Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, weighing in publicly for the first time in the church’s proceedings against Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno, on has formally prohibited Bruno from selling the Newport Beach church property that is central to the two-year-old disciplinary matter.
Earlier on June 29, the church attorney prosecuting the Bruno case recommended that Bruno “be deposed from ministry forthwith,” and that a forensic audit be conducted of the diocese’s Corp Sole. Corp Sole is the owner of the St. James Church property, and is controlled entirely by the Bishop of Los Angeles.
Curry’s order came in the form of a “Partial Restriction on the Ministry of a Bishop,” in which he said: “I am deeply concerned that his act of entering into a new contract for sale of the same property, while his approach to the earlier sale is still under review, has the potential to undermine the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process.”
Church Attorney Jerry Coughlan, a former federal prosecutor appointed and paid by the Episcopal Church, called Bruno’s conduct “shocking” and said “it is hard now not to suspect some other serious misconduct within Corp Sole.” The statements were part of a one-page amendment to Coughlan’s brief filed after the Hearing Panel heard three days of public testimony in March.
The Hearing Panel, which has the authority to strip Bruno of his bishop’s role and his priesthood, has not issued a ruling, but earlier this month issued an emergency order forbidding sale of the St. James property.
The restriction’s text follows:
In recent days, I have learned of actions that, in my view, may threaten the good order and welfare of the Church. I have learned that, earlier this year, the Rt. Rev. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, entered into a contract for sale of property (the “St. James property”) that is central to a disciplinary matter now pending under Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church, in which Bishop Bruno is the Respondent. According to Bishop Bruno’s submissions in that disciplinary matter, the contract for sale of the St. James property sets the closing date as July 3, 2017.
Bishop Bruno’s actions and intentions regarding an earlier attempted sale of the St. James property are currently under review in the pending disciplinary matter. I am deeply concerned that his act of entering into a new contract for sale of the same property, while his approach to the earlier sale is still under review, has the potential to undermine the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process. The secrecy with which the recent sales contract was undertaken adds to the potential for undermining the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process.
Accordingly, in order to protect the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process and, thereby, the good order and welfare of the Church, and pursuant to Canons IV.7(3), (4), and IV.17(2), I hereby place the following partial restriction on the exercise of his ministry until the pending Title IV matter has been finally resolved:
During the period of the restriction, the Bishop, acting individually, or as Bishop Diocesan, or as Corporate Sole, or in any other capacity, is forbidden from closing on the sale of the St. James property, or otherwise selling or conveying the property or contracting to sell the property, or, in any way assisting in the sale or conveyance of the property.
This restriction is effective immediately. Nothing in this restriction is intended to express any opinion about the merits of the pending Title IV proceeding.
This document shall be served upon Bishop Bruno today [June 29] and shall inform him of his right to have any objections to this restriction heard pursuant to Canon IV.7.