For some time, Anglican Watch has followed the dismal conduct of a group of dissident parishioners at St. Paul’s, Montvale NJ. The group, whose leaders appear to have been using the church to engage in tax fraud and money laundering, engaged in a series of lies, picketing, and other conduct intended to undercut the church and its rector, Jill Williams. So where does that leave things?
Williams ultimately accepted a call to another church.
Meanwhile Jeff Piatt, owner of Montvale Landscaping; and Beth Abrahamson, the Montvale Landscaping bookkeeper who was writing questionable checks from the church to reminburse herself and other Piatt family members, remain under close scrutiny on multiple fronts.
Anglican Watch is aware of several referrals in these matters, including to law enforcement and the IRS.
And predictably enough, Anglican Watch has received threats from Joe Wahler, the misogynistic and homophobic owner of J. Wahler contracting, and others aligned with the dissidents.
Apparently, Wahler thinks his hateful comments about priests are okay—but call him out on his behavior, and he thinks you’re harassing him. Nothing like having the courage of his convictions. (We find it ironic and telling that Wahler refers to women as “fat,” when he’s not exactly Mr. Washboard abs.)
As for anyone considering hiring Wahler or his construction company, we encourage you to read his comments on social media, below, and consider whether you want him in your home, spreading his agenda of hate. Don’t revolt and push him out—simply avoid hiring him in the first place.
True to form, the dissidents have filed a slew of fabricated Title IV complaints against Williams with the Diocese of Newark. Made in bad faith, these complaints are headed nowhere and are not privileged against claims of defamation, since they are made with actual malice. And yes, we would not be above some lip-smacking glee if Williams sues those involved.
Of course, living well is the best revenge, and Williams’ new parish is very supportive, while providing easy access to the beach, seafood, and the good life.
St. Paul’s is, at least for now, closed, and the diocese has bollixed things on that front. Yes, the Diocese says it may hold discernment sessions this fall about how to maintain an Episcopal presence in the area. But AW is betting that the diocese, poorly managed and lacking cash, will sell the property and put the proceeds into an endowment. That will be especially tempting for Hughes, who is fast nearing mandatory retirement age.
Meanwhile, the Diocese has done little to support loyalists and honor all that they went through, thanks to the dissidents and their misconduct. Chalk that one up to bishop Carlye Hughes, who is in way over her head with the dysfunctional diocese of Newark and does little to support the clergy under her care.
As to the diocese and its strategic visioning process, meetings were held in June, but nothing actionable appears on the diocesan website. A Tuesday email to leaders of the visioning process went unanswered.
Relatedly, we’ve seen zero signs of improvement from St. Paul’s Englewood, where allegations of alcoholism and bad behavior swirl around rector Bill Allport. Among the allegations are that Allport embezzled from a church that he served in Texas, then lied about the situation, claiming he did it to feed his family. AW offered Allport an opportunity to share his side of the story, but we got no response. And something tells us that any money that went missing had more to do with issues of impairment, and less about feeding Allport’s family.
Meanwhile, sources say they have seen Allport driving a church vehicle while intoxicated. And if someone is injured or killed as a result, we reiterate our offer to Plaintiff’s counsel: be in touch. We’ll give you information on what the diocese knew, when it knew it, how it got that information, and what the diocese didn’t do in response. Fair is fair; it’s called accountability. (Did we not learn anything from the Heather Cook debacle?)
Yet, when asked about these allegations, Bishop Hughes allegedly responds, “Well, he says he’s not an alcoholic.” That’s pretty rich, since it overlooks a key point about alcoholism, which is that it is a disease of deception.
Thus, with St. Paul’s Englewood having drawn down almost all its savings over the past 20 years, and with next to no Average Weekly Attendance (AWA), the parish appears on the verge of imploding.
As to the vestry’s urging that people double their pledges, that dog won’t hunt. People contribute sacrificially when there is transparency and engagement, which is the exact opposite of what we see happening at this parish.
Yet Allport remains largely checked out, allegedly in his office with the door closed much of the time, purportedly drinking.
In both cases, Anglican Watch urges Bishop Hughes and other diocesan leaders to engage now, before there is an implosion. Both situations can be saved, but it will take courageous leadership and hard work to turn things around.
And if, as we think they will, things get ugly at St. Paul’s Englewood in the next several months, we recommend that the parish start by eliminating the rector position. Better by far to use supply clergy and spend money on mission and growth than to pay feckless rector Bill Allport to hang out, allegedly drinking himself silly.
So, consider this a warning that things are fast getting ugly on multiple fronts in Newark, and things will not get any better by ignoring the situation.
Now is the time to act.