Just days after the hearing panel issued its decision in the Title IV disciplinary case against Bishop Bruno, Bishop Coadjutor Taylor has issued a letter stating that the diocese intends to proceed with the sale of the physical plant that previously belonged to the parish of St. James. The news is shocking and appalling and a stain on the reputation of the entire Episcopal Church.
In its decision, the hearing panel recommended that the parish be returned to its building. Given the amount of time and money spent on legal counsel in the Title IV matter, there surely was ample opportunity to determine whether returning the parish to its church was even a possibility. Indeed, when I read the decision, I assumed that the hearing panel had done such basic due diligence.
Today, however, it emerges that there was a sales contract in place with the developer, and the developer apparently intends to proceed with the transaction. To make matters worse, the diocese has agreed to move forward with the sale.
Moreover, +Taylor’s letter suggests that friends of the parish have engaged in misconduct by sending anonymous, angry emails to members of the standing committee and others. In light of +Bruno’s abusive behavior, it’s hardly surprising that people would respond in this manner. Yet now Taylor seemingly wrings his hands and decries people being angry over the fact that they’ve been abused. Abused financially, abused emotionally, abused relationally. But per +Taylor, if you’re abused, you have an obligation to be nice.
In addition, +Taylor adds some cryptic comments about how both sides share responsibility for the fact that St. James cannot stay in the building. While I do not know what he is referring to, this comment is hardly helpful. Members of the parish have been through far too much already–it’s time to focus on showing them love, care, and concern.
All of this begs the question: Did the hearing panel not do its due diligence prior to issuing its decision? Why would you not find out early on whether the building even COULD be returned to the parish? Why did the presiding bishop instruct +Bruno not to sell the building if it was already a done deal? Doesn’t that diminish his credibility and authority? And if the hearing panel did do its due diligence, then why would it create false hope? Why would it ignore the fact that bulldozers will apparently soon be rumbling back and forth over previously consecrated ground?
The hearing panel recommended that a process of reconciliation commence following the conclusion of the Title IV matter. But it will indeed be difficult to find peace and reconciliation when the hearing panel cannnot even get its act together in this case. And Bishop Taylor needs to focus on creating a safe place for people to share their pain, hurt, and frustrations, versus feeling that he needs to crack heads on all sides as a precursor to healing.
In short, people who’ve been bullied often behave badly, particularly when the bully is someone they liked, trusted, and whom they supported via pledges to their local parishes. That’s no surprise, and +Taylor is simply clueless if he believes that people won’t react with anger, bitterness, and sometimes even malevolence after being lied to, bullied, and mistreated over a period of years.
So, to +Taylor, I say this: Get over your bad self. Your priority needs to be showing love and compassion for people who have been harmed by +Bruno. If you think people are going to put up with additional criticism and still remain in The Episcopal Church, you are sadly mistaken. Indeed, keep it up, and you will find that people leave the Christian faith altogether.
That’s the bottom line.