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Episcopalians file complaint against bishop over church sale

Episcopalians file complaint against bishop over church sale
Members of St. James The Great Episcopal Church congregation direct traffic while news media conduct interviews during an outdoor service. Locks on the church were changed June 29 and services have been held outdoors instead. (Susan Hoffman)

Episcopalians formerly associated with a Newport Beach church have filed a formal complaint against a bishop from the Los Angeles diocese, whose actions have paved the way for the church's waterfront property to potentially become luxury condos.

The complaint — known as a presentment — was filed with the national Episcopal church in New York City. It alleges that Bishop J. Jon Bruno violated church doctrine in May after the St. James the Great Episcopal Church's Lido Village property and two nearby parking lots were sold to Legacy Partners Residential, which plans to construct 22 homes.

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Among the 147 canon violations levied in the complaint are "instances of reckless or intentional misrepresentation, conduct unbecoming a bishop of the church ... and creating or promoting conflict," according to a statement from St. James.

Also joining the complaint were eight clergy members from Orange and Los Angeles counties.

According to the presentment, Bruno's actions are "very upsetting to many in the congregation and the community, inasmuch as the site has been a church for 70 years and thousands of Newport Beach area Episcopalians have been baptized, confirmed, married and buried there."

The church has 30 days from the July 6 filing to review the presentment, and it could schedule proceedings that would "require the bishop to account for his actions," according to St. James.

A spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles was not available for comment.

Bruno wrote in a July 8 statement on the Los Angeles diocese's website that he is "fully aware that the decision to sell the Newport Beach property is not to the liking of some Episcopalians and other stakeholders, and I sincerely empathize with the sense of loss felt by many, particularly after the joint efforts of local parishioners, the former vicar and the Bishop's Office to rebuild the mission congregation there."

Bruno added that there are options available for worship in neighboring Episcopal parishes.

The presentment comes weeks after St. James' congregation filed another complaint in Orange County Superior Court that said the roughly $15-million sale to Legacy Partners violates the land's deed, which says that the property is to be used exclusively for church purposes.

On June 24, a judge sided with Legacy Partners, saying the church's parishioners lacked legal rights to their claim because they are not listed on the deed.

Parishioners and church staff have been kept out of St. James since June 29, when the locks were changed. They have been conducting outdoor services nearby.

Twitter: @BradleyZint

Zint is a staff writer for Times Community News.

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