Today’s post is about the traumatic experience of Episcopal aspirant Andrew Salvetti while serving as Director of Children, Youth, and Family Ministries at St. Patrick’s Episcopal, located in Mooresville, NC.
At issue is Salvetti’s termination due to alleged violations of diocesan safeguarding provisions.
Before we go further, make no mistake: Anglican Watch ardently supports safe church policies and urges that dioceses go further and adopt policies modeled on solid examples from the Catholic church. (The Catholics, for all their faults, have gone much further than TEC in adopting meaningful prevention policies.) And we regularly condemn the Episcopal Dioceses and the national church for their failure to implement the current policies, including here in DioVA. (Yes, we previously contacted DioVA about this issue, only to be met with the usual TEC response — splendid silence.)
In Salvetti’s case, his first alleged violation of safeguarding policies came when two vestry members, acting as chaperones, left an overnight event early. When other chaperones backed out at the 11th hour, Salvetti contacted the original couple, asking them to return. They did so.
Thus, it is clear that, at one point, the event did not have the requisite number of chaperones. But that is not uncommon — Episcopal vestry members and chaperones are, in our experience, notoriously cavalier about these issues. And Salvetti took immediate action to address the matter.
Despite this, the rector, Greg McIntrye, was very upset and blamed Salvetti.
In the second instance that led to Salvetti’s termination, the church “Karen” showed up late for a scheduled meeting in Salvetti’s office with a youth member of the church. Salvetti had announced the meeting at a prior church staff meeting and arranged for “Karen” to be there to comply with Safe Church requirements. Moreover, the office door was open, and they were together for 10 minutes.
Despite this brief time alone — a common situation in even the best Safe Church program — “Karen,” who has issues with Salvetti’s sexual orientation, ran to church officials and made it sound like she had walked in on a compromising situation.
She did not.
McIntyre immediately fired Salvetti, even though he conducted no investigation, and Salvetti was in his third year of seminary.
As you’d expect, a subsequent Title IV clergy disciplinary case made no effort to mediate things or reduce the trauma of Salvetti’s experience, even as his marriage crumbled due to the stress. Nor did the diocese comply with the requirement of an immediate pastoral response — which is NOT the same as pastoral care. In fact, the diocese does not appear to have even tried to identify what an appropriate pastoral response might be.
As for McIntyre, we’ve read some of his correspondence to Salvetti, and we find the tone and tenor remarkably manipulative.
Further, the termination letter and its effort to control Salvetti’s legal right to discuss his experience is both illegal and unethical. Having cut Salvetti loose, he has the legal right to communicate with anyone he wants, whenever he wants.
And that’s the thing–Episcopal churches can’t have it both ways. If folks like McIntyre want to give others the heave-ho, that’s one thing. But they can and should expect people to share their experiences–it’s called accountability.
We’d also point out that charity starts at home. Nothing we’ve seen suggests that Salvetti ever approached his job with anything less than integrity. If there were suggestions for improvement, that would have been the appropriate course, not termination.
The situation also sounds suspiciously like a set-up. And if there is one thing we can’t stand, it’s church officials who won’t stand up to bullies.
And senior warden Cady Warner, who also signed the termination letter, should know better, given her time with Lowe’s. It’s called progressive discipline, Cady. When you don’t deploy progressive discipline, you open the church to — you guessed it — potential legal liability.
Come to think of it, when was it ever appropriate to discuss the reasons for a termination in a letter to parishioners when there has been no investigation? Doing so is beyond stupid.
Anglican Watch also notes that the parish is not compliant with current Safe Church standards, including the audit requirement. Thus, given the risk of liability, if the church vestry wants to operate with consistency and integrity, it’s time to terminate McIntyre’s employment.
In the meantime, Anglican Watch recommends that people avoid St. Patrick’s. While churches need to take Safe Church far more seriously than they do at present, bullying seminarians is not the way to do it.
In other words, churches need to be safe places for all. Not just the “Karens” of the church.