Sources tell Anglican Watch that they believe there is more to the story of the late Marshall Harrison Brown, former associate rector of Truro Church in Fairfax. Brown, who was fired for accessing online pornography at work in 2011, died in 2016.
Truro is well known as one of the dissident groups that left the Episcopal Church, in part due to the consecration of openly gay bishop Gene Robinson.
Sources tell Anglican Watch that Truro, like The Falls Church Anglican and possibly others, told both openly LGBT and suspected LGBT youth and adults that they were not welcome in the parish.
Indeed, reports have circulated for years that John Yates, the long-time rector of Falls Church Anglican, would serve openly LGBT members with warning letters, telling them that they would be arrested for trespassing if they entered church grounds. This, despite the fact that at least one staff member was quietly gay.
Anglican Watch’s source states that Richard Crocker, also a minister with the church, allegedly instructed the parish youth minister to tell parents of youth perceived to be gay that they were unwelcome.
But the same sources tell Anglican Watch that there’s more to the Brown saga than meets the eye. According to a Washington Post story, when Brown’s conduct came in 2005 to the attention of Martin Minns, then the church’s rector and now Bishop of the dissident Convocation of Anglicans in North America, Minns sent Brown to counseling for an unspecified “internet addiction.” After being assured that the conduct in question wasn’t illegal, Minns, in true Anglican fashion, didn’t ask too many questions.
Allegations of an “internet addiction” themselves come with a bit of shade. What exactly is an “internet addiction?”
If one blogs too often, is one an “addict”? Or does it only count if one lingers too long over the Washington Post?
This author believes that, even at the same time Minns was excoriating the Episcopal Church over its ordination of gay clergy, that were deeper, hidden problems at Truro. And it sounds very much like Minns was in the know, or he would not have invoked the “sleeping beauty” defense, nor the oblique references to an “internet addiction.”
Then, in 2011, Brown was fired for accessing websites that would be considered pornography, according to the Post.
So much for web filters.
But according to persons previously affiliated with Truro, they believe that Brown was not only soliciting prostitutes, but that he was doing so from the church, and that the prostitutes in question were men.
For the record, these are only allegations, and Anglican Watch has not been able to independently verify these claims. We do believe the sources to be credible, however.
There is also speculation that Brown used the church’s Lamb Center, a social services center on the property for homeless persons, to solicit other men for sex.
It’s also worth noting that, beginning in the 1970’s, Truro became a conservative bastion within the Episcopal church, even espousing conversion therapy for LGBT persons.
Meanwhile, to fully understand this story, it may be helpful to flash forward to February 2020, when Tory Baucom, the rector of Truro, abruptly left the parish. While there are varying reasons given for his departure, a church investigative report, not released to the public, describes Baucom’s conduct as “abusive,” “intimidating,” “coarse,” “vulgar” and “unpredictable.”
Baucom, on the other hand, claims to have fallen in love with Roman Catholic theology.
But best of all, retired DioVA bishop Shannon Johnston, known for his autocratic style, high levels of conflict with others, poor management of diocesan staff, ineffectual leadership, and willingness to turn a blind eye to sexual harassment by clergy and other misconduct, waded into the conflict.
In an article appearing in the Washington Post, Johnston said:
“He had been speaking about the fact that he knew his time at Truro was coming closer and closer to an end, long before any controversy broke out. It didn’t grow out of his sense that things were going wrong. … I know he felt that he was getting closer and closer in his heart and mind to the Catholic church,” Johnston said. “His journey into Roman Catholicism was not born out of vocational crisis or disagreement or any kind of discipline that was threatened for him. … It’s a very unfortunate coincidence that causes people to misunderstand and misconstrue what is true and what’s not true about what’s going on right now.”
Baucom then went on, in the best Anglican tradition, to offer a non-apology, saying:
“There was some relational breakdown and I am sure I contributed to that. But over 12 years of ministry at Truro my leadership has not been characterized by anger though I have exhibited anger at times. I regret any hurt that has caused.”
All of which conveniently ignores the findings of an investigator hired by the church, which confirmed poor behavior on Baucom’s part—behavior that this author would characterize as profoundly un-Christian, and imappropriate for any priest. That said, it is behavior that is far too common in TEC, and from the looks of it, in CANA too.
As for an endorsement from Shannon Johnston, spare us.
Any bishop who turns a blind eye to sexual harassment of women by priests under his authority, and shows no respect or concern for the victim’s well-being, has worse than no credibility. It adds credence to the charges against Baucom, and this author strongly suspects that both Baucom and Johnston are narcissists of the worst sort.
So, things don’t look so different among the CANA crowd when it comes to clergy misconduct. But to its credit, Truro at least hired an investigator, which DioVA consistently has refused to do when similar charges arise involving its clergy.
Indeed, DioVA terms conduct that is “abusive,” “intimidating,” “coarse,” “vulgar” and “unpredictable,” as “not of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.” This approach enjoys the full support of the current ecclesiastical authority, Bishop Susan Goff.
Today, there is an interim priest at Truro, and Brown’s son Jamie serves as director of music.
Readers, if you have additional information on these issues, either at Truro, CANA, DioVA, or anywhere else, feel free to contact me via the encrypted form on this site. Your identity will be kept confidential if you so choose.
Finally, a note to the inevitable lawyers: These are all allegations, and Anglican Watch has not been able to independently confirm them. The author does, however, believe the allegations to be credible.