What on earth is going on at St. Mark’s Cathedral School?

By | November 10, 2022
Bishop Owensby

In 2017, St. Mark’s Cathedral School, located in Shreveport La., settled a lawsuit involving the expulsion of a black student from the school for “inappropriate touching.” True to form, the terms of the settlement are confidential, which is, in itself, unethical on the part of the church. But we see signs that there is much, more more to this story, and that the diocese has done a dismal job of promoting healing in this matter and establishing healthy normative behaviors.


At the heart of the lawsuit was the claim that the student, who is black, inappropriately touched other students when adults were not present. Yet the school did not file a mandatory report of abuse, as required by state law.

There’s another big problem with the allegations: What diocese in its right mind allows students to be without adult supervision, preferably in the form of two unrelated adults? In other words, the diocese’s own actions suggest nonfeasance or misfeasance. Indeed, even with close supervision, we often hear reports of drug usage by teens at Episcopal summer camps and schools. Hardly surprising, given the prevalence of drugs in our society, but it underscores the need to be vigilant.

For the record, Anglican Watch has read myriad documents filed in the lawsuit, spoken with multiple witnesses, and more. We do not believe the student engaged in improper conduct. We conclude instead that this is the classic case of one high-profile situation actually being the tip of the iceberg. In other words, the expulsion and related issues are just one manifestation of an unhealthy family system. (How’s that for seminary-speak?)

Larger Issues

Specifically, while the school has settled the lawsuit, neither it nor the diocese appear to have taken action to promote healing within the community.

We have received multiple complaints of retaliation against persons who were interviewed during the lawsuit. These include micro-aggressions, shunning, bullying, name-calling and more.

Nor is bullying confined to those connected to the lawsuit. We know of one situation in which a parent bullied a student, resulting in the student’s withdrawal from the school.

When did bullying become okay? How can a school claim to be acting with integrity when it permits adults to bully children?

We’ve also received unconfirmed reports of ongoing grooming behavior by a person connected with the school. To be clear: These are allegations only, and we are working to unearth additional information about this possibility.

Other disturbing allegations continue to swirl around the school. Many of these complaints, seen in isolation, appear innocuous, but when viewed as part of a larger pattern suggest ongoing spiritual abuse and boundary issues.

We believe this situation reflects conflict that has gone underground and unhealthy learned patterns of behavior. These are common outcomes when there has been a lack of disclosure and truthtelling, as is the case here. These conversations are particularly important when, as here, the original conflict appears to have been based in structural racism.

In fact, we find the allegations against the young man disturbingly similar to the claims that led to the lynching of Emmett Till, killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman.

Nor are the allegations confined to the average pew-warmer. We know that Bishop Jacob Owensby has had a personal role in the situation. So why is he not doing more to bring love and healing to the situation?

And what about the infamous Todd Ousley? His blurb about the role of the Office of Pastoral says part of his job is:

“Making residential care facility referrals for bishops and priests, planned interventions, and mediation within Diocesan systems.

“Mediation within the Title IV disciplinary canons means providing a response from the Presiding Bishop’s Office to complaints and formal charges against or concerning bishops. The intent of the response is to satisfactorily address the cause(s) of the complaint or charge in such away that proceedings for a possible Presentment and Ecclesiastical Trial do not have to occur.”

But then, having seen firsthand the outcome of Todd Ousley’s work, maybe it’s better that he doesn’t get involved. Next thing we know, bullies in the diocese will be on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, getting self-care in the form of a tan and a few drinks too many, while those hurt by the situation will be told to get lost. In fact, Ousley might even arrange to pay off the mortgages of those who have behaved badly. Damn, it’s good to be a miscreant in the Episcopal Church!

The situation also exemplifies the problems with the whole non-disclosure (NDA) routine. As Christians, we are called to bring light to the darkness. But what does Owensby bring to the darkness? A non-disclosure agreement. For the record, non-disclosure agreements prevent building beloved community. Unless requested by the victim, they have no legitimate role in resolving conflict.

On this topic, the Rev. Canon Robin Hammeal-Urban speaks compellingly:

“For our relationships to be authentic and trustworthy, we need to know the truth about ourselves and others. This is particularly true for members of congregations who have been betrayed by a trusted leader, lay or ordained.” Relational events like misconduct erode trust among all the members of the congregation, not just the offender and primary victim. She continues, “As Christians, we are called to tell about misconduct in our congregations on the intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural levels. Communicating accurate information, or telling truth about what has been secret, can be transformative and healing to many when all four levels are addressed.”

We believe Bishop Owensby needs to take a step back, look at this extended situation, with all its myriad wrinkles, and actively work towards health and wholeness. And spend less time listening to his lawyers, and more time listening to the Holy Spirit.


This is a Stinkbomb post. All comments, thoughts, random rants and other so-called content are my doing. Even worse, I am posting without adult supervision.

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The Episcopal Church loves to talk about family systems. But is it a family system? If so, is it a healthy one?

I’ll be posting more on this topic next.