El Camino Real reaches disciplinary accord with deacon Stephenie Cooper

Former Episcopal deacon Stephenie Cooper

The Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real reached a Title IV disciplinary accord on February 12, 2024 with Deacon Stephenie Cooper removing Cooper as a deacon.

The accord results from charges of conduct unbecoming during Cooper’s time at Holy Family parish. Specific allegations include:

  • Disparaging worship at Holy Family.
  • Criticizing Filipino aspects of church life at the parish.
  • On one occasion, scolding people from the pulpit.
  • Criticizing the church rector.
  • Engaging in a loud argument with a parishioner in which the parishioner felt physically threatened.

Additionally, the respondent evaded various efforts to have a pastoral discussion with the bishop about her conduct.

Under the accord, Cooper must issue various written apologies, is forbidden from contact with persons connected with Holy Family, may attend only a specific parish within the Diocese, and is forbidden from further disparaging the Diocese or its members. She also must attend counseling, and the conditions of the accord may only be reconsidered after a period of one year and a showing of full compliance with the accord.

While we grieve the necessity of this accord, Anglican Watch commends the Diocese of El Camino Real and Bishop Lucinda Beth Ashby for their integrity in the handling of this situation.

Far too often, conduct of the sort described in the Accord is brushed off as interpersonal conflict, ignoring the lasting harm caused by bullying and spiritual abuse, while rendering the “conduct unbecoming” aspect of Title IV vestigial, at best.

Moreover, all involved, including the respondent, are best served by transparency.

Far too often, accords are treated as secret, which exacerbates the suffering of those hurt by the church, while disincentivizing the respondent from actually seeking health and wholeness. Indeed, by having the entire issue in the public eye, all involved are empowered to let go of past hurts and move forward, possibly even opening the door to reconciliation.

A copy of the accord and related documents follows.

2 comments

  1. The respondent has been a pain in the ass and bully for years. True to form, the Diocese tried to ignore the issue, and bungled the Title IV response to the complainants.

    Good riddance.

    1. Clergy in the Diocese of ECR still openly question how this deacon passed the psych eval when she was ordained.

      Unfortunately, during the Title IV process, the bishop removed the parish from a missional grant committee because they were complainants; thereby violating Title IV, Canon 3e of TEC canons, which indicates that clergy may not “Discharge, demote, or otherwise retaliate against any person because the person has opposed any practices forbidden under this title or because the person has reported information concerning an offense, testified, or assisted in any proceeding under this Title.'”

      The white hierarchical power structure came in and punished the multi-cultural parish for speaking up. The bishop essentially said that the parish can have a grant and be full participants in the grant committee (if they are not complainants in a Title IV process). The Diocesan Standing Committee and the Board of Trustees turned a blind eye to this issue, ignored concerns that were raised, and refused to take action.

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