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Bishop Curry authorises release of news about misconduct cases against US bishops

04 March 2024

Frank Logue/ENS

The US Episcopal House of Bishops at its March 2022 meeting at Camp Allen, near Navasota, in Texas

The US Episcopal House of Bishops at its March 2022 meeting at Camp Allen, near Navasota, in Texas

SIX investigations of alleged misconduct by five bishops in the Episcopal Church in the United States, including the Presiding Bishop, the Most Revd Michael Curry, are now under way (News, 19 January).

Brief details of the allegations have been published on the Episcopal Church’s website, in an effort to increase transparency, after complaints that bishops were not being held to the same standards as other clergy. The web page does not include details of who has made the allegations.

Before now, details of Title IV cases, as they are known, against bishops remained confidential until they were referred to a hearing panel, although the Presiding Bishop has the discretion under the canons to make some information about investigations public if he believes that it is “pastorally appropriate” to do so.

A letter from Bishop Curry announcing the publication of the details online says that “experience over the past several years with Title IV matters involving bishops has given rise to calls for more transparency in the process. Given the current atmosphere, I have chosen to exercise my canonical discretion to adopt a general protocol for transparency in Title IV matters involving bishops. The protocol will provide for greater transparency around Title IV processes while also appropriately protecting privacy.”

The six cases listed on the website include two newly revealed cases against the now retired Bishop of Florida, the Rt Revd John Howard; two against the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd Prince Singh (News, 15 September 2023); one against Bishop Curry and Bishop Todd Ousley, lodged by the family of Prince Singh, who allege that the Bishops did not properly respond to their allegations; and a case against the Bishop of Wyoming, the Rt Revd Paul-Gordon Chandler, who has been placed on administrative leave (News, 20 October 2023).

The cases against Bishop Howard, who retired last autumn, involve allegations of discrimination against LGBTQ clergy and those who opposed his views on same-sex marriage (News, 29 September 2023). The second case, which has not previously been reported, involves an allegation of a “financial nature”.

The website includes details only of what is described as the “procedural chronology” of each case.

The two cases against Bishop Singh include one of abusive behaviour, lodged by his former wife and children, which has been widely reported, and one of alleged “improper behaviour”, during his time as Bishop of Rochester.

Bishop Chandler was placed on administrative leave last October. The case against him is listed as a case of misconduct. A letter to the diocese last autumn from the chair of its standing committee referred to “an alleged indiscretion with a member of our diocesan team”.

The website lists one case under “past cases” involving the Rt Revd William Love, who was Bishop of Albany until a hearing panel in October 2020 found that he had violated church law by prohibiting clergy from using the rite of same-sex marriage approved for use across the Church by the General Convention in 2018 (News, 30 October 2020). (He is now an assisting bishop in the Anglican Church of North America’s diocese of the Living Word.)

Missing from the list is the Title IV complaint by the President of the House of Deputies, Ayala Harris. In July 2022, she alleged that the retired Bishop of Oklahoma, the Rt Revd Ed Konieczny, “physically overpowered her” in an incident at the 80th General Convention (News, 8 September 2023). Bishop Konieczny denied any misconduct, and the case was closed in July 2023 with a “pastoral response” and no further action. Ms Harris and Bishop Curry urged canonical reform in the wake of this outcome.

The website also includes statistics of allegations received against bishops. Since last August, 34 have been submitted, seven dismissed, and nine forwarded to a reference panel. Eighteen are described as still at an initial stage.

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