The Los Angeles Diocese lashed back against St. James Church this
week in a pastoral letter condemning St. James' secession from the
Episcopal Church to join the Diocese of Luwero in the Anglican
province of Uganda.
The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, who issued the statement, ordered all
Los Angeles Diocese churches to read the letter at their Sunday
"I have chosen to take the extraordinary step of writing to you in
a pastoral letter because of the extreme nature of the decision these
congregations and clergy have made and the implications it has on our
life together, not only for the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A., but
for the worldwide Anglican Communion," he wrote.
The letter was laced with sentiments of betrayal and
disappointment, as Bruno specified several failed attempts to talk
with St. James' leaders after what he calleda "breach of trust and
authority" and his belief that leaders had "abandoned the communion."
"No bishop outside the diocese has the jurisdiction to oversee
ministry within that geographical diocese," Bruno wrote. "The fact
that a bishop from another autonomous church within the Anglican
Communion has chosen to exercise oversight in this diocese flies in
the face of our ethos as Anglicans and of the Catholic unity of the
church. It is a clear statement that the Diocese of Luwero and its
bishop and the province of Uganda and its primate have broken with
the established historic authority of the Anglican Communion."
St. James Rev. Praveen Bunyan didn't read the letter in any of the
church's Sunday Masses because the church no longer considers itself
Episcopal and can now act independently of the order, he said.
"He's not my bishop, why would I read it?" Bunyan said. "I've got
better things to do."
Instead, he told his congregation he'd make himself available to
address their questions and concerns both after the Mass and in a 7
p.m. members-only meeting tonight. The congregation had voted
overwhelmingly in favor of secession last week.
"I cannot speak for [Bruno]," Bunyan said. "He mentioned breaking
a covenant. Two parties make a covenant. Our basic foundations are
one, that Jesus Christ is lord and savior, and that is the teaching
of the church. And two, the Old and New Testament Scriptures are the
authority for us. On those two counts, the Episcopal Church is
Sunday Mass began as usual, but after parishioners gave one
another their peace offerings, Bunyan addressed them with his
thoughts on the secession. He told people at three services that they
should refrain from gossip, triangulation and any condemnation or
judgmental words because he wanted to continue the church's pillars
of love and respect for all people. The supportive and attentive 11
a.m. congregation acknowledged him with cheers and applause.
Churchgoer Christie Russell of Brea said the Sunday Mass wasn't
much different from others she'd attended at St. James.
"It was glorious," Russell said. "We always have great teaching,
and there wasn't anything different except for the fact that now
we're under the bishop of Luwero. I always come here looking forward
Bunyan said he felt the church needed to act quickly because he
felt the Episcopal Church was becoming so ambiguous that it was on
the verge of becoming "the world's largest Universalist Church."
For guidance, he said he'd turned last month to Ugandan Archbishop
Henry Luke Orombi, a friend he'd seen enthroned on Jan. 25 to
Uganda's highest religious position.
"The parish had been asking me for a long time, 'Why are we still
affiliated with the Episcopal Church?'" he said. "I told them we
wanted to be under a bishop because it's a tradition that we'd
received for centuries. But those core values had deteriorated, and
we waited for an opening we could find and a bishop who would receive
us under authority. Archbishop Orombi and I had been associated for a
long time, and we're theologically in the same place."
* JEFF BENSON is the news assistant and may be reached at (949)
574-4298 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.