Anglican Watch

Time for Chicago bishop Paula Clark to shape up or ship out

Paula Clark sneakin’ around

Let’s cut to the chase: In light of yet another incident of unethical conduct from Chicago bishop Paula Clark, we’ve reached an inflection point. Specifically, it’s time for Clark to shape up or ship out.

Simple as that.

Anglican Watch previously covered David Duggan’s experiences with the Diocese of Chicago, which filed a protection from stalking order against Duggan after he sent a letter to the diocese opposing the ordination of a married LGBTQ postulant. While a judge ultimately dismissed the case and held that the First Amendment protected Duggan’s actions, the litigation cost Duggan almost one year’s retirement income.

Before we go further, let’s be clear about two things:

  1. Even given the mediocre standards of seminary education, no rational actor believes that objecting to a consecration for any reason is “stalking.”
  2. The real motive here was to shut down Duggan. And folks can spare us the Bob-Malm-esque games about how it meets “their” definition of stalking, was an escalation “of threats already made” or any of the other usual BS.

And we have an issue with all of that. Duggan’s views differ from ours, and markedly so, but that’s not grounds for filing frivolous lawsuits against him, trying to force him out, or behaving badly towards him.

Nor is Bishop Clark unaware of our concerns. We have written to her twice to ask that she act with integrity, make peace with Duggan, reimburse him for his legal fees, and generally act like a Christian. 

Paula Clark ain’t breakin’ down the door when it comes to integrity
Paula Clark ain’t exactly breakin’ down the door when it comes to integrity

Of course, you already know the response. Deafening silence. Not even the courtesy of telling us to shove off. Total, passive-aggressive nothingness.

Now, we have discovered that the diocese has dismissed Duggan’s Title IV complaint against three of the clergy involved in this debacle. That’s shocking, outrageous, and appalling.

How does Bishop Paula Clark fit into all of this? 

The answer is simple: She has to sign off on any Title IV dismissal. 

So, she’s not only not working to fix this sordid mess, but she’s actively precluding the possibility of a positive outcome.

Nor is Clark unaware of the requirements of Title IV. Having served as Canon to the Ordinary for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, she knows how Title IV works.

Or we hope so. Given the caliber of leadership in many dioceses, maybe we’re too optimistic.

And again, we’ve contacted Clark directly with our concerns.

So, it’s time for Clark to live up to the hype in her resume or resign. The Diocese of Chicago already is lurching perilously close to collapse, and it won’t recover if integrity is not at the heart of things. 

Nor should Clark or anyone else in the Diocese think that selling off the Commons and the Cathedral will be their salvation. Even with major infusions of cash, no one wants to be part of a church that can’t meet basic standards of integrity. And Average Weekly Attendance in the diocese is already so low that the diocese may have passed the point of no return.

As for Duggan’s Title IV case, we hope he will file an appeal within the timeframe allotted. And while we are not optimistic about the new Title IV intake officer for bishops, the Rev. Barb Klempf, heaven knows she can’t make a bigger mess of things than Todd Ousley. So hopefully, Duggan’s Title IV case against Bishop Chilton Knudsen, who played a lead role in this debacle, will prove successful.

Moreover, we have dealt directly with Chilton Knudsen, and she is utterly unethical. That includes:

  • Two known instances of failing to report child sexual abuse.
  • Lying about reporting the child sex abuse in the Chicago incident. And no, we don’t believe she “vividly” recalls the conversation but can’t remember with whom she spoke. And even if she did, the fact that nothing happened should have resulted in her looping back to law enforcement—and documenting her actions. So spare us.
  • Dismissing a prior Title IV complaint alleging criminal perjury by Episcopal priest Bob Malm as “not of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.” (Full disclosure: That complaint was filed by AW editor Eric Bonetti.) That begs the question: If allegations of criminal conduct by a priest are not actionable under Title IV, what exactly is of “weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church”? With child sexual abuse also not counting, it’s tough to imagine what does matter on the toxic surface of Planet Knudsen.

In other words, we hope that Knudsen will get the heave-ho. But given the lack of integrity we often see in the church, that seems unlikely.

As for Paula Clark, we repeat: Time to shape up or ship out.

The Episcopal Church is as good as gone if its bishops and other clergy cannot adhere to basic personal and professional integrity standards. And we have zero patience for the whole, “Well, there were problems at St. Chrysostom’s,” and other lame excuses. We pay bishops to think for themselves and to be leaders. It’s time for Paula Clark to be a bishop.

And for the record, here’s what she says about herself in her resume. Building beloved community? Passion and action for justice?



Photos courtesy Episcopal News Service.

One comment

  1. Folks like Paula are so worried about protecting their little fiefdoms that they never consider picking up the phone and saying, “I’d love to get your feedback.” It’s like heading up a nonprofit—your most valuable board members often are your critics.

    Why are bishops so stubborn and stupid?

    PS Paula needs to hire a professional proofreader.

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