Anglican Watch

More on the election of Virginia bishop Mark Stevenson

Mayo House, aka Tara

It’s no secret that Anglican Watch is not a fan of the Diocese of Virginia (DioVA). Indeed, we had our genesis in the horrific way the Diocese brushes off conduct that, in other dioceses, results in clergy being defrocked. (Think Amjad Samuel, the words “bullying” and “shunning” and you’re almost there. The conduct in DioVA went far beyond the Samuel allegations.)

But we also feel we gave short shrift to the issues around the election of Mark Stevenson. Indeed, in our ire over his consecration in a Southern Baptist Convention church and the dismal slate from which he was chosen, we didn’t pay enough attention to the shenanigans around his election.

To be clear: We recognize that, while we’re not fans of Susan Goff, nor Jennifer Brooke-Davidson, that’s not relevant.

The point is that the slate of candidates was a dismal choice from the get-go. Moreover, many members of the Diocese wanted Brooke-Davidson on the slate. And absent something in the latter’s background, she needed to be added as a candidate.

It’s called representative democracy, and that is what the denomination purports to be.

We also need to be upfront about Brooke-Davidson: she was complicit in some of the worst abuses of the Shannon Johnston area. And Johnston had a long and sordid history of covering up documented cases of sexual harassment and other misconduct, along with maintaining a spectacularly corrupt and unethical circle of insiders around the episcopacy. Moreover, silence is complicity, and Brooke-Davidson is known to sit silent in the face of injustice and oppression.

Might these have been the reasons Brooke-Davidson wasn’t added to the ballot? We doubt it.

Most in the Diocese treat the debacle of Johnston’s tenure as water over the dam — a topic, like death and taxes, best avoided when in polite company.

And if there were legitimate reasons to keep Brooke-Davidson off the ballot, these needed to see the light of day. Simply put, it’s axiomatic that we cannot resolve problems when they are held in secret. Church members have both a duty and a right to know what goes on in the governance of the church.

Then we have allegations of one member of the search committee trying to sandbag a candidate. We don’t know with certainty that this happened, but if the past is any indicator of the future, this claim sounds not only plausible, but probable.

Nor is DioVA suddenly any great shining example of integrity. Corrupt intake officer Sven vanBaars is still lurking. Ethically bankrupt Tom Baker still sits on the Standing Committee, replete with his notion that complaining about abuse is “absolutely out of line.” And we still see dolts like Valerie Hayes wandering around claiming that speaking out is a form of “harassment,” even as she proclaims her fabricated message of radical inclusion, justice and healing.

That said, Anglican Watch believes that the only path forward that results in the survival of the Episcopal Church involves disclosure, truth-telling, and amendment of life. And at this point, we see zero sign that any of the skeletons in this matter are coming out of the closet any time soon.

As a solution, we propose a formal, independent, outside investigation of the circumstances around the election of the current bishop, with the findings and recommendations made publicly available, in writing.

Relatedly, we’re also mindful that the search for a bishop interim collapsed amidst a heap of disingenuous excuses about no one wanting to move to the state for three years. That’s a curious claim indeed, as there are plenty of free-range bishops floating about Virginia Theological Seminary and the metro DC area.

In the meantime, we are posting the letter from those who sought to get Jennifer Brooke-Davidson added to the ballot. While we would not have made the same recommendation, we ardently support the right of others to seek her nomination, and to get her name added to the ballot without interference from the corrupt Standing Committee.

We add that yes, we believe this was a case of the good ole’ Piskie Boys again playing games behind the scenes.


Open Letter to the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Virginia, copy to
Bishop Susan Goff

On Friday, May 6, 2022, three members of our Petition Group wrote to you
following the announcement that you were not going to advance any further
candidates to the slate. That message stated, in part:

Twenty-nine nomination forms were submitted for Bishop Jennifer Brooke-
Davidson. More than sixty were received, but some were from the members
of the same congregation and therefore could not be counted. As three of
those who signed a nomination form for Bishop Brooke-Davidson, we are
stunned at this outcome.

Our concern is that there is something in Bishop Brooke-Davidson’s
background that renders her unfit to be called as the next Bishop Diocesan
in Virginia. Having worked closely with her, we cannot imagine that this is
the case. After all, if it were so, why would she then be eligible to serve as
the Assisting Bishop in the Diocese? But honestly, there can be no other
reason for failing to advance her to the final slate.

We have never known a Standing Committee that has failed to put forward a
petition candidate who was qualified for the office of Bishop and whose
background checks were clear. We believe that your actions have broken
trust with this Diocese.

… We would remind you that this process was (intended to be) both
invitational and encouraging. You encouraged our Diocese “to use the
petition process to graciously invite members of the Diocese to nominate
additional candidates for consideration for the slate, to open the aperture to
diverse qualified candidates, and to engage the power of the Holy Spirit to
lead the hearts and minds of those who may feel called for consideration.”
We did just that. Your decision to vote not to advance a qualified candidate
who at least sixty people in the Diocese believe would be a strong Bishop
Diocesan in Virginia, and who would, indeed, diversify the gender imbalance
of this slate, is untenable.

We demand an explanation of what canon(s) guided your decision to take
this vote and why you have made this decision that seems to run completely
counter to this invitational petition process.

Sadly, your response, dated May 9, 2022, did not address our concern that Bishop
Jennifer Brooke-Davidson, a fully qualified and vetted petition candidate, was not
allowed to be on the ballot for the next Bishop Diocesan of Virginia. We are deeply
concerned about what this means for Bishop Brooke-Davidson personally, and for
our Diocese as whole.

Our petitions were in order; the Oxford Background Check was clear; there were no
issues with the Diocesan Chancellor’s “hard questions.” There is no indication of
any issues relating to criminal, behavioral, employment, or financial matters. Bishop
Brooke-Davidson has never been the subject of a disciplinary complaint. We have
inquired of her, and you raised no such concerns with her in your interview of her
on May 5, nor did you raise any lesser concerns, which might have clarified and

In fact, one Standing Committee member tendered her resignation because she felt
the decision for rejecting the petition candidate was wrongly determined and that
the process that led to that decision was incorrect.

In the absence of a full explanation, we are left to conclude that Canon III.1.2 was
violated, prohibiting discrimination based on sex.

In a 2019 article in The Living Church, found here, by Bishop Todd Ousley, who
serves the Presiding Bishop as the church’s Bishop for Pastoral
Development, states:

“The petition process is the church’s contemporary way to handle
nominations from the floor responsibly. In the old days, back before we did
more comprehensive background checks — criminal, behavioral,
employment, and financial background checks — you could arrive at the day
of convention and someone could get nominated, and there had been no
vetting. People would say, well, we’ve known this person for years. Well, it
doesn’t mean we truly know them.

In the petition process, there is a résumé that gives us some sense of who the
person is, and then background checks are done that deal with those
criminal, employment, and financial aspects, so that we can find out if there’s
a challenge in this person’s background that would mean they’ve either
behaved in a way that or they’ve got some particular personal or financial
challenges that would mean that they don’t really qualify as a bishop
nominee at this time. What they will not have as a petition nominee is an
opportunity to go through a more thorough discernment process with a
group of people in the diocese — either a search and nominating
committee, or a discernment retreat, which is a standard part of
recommended practices in dioceses now.”

Bishop Brooke-Davidson, a duly consecrated bishop in the Episcopal Church, is
clearly “qualified;” she was approved by the Standing Committee to serve in this
diocese in 2019, and she has been serving here as a bishop since that time. We
do know who she is. The discernment of whether she is called to be the next
bishop diocesan properly belongs to the Electing Convention. She should have
been added to the ballot for the election of our next Diocesan Bishop. We are
therefore writing to ask you to reverse your decision, so as to resolve this
matter prior to the election, thus avoiding further action at the Electing

Out of our great love for the Diocese of Virginia, and out of our belief that wise
leadership means occasionally reversing decisions that can cause harm to the Body
of Christ, we urge you to reconsider your decision. That decision has already begun
to cause confusion, anger, and division in the life of our diocese. It has the potential
to cause even greater harm both to our common life and to the potential ministry
of whichever candidate is ultimately elected Bishop Diocesan.

In Christ,

The Rev. Leonard F. (Lee) Gandiya, Lead Nominator, Rector, St. Paul’s, Owens
The Very Rev. Kim L. Coleman, Trinity Episcopal Church, Arlington; Archdean,
Diocese of Virginia; Dean of the Arlington Region
The Very Rev. Fran Gardner-Smith, St. Thomas Episcopal Church, McLean, and Dean
of the North Fairfax Region
The Very Rev. Dr. John F. Maher, Jr., St. Francis Church, Manakin Sabot; Dean of the
West Richmond Region
The Rev. Jacqueline C. Thomson, Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna
The Rev. Dr. Candine Johnson, St. John’s Church, Tappahanock
The Rev Dr Mary Brennan Thorpe, Intentional Interim and Consultant; Former
Canon to the Ordinary; Currently serving Christ and Grace Episcopal Church,
The Rev. Katherine (Kate) S. Bryant, The Episcopal Church of Leeds Parish, Markham
The Rev. William Queen, Jr., Richmond, VA
The Rev. Dr. Christopher M. Agnew, Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, Nomini Grove,
and Saint James’ Episcopal Church, Montross
The Ven Jennifer McKenzie, Virginia Theological Seminary
The Rev. Jon Strand, Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna
The Very Rev. Cornelia M. Weierbach, Church of the Spirit, Alexandria; Dean of the
Potomac Region
The Rev. Cynthia McKenna, Trinity, Fredericksburg
The Rev. Stuart E. Schadt, Trinity, Manassas
The Very Rev. Rodney E. Gordon, St. Peter’s, Oak Grove; Dean of the Northern Neck
The Rev. Linnea Summers Turner, Grace Episcopal Church, The Plains
The Rev. Deacon Steven Busch, St. John’s, Centreville
The Rev. Ann Gillespie, Holy Comforter, Vienna
The Rev. Dr. Hilary Borbón Smith, Holy Comforter, Richmond
The Rev. Dr. Jenny Montgomery, Retired, Diocese of Virginia
The Rev. Dr. Susan Ackley Lukens Mason, Church of the Resurrection, Alexandria
The Rev. Dorota Wright-Pruski, St. Andrew’s, Arlington
The Rev. Nina Bacas, Grace Episcopal Church, Alexandria
The Rev. Carla Thompson, Christ Church, Alexandria
The Rev. Vinnie Lainson, Trinity Episcopal Church, Manassas
The Rev. John Bolin Shellito, St. Barnabas’, Annandale
The Rev. Grace Cangialosi, Christ Church, Brandy Station
The Rev. Deacon Salli Hartman, St. Mary’s, Colonial Beach
Ms. Ashley Boam, Delegate, Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna
Ms. Agnes Virginia Toone, Delegate, St. James Episcopal Church, Montross
Ms. Kathleen O’Neill, Delegate, St. Peter’s, Arlington
Ms. Joy Y. Warburton, Delegate, Trinity Episcopal Church, Arlington
Mr. Stephen Wickman, Delegate, St. Thomas, McLean; Treasurer, North Fairfax
Ms. Joni Langevoort, Delegate, Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna
Ms. Virginia Barazia, Alternate Delegate, Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna
Mr. Jack Schick, Delegate, St. Peter’s, Arlington
Ms. Lucinda McLaughlin, St. Barnabas’, Annandale; President, South Fairfax Region
Ms. Ana White, Delegate, St. Andrews, Arlington
Ms. Linda Hutt, Delegate, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Nomini Grove
Dr. Elizabeth O. Harper, Alternate Delegate, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church,
Mr. Karl Baetcke, Alternate Delegate, Trinity Church, Manassas
Ms. Rebecca Ventorini, Alternate Delegate, St. Thomas, McLean
Mr. Peter Brownrigg, Alternate Delegate, Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna
Mr. Jeffrey W Schneider, Delegate, Trinity Episcopal Church, Manassas
Mr. Chuck Mitchell, Delegate, St. Gabriel’s~San Gabriel, Leesburg
Ms. Barbara Ritter, Delegate, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, King George
Ms. Colleen McGuire, Delegate (Youth), Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna
Mr. George P. Garlick, Delegate, St. James’, Leesburg; Treasurer, Northern Piedmont
Mr. Donald “Don” Brill, Delegate, Church of the Epiphany, Oak Hill/Herndon
Mx. Hamilton Lillian Norwich, Delegate and Vestry member, St. David’s, Ashburn
Mr. George Omohundro, Alternate Delegate, St. Luke’s, Alexandria
Carol Walker, PhD, Vestry Member, Trinity Episcopal Church, Fredericksburg
Ms. Margaret Pullen, Member, Trinity, Fredericksburg
Ms. Margaret C. “Peggy” Miller, Member, Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna
Mr. Kenneth W. Gay, Vestry Member; Trustee; Treasurer, Church of the
Resurrection, Alexandria
Ms. Lisa Lettau, Member, Church of the Holy Comforter, Richmond
Ms. Susan Weber, Member, Church of the Resurrection, Alexandria
Ms. Sharon Boivin, Member, St. James, Louisa
Ms. Phyllis Rundman, Member, Trinity Episcopal Church, Fredericksburg
Mr. Harold Blackford, Member, Church of the Resurrection, Alexandria
Mr. Reginald L. Hayes, Member, Church of the Resurrection, Alexandria
Mr. David S. Grove, Member, Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna
Ms. Paddy Link, Member, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Arlington
Ms. Barbara Bancroft, Member, Church of the Resurrection, Alexandria
Mr. Larry Clark, Member, St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church, Richmond
Ms. Joan G. Beck, Member, Trinity Episcopal Church, Fredericksburg
Ms. Katie Haywood, Member, St. Paul’s, King George
Robert J. Chapman, PhD, Member, St. James, Montross
Ms. Jo Brett, Vestry Member, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, King George
Mr. Robert W. Steventon, Member, Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, Alexandria
Ms. Lois “Sug” Clingenpeel, Member, Trinity, Fredericksburg
Mr. Randall R. Clingenpeel, Member, Trinity, Fredericksburg
Jayne Osgood, PhD, Member, Christ Church, Alexandria
Ray C. Isaacs II, Member, Church of the Resurrection, Alexandria
Ms. Janet S. Taczak, Member, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Owens
Ms. Judy Isaacs, Member, Church of the Resurrection, Alexandria
Mr. Brent Jones, Member, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Oak Grove
Ms. Cathy Jones, Member, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Oak Grove


  1. It’s interesting that two of the people you mentioned were instrumental in the effort to keep Brook-Davidson off the ballot. Baker was on the Standing Committee that voted to ignore the valid petition. By the Committee’s own announcement, it was not a unanimous vote but it is believed Baker was one who voted to not honor the petition. At the electing convention
    vanBaars immediately called the question on the attempt to nominate Brook-Davidson from the floor, immediately cutting off all discussion.

    1. Hi Jill. It’s Eric, the editor. Thank you for your comment.

      One of my faults is I tend to think that any problem is my doing. While that’s not always an incorrect conclusion, I also see time after time that, when I have an issue, others often have had similar experiences.

      As to vanBaars and Baker, I have zero trust in either.

      I am so sorry that the petition was ignored. There’s zero excuse.

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