Friday, September 25, 2009

With Forkèd Tongue

Jesus said (John 14:6): "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me."

The Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno says: "Not so fast -- there are other ways; Jesus is not the only way."

Jesus said (Mt 19:4-6): “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

The Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno says (in 2007): "It [blessing of same-sex unions] does not happen in my diocese with my permission." Meanwhile, in 2004, none other than the Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno blessed the union of the Very Reverend Malcolm Boyd and Mark Thompson. (I guess it must have occurred without his "permission".)

Jesus said (Mark 12:31): " . . . and the second commandment is this: Love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

The Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno says: "Ubuntu expresses the thought that 'I am because you are.' This concept echoes our Baptismal Covenant as Episcopalians 'to respect the dignity of every human being.' This ubuntu way of living compels us to serve Christ in one another both locally and globally. . . . We are committed to building new community. We are committed to serving with generosity."

But a little more than three years earlier, the Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno (Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles) said:

I have received word this afternoon that the congregation of St. Luke's-of-the-Mountains Episcopal Church, La Crescenta, voted on February 13 to sever its ties with the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and align itself with the Diocese of Luweero, Uganda.

I am deeply disappointed in the actions taken by the congregation and its clergy. We have worked in the past to resolve differences between the rector and parishioners of St. Luke's and the diocese and the national Church. It is a painful matter to me to know that they have abandoned all attempts at reconciliation, which is at the heart of our Christian witness. We still hope and pray that we may come together again with our brothers and sisters of St. Luke's Church. . . .

The Episcopal Church is a church of thinking people, and it is inevitable that its members will think differently about many matters of faith and practice. Dissension will not undercut the great work being done by Episcopalians here in the Diocese of Los Angeles, which is a vital and growing branch of Christ's kingdom, bringing abundance to the people of Southern California.
Jesus said (Luke 6:29-31): "To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you."

The Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles, says:
The congregation's claim on the property of St. Luke's Church is clearly illegal according to the canons of our diocese and the national Church and to the laws of the State of California. It is my pastoral and fiduciary duty to this diocese to protect its property rights, and we will pursue this matter.
St. Paul said (1 Cor. 6:1-7):
When any of you has a legal dispute with another, does he dare go to court before the unrighteous rather than before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you not competent to settle trivial suits? Do you not know that we will judge angels? Why not ordinary matters! So if you have ordinary lawsuits, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame! Is there no one among you wise enough to settle disputes between fellow Christians? Instead, does a Christian sue a Christian, and do this before unbelievers? The fact that you have lawsuits among yourselves demonstrates that you have already been defeated. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?

Regardless of what St. Paul said, the Bishop of Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against the rector and vestry of St. Luke's Church, demanding that he be given immediate possession of all of its property. In June of this year, the Fourth District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Bishop Bruno and his Diocese, and awarding them possession of the Church's property under the Dennis Canon, as made applicable to Episcopal parish property by a special State statute. (The parish of St. James, in Newport Beach, has petitioned the U. S. Supreme Court to review this ruling, and we should know by October 5 if the Court will grant review.) The trial court had granted a stay of the enforcement of its judgment pending the parish's appeal. Last Monday, September 21, the Court of Appeal's decision became final (subject only to discretionary review by the U.S. Supreme Court -- a move the parish is presently considering), and the case was returned to the trial court.

Jesus said (John 21:15-17): “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus said a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Shepherd my sheep.” Jesus said a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” and said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep.”

The Right Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles, says the future mission of St. Luke's, now under his direct pastoral control, will be to focus on "deepening our understanding of what it means to be reconciled, welcoming and healthy people of God."

The Rev. Rob Holmann, rector of St. Luke's, said that he and the 200-member congregation "would very much like to stay" in the 83-year-old river-rock building, considered a cultural, architectural and historic local landmark.

But the Right Rev. J. Jon Bruno says:
The long history of the Episcopal Church in La Crescenta will continue with new leadership and the potential for sustained growth, and as an open source of full inclusion for all humanity . . . .

It is important that we preserve the essence of St. Luke the healer and the ongoing maintenance of the historic church building. It is a jewel in the crown of La Crescenta, and a blessing to the people of the Diocese of Los Angeles.
As part of the essence, no doubt, of "St. Luke the healer", and as part of his avowed mission to "serve Christ in one another . . . [and] serving with generosity", the Right Reverend Jon J. Bruno instructed his attorneys, on the day after the appellate court returned the case to the trial court, to write the Church's counsel as follows:
The California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One (Appeal No. D051669) issued its remittitur yesterday, transferring jurisdiction to the superior court. As a result, Plaintiffs are entitled to immediate enforcement of the judgment entered on July 26, 2007, which has now been affirmed with finality. (A copy is attached for your reference.) The judgment requires Defendants to immediately relinquish ownership and possession of all real and personal property held by or for the benefit of St. Luke's on or before February 13, 2006 (the "Property"), and requires Defendants to provide the Diocese a full accounting of all Property from the date of St. Luke's last parochial report filed with the Diocese . . . .
The judgment (a copy of which is attached to the letter) says nothing about the (ridiculous) date of February 13, 2006, which is the date on which the Diocese filed its complaint against St. Luke's. (And how could it? A judgment is entered at the close of the whole case, after there has been a trial. If it were to say that the defendants had to hand over possession of the property "on or before the date on which the complaint was filed", the judgment would be impossible to carry out, and would deservedly earn the condemnation of Charles Dickens' Mr. Bumble.)

What the judgment (view after the two-page letter) in fact says is this (notice there is no specific date given):
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED THAT . . . Defendants shall a) relinquish ownership, possession, and control of the Property to the Priest-In-Charge appointed by the Bishop and b) render to the Diocese a full accounting of all Property held by or for the benefit of St. Luke's from the date of St. Luke's last parochial report filed with the Diocese through and including such date as all Property has been relinquished to the Diocese and fully accounted for.
And this judgment was drafted by Bishop Bruno's attorneys, so they have no one to blame for the lack of a specific date but themselves. That does not stop them, however, from reading in a specific date of their own:
We assume your client has made contingency plans for this eventuality, and is prepared to comply with the final judgment. Although the Diocese is entitled to immediate possession of the Property, it is willing to provide St. Luke's an additional period to vacate the Property in an orderly manner. To that end, we request your immediate confirmation that St. Luke's will vacate and release the Property to the Diocese by noon on Friday, September 25, 2009, and provide the full accounting required by the final judgment on or before September 29, 2009. Representatives of the Diocese will be present at noon on September 25, 2009, to take possession of the Property.
This is the kind of officious nonsense which makes people despise lawyers so much. They turn a judgment which has no definite date in it, and signed by a court which granted a stay of execution of the judgment which has not yet been lifted, into a monumental chicken-and-egg problem. For the judgment (which they drafted, remember) says expressly that the defendants are to render to the Diocese a full accounting of all the parish property from the date of its last parochial report to the date on which all such property "has been . . . fully accounted for." At the same time, that date is defined in the judgment to be the same date as of which all of the Parish's property has been "relinquished to the Diocese."

So the attorneys for Bishop Bruno simply invent a requirement, under the threat of "further proceedings", that St. Luke's vacate its property by noon today, and then account to the Diocese for all of the property as of that time some four days later. The problem is that there is nothing in the judgment itself which allows the attorneys to set such a timetable before the trial court lifts its stay.

When a court imposes a stay, it expires in accordance with the terms set by the court, and not as the attorneys may wish to have it expire. I do not have access to the language of the stay, but if it had expired by now under its own terms, I would have expected Bishop Bruno's attorneys to point out that fact in their letter. Instead, they never even mention the stay.

I recall that the Diocese of Central New York showed a similar charity toward the Reverend Matt Kennedy and his spouse, the Reverend Anne Kennedy, when the decision awarding their parish's property to the Diocese became final as well. What we have here are two examples of the Episcopal Church (USA) showing its true philosophy of "inclusiveness" and Christian fellowship: "with malice toward some, and charity for a few", it's "Katy, bar the door" for the rest.

No comments:

Post a Comment