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ACNA Priest Deposed Amid Allegations of Sexual Abuse

ACNA Priest Deposed Amid Allegations of Sexual Abuse

From the Tallahassee Democrat:

Eric Dudley, the founder of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Tallahassee and an outspoken opponent of homosexuality, subjected aspiring priests and other young men to sexual misconduct and harassment and abused his power as long-time rector before he finally was forced to resign.

That’s according to a report by Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), an independent group that helps churches with abuse inquiries and investigated allegations against Dudley.

The report, released Tuesday, illustrates how he pursued attractive young men, showering them with attention and gifts and giving them jobs at the church, even as he publicly espoused anti-gay views.

Beyond the misconduct committed by Dudley, the organization found that the church did not take “substantive action” in response to complaints against him for a number of years.

The report said some members and leaders at St. Peter’s knew about misconduct complaints against Dudley since 2011 but that nothing was done until more allegations surfaced last year.

…A witness who worked many years at the church told investigators of “a pattern of young males that seemed to have captured our rector’s eye.” Another said Dudley appeared drawn to good-looking, thin and fit young men, the kind “that women notice when they walk into a room.”

The Rev. Robert Duncan, bishop in residence at St. Peter’s, noted that the church entered into “restoration” with Dudley’s victims, including providing financial support, counseling and leaves of absences.

“We are profoundly sorry for what happened to the victims and their families and faithful people who trusted their shepherd and the safety of their church,” he told the Democrat. “We’re profoundly sorry that a shepherd would hurt his sheep.”

The article goes on to describe Dudley’s pattern of behavior during his tenure, both with his victims and with staff members at St. Peter’s.

“Once Father Eric developed enough trust in his relationships with the reported victims, he would use abusive tactics to further manipulate them,” the report said. “Again, Father Eric followed a pattern, exploiting his reported victims emotionally, financially, spiritually and physically.”

…Employees at St. Peter’s complained to investigators about Dudley’s problems with anger. They said he yelled and screamed, banged his fists on his desk and made employees cry. Workers also complained that Dudley made them feel uncomfortable when he walked around shirtless at a staff retreat.

One employee said that after bringing up workplace concerns with Dudley, he became defensive before flying to a rage, shouting until he was red in the face. Dudley told the employee to get out of his office.

“I said, “Father Dudley, can we pray about this?’ ” the employee said. “He refused.”

Dudley was removed from his duties at St. Peter’s in 2018. As the Democrat reported at the time,

Gulf Atlantic Diocese’s Bishop The Rt. Rev. Neil G. Lebhar said complaints about Dudley were brought to him during the senior priest’s sabbatical and an inquiry was launched.

“Father Dudley admitted to inappropriate treatment of others, abuse of alcohol, and anger issues,” Lebhar wrote. “The complaints included patterns of undesired physical displays of affection which were deeply damaging to others and contrary to diocesan harassment policy.”

Lebhar did not further characterize the allegations but said Dudley “accepted responsibility for his admitted actions.”

“He recognized his own and his family’s needs for longterm therapy and healing, and he understood that he was currently in no position to function as a priest.” 

Several other media outlets have picked up the story, including the New York Daily News, The Advocate, and the blog site Patheos.

In a statement available on the St. Peter’s website, which also links to the full report from the GRACE team and a letter to the congregation, the cathedral says that,

Following the resignation of Eric Dudley, the former dean of St. Peter’s Anglican Cathedral, the Church commissioned an independent investigation by the Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment (“GRACE”). This week, we received the results of that investigation, providing documentation that the former rector engaged in sexual misconduct against certain adult staff members and one other non-staff adult, abused his authority as an employer and a priest, and emotionally harmed those in his charge. Mr. Dudley has since been removed as a priest of the Anglican Church in North America. During this difficult period, we worked together with our Bishop Neil Lebhar and other leaders in our Diocese.

This has been a sad chapter in the history of this extraordinary Church. The report documents the profound pain suffered by the victims of this abuse, and we are deeply sorry for what happened and especially for any actions or inactions that the church and its members may have taken that increased their suffering. As soon as the church became aware of the victims, we entered into a process of restoration with them, including agreements to provide for counseling and financial support, so they could begin their healing. We continue to pray and work for healing for those who have been hurt by these tragic events.

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Art Stewart
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Here's what I posted on the St. Peter's Cathedral Facebook page today: When will your church vestry and other leaders come clean about what you knew and when you knew it regarding Fr. Eric Dudley? The report is out - now it is your time to get on your knees and confess your sins of denial, collusion and corruption. It is not possible that so many people at St. John's and the Cathedral knew of some aspect directy, or indirectly, of your former Rector's inclinations and behavior - and you did not. Read across social media the many postings admitting that people knew something was very off with Dudley going further back than 2011. Yet you did nothing. Are you so convinced that his abusive behavior is limited only to your church community or what is in the report? How many other young lives do you think he may have impacted?

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Leo Schuman
Guest
Leo Schuman

There is a statistically demonstrated correlation between homophobia and latent homosexuality. Society teaches homosexuals to hate themselves. So it is no surprise that homosexuals hide, sometimes in plain sight like this priest by joining with the haters, and ultimately get caught, as here.

But the root cause is the social hatred directed at homosexuals. Stop the hate, and you’ll end the hypocrisy.

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mike geibel
Guest
mike geibel

Dudley is not a victim of some societal hatred for homosexuals—those who he abused are the victims. The predatory appetite is a whole different class of appetite than the desire for a partner, and most gays and lesbians are not sexual predators. He is no different than the child-molester pedophile or abuser of women, and he used his position as an ordained priest acting under the mantle of a life dedicated to serving God and his people, to camouflage his sinister desires. Society did not make him a sociopath and the “God made me this way” excuse also does not work. He is a self-made liar and a fraud who searched for the "easy victim”—a character trait of every sexual predator who exploits women, men, or children. My prayers are for the victims, not for the perpetrator.

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John Chilton
Editor
John Chilton

And he flew into rages with the church staff for years. Why was that behavior not addressed much earlier? This is not a matter of one person behaving badly. Nor can it be explained by society's treatment of homosexuals. There is something unhealthy within St. Peter's Cathedral and perhaps this ACNA diocese that allowed his reign of terror to last so long.

Let's also remember that before he was an ACNA priest he was an Episcopal priest. There likely are victims from before his time at St. Peter's.

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Chris Harwood
Guest
Chris Harwood

So are you blaming TEC for not stopping him before he broke away? TEC certainly has allowed other abusers to have free reign for years. And that is often how teachers and other abusers get away with it. The new church or school, etc. says, "If something was wrong, the old church/school/organization would have don something." And why is this only news now--a year after he was fired and compensation begun for the victims? This report was commissioned after he was fired.

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mike geibel
Guest
mike geibel

Homophobic hysteria may be a convenient way to support an anti-ACNA mindset, but sexual predation crosses sexual orientation lines and has occurred in the Boy Scouts, Evangelical churches and all Christian callings. http://www.protestantya.com/index.php/protestant-ministers-sexually-abusing-children-all-denominations Click on the Anglican-Episcopal heading to this website to see that the TEC is not immune. Or google: “Howard ‘Howdy’ White”—Episcopal Priest convicted of felony child abuse who molested young boys for decades; the late Paul Moore Jr., liberal activist, exposed as a “serial predator” who engaged in long-time patterns of sexual exploitation; Rev. Brian Gerald Shriner, a father, teacher at a Christian school and Priest—arrested for soliciting sex from a teenage girl; or the sex abuse scandal at St. George’s School in R.I. Primarily a male psychopathic disorder, the sexual predator is marked by lack of empathy and remorse that enables him to manipulate the vulnerable.

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Cynthia Katsarelis
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Cynthia Katsarelis

So many outspoken homophobes turn out to be closeted abusers. It almost seems like self-loathing and the closet itself causes this behavior. I pray for healing for all of the victims and for the parish that thought the homophobic rhetoric was a good fit for them.

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