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Download: Spotlight on abuse: Episcopal choirmaster Bruce McInnes
In March 2022, Grace Church School, located in Manhattan, NY, published an investigatory report detailing multiple incidents of sexual abuse of children by choirmaster Bruce McInnis, employed by the school from 1992 to 1999. Although the school had become an independent legal entity by the time of the report, McInnis’ abuse of children occurred while the school was part of nearby Grace Episcopal Church.
Eight victims have been identified as connected with the school. Four victims of other abusers were also identified in the course of the McInnis investigation.
McInnis’ part-time employment with the University of Maine, Farmington, was terminated in 2020 when the University learned of the ongoing investigation into McInnis’ conduct with minors. He previously had been employed as a choirmaster at Old South First Congregational Church in Farmington and had formed MasterSingers, an all-male choir that achieved international acclaim.
McInnis’ academic positions included stints at:
- Oregon’s Pacific University
- the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire
- Sarah Lawrence College
- the Cleveland Institute of Music
His church music positions included time at:
- Amherst’s Grace Church
- Trinity Methodist in Springfield, MA.
- First Unitarian Church of Farmington, ME
McInnis died on April 15, 2021.
Five former students brought civil actions against the church, the school, and the diocese. All were settled at mediation and subject to non-disclosure agreements.
Among the organizational failures identified in the independent investigation were the following:
- Faulty decisions around the hiring and supervision of McInnes.
- Inadequate responses to warning signs.
- Failures to fully investigate and promptly terminate McInnes when presented with evidence of his misconduct.
- Failures to communicate with parents
Anglican Watch notes an additional failure: to immediately notify law enforcement when misconduct allegations were first received. Additionally, had the church adopted proposals for an abuse hotline when first proposed in 1994, some of McInnis’ abuse might have been prevented. The lack of a central point of authority has been noted in all denominations as a significant reason for failure to respond appropriately when misconduct allegations arise.
Further, McInnis was hired despite the knowledge that he had been terminated from prior positions due to allegations of sexual misconduct. And many of the issues identified in the report would have been prevented via simple strategies, including the requirement of two unrelated adults present at all times when children are involved.
McInnis was never subject to criminal charges for his abuse.
Lastly, the school’s external review committee notes that the current model within many dioceses of purely online courses for sexual misconduct prevention and training is inherently flawed:
GC and GCS should, if they do not already, consider live in- person training on the topic of sexual misconduct. It is well know that annualized training delivered via an on-line model can lack retention due to the repetition and monotony of it. Training topics that are critical to any operation are usually delivered live and in-person, thus emphasizing the importance and increasing retainage significantly.
Anglican Watch plans further coverage of the current gaps in misconduct prevention training in the Episcopal church.