Editor: This story is particularly telling due to the ongoing cultural issues at Episcopal church headquarters, otherwise known as 815.
Specifically, there have been problems for decades involving bullying, politics, accountability, and more. While ++Curry is to be commended for his actions, there remains much work to be done, both at 815 and at every level of the church. And while we have received pushback from staffers at 815 about not wanting their names mentioned, we cannot fight for social justice without a full accounting of the behavior of bullies, like those described here. Nor do we see that ++Curry or others still working at church headquarters have shown any concern for those hurt by Sauls, McDonald, and Baumgarten.
The Episcopal Church COO Stacy Sauls
hired his former camp director Samuel McDonald from the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington as deputy chief operating officer of the National Episcopal Church in 2011.
In December 2015 Presiding Bishop Michael Curry placed the COO, the deputy COO and the director of mission, Samuel McDonald, and the director of public engagement and mission communications, Alex Baumgarten, on administrative leave after many allegations of misconduct. Baumgarten and McDonald were terminated in April 2016. Bishop Sauls was found to have had “no knowledge of their misconduct as members of churchwide staff.”
Presiding Bishop Curry hired an organization called Human Synergistics to evaluate the workplace environment of the “Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church” (DFMS), the legal corporate name of The Episcopal Church.
Among complaints to Human Synergistics:
McDonald planted a recording device under a table at the Maritime Center in Maryland at the behest of COO Bishop Stacy Sauls in order to conduct eavesdropping surveillance on confidential Executive Council conversations.
McDonald told multiple DFMS staff members including Canon Michael Hunn “this is perfect timing” when Curry suffered a subdural hematoma in December 2015.
McDonald walked through 815 Second Ave. hallways in the evening carrying a baseball bat and shouting “quitting time!” to discourage non-white hourly employees from claiming overtime. Sauls walked through the halls with a large dog described by employees as intimidating.
McDonald told a journalist at the bar of the Kimpton Monaco Hotel in Salt Lake City during General Convention that the “main event” at the end of the week would be “Gay Jennings and Michael Barlowe making out center stage.” He told a DFMS employee in the same venue that “all the black hookers in Harlem are going to be out of a job when Dick Schori [the Presiding Bishop’s husband] leaves New York” after the consecration of a new Presiding Bishop. A female Executive Council member from New Mexico laughed at both remarks and encouraged McDonald.
McDonald sang and danced to a recording of “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto” on his phone during a 2014 fundraising reception for Kiyosato Episcopal Education Project at Presiding Bishop Katharine Schori’s residence, using a Japanese accent and pretending to be unable to pronounce the letter L in front of Japanese clergy and business executives.
McDonald pressured secretarial staff to make Mary Kay cosmetics purchases from his wife Susan, and also pressured staff and non-staff donors to make contributions to the DFMS for supposed projects in Haiti, Navajoland, Ecuador, and Cuba that were never realized. In some cases, donors did not receive tax receipts.
Three female Young Adult Service Corps and Office of Government Relations employees in their twenties reported being unable to remember how they got home after evening meals alone with the married McDonald two decades their senior.
McDonald targeted a male digital marketing executive for termination because of a personal falling out about advancement and salary.
McDonald arranged for cut-rate housing leases at General Theological Seminary in New York for DFMS female employees twenty years younger than him.
An employee was told to sit on the floor during a department meeting because the only open chair was designated for McDonald. McDonald never arrived at the meeting, and the employee was made to stay on the floor for over 90 minutes.
McDonald and Baumgarten targeted women aged over 50 in Communications, Development, and other departments for firing, replacing them with women in their early twenties who were expected to drink and socialize with them during DFMS official activities, frequently posing for social media pictures on Instagram and Facebook.
McDonald mocked a long-term Filipino 815 staff member because of his height.
McDonald did not reimburse a Communications department employee for thousands of dollars of expenses at the exclusive Union Club and Yale Alumni Club in New York City. McDonald submitted expenses for alcohol at Keats Tavern and Wheeltapper Pub near 815 Second Ave. related to “mission development” and holiday parties.
McDonald urged Human Resources to provide “a bowl full of condoms” at the staff Christmas party in 2012, telling HR director John E. Colon “you know this is what the people want after the kiki.”
McDonald and Sauls frightened employees with outbursts of anger over trivial matters.
McDonald lied to employees about the terms of their compensation and its relationship to General Convention budget line-items.
McDonald pressured Episcopal News Service staff to write biased articles about official travel, including numerous trips when McDonald and others missed meetings because they were asleep or intoxicated at the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes meetings.
McDonald, Baumgarten, and Sauls conducted or attempted to conduct invasive surveillance of DFMS employees’ social media activities and personal communications.
McDonald, Baumgarten, and Sauls referred to DFMS staff by nicknames referring to age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and physical characteristics.
Communications director Anne Rudig: Morticia
Indigenous Ministries director Sarah Eagle Heart: Pocahontas
Chief Legal Officer David Booth Beers: Winnie the Pooh
Episcopal Digital Network director Jake Dell: 007
Canon Chuck Robertson: Short Stop
General Convention parliamentarian Sally Johnson: Gay’s gay girlfriend
HR director John Colon: Chico
Receptionist Sherri Siegel: Sleepy
Chief Counsel Paul Nix: Tricky Paul Nixon
Ecumenical assistant Richard Mammana: Sir Jackass
Transition Ministries consultant Meghan Froehlich: Angry Akron
Treasurer Kurt Barnes: Captain Nemo
Episcopal Schools coordinator Jamie Callaway: Ichabod Crane
ENS assistant Lynette Wilson: Tink
General Convention finance expert Del Glover: Uncle Delly
Women’s Ministries director Margaret Rose: Princess
Church planting director Thomas Brackett: Dorothy
Communications assistant Chris Sikkema: Grasshopper
Campus Ministry coordinator Shannon Kelly: Mrs. Crusty
Mission co-director Toni Daniels: Go Kart
House of Deputies Secretary Michael Barlowe: Voldemort
Thank you Anne Rudig for speaking out. Only by bringing what is done in darkness into the light is there any hope of healing and restoring the moral and spiritual authority of our Church. We must get our own house in order before we can have any hope of impacting the rest of the world. Social justice begins at home!
Thanks Heather. Folks at every level in the church need to abandon the whole, “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” routine and instead focus on transparency and accountability.
I know several of the persons referenced in this article and wish to offer a nuanced response.
Saul and McDonald are two truly ugly human beings. Not physically, but in their souls. No excuse for their behavior. Nor does it take a rocket scientist to realize both were profoundly unsuited for their positions.
On the other hand, their behavior was only possible in a dysfunctional system. Far too many persons in the list of nicknames were and are enablers who turned a blind eye to misconduct. Right up until it bit them on the backside.
Now, these same folks want to sweep the whole thing under the rug, or tell their story without telling anyone else’s story. All about me and not about thee.
Meanwhile, they act like they are bigwigs, because they worked in the PB’s office in a tiny, dying denomination with delusions of grandeur.
It’s this organizational narcissism and sweeping trash under the rug that lets folks like Sauls and McDonald get into positions of power. Any healthy system would have kicked them to the curb years ago.
Curry talks about a revolution if the church is going to survive. But there are no signs of anything of the sort.
Time to walk the talk.
Hey Stinkbomb. Thanks for your comments. As always, spot on.
I won’t go into specifics, but the responses we have gotten from folks at 815 invariably fall under the umbrella “part of the problem.” There’s also a profound lack of introspection at every level.
Have a good weekend.
Amen Stinkbomb!!! You preach it. You articulated so well my own thoughts.
Thanks. TEC turns “resist injustice and oppression” to “bury my head in the sand.”
The denomination is its own worst enemy.
I feel bad for folks lower down the food chain. But 815 has been a cesspool for decades. Stinkbomb is right. Noplace else would they put up with the bull**** in 815