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Title IV complaints against nominees for US Presiding Bishop made public

14 June 2024

ENS

From left: Bishops Duncan-Probe, Gutiérrez, and Wright

From left: Bishops Duncan-Probe, Gutiérrez, and Wright

THREE of the five nominees in the election of the next Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States are or have been the subject of pending or recently dismissed Title IV disciplinary cases.

The disciplinary information was released on Thursday by the Presiding Bishop, the Most Revd Michael Curry, with a reminder that church law maintained the presumption of innocence.

In April, the first slate of four bishops was announced. They were the Bishops of Nebraska, the Rt Revd J. Scott Barker; Pennsylvania, the Rt Revd Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez; Northwestern Pennsylvania, the Rt Revd Sean Rowe; and Atlanta, the Rt Revd Robert Wright (News, 5 April).

Two weeks later, the Bishop of Central New York since 2016, Dr DeDe Duncan-Probe, was nominated by petition (News, 19 April).

The election is due to take place this month.

In a letter co-signed by the Vice-President of the House of Bishops, the Rt Revd Mary Gray-Reeves, and posted on the Episcopal Church’s website, Bishop Curry discloses five disciplinary matters investigations from the past six months.

Bishop Duncan-Probe is being investigated after an anonymous report, in May, alleged that she had publicly misrepresented her academic credentials.

Last week, the Church received a report criticising Bishop Gutiérrez for his handling of “a Title IV matter involving allegations of sexual misconduct against a priest in the diocese”. This was referred for investigation on Tuesday.

The two bishops have responded publicly to the complaints.

In a letter to her diocese, Bishop Duncan-Probe, whose web page says that she holds “a Doctor of Philosophy degree in theology from the Graduate Theological Foundation, completed at Oxford University”, said: “It is my full expectation that this Title IV will soon be completed and dismissed.” She had submitted documentation verifying her degree in response to the complaint.

Bishop Gutiérrez, in a message sent by his diocese, told the Episcopal News Service: “I have not been informed of any specific act or failure to act that, if proven, suggests a violation of our canons and therefore cannot offer a more detailed explanation regarding these events. Moreover, as others have already noted, the timing of this filing is curious.”

The diocesan communications director, Jennifer Tucker, told ENS that the underlying clerical misconduct case was three years old, and said there were concerns that “Title IV is being weaponized” against Bishop Gutiérrez.

Three further Title IV matters involving nominees had been considered and dismissed, Bishop Curry writes.

Last December, a report was received criticising Bishop Duncan-Probe “for refusing to permit the complainant to continue in the discernment process and requiring the complainant to refer future correspondence to the chancellor”. This was dismissed, and again on appeal.

Also in December, “allegations of ageism, ableism, microaggressions, and abuse of power by Bishop Wright” were received. In February, no action “other than appropriate pastoral response” was taken, and the matter was dismissed.

In May, an anonymous report was received criticising Bishop Gutiérrez “for resolving a Title IV matter involving a priest in the diocese with an accord the complainant regarded as too harsh and for allegedly failing to provide adequate pastoral support to the parish”. No action was taken, and the matter was dismissed.

Bishop Curry acknowledges the “gravity” of the decision to release the information, but writes that “this disclosure protects the integrity of the presiding bishop election. We provide this information with the caution that our canons make it clear that all persons against whom allegations are made are presumed innocent until proven otherwise.”

The next Presiding Bishop, who will serve a nine-year term, is set to be elected, and the election confirmed, at the 81st General Convention, to be held from 23 to 28 June, in Louisville, Kentucky. Two days before, the five candidates are due to address bishops and deputies in a two-hour session.

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