Anglican Watch

Update: St. Paul’s Dayton lurches towards closure, thanks to Dan McClain and a lack of leadership

Episcopal priest Daniel McClain

Yesterday, Anglican Watch referenced the financial catastrophe facing St. Paul’s, Dayton. Today’s post further explores the meltdown.

To be clear, St. Paul’s has long been a hot mess.

Problems began in 1920, with the founding of the church as a mission of Christ Church, Dayton. 

Scarred by the great flood of 1913, wealthy Episcopalians literally fled to the higher ground of Oakwood, making it a point to leave Catholics, Jews, and other perceived undesirables behind to fend for themselves. 

This relocation mirrored the pattern of other cities in the region, where the wealthy escaped the smog of manufacturing by moving to hillside homes.

Over the years, Dayton’s role as a center of business and innovation left St. Paul’s with substantial investments, even as membership declined steadily over the decades.

This erosion of old-style, wealthy Episcopalians accelerated with the decision by NCR to move its headquarters from Dayton to Atlanta in 2009. 

Since then, St. Paul’s has suffered from interpersonal conflict, a lack of leadership, and a lack of urgency due to the parish’s substantial investments.

Into that toxic mix, we see Daniel McClain, the deeply troubled, dishonest, and manipulative rector. Seen as slimy, manipulative, machiavellian, and narcissistic, McClain can turn on the charm when it suits him. 

At the same time, McClain readily lies, intimidates, threatens, and plays games when he thinks these things will benefit him. This behavior extends to family, parishioners, and church employees.

Of course, none of these things are of Christ. But almost everyone willing to call McClain out on his behavior has left the parish, and little remains beyond a vestry comprised of sycophants and insiders, oblivious to McClain’s toxic nature. 

And, of course, McClain can always call in air cover from his time in academia.

But peel the onion, and McClain’s roots as an unreconstructed evangelical quickly become apparent.

So, why did McClain choose the Episcopal Church? 

Anglican Watch believes the answer is that, after skidding through various other denominations, McClain concluded that the amorphous polity of the Episcopal Church was most susceptible to his machiavellianism.

McClain’s theological travels, which include attending Liberty University, employment with the conservative and complementarian Presbyterian Church in America, and work at Catholic University, support this view.

Indeed, we see very little personal faith in McClain, but instead, an ongoing search for a persona he could adopt to hide his underlying narcissistic self-absorption.

Meanwhile, even with the massive budget shortfall facing the parish, there is a revealing piece of data that doesn’t appear in the annual parochial report, which is the number of pledges.

Apropos pledges, St. Paul’s already is well below 90 pledging units. Moreover, with only 32 pledges by mid-November and stated 2024 goals of 110 pledging units and a 46.42 percent increase in the average annual pledge to $4,318, we’re here to tell all involved that this is hogwash.

Moreover, it’s unethical to push existing pledging units to do more when the parish is doing nothing to bring in additional members. (No, the bike rides don’t cut it.)

Underlying that is a deeper reality, which is that while Dan McClain can bloviate endlessly about the minutiae of the Christian faith, he doesn’t actually understand it. Understanding is distinct from academic knowledge and comes from living the faith and growing in spiritual maturity.

Spiritual maturity does not come from lying, intimidating people, manipulating others, and all of Dan McClain’s other antics, including his extramarital affair with “Plant Lady.” 

And to paraphrase Jesus, an evil priest cannot grow a righteous church. 

We see that in things like the lies within the parish about Kate McClain’s mental health; even if these claims were true, it is one sorry, toxic excuse for a church where this topic is appropriate for discussion.

So, St. Paul’s is at an inflection point: It can jettison Dan McClain and clean up its act, or it can die. Simple as that.

As for “Plant Lady,” we are going to give her some free advice, possibly worth exactly what she paid for it. Specifically, no healthy relationship ever was formed in adultery, and Dan’s behavior toward his current wife should inform your understanding of your relationship with him.

Like Kate, from Dan’s perspective, you are an object to be used. Once he meets his needs, Dan will discard you.

In the meantime, all involved should listen to Dan’s BS about “Holy Spirit Power” and his other nonsense and recognize that he is, on a basic level, both an evangelical and a narcissist.

And while there is nothing wrong with being an evangelical, Dan’s case is one of simply telling you what to hear. 

Or, as is often said of narcissists, there is no “there” there. That spells impending financial and existential disaster for St. Paul’s if it does not recognize and address that issue.

While you’re at it, consider Dan’s academic work, then ask him what the written Episcopal church policy is on exorcisms. (It’s in the Book of Occasional Services.) Then ask him why he’s performing exorcisms without his bishop’s prior approval. Or maybe explain his theological views on exorcism. 

Indeed, if anyone needs an exorcism, it’s Dan McClain himself, and it involves bell, book, candle, and commandment to depart Ohio and renounce his ordination vows. (Being high church ourselves, Anglican Watch will gladly supply the incense.)

Depart, O unclean spirit, out of Dayton, in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit Power! Return to Liberty University, from whence you were sent!”
“Depart, O unclean spirit, out of Dayton, in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit Power! Return to Liberty University, from whence you were sent!”

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