Episcopal church in Los Angeles leases worship space to ACNA congregation

By Bob Williams
Posted Jun 9, 2023

[Diocese of Los Angeles] Anglicanism’s “via media” (middle way) is the path newly chosen by two congregations in northeast Los Angeles, California, one Episcopal, the other leasing space onsite as part of the Anglican Church in North America, or ACNA.

Highland Park’s All Saints Episcopal Church, founded in 1904 and worshiping in English and Spanish at 5619 Monte Vista Avenue, has voted to welcome Church of the Resurrection, formed in 2016 and cheerfully dubbed “L.A. Rez” by congregants, to locate its ministries on campus and share the A-frame sanctuary’s worship space.

This agreement – forged by both congregations’ leadership groups and endorsed by Bishop John Harvey Taylor and the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles – reflects what Taylor noted is Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s view that Episcopal congregations may find productive common cause with those of breakaway denominations such as ACNA.

“At a House of Bishops meeting last year, Bishop Curry asked us all to keep in mind that, in his words, the ‘ACNA of 20 years ago is not necessarily the ACNA of today,’” Taylor said. “He said that many of its congregants and even leaders were not as invested in the doctrinal disputes of the early years of the century, and he hoped we would not be, either. He stressed that he wasn’t asking us to put aside the gospel priority of equity for all across barriers of identification and orientation. He just wanted us to go into any conversations we had with ACNA with hearts of reconciliation.

“That’s just what our colleagues and I did working with our siblings at L.A. Rez,” Taylor continued. “After all, looking at the many denominations that nest in our missions and parishes, almost all are more conservative than we on key questions. And yet in church after church, these exercises in practical ecumenism are reaping a wonderful harvest for our Lord.”

“History’s important, but the future is even more important,” the Rev. Guy Leemhuis, president of the standing committee, said. “The reason why I’m supportive of this new initiative, supported by the leadership of All Saints, is because it’s about walking in the way of love. If this is going to work out it’s because we’re tapping into our Christian love. It’s not about who’s right and wrong.

“It appears that we’re able to communicate and work together with ‘plenty good room’ for ministry,” Leemhuis added, echoing a phrase often used by the presiding bishop.

L.A. Rez’s rector, the Rev. Teesha Hadra, agrees. “What has been so lovely is the relational welcome that we have received in our conversations” with All Saints’ priest-in-charge, the Rev. Otto Vasquez, and longtime warden Dan Valdez – a parishioner since 1991 and a seven-time senior deputy to General Convention – as well as Taylor and the standing committee. “There is an openness to doing more ministry for the sake of the Kingdom, and that has been really refreshing.”

Hadra, who holds a law degree from the University of Florida and received a master’s of divinity from Pasadena’s Fuller Seminary, regularly joins the Rev. Melissa McCarthy, diocesan canon to the ordinary and chair of the diocese’s deputation to the churchwide General Convention, in conversations related to ministry and the Highland Park collaboration.

“I’m excited about all the possibilities this new relationship between All Saints Highland Park and LA Rez will offer both communities,” McCarthy said. “Otto is a strong and clear leader. His work, alongside the lay leaders of All Saints has been a blessing and will continue to yield grace upon grace for that community. Otto and leaders of All Saints had the wisdom and courage to see past the historical divisions into a bright future for both congregations. Teesha is an enthusiastic, energetic, and strong leader of L.A. Rez. While these remain two separate churches, I believe both congregations have much to offer each other and their communities. I can’t wait to see what God will unfold in this collaboration.”

As All Saints’ priest-in-charge since 2019, Vasquez guided the parish through the pandemic and is now in the process of welcoming the L.A. Rez congregation, which is set to arrive in the weeks of late June and early July to begin a five-year agreement.

“We began conversations a year ago, and we’re very excited now to begin the journey together. God’s time is perfect,” said Vasquez, also a skilled general contractor who has been completing major repairs to All Saints’ church and parish house exterior and interior spaces, starting work during the pandemic.

“We’re focused on making everyone comfortable,” Vasquez said. “They’ve already offered to help with the homeless, and hopefully we can work together in the future and have some reconciliation after theological quarrels in the past. This is a completely new generation – they didn’t experience those dark days. They’re focused on their ministry, and having waited, can enjoy it now.”

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— Bob Williams is the Diocese of Los Angeles’ canon for common life.