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Disciplinary board keeps restrictions on bishop over his efforts to sell Newport church

A disciplinary board for the Episcopal Church is maintaining restrictions on the bishop of its Los Angeles diocese while he appeals sanctions stemming from his attempted sale of the shuttered St. James the Great church property in Newport Beach.

The Disciplinary Board of Bishops ordered that Bishop J. Jon Bruno refrain from ministry and exercising any authority over property or affairs within the church while he appeals the finding of a hearing panel that he had engaged in misconduct when he tried to sell the St. James site at 3209 Via Lido in 2015. That planned sale to would-be townhouse developer Legacy Partners fell through.

On Aug. 1, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, removed Bruno from any jurisdiction over St. James and transferred pastoral and property oversight to Bishop John Taylor, who has been named Bruno’s successor upon Bruno’s planned retirement at the end of the year.

The board’s restrictions will be effective Jan. 1 through the length of the appeal.

The hearing panel’s August ruling recommended a three-year suspension from ministry for Bruno, plus halting his renewed efforts to sell the St. James property. It also recommended unlocking the building so the congregation could resume worship in its longtime home.

However, the diocese announced in August that it planned to proceed with selling the church property for an undisclosed sum to Newport Beach-based developer Burnham Ward Properties, citing a legal obligation created by Bruno.

The Disciplinary Board of Bishops “finds it appropriate under the circumstances to restrict (Bruno’s) ministry,” the board’s president, the Right Rev. Catherine Waynick, wrote in an order this month.

Save St. James the Great, a group that formed after Bruno closed the church in 2015, said it supports the decision.

“While we did not request this action, we believe it is necessary to the integrity of the (Episcopal) church’s disciplinary process and, indeed, the integrity of the church as a whole,” the group said in a statement. “We are glad to see that the disciplinary board properly takes Bishop Bruno’s misconduct more seriously than does the leadership of the Los Angeles diocese.”

The St. James congregation currently worships at the Newport Beach Civic Center.

hillary.davis@latimes.com

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