You have to hand it to Episcopal Church leaders: They are nothing if not arrogant.
In a pastoral word to the church (the phrase the church uses for messages from the Presiding Bishop), Michael Curry sent out comments earlier today about the murder of Tyre Nichols. The remarks themselves are entirely appropriate, and there is nothing in them with which we disagree.
But hold Michael Curry’s words up against his actions, and his comments become appalling and inappropriate. Why? Because they are hypocrisy of the worst sort. Appalling, astonishing arrogance.
Consider: Much of Curry’s rhetoric focuses on the tale of the Good Samaritan, in which a man stopped to help a stranger, oblivious to the differences between them. So far, so good.
“The fundamental call and vocation of law enforcement officials, and indeed every one of us, is that of the Good Samaritan,” Curry says. And that is where the problem leaps to the fore.
Anglican Watch is aware of multiple situations in which bishops diocesan have ignored egregious clergy misconduct, even illegal behavior. In many cases, a complaint then goes to Curry’s office, where it is handled — we use the term loosely — by Todd Ousley, the bishop in charge of the Office of Pastoral Development. In that capacity, Ousley also handles complaints against bishops. In other words, Ousley and Curry are the bystanders who are called to act as Good Samaritans.
But it goes further. Curry and Ousley, like police officers, must respond appropriately. Their jobs make them responsible for ensuring mission integrity. Yet in almost every case, Ousley and Curry either ignore the matter or kick it back to already non-responsive bishops diocesan. “We don’t want to get involved,” they say, much like the passersby who ignored the victim in the story of the Good Samaritan.
Similarly, when asked about proposals that the church establish a database of clergy offenders, Curry is non-committal. Another person just strolled by, ignoring the man lying on the road.
So how do we reconcile Curry’s rhetoric with the reality of his indifference to suffering within the church? Simply put, we can’t. Curry’s rhetoric becomes nothing but empty words.
Even worse, if Curry is going to wade into the murder of Tyre Nichols while ignoring the problems he can control, he is doing nothing more than exploiting Nichols’ death. That comment will upset some, but the Good Samaritan didn’t preach a sermon about how we should help the man lying on the road. Instead, the Good Samaritan got personally involved, disrupted his own plans, and stepped in to help.
And so, it is time for Curry to walk the walk. The Way of Love sounds good, but it is nothing more than a cheap slogan and a lie without actions to match it.
We are tired of victims of abuse, both sexual and non-sexual, having to fight tooth and nail to get the Episcopal Church to act with integrity. That means insisting that clergy are held to a higher standard and responding promptly when abuse happens. And we are tired of a church hierarchy that thinks it is too good to be bothered.
If the church is to survive, it must clean up its act at every level. That means integrity at the top, including in the Office of Presiding Bishop and the Bishop for Pastoral Development.
The time to act is now.