Below is the central part of the announcement from the Office of Presiding Bishop that the Rev. Barbara Kempf has been named as intake officer for bishops. She replaces Todd Ousley, whom we charitably consider to be a dirtbag.
After the quote, we share several vital observations about the news.
The Rev. Barbara Kempf has been named Title IV intake officer for bishops, a new role that reports to The Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop and works closely with, but structurally separate from, the bishop for pastoral development.
The intake officer is the primary contact for receiving allegations of misconduct by bishops and serves as a member of the Title IV reference panel for bishops and case manager for misconduct cases.
Kempf brings years of experience in nursing, law, healthcare policy and administration, as well as 16 years as a parish priest, serving most recently at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. She has served as intake officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis and three terms as president of the joint disciplinary board for the dioceses of Indianapolis and Northern Indiana.
“Throughout this work and ministry, I have never lost sight of the goal of the Title IV process to resolve conflicts by promoting healing and reconciliation among all involved or affected,” she said.
Kempf holds a Master of Divinity from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and a Juris Doctor from Indiana University School of Law, in addition to a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Indiana University.
She has served as an administrative law judge and state health department legal investigator, among other positions.
In her new role, Kempf will work closely with the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, bishop for pastor development, in coordinating care for those affected by Title IV complaints.
Before we go further, we are glad that Ousley has left the role. He has damaged the church’s reputation irreparably, refused to follow the Title IV canons, and displayed an appalling lack of integrity.
Indeed, at one point, Ousley told a staff member that the Presiding Bishop does not have the authority to tell bishops what to do.
Ousley’s claim directly contradicts the plain language of Title IV, the church disciplinary canon, which provides that a pastoral direction may be issued at any time, for any reason, even without a Title IV case.
In fairness, Ousley may refer to the unpleasant dynamics of wading into diocesan dynamics. That is never fun, but it’s no excuse to avoid action.
We also note that PB Michael Curry has issued pastoral directions, including a flat-footed one in the case of Jon Bruno. So Ousley is full of it.
Second, Ousley is NOT an acceptable leader for the Office of Pastoral Development. He lacks credibility due to his fabrications about Title IV, his habit of not providing a pastoral response to complainants, and his history of sandbagging complaints. Good leaders lead by example, while Ousley is a veritable study in worst practices.
So how did Curry sandbag cases? Here are a few of his tactics:
- In some instances, he falsely claimed he didn’t receive the complaint.
- In other cases, he postured complaints as “being unhappy with the outcome” of a Title IV case at the diocesan level when the real issue was that the diocese refused to follow Title IV. Thus, there is no legitimate Title IV outcome when Title IV is not followed. In other words, there is a distinction between substantive due process and procedural due process. When a bishop refuses to follow Title IV, that is itself a Title IV violation, and the Office of Presiding Bishop needs to address it. Full stop.
- In many cases, Ousley ignored cases, neither responding to the filing nor providing an advisor nor procedural notices.
Anyone with Ousley’s track record would have been fired long ago from any well-run organization, whether for-profit or non-profit. And Ousley should be fired now.
Third, we question whether Kempf can be successful given Ousley’s lack of integrity and incompetence. Recall: Ousley is the jackrabbit who cited the Bishop Hougland debacle as a shining example of Title IV at its best.
The reality is the case was handled appallingly badly. So much so we question whether there are more significant issues with Ousley, whether impairment, mental illness, or simply a total lack of Title IV knowledge.
We also note Ousley’s nonfeasance when the Singh brothers complained about their father’s alleged abuse.
That complaint should have resulted in an all-hands-to-battle-stations posture the instant the first message reached Michael Curry.
Instead, Ousley and Curry wring their hands, say they don’t know what to do and more. Spare us.
In closing, we’re hopeful that Ousley’s removal brings a new level of integrity to Title IV and the Episcopal church. But given what we’ve seen so far, no one should hold their breath.