Churches read bishop's letter en masse

Jeff Benson

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

services.

"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

drifting away."

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

to worship."

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 jeff.benson@latimes.com.

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