DFMS Senior Administrators placed on administrative leave

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry has issued the following letter to the staff of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

December 11, 2015

Dear Friends,

I need to inform you that on Wednesday I placed on administrative leave Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer, Samuel McDonald, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission, and Alex Baumgarten, Director of Public Engagement.  This is a result of concerns that have been raised about possible misconduct in carrying out their duties as members of senior management of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

I want to be clear. My decision should not be confused with a finding of fault, but is necessary to allow us to find clarity. We are taking these allegations seriously and there will be a full and fair examination of the concerns that have been raised to be conducted expeditiously by an independent investigator.  To protect the integrity of that process, we will not be able to say more about the concerns at this time.

I ask that you pray for all who are involved and who are impacted by this situation.

I also ask that we all refrain from speculation, difficult though that may be. We all have a responsibility to protect the integrity of all the human beings involved and also the integrity of a fair and just process in this matter.

Bishop Clay Matthews, Director of the Office of Pastoral Development, will be coordinating a team of women and men, lay and ordained, to offer pastoral care for all involved.  Look for additional information about the pastoral support team and how to contact them in due course.  Bishop Matthews is available should any member of staff find a need for immediate pastoral care. He is also available for remote staff.  Contact him at any time at cmatthews@episcopalchurch.org.  Additionally, I encourage each one of you to do what you need to do to care for yourselves and each other.  Remember the benefits available through the Health Plan’s Employee Assistance Program.

On Monday, December 14, I intend to meet with you all by video conference.  Canons Michael Hunn and Chuck Robertson will be present at the Church Center to begin conversations with various departments about their needs and concerns as we move forward in these initial days. Information about the Monday meeting is forthcoming.

I want you each to know I trust your faithfulness and integrity as we all work together.  The days ahead will be difficult, but God is good and we will pray and work through this together in the best interest of all involved.



Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry

The image is a screenshot from the Presiding Bishop’s recent video.

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  1. Kathryn Zimmerman

    What are the charges, please?

    • Ann Fontaine

      The Presiding Bishop has asked us not to speculate. Please observe that in the comments.

      • Bill Reeder

        Refrain from speculation in the comments on a church blog? Like asking a six year old alone in a room not to eat the candy bar.

  2. Pegram Johnson III

    Per the message from New York, I have wondered who does the vctting for people at our church’s headquarters. [snip] Checking on backgrounds is a lot of work. I chaired a Bishop Search Committee in the Diocese of Washington before I retired. I also did the teacher hiring for a small progressive Episcopal High School. Most of the difficulties in my experience come from inadequate background checks.


    • Nathan Empsall

      For what it’s worth, these are long time employees, not recently vetted new hires. Prayers for them and all involved.

  3. Elena Thompson

    How about closing comments until something more substantive is released, not only out of respect for the individuals involved and for the journalistic integrity of the Cafe, but also so that we can take an interval for prayer at this point?

    • David Allen

      I think that the comments should remain open. We will keep a tight reign on the comments, I promise you.

      • Paul Rowles

        I think you mean “rein,” unless you have aspirations of kingship.

      • David Allen

        You’re correct. English is my 2nd language.

        But we do preside over this realm!

  4. Rev. Clair Ullmann

    Prayers going out for all involved. So sad. May God’s love prevail for all.

  5. Michael Hartney

    Already a comment has slipped into innuendo. Justice & fairness for these servants of the Church would be better served if the comments were closed and those already posted deleted.

  6. Leslie Marshall

    Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society has a $2.4 M annual surplus in 2015.

    • David Allen

      Which has nothing to do with this story!

  7. frank clark

    What I am wondering is, what is the domestic and foreign missionary society? And what do they do or are supposed to do?

    • David Allen

      That is the legal name of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. TEC for short. Sort of the DFMS doing business as TEC.

  8. Margie Watkins

    Prayers for Bishop Curry for strength and guidance as he both does what is needed for his personal healing, prayers for those being placed on leave that they may feel God’s presence as they deal with whatever will be forthcoming, may The Holy Spirit be our guide, our Comforter, and our mediator as all things become more clear.

  9. There is nothing like a lack of transparency and a culture of secrecy to fuel speculation. Not GTS all over again, I pray.

    • Scott Elliott

      What Paul said. Comments need to be open, monitored, charitable, and circumspect.

    • Prof Christopher Seitz

      Exactly. The PB is telling employees at 815 not to speculate, presumably because they will have some good hunches and he would like that to stay in-house.

      Turning that into a wider call for no speculation misses the point. The PB didn’t do that and of course can’t.

    • Ann Fontaine

      I don’t see culture of secrecy or lack of transparency but obedience to the canons. The persons are placed on leave when charges are made. Then an investigation. Information on the charges before the investigation is improper.

      • Prof Christopher Seitz

        You won’t get any complaint from me. I can see why there is an effort to tamp down rumors inside 815. It could get out of control.

        My objection was to the idea that we were being asked not to speculate. Not least because the PB didn’t request it of anyone but employees close to the matter. That is sensible.

      • Gregory Orloff

        Of course, good old-fashioned Christian self-restraint could be motivation enough not to speculate. That’s not only sensible — it’s salutary! Nothing objectionable at all about that!

  10. Jerald Liko

    I have the deepest possible faith in the PB. Prayers for all involved, and especially I pray that no wrongdoing has occurred. Faith in +Michael to ensure a full and fair inquiry into whatever concerns have been raised. May God bless TEC.

  11. JC Fisher

    Argh. Merry Christmas…


  12. Unfortunately, Ann, it’s Title IV that is the problem. It may have been amended to let people know the allegations made against them and by whom, but it still throws a cloak of secrecy over the proceedings that encourages speculation and more mischief. Now everyone is wondering was it money, sex or malfeasance or just a right wing ploy to embarrass + Katherine and handicap +Michael.

  13. Michael Hartney

    As I said, above, please close the comments. Again, the comments have strayed to speculation.

  14. Matthew J Wright

    What is the nature of the process? How long will it last? Who conducts it? Is it a different process than title iv? Is the nature of the process itself that cannot be discussed?

    • Prof Christopher Seitz

      We won’t know the answers to your questions until we have a better idea what is up. The PB will need to say something more substantive soon, as typically today one can’t just relieve the top three senior staff and ask that everyone accept a brief letter which explains nothing. Since the Intake Officer for Title IV has been assigned a different role, one could assume that this is not Title IV related, but some other manner of problem. Not being clearer about that doesn’t help. Sunday blessings.

      • Helen Kromm

        “The PB will need to say something more substantive soon, as typically today one can’t just relieve the top three senior staff and ask that everyone accept a brief letter which explains nothing.”

        I don’t disagree with your statement, but at the same time, I have a great deal of confidence in this Bishop. I’m also struck by the timing of this communication. It’s dated two weeks before the Christmas holiday, and also dated on the same day he was released from the hospital. That alone tells me that he considers this a matter of the utmost urgency.

        He has also communicated to us that he will be conducting meetings on Monday, and that information from those meetings will be forthcoming. In some respects, it’s possible this initial letter has actually told us too much. We know of course that it involves possible misconduct. While we don’t know the nature of this conduct, certainly aspects of this letter point to what sort of misconduct may be alleged.

        This is terribly sad news. My prayers are with this man as he confronts this, and I have faith that he will deal with this situation judiciously, appropriately, and in a forthright manner.

  15. Eric Bonetti

    However the process plays out, my hope is that one of the hallmarks of ++Curry’s tenure will be a push for top-to-bottom integrity within TEC.

    While DFMS employees in New York are covered by that state’s nonprofit law, which includes whistleblower protection and other components of modern corporate life, many dioceses, my own included, remain backwaters of Madmen-style behavior, where local clergy can act with near impunity. Consider, too, that many local civil rights statutes exclude houses of worship; it often is perfectly legal to sexually harass church employees, and courts often are reluctant to get involved.

    A good start would be a practical guide to Title IV and implementation guidelines. Many Roman dioceses have done something similar, in which they have spelled out, for example, what comprises “conduct unbecoming.”

    In addition, I’d like to see GC pass legislation to create a national ethics hotline and similar protections. Just because we are a church does not mean we should hold ourselves to a lower standard than the for-profits that we often (and with good cause) criticize.

  16. Howard Wallace

    Whatever is going on I cannot and I will not believe Stacy Sauls is involved in anything contra to the teachings of Christ. Stacy has been a friend and inspiration since he was ordained a deacon in my church, St George’s EC, Griffin, Ga.

  17. Bill Reeder

    That this action was taken while the Presiding Bishop was in the hospital speaks volumes. Am I correct that this is the suspension of a midlevel staffer and the next two levels of his supervisors? To require suspension of all three means that all three have been identified as “persons of interest” (as the FBI likes to say) in misconduct.

    It’s a good sign that the Presiding Bishop was willing to take this very public and difficult step to address the issue, no matter what the outcome is. Accountability at 815 is key.

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