The Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles warned that priests and other clergy at two breakaway Southern California parishes could be permanently deposed from ordained ministry unless they return to the national church. In a strongly worded pastoral letter to be read Sunday at all Episcopal parishes in the six-county Los Angeles Episcopal diocese, the Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno ordered the priests to cease all ministry after they declared that their parishes were leaving the national Episcopal Church. All Saints' Church in Long Beach and St. James Church in Newport Beach decided to break off their affiliation with the national church this week due to disagreeing with the national church over the role of gay clergy. Leaders of the two churches said the Episcopal Church has been drifting away from its conservative values for the past three decades; most recently, the church's national convention confirmed an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The 12-member boards of directors, or vestries, of both parishes voted unanimously to break with the Anglican Communion. Parishioners backed their vestries' decisions by overwhelming votes Monday night.
In his letter Bruno said the two parishes had made "unfair and false" statements in accusing the national Episcopal Church and the Los Angeles diocese of departing from what the parishes called "biblical orthodoxy." The bishop said he had kept his vows to "guard the faith, unity, and discipline" of the church. "Yet I will not let the Holy Scriptures be compromised by those who seek to make their literalist and simplistic interpretation the only legitimate one," he wrote. Father Praveen Bunyan, rector of St. James Church in Newport Beach, and the Reverend William Thompson of All Saints' Church in Long Beach released a statement on Wednesday stating that Bruno "no longer has ecclesiastical authority" over their parishes. Janet Kawamoto, media director for the diocese, said it was unlikely that Bruno would immediately force the issue by sending other priests to serve at Sunday services. "I think he doesn't want to be that confrontational," she said.