A conservative Episcopal priest who helped lead a 2004 revolt against the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles over homosexuality has resigned as rector of a Newport Beach church after a female parishioner complained about unwanted attention from the married clergyman.
The Rev. Praveen Bunyan, who ministered at St. James Church, resigned last week after confessing to "inappropriate conduct" with the woman, said church spokeswoman Karen Bro. Church officials declined to identify the woman, but another priest said there was no sexual contact involved.
"He was taken by her, but thank goodness it didn't go any further than that," said the Rev. Canon David C. Anderson.
Bunyan, 44, did not return telephone messages left at his Newport Beach home. The native of India took over the 1,200-member congregation in January 2003, coming from a church in Aurora, Colo. His wife is also an Episcopal priest.
A year into his ministry at St. James, Bunyan joined priests from two other conservative Southern California parishes who cut ties with the Episcopal Church over issues of homosexuality and differences in its scriptural message. The three churches placed themselves under the jurisdiction of a Ugandan bishop whose conservative views jibed with the religious views of Bunyan and the other priests.
The Episcopal Church, which is the American branch of the Anglican Communion, consecrated its first gay bishop in 2003, and other bishops began authorizing same-sex marriages. This caused a rift that has split the U.S. church between liberals and conservatives. In February, Anglican leaders gave the U.S. church until Sept. 30 to stop sanctioning same-sex unions and consecrating gay bishops.
Bunyan opposes gay marriage and in a 2004 interview with The Times said the alternative to heterosexual marriage was celibacy. But he said the split with the Los Angeles diocese was not just over homosexuality. He said more liberal bishops did not consider Jesus to be God and did not believe Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Diocesan Bishop J. Jon Bruno, who heads the six-county Los Angeles diocese, has said that is not an accurate portrayal of his theology.
On Wednesday, Anderson said he was saddened by Bunyan's predicament. Anderson was rector at St. James for 16 years and is now president of the Atlanta-based American Anglican Council. The council has assisted conservative parishes that want to leave the church.
Anderson said the unidentified woman brought her complaint about Bunyan to a member of the church's vestry, its governing board, around Easter.
"She said she didn't appreciate the attention he was giving her and said it was wrong. It wasn't sexual, but it clearly crossed the boundary," Anderson said. "He confessed and asked for forgiveness."