If there’s one thing that’s a constant in the Episcopal Church, it is turmoil and infighting. And in that regard, the parishes of the Diocese of Virginia never fail to deliver.
Parishioners tell Anglican Watch that St. Anne’s, in Reston Virginia, is slowly struggling to regroup after the resignation of its last rector, The Rev. John CN Hall.
Hall, a 1989 graduate of VTS, previously was nominated as Bishop Coadjutor of Southeast Florida, but came instead to St. Anne’s Reston, being installed as rector on January 22, 2017.
The parish, located on a busy corner in Reston Virginia, is among the most progressive in the diocese. With a long history of inclusion and diversity, the church was among the first to endorse same-sex marriage in the diocese, even as the CANA crowd in neighboring parishes grew increasingly threatening over the issue.
Yet less than 2 years later after his arrival, Hall resigned.
What led to his resignation?
Anglican Watch has been told that the church’s music department may have been engaged in nepotism, including steering singing fees to family members and favorites.
Apparently, the issue proved contentious within the parish, with persons on both sides of the issue. Hall, who opposed the spending, allegedly resigned, rather than splinter the congregation.
For the record, this author believes that Hall’s decision to act to prevent real or perceived nepotism was the right thing to do.
Indeed, as with many things in church life, if the question can be asked, you already know the answer. In other words, if nepotism even can be an issue, you already have an issue. You have an issue because your internal controls are inadequate — a situation far too common in all churches.
What makes this author uneasy, however, is the role of the diocese in this matter.
As one friend says, we will never know what we don’t know. That said, the same diocese that tells clergy to engage in self-care, to do their thing, to do whatever they think best in the pandemic because the bishop will have their back doesn’t seem to have made much of an effort at St. Anne’s. The very same diocese that says it has no issue with illegal conduct by priests unless there is a conviction.
So why didn’t the diocese jump in and come to the defense of a priest who was acting with integrity?
We’ll likely never know the answer to that, but there seems little sign that, even now, the diocese is doing much to solve things. Nor is that atypical — the diocese has thoroughly screwed up other incidents of conflict, with disastrous and long-lasting results.
Of course, there well may be actions behind the scenes. And with conflict come all sorts of collateral issues, misperceptions, and side battles that make it hard to parse the larger questions from afar.
Perhaps the real issue with the diocese’s hands-off approach is that it fears loss of revenue, since it has no mandatory level of giving for parishes. And at this late date, it seems unlikely that the diocese can get such a measure through, unless maybe via action at the executive committee level.
Ironically, the diocese’s hands-off approach to conflict, in this author’s experience, consistently has the opposite effect. Indeed, one has only to look at the outcome of the many years during which the diocese ignored the increasingly brazen CANA crowd to see how conflict ignored became conflict multiplied. During that time, Bishop Lee even had clergy working at diocesan headquarters who were aligned with the dissident factions. While this may indeed align with Christian charity and inclusion, it hardly seems a good idea.
For the record, while St. Anne’s would not be a great fit for this author, it’s a lovely place, and the people wonderful.
It is sad indeed that St. Anne’s finds itself in turmoil. And even sadder that DioVA does not appear to be stepping up to the plate to be an honest broker and to work for healing and reconciliation.
Just how will DioVA work for racial reconciliation when it cannot heal conflict in its own parishes?