Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Closer Look at Bishop Jon Bruno

The LA Times offers us a lengthy article about Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles entitled A Bishop's Divided House. The entire article is quite good, but two glimpses of Bishop Bruno that it provides are extraordinary. First, a story from his years serving as a police officer:

...He'd been on the force 14 months when, on the night of Nov. 28, 1969, he received a call to help stake out a house on South Sunset Canyon Road. About 10:30, a man named Wallace Noe, a 28-year-old marijuana dealer and suspected kidnapper, drove up, parked and walked toward the rear of the property. Another officer shined a flashlight on Noe, and Bruno shouted, "Freeze! Police!" Noe fired a pistol at the officers, and Bruno opened up with a 12-gauge shotgun, striking Noe in the neck and chest, killing him.

Although the shooting was ruled justifiable — the Magnolia Park Optimist club even honored Bruno for meritorious service — he was profoundly troubled by it. For a year, he relived the shooting in recurring dreams. Finally an Episcopal priest led him through a penance exercise and gave him absolution, and the dreams stopped. "It taught me I really believed all the things of the orthodox Christian faith I'd practiced all my life," he said...
The second story that I found particularly striking was drawn from his time serving as rector of St. Athanasius, the oldest Episcopal parish in Southern California:

...His early years at St. Athanasius coincided with the unimpeded raging of the AIDS epidemic through Los Angeles' gay population. When one of his young parishioners was in the throes of the disease, Bruno expressed frustration at being unable to help. The man told him he would be satisfied if Bruno just hugged him, since no one wanted to come into physical contact with an AIDS patient. So, once a week, the man would go to Bruno's office and the priest would hold him and rock him in a rocking chair.

Jack Plimpton, a retired Los Angeles Unified School District principal who is the diocese's director of AIDS ministries, said he saw Bruno rocking another young man in his arms as the man died. Adds Plimpton: "He's one of the most compassionate people I know"...
The tension between these two stories moves me to want to hear more from this man. He knows well those "inbetween places".

That may be too vague for some readers. To explain what I mean by the "inbetween places", I have to quote, once again, a passage from Terry Holmes' book, Ministry and Imagination:

...In a society that domesticates God and craves certitude more than truth, it is very difficult to accept an image of the local pastor who lives poised amid darkly discerned potencies, exhibiting at the same time a kinship to both beasts and God, both the earth and the stars. Yet, I have written elsewhere of the need for the priest to be "creatively weird" and this is the ground for that dimension of personality.

How does one go about achieving this? Certainly he has to know himself. When I have found myself caught in a potentially destructive force within me, I understand it to be the result of living too much on the right hand. In a sense, the good priest is one who has been there before, as Christ has been there. To be an effective pastor we do not have to have done everything everybody else has. We do have to recognize the power that is there, the real possibility of misusing it, as well as appropriately using it, and what the creative use of power looks like when we do. The mana-person knows the diabols, as well as the symbols. As was Jesus, he is on speaking terms with demons (Mark 1:21-26; Luke 8:26-33). He knows them because he knows himself...if we are to be a mana-person, we have to run the danger of being devoured by the diabols and cast ourselves into the unknown...

Bishop Bruno will be the keynote speaker at the "Remaining Faithful" National Gathering which begins this Friday.


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