but the interior of the church (with all its lovely sculptures) was designated a landmark, so that it couldn't be changed or torn down. But it never went back to being a church.
[Frown]

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Golden Key
Shipmate
# 1468

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Correction: The exterior of the church was landmarked, too, but separately. At the time, legal protection didn't extend to the interior of landmarked buildings...so a law was passed to allow it!
[Cool]

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Posts: 18177 | From: Chilling out in an undisclosed, sincere pumpkin patch. | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
Augustine the Aleut
Shipmate
# 1472

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quote:
Originally posted by stonespring:
Can an RC bishop just close and sell any church property whenever he wants that belongs to the diocese (and not a religious order)? What about in the C of E?

In Canada, yes in most (but not all!) cases, as generally provincial parliaments incorporated RC dioceses as corporations sole, vesting all in the diocesan bishop (some provincial acts did not take care of transitional arrangements between bishops so a few dioceses had some admin challenges during sedes vacantes). CoE rules are more complex and are affected by various historical preservation rules, as well as in rights of other corporations and patrons in a few cases. This site will provide you with many happy hours of reading for the insomniac interested in this topic.
Posts: 6171 | From: Ottawa, Canada | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
Pigwidgeon

Ship's Owl
# 10192

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According to today’s New York Times the Archdiocese of New York consolidated more than 140 parishes and closed nearly 40 churches in 2015. (I apologize that the NY Times allows a limited number of articles per month if you're not a subscriber.)

[ 08. August 2017, 17:24: Message edited by: Pigwidgeon ]

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Posts: 9546 | From: Hogwarts | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged
RuthW

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
# 13

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The Living Church reports that the buyer of the St. James property has backed out. Bishop Coadjutor John H. Taylor will re-open the church as a bishop's chapel, whatever the hell that is, rather than turn it over to the congregation of St. James. About them he says, "We again pledge to do all we can pastorally, logistically, and financially to assist the St. James congregation should it wish to regain mission status in the diocese.”

Bishop Taylor posted a link to the Episcopal News article on his Facebook page. In a comment I quoted that same article making a reference to the hearing panel saying the church should be turned back over to the congregation "as a matter of justice." In response the bishop said, "While I take the Hearing Panel’s recommendations with the utmost seriousness, I did not have the opportunity to share my views with the Hearing Panel. Diocesan leaders remain responsible for complex pastoral and operational questions. In short, we have some dialog and discernment to do. In the meantime, and strictly as an interim step, we plan to open the church to the whole community as soon as possible."

Edited to add: Bishop Taylor said more than that; I quoted what I think is the most relevant part.

[ 13. October 2017, 05:01: Message edited by: RuthW ]

Posts: 24429 | From: La La Land | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged


 
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