On July 1, Anglican Watch broke the news that a prominent Episcopal family, the Ayres, appear to be at the heart of the “enhanced interrogation” program that was a key component of the post 9-11 “War on Terror.” Shortly after the news broke, the Ayres were no longer seen attending services at their church, St. Paul’s, in Old Town Alexandria, Va.
Recently, however, the Ayres resumed attending the church, where they were warmly welcomed by current rector Oran Warder. Further, the church is ignoring calls to denounce torture and return funds derived from torture. This illustrates that, despite the Episcopal church’s condemnation of these tactics, both St. Paul’s parish and the denomination are fully complicit in torture.
Following the original Anglican Watch article, the Episcopal Survivors Network (ESN), which shares several staffers with this publication, issued a condemnation of the parish’s refusal to return money derived from torture. Additionally, a petition went live on change.org, calling for the church to take action.
”It is shocking, outrageous and appalling that, despite these allegations, the Ayres are still regarded as welcome at St. Paul’s,” says ESN spokesperson Eric Bonetti (also this publication’s editor).
”Every Sunday, Anglicans around the world stand up and recite the Baptismal Covenant, where they promise to respect the dignity of every human being. The fact that a family allegedly at the very heart of a U.S. program of torture, which may include sexual abuse, is welcome in the Episcopal Church and suffers no consequences, demonstrates that St. Paul’s, and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, are morally bankrupt. The Baptismal Covenant is about what we do, not what we say.
”Yes, the church talks a good game, but ask them to actually do something and you’ll be ignored. And the St. Paul’s vestry is fully complicit — friends have personally written to it several times about this issue, only to be ignored. There needs to be accountability. And David Ayres should not serve on the church’s foundation.
“It’s telling too — St. Paul’s has marginalized any number of members over the years, but in this case all that matters is the money. Others get shoved out, but Anne and David Ayres remain welcome. That speaks compellingly to the church’s real priorities.
”Nor is this the only instance of misconduct on the part of the diocese. I am shocked and appalled that the diocese continues to turn a blind eye to clergy misconduct, including adultery and perjury. Bishop Susan Goff has utterly lost sight of any moral perspective.
”I encourage groups that oppose torture to protest outside St. Paul’s and will contact Muslim rights and other advocacy groups asking them to join me,” Bonetti concludes.
ESN has stated that it will be leafletting Old Town Alexandria to make neighbors aware of the corruption at St. Paul’s.
Below are photos of key individuals at the church. All have ignored calls to denounce torture.
Featured image is a screen cap from St. Paul’s website. Anne Ayres on the left, along with rector Oran Warder.