Anglican Watch has been closely watching efforts at conflict resolution at Calvary Episcopal, Front Royal. We believe the measures are worthwhile and encourage the parish to continue efforts in this space. We also encourage the parish to treat the matter as one where all topics are fair game.
Among other things, we’re thinking of issues with rector Valerie Hayes.
Specifically, while Hayes is sincere about welcoming all persons, her actions often point towards a different conclusion.
That includes a very active role in the diocesan clergy gossip tree and behavior not in keeping with the high standards of integrity that people rightly should expect from Episcopal priests.
In that vein, we recall Hayes’ response to an email from Anglican Watch editor Eric Bonetti to Hayes and other clergy in the diocese about abusive conduct. Hayes later contacted a third party, claimed to be Bonetti, and claimed she was being “harassed,” and that this had “been going on for years.” Hashtags #weird, #defamation, #notchristian.
To be clear, when someone tells a clergyperson that they are being abused in any way — mentally, verbally, emotionally, sexually, or in any other manner — the only correct response is, “I am so very sorry. What can I do to help?”
Insisting that the church address abuse is not harassment, and if Hayes thinks otherwise, it’s time for her to find a new career.
Hayes’ actions also suggest a lack of introspection. If she cannot examine her own behavior and address inconsistencies, she’s going to struggle in any job, but particularly as a priest.
We also note that the parish appears to be adrift, with no real direction. Even the website has been “under construction” for months now—an effort that, given the small size of the site, could easily be done in one afternoon.
This dichotomy between Hayes’ professed values and her professional conduct has contributed to numerous challenges within the parish and the diocese. And this is a root-cause issue–parishes take their cue from leadership, and a priest who lacks integrity spins off conflict in all directions.
The good news is that the diocese is finally taking these issues seriously.
Conflict ignored is conflict multiplied, and the diocese has for far too long spent all its time and energy in litigation, even as it ignores issues of integrity and accountability.
Let’s hope for meaningful change, health, and wholeness at the Front Royal parish. And let’s hope that the church has the integrity to actually discuss real issues, in the open, in a safe enviroment, without Hayes accusing anyone of harassment.