More on Chilton Knudsen’s misconduct and abuse of power in the Diocese of Chicago

By | March 4, 2023
Ethical disaster Chilton Knudsen

Earlier, we posted a request for additional information on Bishop Chilton’s alleged misconduct as assistant bishop of Chicago. We’ve received further details and are making them public, including details of a related incident of abuse of process.

Chilton Knudsen’s misconduct

At issue is a confidential letter from Episcopal church member David Duggan to Knudsen, opposing the upcoming ordination of an openly gay ordinand on theological grounds. In his letter, Duggan stated he would not raise objections during the ordination service.

Four days after the ordination, the wardens of St. Chrysostom’s, Chicago, acting as the ecclesiastical authority of the parish in the absence of a rector, sent Duggan an email barring him from all church property. The wardens subsequently confirmed their demand via letter. 

The church subsequently attempted to obtain a protective order, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

Thus, Knudsen violated confidentiality. Moreover, as the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese, she was ultimately responsible for the outcome of the matter. So, she not only engaged in malfeasance, but she also engaged in nonfeasance, or “those things left undone.”

And the diocese engaged in fraud.

How is the church’s conduct fraudulent? It’s fraudulent because the canons are legally binding. Persons give to the church based on the understanding that they lose membership in one of three ways:

  1. They die.
  2. They resign from the church. (Despite the lack of a mechanism to do so, a weirdly self-centered aspect of the church.)
  3. They request a letter of transfer.

Thus, the church pulled a bait-and-switch. Or, as one court described a similar situation, the matter is “at best, breach of contract, at worst, fraud.” 

And while we may quibble about the exact legal definition, the church’s conduct is unethical. At a minimum, if it is going to toss Duggan out, it must refund all his donations. Fair is fair. Just because it’s a church doesn’t mean it can do whatever it wants without consequences.

So how does our position align with the fact that Anglican Watch is pro-inclusion and supports the ordination of openly gay candidates? 

The answer is that inclusion doesn’t extend only to those with whom we agree. To paraphrase Queen Elizabeth I, we have no desire to make windows into the souls of others. The church should be a safe place for all, not just those who agree with us or act in ways that please us.

To be clear, these are allegations. But we find Duggan credible and support his efforts to make the church a “big tent” that welcomes all. While we disagree with his position, we defend his right to hold it without retaliation or exclusion.

Ascension, Chicago

In 2017, Duggan ran into an even worse situation. Following an altercation with the junior warden of the parish (Duggan describes the latter as having an “alternative lifestyle,”), Ascension Chicago’s vestry, acting outside the written notice requirements in church governance documents, voted to bar Duggan after the junior warden accused him of assault. Yet no one filed a police report. (Ironically, the parish describes itself as “diverse and welcoming.”)

The interim rector affirmed the vestry’s decision to bar Duggan from the parish.

In a disciplinary complaint against the interim, Bishop Lee of Chicago and the chancellor emphasized their role in the decision and defended the interim.

That’s problematic for several reasons:

  1. The involvement of the bishop and the chancellor does not absolve the vestry of its legal obligations. That includes complying with notice requirements for vestry meetings.
  2. Even the most basic notions of due process and equal protection involve hearing from both sides of a dispute. There is no evidence that this happened.
  3. Even if, as we suspect, Duggan may be an argumentative soul (many lawyers are), tossing someone out is a last-ditch solution. Was there any effort to bring in a mediator? Or to listen to Duggan, even if we disagree with his views? Or to love and care for Duggan? 
  4. If the bishop and chancellor indeed had a hand in the matter, then it logically follows that:
    1. They, too, ignored basic notions of due process and equal protection.
    2. Knudsen was equally obligated to interject herself into the conflict she created at St. Chrysostom’s by breaching confidentiality and ensuring that Duggan didn’t face retaliation. In other words, the Episcopal church cannot play its usual game of being hierarchical regarding property but congregational regarding clergy misconduct.

Closing thoughts

Anglican Watch knows of multiple situations in which Knudsen has violated her vows and church canons. She has even ignored allegations of criminal conduct by clergy and failed to provide the pastoral response mandated by the church canons. By doing so, Knudsen undercuts her credibility and brings discredit on the church and holy orders. In other words, she should face disciplinary consequences.

Nor do we see any love or compassion for Duggan. Has anyone tried to invite Duggan to discuss the matter over coffee? Or to propose a healthy path forward?

To reiterate: We fully support the inclusion of LGBT+ persons in all areas of church life. Similarly, we support the full inclusion of those who:

  • Disagree with us.
  • Don’t look like us.
  • Don’t think like us.
  • Don’t share our politics.
  • Don’t behave in ways we think they should.

The only persons who should be excluded from the Episcopal church are those least likely to face expulsion: the Scribes and Pharisees who far too often serve as clergy in the church. That includes priests who abuse their authority, oppress the laity, and violate boundaries. And high on that list is Chilton Knudsen.

We reject the Machiavellian notion that the ends justify the means. The church is not inclusive if it excludes those who criticize it, argue with it, or hold beliefs on the role of LGBTQ+ persons that differ from our views.

And a reminder to the inevitable lawyers: These are all allegations. But we find Duggan credible and know that the events he describes are far too common in the denomination.

Lastly, we remind the Diocese of Chicago and its officials that this is Lent — the perfect time to align action with words and repent of its sins. Or as Bishop Clark puts it: “Grow the church. Form the faithful. Change the world.”

Let’s hope we see integrity from the diocese.

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David Duggan

Good morning. I am David Duggan of whom this is written. There is one factual error, though not grievous. I did not “file suit.” That was done by the “ordinand,” who not only is “openly gay” but an adoptive parent of a daughter. Instigated by the diocese under its chancellor, the new ordinand rushed into court and sought an “emergency no stalking order of protection” (ENSOP in the trade). He alleged that my letter to the bishop, a conversation with the departing rector, and an allegorical tale published at were “acts of stalking” warranting the entry of the order. The judge, also an alternative lifestyle adherent, granted this without notice and my right to be heard, and in complete derogation of the 1st Amendment. After eight months of litigation, including a trip to the Illinois Appellate Court and 10s of thousands of dollars in fees, a different judge vacated the order and dismissed the ENSOP order. Needless to say this has cost not only financially but also emotionally as I have supported the Episcopal Church throughout my life. It appears there is no place for me in this denomination, at least in this diocese.

David Duggan

Your delving into the situation at Ascension was a tour de force of investigative journalism. Not too many people know of it and the junior warden (who had shouted off one of his predecessor wardens with a profanity-laced tirade) used my ouster as a pre-condition of Patrick Raymond’s selection as permanent rector (he had left his prior job at St. Michael’s Barrington without another post; I’ve heard reasons why but they are not germane). But he needed a job and with a special needs daughter, enough to keep her in private schools. In the disciplinary proceedings, I brought this “overlord” fact up (meaning that Raymond lacked objectivity in his two-faced decision to exile me), but Jeffy Lee and his chancellor short-circuited the appeal. I also had brought a disciplinary complaint against Lee because he had foreclosed my ability to attend various diocese-wide functions at Ascension (e.g., a meet-and-greet of the several candidates to succeed Lee) was a personal vendetta because I had openly opposed several of his policies.

As to your question about assistance, my lawyers are Staes & Scallan, 53 W. Jackson Blvd, Ste. 560, Chicago, IL 60604-3231. They may have a PayPal option but I don’t know it. They may be reached at 312-631-3139. Excellent lawyers.


I would be amazed and so happy if Paula Clark would step in and make things right. But I can’t see it happening.