‘Heartless’ Bishop Locks Out St. James Congregation

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Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees (center) of the St. James the Great Episcopal Church at the press conference
Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees (center) of the St. James the Great Episcopal Church at the press conference

Rev. Canon Cindy Evans Voorhees of the St. James the Great Episcopal Church on Via Lido held a press conference on Thursday to bring members of the media up to date on the recent developments of her church and congregation.

As reported in the NB Indy, St. James the Great Episcopal Church held its final Sunday service last weekend before closing its doors.

According to a press release issued by the St. James congregation last week, The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop, Diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, has entered into an agreement to sell St. James the Great Episcopal Church property and buildings, located at 3209 Via Lido, to developer Legacy Partners Residential, Inc. for approximately $15 million. The developer plans to build luxury condos on the site. The sale is still pending.

The congregation was notified of the sale on May 17, and were told that the last service in the facility would take place on June 28.

The congregation was also told they had 30 days to de-construct, remove stained glass and the ashes of loved ones kept at the church.

According to Rev. Voorhees, this week Bishop Bruno attempted to fire her by “accepting her resignation, but it was

St. James Church sign — NB Indy photo ©
St. James Church sign
— NB Indy photo ©

a resignation never offered.” He then changed all the locks on the church building, effectively leaving 200 parishioners as well as volunteers, a Brownie troop, musicians, a HolyCoding school, and chefs, including Rich Mead, former owner of Sage and Sage on the Coast, stranded with no access to the church. Many of them have personal items still inside.

Rev. Voorhees called his actions “ill-considered and heartless,” and that they are “directly threatening the loving community we have built at St. James the Great, and indirectly threatening the larger Episcopal Church that we love and are proud to call our spiritual home.”

“It’s shocking,” said drama teacher Helen Timpe, a member of the St. James congregation who attended the press conference. “What kind of Christian community locks fellow Christians out.”

Barbara Stachelski, a Sunday school teacher at St. James the Great, worries about the effect this uncaring action has on the children’s understanding of the church.

“They’re our future,” sited Stachelski, “and it’s sad this has to happen to them.”

The church has been part of a legal ping-pong since part of the original congregation departed from the Episcopal Church more than 10 years ago and sided with an Anglican faction headed by another bishop. This left the legal question of rightful ownership of the property up to the courts, which ended up siding with the Episcopal Church.

Save St. James the Great Association applied for a temporary restraining order in Superior Court for the State of California, claiming that the sale was in violation of specific language of the deed granting the property, but the courts denied the lawsuit.

The congregation still plans to hold its services this Sunday at a still to be determined location near the church.

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