LA Diocese Sets 'Assistant Bishops' to Take Control of Breakaway Churches

''Given your recent actions in violation of your status as an inhibited priest under my canonical authority, I have assigned a priest-in-charge''
( [email protected] ) Sep 04, 2004 12:28 PM EDT

In letters sent Friday to the three dissenting Episcopal parishes in the Los Angeles diocese, the bishop Jon J. Bruno said he appointed “assistant bishops” to take control of the breakaway churches.

"Given your recent actions in violation of your ordination vows, the national and diocesan canons of the church, your status as an inhibited priest under my canonical authority and your unwillingness to rescind your recent illegal and unauthorized actions, I have assigned a priest-in-charge," Bruno wrote.

Bruno has been locked in a month-long power-struggle with the three churches that broke away over various theological disparities with the national church. At the crux of the debate is the issue of homosexuality; the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA), which the three parishes are no longer a part of, ordained a gay bishop last year and opened churches to “bless” gay unions.

After the three parishes broke ties with the ECUSA and realigned with the Anglican Church of Uganda, Bruno had threatened to “depose” the church heads and revoke the property of the local churches; his threats were largely ignored by the parishes, all of which laid claim to the church buildings and continued to worship together throughout the week.

A lawyer representing the three parishes – St. David's Episcopal Church in North Hollywood, All Saints' in Long Beach and St. James in Newport Beach – rejected Friday’s claims to the church and said the head rectors will continue leading the services.

"The people of these churches want to exercise their freedom of choice to worship God in the buildings they alone have erected and supported, and to get on with their many diverse ministries," said attorney Eric C. Sohlgren.

In Bruno’s letter, he appointed Bishop Robert M. Anderson to All Saints' and St. James, and Bishop Sergio Carranza to St. David's. Janet Kawamoto, a spokeswoman for Bruno, said the diocese had no plans to dispatch the assistant bishops this week.

Sohlgren said the bishops could worship together with the parishioners, but would be asked to leave if they disrupted the services.

Meanwhile, next week, the ECUSA and the Anglican Communion of which the ECUSA is a member, will be finalizing a report on the unity of the Communion. The Anglican Communion has been largely divided since the ECUSA decided to veer leftward on its doctrines on homosexuality; within the past year, Anglican churches representing over 55 million of the 77 million total members severed ties with the ECUSA for its decision. The Anglican Church itself has a resolution that states that homosexuals are persons of sacred worth, but that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible to scripture.