There’s an old saying in change management that culture overcomes policy every time. Thus, when we look at the departure of Bill Allport, the rector of St. Paul’s Englewood, we can examine the matter from the vantage point of both policy and culture.
From the policy perspective, bishops are authorized under Title IV to take action whenever a congregation or specific individuals are at risk.
Thus, in light of the allegations that Allport has, inter alia, been seen DUI in parish vehicles, we have to ask why Bishop Carlye Hughes did not act immediately.
Shades of Heather Cook, anyone?
And what would the Diocese of Newark say if Allport killed an innocent third party?
In other words, we have a disconnect between the policy and the behavior of the diocese.
Culture-wise, we must cross the Rubicon of why Allport’s conduct proved challenging to address. The parish has been shambolic for years and was trying to fire Allport in early 2023. So why is he still around in August?
Yes, we get the desire to show compassion, but again, this is someone allegedly placing others at risk.
We also note that, in most for-profits, an employee might show up for work drunk — once. As for purportedly drinking at work, Allport would have gotten fired on the spot.
In this, responsibility rests squarely on Bishop Carlye Hughes. Organizational culture comes from the top; in this matter, she has shown herself feckless in the extreme.
We can even accept that Hughes may be naive with her bit about “he says he’s not an alcoholic.” But that begs the question how someone can become a bishop when they are so spectacularly clueless on the issue of impairment — an all-too-common question in parish life.
Moreover, as a former corporate trainer, Hughes knows or has reason to know that drawing on outside resources is appropriate when her education may be inadequate. And yes, we recognize that the halcyon days of the 1960s are over, but we are confident Hughes can access needed resources in a situation like this.
Thus, Hughes is promoting a diocesan culture in which accountability and the well-being of others take second place to inertia and other issues. And frankly, we cannot envision any issue of greater importance than public safety when questions of clergy impairment matters arise.
Nor should we overlook the complicity of the Church Pension Group (CPG), the church’s captive insurer. Folks there are fully aware of Allport’s issues–we can say that with absolute certainty. So, even setting aside human decency, why didn’t CPG immediately tell the diocese to cut him loose as a matter of risk management?
So, we leave readers with five thoughts:
- The episcopacy is profoundly dysfunctional and lacks even rudimentary HR management skills.
- The Diocese of Newark is even more dysfunctional.
- Bishop Carlye Hughes is incompetent and dysfunctional.
- The Episcopal Church has learned nothing from the Heather Cook situation.
- The entire denomination remains at enormous risk of legal liability as it repeatedly attempts to ignore, minimize, and avoid issues of clergy impairment.
We say yet again: The Episcopal Church must get it together to survive. That includes dealing with clergy impairment and ending the endless dithering and voluminous written reports.
Just. Do. It.
As things stand, this situation is an appalling mess on every front.