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Bishop Threatens to Depose Breakaway Leaders

Los Angeles Bishop threatens to revoke pastoral licenses of the evangelical leaders whose churches voted to break away from the ECUSA over theological disparities on homosexuality
( [email protected] ) Aug 20, 2004 08:29 PM EDT

The Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles warned the leaders at two breakaway congregations that they will be “permanently deposed from ordained ministry,” lest they change their decision to break away from the national denomination, Thursday, August 19, 2004.

Bishop J. Jon Bruno’s letter was written in reaction to the All Saints Church in Long Beach and St. James Church in Newport Beach’s decisions to break ties with the Episcopal Church (USA). The ECUSA has been facing numerous threats of broken fellowship abroad since they’ve placidly allowed the ordination of gay individuals and the blessings of same-sex “unions” in the church; More than half of the world’s 77 Anglicans have broken fellowship with them, while leaders of other national churches – such as the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church – held back enthusiasm for ecumenical dialogue with the Episcopal Church. In fact, the ECUSA alienated itself from many of its own members by ordaining an openly gay man as bishop last year.

According to the leaders of the two churches, the Episcopal Church has been drifting away from its Christian roots for several decades. Last year’s shocking decisions were only a confirmation of their fears. However, the event that apparently broke the camel’s back was Bishop Bruno’s own decision to preside over a "blessing ceremony" of the union of one of his district’s priests and his male partner.

Following this June 2004 “blessing” ceremony, the 12 member boards of directors, or vestries, of both parishes voted unanimously to break with the Anglican Communion. Parishioners backed their vestries' decisions in overwhelming votes Monday night.

The churches said they would place themselves under the authority of a bishop in Uganda whose biblical roots are in place.

Bruno, who had no idea of the separation until the two churches publicly announced their decision, reacted by saying the two parishes had made “unfair and false” statements.

“I will not let the Holy Scriptures be compromised by those who seek to make their literalist and simplistic interpretation the only legitimate one," Bruno wrote, saying he would “guard the faith, unity and discipline" of the church.

"I have responded by inhibiting them from the exercise of the ordained ministry," Bruno wrote in a pastoral letter to be read to all 147 congregations in the diocese on Sunday, August 22. "Should they wish to return to the communion of this Church during this period, a process of restoration will take place. Should they not change their minds, they will be deposed. My sincere hope for these clergy and vestries is that they will reconsider their decision and return to full communion with me, the Episcopal Church and indeed with the Anglican Communion."

Bruno said he also wrote a letter of protest to Bishop Evans Mukasa Kisekka of Luwero – the Ugandan Bishop, with a copy sent to Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, the primate of the Province of Uganda.

"No bishop outside the diocese has the jurisdiction to oversee ministry within that geographical diocese. 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," Bruno said.

Despite the threats, the leaders of the two churches issued separate statements that said Bruno “no longer has ecclesiastical authority” over their parishes.

More than likely, the parishes will undergo a fierce battle over property rights against the ECUSA and the LA district, since Bruno elucidated his intention was to “protect and preserve the properties of these congregations as part of the Diocese of Los Angeles."