Statement from PB Curry on the independent investigation conclusion

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry read a statement to the staff of the Episcopal Church Center at 2 pm EST today, concerning the investigation initiated on December 9, 2015, into potential violations of personnel policies. Two staff members have been terminated, and a third has been found innocent of violations or knowledge of said violations, but will be replaced in order to implement different leadership policies and directions. The investigation found general problems in the workplace environment, and a firm has been retained to help the ECUSA address deeper issues and implement a better and healthier culture.

The full statement is printed below, and on the House of Deputies site.

April 4, 2016

Thank you for gathering today.

As you know on December 9, 2015 I placed Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Sam McDonald, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission, and Mr. Alex Baumgarten, Director of Public Engagement and Mission Communications, on Administrative Leave pending an investigation into formal complaints and allegations of potential violations of personnel policies of the DFMS, received from multiple members of the staff of the Presiding Bishop.

At my request, the firm of Curley, Hessinger & Johnsrud conducted an independent investigation into these complaints and allegations. In calling for an independent, external investigation, I presumed neither guilt nor innocence, but committed only to a search for the truth. That search for the truth required a thorough and comprehensive investigation. The investigators met with or had phone conversations with over 40 different persons, including the three individuals named in the complaints, and reviewed thousands of pages of documents. The Episcopal Church offered no constraints nor influence on the investigation, and the confidences shared with the independent investigators have been safeguarded.

The actions that I am taking are based on the facts determined and findings reached by that independent investigation.

Findings and Action

Our task as staff is to serve The Episcopal Church in such a way that it can serve the world in the Name and in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. We are therefore all called to strive for and adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct embodying the love of God and reflecting the teachings and the way of Jesus.

I am saddened that the investigation has concluded that two staff members violated these standards. Specifically, 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.

The investigation concluded that Bishop Stacy Sauls did not violate workplace policy, was unaware of the policy violations of the two staff members reporting to him, and operated within the scope of his office. No further investigation is warranted. Nevertheless, given the needs for staff leadership in light of my priorities for the direction of the Church, Bishop Sauls will not continue as Chief Operating Officer of the DFMS. Conversations are underway to implement this decision.

Going Forward

With the independent investigation behind us, I want to say something about how we will go forward from here.

We have healing to do. Trust must be rebuilt. Unhelpful patterns of behavior need to be replaced with new ways of working together. This will not happen overnight. Nonetheless, it will be rewarding. We will all need to be open to feedback- myself included. We will all need to imagine a better working environment and be willing to change to make things better.

a. HR audit and procedural review of all safeguards systems

Going forward, I am committed to ensuring that concerns about workplace misconduct and other kinds of complaints or conflicts are addressed effectively, early, efficiently and on the lowest level possible. To that end, I am in the process of engaging an expert in this field to conduct an independent Human Resources audit and procedural review of all of our workplace system safeguards and functions, with a particular attention to providing and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace environment for all. At the conclusion of this audit and review, we will conduct substantive retraining for the entire Episcopal Church staff.

We have been and will continue to pray for all those impacted by this situation, and we are providing or will provide direct pastoral support to those individuals who desire it.

b. Work toward a healthy culture

It is clear to me that the real and more important work we must do together going forward is not primarily organizational and structural, but deeply cultural and spiritual. Toward that end we have retained a firm named Human Synergistics. They come highly recommended by people whose wisdom and judgment I have great confidence in, and they bring extensive experience and the capacity to help us address concerns about the culture of the staff and our system that have now come to the fore in part because of this situation. They have done great work helping the Diocese of Chicago and many other organizations understand their culture and move quickly into healthier cultural patterns. In the near future, every member of staff will be asked to participate in a series of surveys about the culture we have now and how, together, we can move it in a healthier direction. I ask for your courage as we do this. We will need to work together to recognize and change old patterns of behavior which are not helpful, to imagine new possibilities for our work environment, and ultimately to claim the high calling of serving God by serving the people of God known as The Episcopal Church in the work of serving and witnessing to the way of Jesus of Nazareth which is the way of the very love of God.

c. Operations in the meantime

In practical terms, we will continue in the structure we have used since early December as we adapt into ever more effective structures to meet the needs of the church in the future.

The leadership team will continue to include myself, Chief Financial Officer Kurt Barnes, and Canons Charles “Chuck” Robertson, Michael Hunn and Stephanie Spellers. We will be working with you on creating a responsive and collaborative leadership environment. We will give you more information about what will happen with the canonically described COO position in due course.

The Mission Department team leaders will continue to meet weekly with the Canons to coordinate the ministry of that department. I will join those meetings every 4 to 6 weeks so I can be more closely connected to those ministries.

Canon Robertson, with the help of the Reverend Mark Stevenson, will continue to guide the Office of Government Relations and its work of public policy advocacy for a more just and humane national and global community. We will be working on determining the shape of leadership needed for the long term.

Canon Hunn will continue to guide the Communications Department while we reimagine how the communications department can help the church do evangelism by telling the good news through every medium from Twitter to print to YouTube. Ultimately we will hire a new Director of Communications once we determine the kind of person we need to lead us into the future.

Canon Spellers will continue to guide and partner with leaders on Evangelism, Reconciliation, Church Planting, and Ethnic Ministries. We will work together to reimagine how that work is best structured and how evangelism and communications are seamlessly connected.


In spite of the stress and difficulty of the last few months you have continued to do our work faithfully. I am so deeply thankful for that and honored and blessed to serve our Lord with you.

Our task as staff is to serve The Episcopal Church in such a way that it can serve the world in the Name and in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Our commitment to taking our place as part of the Jesus Movement in the world, our commitment to the work of evangelism, our commitment to the work of racial reconciliation is directly tied to this. And I am unswerving in my commitment to that.

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. We will work together to have a workplace that really does look something like the dream that God intends for us all and the whole world.

God love you. God bless you.

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry

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    • Helen Kromm

      If previous history is any indication, it probably won’t be long before whatever the misconduct was is revealed. News of this nature rarely remains quiet.

      I can also think of any number of reasons why Bishop Curry wouldn’t want to get into the weeds with details. We know there were accusations of wrongdoing. We know that after an investigative process of almost three months, two employees were terminated. In other words, the allegations of wrongdoing were found to be true.

      As to the specifics of the wrongdoing, Bishop Curry’s words when this was announced told us probably more than he intended at the time.

      “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 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.”

      That alone tells us their were victims of this wrongdoing. Victims that might require pastoral care. Victims that might even have a need for health care.

      As I said, I strongly suspect that we haven’t heard the last of this. Whatever the offenses were, it doesn’t require imagination to know that there were victims that were injured by this. Maybe for their sake it would be better if we never knew, but I doubt that will happen.

      • Paul Powers

        It’s not unusual for employers to be reticent to disclose details in these types of matters because doing so may violate the privacy of both the complainants and the accused. And as long as both sides are satisfied with the proposed outcome, I’m not sure that these details are any of our business (I’m assuming we aren’t talking about allegations that are required to be reported to law enforcement).
        Of course if any of the complainants or accused persons are dissatisfied, they are free to seek legal counsel concerning their rights and remedies.

  1. Eric Bonetti

    My passionate hope is that this effort will extend to the entire church, versus just applying to DFMS. We need national ethics standards, a national whistleblower policy, and an ethics hotline that covers the whole church, not just HQ.

  2. The fact that this statement is opaque in the extreme is obvious. So, why not be clear about that? Include a sentence that says “We cannot at this time, for legal reasons (or whatever), be more specific about the infractions. Please be assured that when it is legally advisable for us to do so, we will be reporting on the substance of the infractions. It is critical for the healing of any organization and its cultural reform that secrets not be held, but right now is not the time. We thank you for your trust in this, and know that we will only keep it going into the future with full disclosure.” I know, I know, lawyers, but honestly? Couldn’t something like that have been included? It feels bizarrely opaque to me, and doesn’t create good systemic energy (aka trust) going forward…

  3. Angela

    Please follow the posted comment policy and publish comments using your first & last names in the future. – ed

    I thank Bishop Curry for allowing us an insight to matters which we may never know, however; encouraging us that the wrongs have been righted and we can move forward knowing that complaints will be looked into and not ignored. Thank you for all you do and will continue to do. Much love and God bless from Angela of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church of the Deaf. *Hands waving* (applause).

    • J. Samuel Knopf

      What insight? Communique sounds like it was written by a lawyer.

      It’s either money, sex or power. Take your guess.

      • Angela Somers

        If it were any of the above you mentioned, does it really matter what happened or that consequences were given as appropriated? In others words there was a complaint, it was looked into and action was taken. Let’s look at the big picture. What I’ve taken away with this letter is that our voices will be heard and not ignored.

  4. Michael Morris

    So Bishop Saul’s was found to be completely without fault in the whole affair, unknowing and following protocol but he is being removed anyway. I think that deserves a little more detail than some corporate- speak about “culture”. I would be very surprised if negotiations for his golden parachute aren’t taking place right now, and if I had just been told I was out of a job after months of stress and being completely cleared by an independent investigation, I would expect a tidy sum.

    • David Allen

      IIRC, the three were placed on paid leave. I would also expect that they perhaps serve at the pleasure of the Presiding Bishop, so might expect to be moving on with a change in administration. As a bishop, he likely has a fine pension through the pension plan.

      As an aside, generally it doesn’t really say much when the COO of an organization is cleared of wrong doing by direct inferiors because the COO was unaware of what was happening.

      • Carolyn Peet

        That was my first thought, as well. If my direct report does something so “bad” that it results in their termination, then I would voluntarily resign as the one ultimately responsible for their behavior and performance.

  5. Bill Christy

    It is unfortunate that Christians sometimes lose sight of God’s “big-picture” and Christ’s mission for the church. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own secular issues that we forget to give our issues to Christ. Sometimes we confuse our will for God with God’s will for us. We must always prayerfully check our intentions before we act and/or speak. Our spiritual leader, Bishop Curry, wisely addressed the issue without unnecessarily divulging details which should righteously remain a pastoral matter between those involved and God. I pray that we all prayerfully ask ourselves, “What would Christ do?” and follow God’s lead as we carrying on. The Episcopal Church has so very much yet to accomplish in Christ’s name. There is a saying, “We do not learn but through our mistakes,” (author unknown). I pray that we will learn from this and it will make us a far better church, as a whole, as we continue to serve our Lord Jesus Christ! Remember, forgiveness is a good and Godly thing!

    • Angela Somers

      I whole heartedly agree, well said!!

  6. Philip B. Spivey

    A seemingly judicious investigation that was dispatched in a timely fashion. Thank you PB Curry.

    One detail I found troublesome, however, is this: McDonald and Baumgarten. “Both are immediately terminated.”…vs…”Bishop Stahls will not continue…” I have difficulty understanding the wording of these outcomes. Are lay people ‘terminated’ while bishops are permitted to ‘step down’?

    I think we all know where the buck stops.

    • David Allen

      Did you miss it or don’t you believe the statement that said +Sauls was exonerated?

      The investigation concluded that Bishop Stacy Sauls did not violate workplace policy, was unaware of the policy violations of the two staff members reporting to him, and operated within the scope of his office.

      • Eric Bonetti

        I suspect +Sauls problem was one common with clergy, in that he asserted the “sleeping beauty” defense and made it a point not to know of troublesome issues. Too often, clergy ignore issues under the guise of not liking conflict. But in most workplaces, one doesn’t get to pick and choose which portions of one’s job one wishes to fulfill, and which to ignore.

        All that said, I agree with the posters who point out that the alleged behavior in question is none of our business. HR matters are confidential in any well-run workplace, and it’s high time that they were addressed. Kudos to ++Curry for taking prompt and seemingly fair action. My fond hope is that 815 will soon be a model employer, in which justice, kindness, collegiality and fair dealing are the norm, rather than the exception.

      • Philip B. Spivey

        In my book, “exonerated” means the investigation found no legal basis to remove Bishop Stahls. But as PB Curry correctly discerned, (but did not articulate) Stahls’ ostensible ignorance of the serious transgressions taking place right under his nose makes him “ethically” complicit in these matters.

  7. Elizabeth Marshall

    It very well may be that ++Michael Curry required the assistance of counsel for the preparation of his letter. I see nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it may be fitting. In my opinion, it’s not necessary that we know the details of the infractions. The various comments above expressing distrust and/or derision are, in my opinion, inappropriate. I’m thankful for a Presiding Bishop who handled this situation promptly and competently, with pastoral concern for all.

  8. Piety and ambiguity seem to be the ecclesiastical cover for rather rough church sweeping. There was General’s tacky treatment to break tenure and now outside investigators at headquarters. Not sure what Jesus would do, but Paul would no doubt send a sternly worded letter calling for more charitable treatment of even erring members of the one body.

  9. Michael Morris

    I don’t really have a problem with the outside investigators, especially since the Presiding Bishop had just assumed the office when the story broke. What bothers me a little is that we have a probably necessarily opaque statement which seems to parade as something more transparent. I’d be happier if it just said something like “For reasons of HR and pastoral confidentiality, we recognize this is a stone wall and not a window.”

  10. Bubba Fontaine

    Passing this on the hunch Bubba is your nickname. If not, please post in the future using your first & last names. – ed

    “Not guilty” is used when there is not adequate information to find guilt or convict. “Exonerate: (Especially of an official body) absolve[s] (someone) from blame for a fault or wrongdoing, especially after due consideration of the case.” (OED)
    The PB’s exoneration proclamation was absolute and leaves no room to believe any type of fault–ethical or legal: “The investigation concluded that Bishop Stacy Sauls did not violate workplace policy, was unaware of the policy violations of the two staff members reporting to him, and operated within the scope of his office. No further investigation is warranted.”
    I find it tragically and sadly ironic that Bishop Sauls was found to be without sin in this yet he is being stoned.

    • John Chilton

      Mr. Fontaine sees something nefarious in the treatment of Sauls. I don’t. The stuff happened on his watch whether he knew about it or not, whether or not he should have known or not. It’s not uncommon to clean house under the circumstances — The staff needs a clean start, and that’s not going to happen with Sauls still there. I wish Curry had been able to say that Sauls resigned, but it appears that not the route Sauls chose. I’d call that the honorable route, putting the good of the staff before himself even if he’s done no wrong.

      • Eric Bonetti

        I agree with John. The problem with +Sauls may well be that he has not done those things that he should have done. This would include having his finger on the pulse of staff morale, building a culture of caring and collegiality, and insisting on the highest ethical standards.

    • John Chilton

      I think Bishop Sauls can take care of himself, and for all we know has negotiated compensation for leaving. It seems to be that keeping him on as COO would have been counterproductive to the mission of church and the spirit of making a new start. That appears to be the PB’s judgment and I am glad for the decisiveness. I will not be shedding a tear over how unfair it is that he is gone even though he was not found guilty. Ideally a new PB can just ask for the COO’s resignation when he or she comes on board. It’s that way in plenty of dioceses, perhaps even in Sauls’ experience when he was the superior.

  11. Bubba Fontaine

    I do not see anything nefarious–typically of an action or activity) wicked or criminal. OED I see someone wrongly treated. In view of the conclusion that “+Sauls did not violate workplace policy … and operated within the scope of his office”, other than by application of a non-existent, unexplained workplace policy or scope of his office, how can one find guilt on someone exonerated?
    At least this exchange is giving me some insight as to those who infer a lack of appropriate conduct or oversight by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama in fulfilling (or as their opponents would contend) or failing to fulfill their duties in office.

  12. Will Abbott

    One thing I’m seeing in this regarding the COO and +Sauls: the communique says, “We will give you more information about what will happen with the canonically described COO position in due course.” Not, “we will begin to find a replacement COO and let you know who that is in due course.”

    This suggests that +Sauls would be leaving anyway, regardless of whether this investigation happened or what it found; but the investigation did happen before ++Curry’s plans were ready. It also sounds like +Sauls will not simply be replaced with someone else, who may do the job better or worse, but that something different is going to happen with the position itself. This is a point I have yet to see made, and strongly says that announcing +Sauls’s leaving in this is merely a way of tying up that loose end — he’s not going back to work, but not because of the investigation.

    • There is some limit in what can happen with the position as it was indeed “canonically described” in Salt Lake City. That doesn’t mean there’s no room. General Convention wasn’t that picky. However, it’s not like it would not be filled.

      edited – ed

  13. Will Abbott

    No, but it could be filled with someone already on staff, thereby combining positions. Or it have duties changed such as to refocus the position. Some of the duties might be redistributed to other positions. In all of these cases, the position would change such that +Sauls might not be a good choice for the job.

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