Title IV complaints against Florida bishop John Howard and Dallas Bishop George Sumner remain in limbo in the presiding bishop’s office.
In the case of Howard, a January 2023 Title IV complaint alleging discrimination against LGBTQ clergy has yet to move forward, and the Office of Presiding Bishop has done nothing to provide the pastoral response required by canons.
That complaint was filed by the Rev. Elyse Gustafson, and seven months later, it appears that the Rev. Barb Kempf, intake officer for complaints against bishops, has pencilled in a phone call with the complainant for “sometime later this summer.”
Similarly, an anonymous Title IV complaint filed last February against Bishop George Sumner of Dallas, alleging that he has illegally retaliated against clergy for reporting sexual harassment, has gone nowhere. Anglican Watch has previously covered this situation, and has contacted Kempf for an update. Meanwhile, Sumner is ignoring a Title IV complaint filed last April in the diocese against David Halt, rector of St. James Texarkana.
Meanwhile, a complaint against Bishops Alan Gates, Susan Goff, Shannon Johnston and Chilton Knudsen filed with Kempf by Anglican Watch editor Eric Bonetti for the refusal of these bishops to follow the Title IV canons remains unacknowledged.
Is justice delayed justice denied?
In the practice of law, there’s a rhetorical question: is justice delayed justice denied?
We’re not prepared to answer that question, but we can say this: slow-walking complaints by taking months to even begin the Title IV process sends a damning message about the church and its priorities.
Indeed, Todd Ousley allegedly told Gustafson that her complaint was on hold because the Office of Pastoral Development was working on the consent process for Charlie Holt. In other words, forget about misconduct–we’re busy trying to get Howard’s minion Holt into office.
Of course, the lack of an acknowledgement or updates to complainants also speaks volumes about the church, its handling of clergy discipline, and its lack of respect for whistleblowers.
Nor are these trivial matters. In one case we are following, the victim, a minor at the time, was repeatedly raped by a priest who remains active in ministry. In another, Bishop Glenda Curry continues to ignore and cover-up a situation involving an alleged child molester presently serving a parish in Birmingham; that individual has a documented track record of sexually harassing adult women. All of these issues have gone to the presiding bishop’s office, but nothing is being done. No acknowledgement, no pastoral response, nothing.
So, it’s too early to predict Kemp’s long-term success or failure. But what we are seeing so far suggests she’s overwhelmed and rapidly lurching towards failure.
And if Kempf needs additional resources, she needs to have the integrity to ask. Simply ignoring matters for months on end is not acceptable.
Anglican Watch calls on Kempf and the Office of the Presiding Bishop to get their act together and stop slow-walking Title IV complaints in the seeming hope that the bishops in question will retire before being held accountable.