On May 20, about to leave Xi’an in northwest China, I sat at breakfast checking email on my iPhone. The news: J. Jon Bruno, Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles, is selling the former St. James Church in Newport Beach, Calif., completed in 2002. St. James was the largest and most vibrant evangelical congregation in the Diocese of Los Angeles. Eight hundred members at least. Now, a developer will pay $15 million for the property and probably replace the church with townhouses.
St. James also had history in a previous building. Begun as a mission church in the 1940s, St. James soon opened the day school my husband attended through sixth grade. In the 1970s the Charismatic Renewal swept through part of the Episcopal Church and touched St. James. The congregation engaged the entire community—prison ministry, evening adult education classes, marriage and divorce support groups, food and clothing ministries to the poor, vibrant youth groups, mission trips around the world.
Soon the church had three services—traditional at 7:30 a.m., family service at 9, charismatic service at 11. Something for everyone. It all centered around loving and serving Jesus Christ—the Son of God, our crucified and risen Lord. Study focused on the Bible, God’s authoritative Word.
The Episcopal Church came to reject that belief, so St. James chose to become part of the Anglican Church of Uganda. Bishop Bruno sued the vestry and court battles commenced. They ended in 2013 with the California Supreme Court upholding appellate court rulings that gave the Episcopal hierarchs a legal victory: The St. James property went to the bishop. Between 150 and 200 members of the original congregation now meet in a senior center in Newport Beach. Other members have given up on churches.
Read the whole thing. And here is the newspaper report of the sale. The Ahmansons paid to have ceramic Stations of the Cross modeled after a medieval Catalan version installed in the new church building. Now they will presumably be sold off, with the money going to the diocese, or perhaps they will just be scrapped.
Think of it: the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles would rather see this church building destroyed than go to the breakaway orthodox Anglican congregation which had been worshiping there, and whose money and talents sustained it.
It is not at all surprising that the Episcopal bishop, especially an ardently liberal, pro-LGBT one like Jon Bruno, would have been displeased with the congregation breaking away from TEC to join a more orthodox Anglican communion. But it is breathtaking to consider that he would rather see the church building leveled and turned into condos than continue as a place of Christian worship. What kind of Christian does that? What kind of man does that?