The Curious Case of the Rev. Dr. Tommie Lee Watkins

By | March 23, 2022
Rev. Dr. Tommie Lee Watkins

With all the recent hoo-ha in the Episcopal Church about structural racism, there’s a case in Alabama that’s worth a second look. The matter is a Title IV case involving the Rev. Dr. Tommie Lee Watkins, the only openly gay African-American priest in the diocese. (The fact he’s the only one should tell us something right off the bat.)

The diocese has posted details of the Watkins Title IV case on its website, as it should. At first blush, things sound ugly, including solo visits to member’s homes, requests for sex, and more.

But scratch the surface and troubling accusations emerge.

According to one source, the whole Title IV thing started with a police complaint about Watkins. In open court, the complainant allegedly recanted his complaint, saying it had been coerced.

Despite that, the diocese trudged on, and the Title IV case has been grinding on interminably, with no end in sight.

Meanwhile, Watkins is represented by Michael Rehill, an eminently capable and sometimes controversial canon lawyer with a particular dislike for Title IV.

According to the Title IV pleadings, there’s also been an EEOC case filed.

But most troubling is that informed sources report that the diocese has taken a far different approach than, for example, another priest accused of accessing pornography on his church computer.

And the situation stands in marked contrast to that of the Rev. Stephen McWhorter, who is known to have sexually harassed adult women and alleged to have molested underage male youth while serving in Pittsburgh PA. As of this writing, McWhorter remains a priest associate at St. Luke’s Birmingham.

Anglican Watch has contacted both the diocesan media contact about the Watkins case, as well as attorney Rehill. As of press time, neither has responded. Passive-aggressive, thy name is TEC.

But in our communication with the diocese, we expressly raised the allegations of child molestation involving McWhorter and asked about the possibility of disparate treatment. For the record, Rehill is believed to have represented McWhorter in Title IV proceedings in DioVA.

To reiterate, the allegations about McWhorter’s actions in Pittsburgh are just that—allegations. And we express no opinion as to to the truth or falsity of the accusations against Watkins.

But it looks for all the world like a case of the very same structural racism that the church bloviates about, writ large. Thus, this case bears close and continuing scrutiny.

Original Title IV documents in the case are here.

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