DFMS Senior Administrators placed on administrative leave

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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.

Faithfully,

 

Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry

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

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Bill Reeder
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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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Howard Wallace
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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.

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Eric Bonetti
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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.

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Matthew J Wright
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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?

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Prof Christopher Seitz
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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.

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Helen Kromm
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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.

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Michael Hartney
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Michael Hartney

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

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