Generally we are fans of Bishop Mariane Budde. Specifically, she is forthright about the fact that her religious views are progressive. She’s also candid about the overall dismal state of parishes in her diocese. And she’s willing to tackle issues like the conflict at All Souls, which was profoundly ugly.
But all of this is overshadowed by the blind eye that she is turning towards the presence of David Ayres on the board of governors at the National Cathedral School (NCS).
Ayres was previously exposed by this publication as an apparent owner and the CFO of the company behind America’s so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques during the “war on torture.” Widely considered torture, and condemned by the Episcopal Church, these tactics inflicted suffering, and sometimes death, on hundreds of Muslims.
To be clear, Budde is an ex officio member of the board. Her direct role with the school is minimal. And Ayres has only a few more weeks on his term.
But none of that is the point.
Ayres is an alleged torture profiteer who apparently made millions from the suffering of others. To our knowledge, at no point has has made any effort at repentance or reparation. Ayres has millions, but from where we sit the money is just as soiled as money made through slave labor, child prostitution, pornography, illegal drugs, or other societal evils.
And Budde knows it. We asked her repeatedly to comment on the allegations. We’ve asked the same of the school, with its farcical Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) program. Indeed, we contacted Loris Adams, head of the DEI program, directly. Silence.
Thus, by sitting silent, they tacitly approve.
Budde and Randy Hollerith, dean of the Washington National Cathedral, said of the racially motivated mass killer in Buffalo:
The 18-year-old gunman in Buffalo did not come into this world harboring hatred in his heart toward Black people. Contempt needs to be taught, nourished and sustained. If we are honest, we must acknowledge that the soil that gives root to such hatred is still being tended in this nation.
They go on:
As people of faith, we are called to replace hatred with love.
Nearly 60 years ago, after a heinous act of domestic terrorism at Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Dr. King eulogized the four young Black girls who were killed in the bombing: “In their death, they say to all of us, Black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.”
The victims of Buffalo are speaking, too. May God grant us ears to hear, eyes to see and hearts to act. (Emphasis added.)
So what system do we see in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington? We see one that talks a good game. It’s politically correct. To use a phrase we dislike, it’s “woke.”
And in all of that, it sends the message:
The lives of Muslims don’t matter. As long as you personally didn’t torture or kill someone, it’s okay. Just send your daughter to NCS, and write a check, and we’re good. That’s the “system, the way of life, the philosophy,” under which alleged torture profiteers operate.
We get that the Episcopal Church isn’t big on excommunication. Or even the quaintly referenced “repulsion from communion.”
But we’ve seen plenty of cases where clergy have tried to force someone out of the church, ranging from Bob Malm, to Bishop Jake Owensby, to Bishop Jennifer A. Reddall. The reasons vary, from having had the temerity to ask the diocese to mediate a dispute, to criticizing the bishop, to allegedly threatening self-harm. But pushing someone out of the church for reasons like this is contrary to basic notions of Christianity, and these are but a handful of high-profile examples. We know of dozens of similar situations.
That said, if someone can get pushed out of church for criticizing his priest priest, surely torture counts.
As to Budde’s fairly distant role at GCS, the buck still stops with her. If she doesn’t want to be a hypocrite, she needs to act.
That begs the question: If Derek Chauvin gives $1 million to the NCS, can he serve on the board of governors without doing anything to make reparation? Anderson Lee Aldrich, the Colorado shooter? An avowed white nationalist? A child pornographer?
This issue underscores a key reason the Episcopal Church is dying, which we will cover at greater length later this week: It only knows how to deal in generalities.
Consider: the church prides itself on its safe church policies. But have a child molester turn up in church, and most parishes will simply ignore him.
Or, like one church in Virginia, be pointedly rude to him. How reassuring.
Similarly, it is profoundly rare for a parish to own up to collective misconduct, let alone make reparations.
Even on a larger level, the Episcopal Church’s safe church policies are largely illusory. Indeed, the church’s policies fall far short of those of the Rotary, which:
- Extend to non-sexual abuse.
- Require criminal background checks of volunteers.
- Forbid persons in the same household as a sex offender from working with youth.
- Require regular compliance audits.
- Forbid partnering with organizations that lack policies equal to, or greater than, those of the Rotary.
To our knowledge, there is not a single diocese in the church that forbids partnering with organizations that lack child protection policies. Quite a few haven’t even adopted the required updated policies. None that we know of are performing the requisite self audits. The Rotary has the time and money. Not so the Episcopal Church.
Meanwhile, we are left with the reality: Under Budde’s system, an alleged torture profiteer gets to serve not only with children, but in a prestigious leadership position.
Where but the Episcopal Church?