Calls for bishops and clergy alike to be held accountable
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Following several high-profile incidents where Episcopal Church members perceived that bishops were given a pass on egregious misconduct or, even worse, rewarded for lousy behavior via a so-called golden parachute exit package, calls are growing to hold bishops accountable.
The move comes in light of allegations of domestic violence by Bishop Prince Singh and the purported assault of the President of the House of Deputies, Julia Ayala Harris, who says a retired bishop accosted her. Her Title IV clergy disciplinary complaint was dismissed despite the presence of multiple witnesses.
The current discussion in the General Convention is looking at ways to hold bishops accountable. But Anglican Watch believes the conversation needs to go further: How do we hold all clergy responsible?
For far too long, bishops have ignored Title IV clergy disciplinary complaints against clergy they supervise. This includes:
- Ignoring complaints altogether.
- Blaming the complainant rather than the perpetrator.
- Dismissing cases on pretextual bases.
- Ignoring child rapists versus removing them, pressing charges, and notifying parents,
- Lied to criminal investigators.
- Making up imaginary Title IV requirements that make it impossible to file. For example, the canons say complaints may be made in any form, in any manner, and can be anonymous. One elderly lady, then in late-stage hospice care, was told her complaint had to be in writing–something she couldn’t possibly do.
- Lying about the status of cases to complainants.
- Refusing to pass along complaints to intake officers, as required by canons.
- Failing to meet even rudimentary standards of training for intake officers.
- Refusing to provide a pastoral response, both to primary and secondary victims.
- Refusing to address harm to family systems when trust is betrayed.
- Refusing to provide required procedural notices, thus preventing appeal.
- Improperly involving diocesan chancellors in Title IV cases.
- Brushing off complainants by telling them to take their complaints to court.
- Accepting, without further inquiry, explanations from respondents, even when facially contradictory.
- Brushing aside allegations of domestic violence by clergy spouses.
- Discounting abuse that doesn’t involve sex, drugs, or children.
- Maintaining an almost one-year backlog of complaints against bishops–even though the church maintains only a handful of such complaints come in every year,
- Senior church officials telling others that the Presiding Bishop cannot discipline bishops–a claim at express variance withe church canons.
The petition is located on the Anglican Watch site here. All are welcome to sign. Signatures will be presented to both houses, as well as senior denominational officials.