Anglican Watch is on the record as having opposed the consecration of Mark Stevenson as bishop of Virginia in a Southern Baptist Convention church. Much of our opposition has been based on the SBC’s opposition to LGBTQ+ rights.
But we also are dismayed that the Episcopal Church ignored the fact that the SBC is under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for its handling of sex abuse claims, which many allege include concealment and coverup, all under the guise of “we have no authority over autonomous SBC churches,” even as the denomination can and does expel churches for welcoming LGBTQ+ persons.
It’s worth noting that the DOJ rarely gets involved in such situations. Per Religion News Service, Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI agent who handled similar situations told them:
federal law enforcement officials often investigate sex trafficking, child porn and crimes against children on the internet. It’s less common for them to investigate sexual abuse, which is often handled by local or state officials. In 2011 a Texas jury sentenced Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to life in prison for abuse after Jeffs spent years on the FBI’s most-wanted list as a fugitive.
The DOJ generally gets involved only when a federal crime may have occurred, often when victims are transported across state lines as part of an illegal act.
So what does that mean for St. Paul’s Baptist in Richmond?
To be clear, we have no evidence to suggest sexual misconduct at the church. But there are 34 alleged child molesters in the SBC in Virginia, and it’s a safe bet that there are many more. (H/t to friends Dom and Megan Benninger, founders of Baptist Accountability.)
And for the record, adultery is adultery. Per church canons, clergy are to be held to a higher standard. There is no fact pattern under which it is okay for a married Episcopal priest to have an affair.
We therefore have profound concerns about becoming involved with a denomination that currently is facing a federal criminal probe. And as we noted in an earlier article, non-religious non-profits like the Rotary have policies that would forbid using St. Paul’s for an event.
So why cannot the Episcopal Church meet the ethics standards of the Rotary?
We also think many in the Episcopal Church conclude, “Oh, sex abuse only happens with Catholics/Baptists, etc.” We believe a day of reckoning is coming for the Episcopal Church, and there is ample evidence that TEC is no better when it comes to sexual abuse.