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Spinning Bishop Bruno's Death

Spinning Bishop Bruno's Death

COMMENTARY

David W. Virtue, DD
www.virtueonline.org
April 28, 2021

J. Jon Bruno, the former Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles is dead. He was 74.

Reading the secular media and the TLC, you would have thought that Bruno rocketed straight to heaven for steering his diocese and The Episcopal Church towards his progressive and inclusive vision, being a ground breaker, blessing same-sex unions and "reaching out to economically disadvantaged communities."

That's the spin.

In truth, Bruno was a bully. The L.A. Times said he was "strong-willed" that's being nice...and not true. He bullied people. When he was a cop, before becoming a bishop, he shot and killed a man, perhaps symptomatic of the man's temperament. (He later underwent counselling and absolution for his act.) Bruno died Friday of natural causes, the diocese said. The Mayor of L.A. called the former bishop "a pillar of peace and goodwill across our city." Really.

Bishop John Harvey Taylor, who now leads the diocese said, "His legacy will continue to light us along the way." Truth be told, his legacy is one of darkness, with zero peace and goodwill and a diocese in a tail spin rapidly heading downwards. Bruno spent much of the diocese's legacy in going after one orthodox parish -- St. James Newport Beach - which ultimately cost him his job.

Bruno believed all the bromides of liberal Christianity.

Bruno was bishop for the six-county diocese from 2002 to 2017, a turbulent era in which he responded to the AIDS crisis by opening health clinics and welcoming LGBTQ people into the church, which he saw as a citadel for social justice and change. He also oversaw the widening chasm between older conservatives and mostly younger parishioners. This chasm left him battling breakaway churches that chafed at the leftward tilt of the diocese, said one news report.

Bruno was bishop from 2002-2017. During the 15 years, he hosted the Episcopal General Convention at Mickeymouseland in 2009, followed by the wholesale debacle with St James in Newport Beach. He also brought in the lesbian bishop Mary Glasspool, who eventually ran off to the Diocese of New York, accusing the bishop of being a bully.

The diocesan numbers tell the story. Statistics from his time as bishop (2002-2017) tell the truth.

In 2002, there were 147 churches. By 2017, it had dropped to 128, a loss of 19 churches or 13%. BAPTIZED MEMBERS in 2002 were 71,357. By 2017, it had plunged to 49,359, a loss of 21,998 or 30.8%. COMMUNICANTS in 2002 were 52,664. By 2017, they were 37,518, a loss of 15,146 or 28.7%. ASA, the true barometer of diocesan health, was in 2002, 23,352. By 2017, it had dropped to 14, 690 a loss of 8,662 or 37.1%.

CHURCH SCHOOL stats were horrendous. In 2002, they were 7,446. By 2017, they were down to 3,258, a loss of 4,176 or 56.2%. The total loss of BAPTISMS among children was 57.2%, adult losses declined by 48.1%. CONFIRMATIONS dropped massively by 88.2 among children, with adult losses dropping 38.1%. There were fewer WEDDINGS from 435 IN 2002 to 208 in 2017. Even FUNERALS dropped from 867 in 2002, to 628 in 2017 a decline of 27.6%.

What brought Bruno down finally was his duplicity over St. James Newport Beach which had broken ranks with the diocese. He tried twice to sell the property for a cool $15 million and locked out parishioners, forcing them to hold services in a park and eventually the city's civic center.

The irony should not be missed. When the evangelical parish, upset by Gene Robinson's consecration decided to separate itself from TEC after nine years of wrangling, Bruno sued and the courts pushed the rector and parishioners out of the $20 million church property. Then priest Richard Crocker said the court imposed a $1 million bond and gave the church 45 days to clear the property. Too much to pay, they left.

When the dust finally settled, Bruno tried to sell the property to developers, but this failed, and a liberal woman priest who took over the congregation pushed back at Bruno. The Rev. Cindy Voorhees and her parishioners had invested time and money in the Church, she said, even as Bruno was secretly planning to sell the property. She went after Bruno.

TEC stepped in and a church Hearing Panel ruled in July 2017 that Bruno should be suspended from ordained ministry for three years, for misrepresenting facts and for "conduct unbecoming of a member of the clergy."

The conflict between Bruno and the congregation lasted two years, but Voorhees was tenacious.

Bruno appealed the ruling, of course, and the appeal allowed him to remain in office until he retired in November 2017. The Court of Review for Bishops upheld the suspension.

It must have stuck in Bruno's craw that a liberal priest and a woman at that, managed to oust him while the evangelicals were forced to leave the property. Voorhees did not mention Bruno's death during the church's Sunday service on April 25, TLC noted.

Sometime later, Mary Glasspool, a lesbian, was elected assisting Bishop of Los Angeles. She was the world's first ever partnered lesbian bishop. As Bruno's fortunes sank, Glasspool accused Bruno of being a bully and fled in 2015 to the Diocese of New York, where she is now assisting bishop.

Bruno will not be remembered fondly by any orthodox clergy, bishop or laity of TEC, many of whom made their way to the Anglican Church in North America.

Bruno's episcopacy will, in the light of history, be seen as a disaster, the "cloud of disciplinary action" as one print journal put it doesn't touch his one ball wrecking crew. The diocese will continue to sink with no visible gospel to proclaim, just the woke concerns of a post-Christian denomination and a culture overwhelming it.

END

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