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L.A. Episcopal Diocese Ordains Next Bishop

Religion: Former policeman and pro athlete will take over when current leader eventually retires.


The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, a former policeman and pro football center, was ordained successor bishop of the six-county Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles on Saturday with a pledge to minister to children and Southern California's cultural diversity.

In ancient ceremonies grafting him into what the church believes is a line of succession going back 2,000 years to the apostle Peter, more than 20 Episcopal and Anglican bishops from as far away as Mexico City and Belize joined American prelates in placing their hands on Bruno's head as he knelt before them.

Repeating a traditional prayer as an estimated 4,000 Episcopalians and guests looked on at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the bishops called upon God to "pour out upon him the power of your princely spirit."

With those words, the former Denver Broncos player and Burbank policeman, who is 6 feet 4 and weighs more than 270 pounds, became the 953rd bishop in the U.S. church since the American Revolution.

The Episcopal Church is a self-governing member of the 70-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion, whose spiritual leader is the archbishop of Canterbury.

Bruno, 53, who was ordained a priest in 1977, will succeed the Rt. Rev. Frederick H. Borsch when Borsch retires. Borsch, 64, who became bishop in 1988, has not announced a retirement date.

Bruno wasted no time in declaring that children would be his first priority as bishop in the 84,000-member Los Angeles diocese, which includes the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Riverside and San Bernardino.

"I want you to look into the eyes of these young people," said Bruno, vested in regal robes and wearing a miter. "Tell them you will preserve the church for them, that you will make them the most important cause of your life, that you'll nurture them into people of character and make them capable and, through education, competent people who can act out their Christianity in the world."

Underscoring his commitment to youth, Bruno summoned his 7-year-old grandson, Christopher Rivers, to the altar and held his hand before celebrating the Eucharist for the first time as a bishop. Appropriately, Eric Medina, the young son of the Rev. Ernesto Medina, became the first person to publicly address Bruno as "bishop" when he joined other youths in presenting Bruno with a copy of a "children's charter."

In an interview, Bruno said he would be an "activist bishop" engaged not only in children's issues, but also in economic justice.

He said people of all cultures must draw together to make Los Angeles "a place where economic equality is something of a reality, where we have fellowship based on not just a sense of tranquil peace but a sense of bonding and a relationship where we're intertwined with one another."

He said that will take not only economic development, but an activist proclamation of Gospel values.

During her sermon, the Rev. Mitties McDonald DeChamplain, a professor at the church's General Theological Seminary in New York, noted that Bruno had lain prostrate before the altar, his arms outstretched as if on a cross, during a portion of the ordination service.

"I know, Jon Bruno, that is the shape of life as you understand it," she said. "How did God come into the world? In humility. We are to go with God's help to do likewise, confident that God can make of us a cruciform people, a people who do not use the cross of Jesus Christ as a battering ram in the world. It's not a symbol of dominance. It's a symbol of self-emptying and self-forgetfulness."

Without referring to specific controversies that have buffeted the church, she noted that bishops have had to take difficult stands. "It's downright scary to think of what that kind of costly openness can mean to us who are baptized in the world. We know it has cost our bishops in this church dearly," she said.

After the ceremonies, Borsch told the parishioners he is "delighted" that Bruno, who has served under Borsch as provost of the Episcopal Cathedral Center of St. Paul in Echo Park, is now a bishop. "We so look forward, Jon and I, to serving you together," Borsch said.

Among dignitaries and religious officials present were Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke; Los Angeles Councilman Mike Hernandez; British Consul General Paul Diamond; the Rt. Rev. Edmund Browning, former presiding bishop of the national Episcopal Church; Bishop Paul W. Egertson of the Southern California West Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian of the Armenian Church of North America. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles did not send a representative. The Catholic Diocese of Orange sent a priest.

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