Allegations of questionable gifting emerge at St. Paul’s Alexandria VA.

By | January 2, 2023
Anne Ayres, fourth person from left to right

Anglican Watch has uncovered allegations of questionable gifting practices at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Va. These include reports that prominent parishioners paid for a 300-person reception celebrating the rector’s 20th anniversary with the parish. Additionally, we believe another prominent parishioner may have paid for Warder’s wedding reception in 2010. These allegations are part of Anglican Watch’s ongoing investigation of governance practices at the church.

To be clear, church canons regrettably do not address this issue, unless perhaps under the rubric of “conduct unbecoming.”

But all non-profits should have gifting and conflict-of-interest policies. And when gifts of this magnitude come into play, thorny issues arise, including:

  • Is the donation genuinely altruistic, or is there a quid pro quo?
  • Does the giver expect preferential treatment?
  • Why is the rector living above their means?
  • Does the gift create impressions of favoritism?
  • Will the gift make the church seem like the playground of one person or family?
  • Does the gift tie the church and rector to the reputation/behavior of the parishioner?

The latter is particularly troubling, for in this case, Anglican Watch believes that most, if not all, of the cost of the anniversary reception was paid for by Anne Ayres. She and her husband are alleged to have made millions as part owners of the company behind the post-9/11 U.S. torture program.

To clarify, Anglican Watch is not condemning gifts of nominal value at the holidays or other appropriate occasions. These might include:

  • A bottle of wine.
  • A good book.
  • A gift card for a favorite restaurant.

But when we get into gifts such as these, there is an inherent ethical issue. This has long been recognized by state and local governments and the non-profit community. So why is St. Paul’s turning a blind eye to these issues?

It is time for the Episcopal Church to clean up its ethics.

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