TWO of the most senior officials in the Episcopal Church in the United States have been sacked, and a bishop demoted, after an independent investigation into misconduct.
Last December, the Presiding Bishop, the Most Revd Michael Curry, placed the chief operating officer, Bishop Stacy Sauls, the deputy chief operating officer, the director of mission, Samuel McDonald, and the director of public engagement and mission communications, Alex Baumgarten, on administrative leave after many allegations of misconduct (News,18 December).
In a statement on Monday, Presiding Bishop Curry announced that Mr McDonald and Mr Baumgarten had had their employment terminated, as the investigation had found that their behaviour violated “the highest standards of personal and professional conduct embodying the love of God and reflecting the teachings and the way of Jesus”.
The Bishop said: “Sam McDonald and Alex Baumgarten were found to have violated established workplace policies, and to have failed to live up to the Church’s standards of personal conduct in their relationships with employees, which contributed to a workplace environment often inconsistent with the values and expectations of the Episcopal Church. Both are therefore immediately terminated.”
Bishop Sauls, who was the line-manager for both men, was not found to have violated workplace policies, but, given the need for “staff leadership”, he has been removed as chief operating officer, the Presiding Bishop said.
The four-month investigation was carried out by a New York legal firm that specialises in employment law. It interviewed more than 40 people, and examined thousands of pages of documents.
The nature of the misconduct by the two officials has not been revealed by the Episcopal Church, although there was speculation in blogs that the misconduct was connected to the discovery of bugging devices at a meeting of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church.
Bishop Curry also announced that a human-resources company, Human Synergistics, would be brought in to carry out an audit of the workplace to ensure that it was “safe and healthy for all”; and also that the whole staff of the Episcopal Church would be retrained at the end of the audit.
The company had already worked with the diocese of Chicago to instil “healthier workplace patterns”, Bishop Curry said, and would carry out the same work with other parts of the Episcopal Church. “We will need to work together to recognise and change old patterns of behaviour that are not helpful, to imagine new possibilities for our work environment, and ultimately to claim the high calling of serving God.
“While I did not anticipate this situation as the first major challenge of my tenure as Presiding Bishop, I am likewise unswerving in my commitment to each of you that we will work together to have a workplace that reflects the love of God and the teachings of Jesus.”