Anglican Watch has repeatedly covered the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago debacle involving conservative church member David Duggan, including the recent decision to dismiss Duggan’s Title IV complaint. We remain shocked and appalled at the bad behavior in the diocese and urge Bishop Paula Clark to intervene and ensure that Duggan’s complaint is handled with integrity. Moreover, we believe the dismissal is going up on appeal.
We have not seen all the documents filed in the case, but we believe the intake officer and reference panel are confused about their roles.
Specifically, for intake only, the intake officer must assume that all matters complained of are true. From there, they ask two questions:
- Would the allegations, if true, be violations of church canons?
- If so, would the violations be material to the church’s ministry?
In short, the reference panel does not weigh the credibility of witnesses, make findings of fact, or reach any conclusions other than deciding how to handle the complaint. Nor should it express opinions about any other issue.
Here is the exact language from the church’s training materials:
It is not the role of the Reference Panel or the Investigator to evaluate or comment on the perceived truthfulness or credibility of the parties or witnesses interviewed, but to refer or dismiss the matter assuming the information received is true.
What we have seen makes clear that Duggan indeed has raised actionable claims under Title IV. These include:
- Conduct unbecoming on the part of the clergy involved. (Title IV.4.1).
- Conduct involving “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation (Title IV.4.1)
As to materiality, the dishonesty of the clergy in question cost Duggan more than a year’s retirement income. Thus, they are not trivial and constitute weighty and material issues that go to the heart of the church’s missional integrity and witness.
Anglican Watch therefore:
- Calls on all diocesan officials, including Paula Clark, to read Title IV end to end at least twice. Yes, it’s boring legalese, but it is essential stuff. You are dealing with people’s lives and their faith. This is not the time to screw things up. Moreover, no one needs a “wing and a prayer” approach to clergy discipline right now.
- Urges all involved to follow the intake and referral provisions of Title IV to the letter.
- Asks the diocese not to prejudge the matter based on their opinion of Duggan, whether they agree with him on marriage equality or any other issue. Title IV only applies to clergy, and what anyone thinks of Duggan is irrelevant. (We happen to like Duggan and suspect others would too if they chilled out and had a heart-to-heart conversation with him.)
- Focus on resolving this issue versus looking for ways to dismiss Duggan’s case.
We also believe there would be real value to the diocese in making amends, apologizing, and reimbursing Duggan his legal fees.
For far too long, conservatives in the church have been treated in many circles as evil, second-class citizens, and more. There’s no reason for that, and acting with integrity in this matter would be an opening toward mending fences and being truly inclusive. Additionally, there’s scarcely a conservative Episcopalian or Anglican out there who doesn’t know about this egregious situation, so this is a high-profile case worthy of being given serious attention.
As to Bishop Paula Clark, it’s going to be impossible for her to turn around the diocese’s flagging fortunes absent significant efforts at healing across differences. This is a great opportunity to walk the talk, and we urge her to get on with it.
Finally, we stand with Duggan in this matter. We may not agree with him on some views, which is okay. As civil rights leader Dr. Carolyn Goodman used to say, “The world would be a boring place if everything were painted the same shade of grey.”
Anyone wishing to donate to help with Duggan’s legal fees can get information on how to do so here.