Anglican Watch

Tommie Lee Watkins Title IV case moves forward, continues apparent double standard

Rev. Dr. Tommie Lee Watkins

The troubling case of Tommie Lee Watkins, the only openly gay African-American Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Alabama, is moving forward.

As we said in a previous post, the fact he’s the only openly gay black priest in a diocese where 25.9 percent of the population is black speaks volumes.

Nor do we have an opinion on whether Watkins has engaged in misconduct. Neither his attorney nor the diocese has commented on the matter. Thus, we don’t have enough information to know.

At first blush, his case is problematic. The Title IV charges against him include possible descriptions of grooming behavior, money for sex, solo visits to homes, and more.

But dig deeper, and we see that the initial complaints against Watkins come from a court case in which a key witness recanted his testimony.

Similarly, while the charging documents recite multiple instances of alleged sexual advances, we haven’t seen the actual investigative report. Thus, the diocese may have taken content out of context or outright fabricated things. Nor would this be the first time either has happened in the Episcopal Church.

Where we get very uneasy is the double standard we see at work. Watkins allegedly sends suggestive text messages, and it’s all hands to battle stations. 

Yet Stephen McWhorter, now retired and affiliated with St. Luke’s Birmingham, has a documented track record of sexually harassing adult female parishioners he supervised. Yet he’s still serving.

Other allegations, including that McWhorter made sexual advances on a male youth while serving in Pittsburgh, are being ignored by the diocese.

And you guessed it: McWhorter is white.

Those with a stomach for the endless motions and legal posturing, including questionable behavior by canon lawyer Michael Rehill, can get their fill here.

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