Episcopal clergywomen rebuke statements “antithetical to the Episcopal Church’s expectations of clergy”

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The New York Times has published a letter signed by 328 Episcopal clergywomen criticizing comments made last week by the Revd Canon John C. Danforth, Episcopal priest and former US Senator, regarding allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. In a story comparing Anita F. Hill’s accusations of sexual harrassment by Clarence Thomas in 1991 to Christine Blasey Ford’s current allegations of sexual assault by Brett M. Kavanaugh, Danforth is reported to have told the NYT,

“I just feel so terribly sorry for Kavanaugh and what he’s going through,” he said. “Here’s a man who’s had just a marvelous reputation as a human being and now it’s just being trashed. I felt the same way about Clarence.”

He added that the presumption of guilt has only grown since 1991. “With the #MeToo movement, it makes it even harder for him,” Mr. Danforth said. “It was bad enough for Clarence, but this is really going to be difficult.”

The Revd Teresa K.M. Danieley organized the clergywomen’s response, published today, which argues,

No one, not least a priest of the church, should publicly shame, blame or question the motives of women who step forward to report instances of sexual abuse; Mr. Danforth should instead be calling for an in-depth examination of Dr. Blasey’s allegations.

Those in ordained ministry are called to display Christ’s love for both accuser and accused, fulfilling the baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace and to respect the dignity of every human being.

Mr. Danforth’s statements are deeply offensive to all victims of sexual harassment and assault and to their loved ones. Sexual assault is damaging to society, destroying lives and relationships. Mr. Danforth’s statements are antithetical to the Episcopal Church’s expectations of clergy, who are called to offer justice and grace to those in need.

Read the whole letter here.

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The Rev. Caroline F. Malseed
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The Rev. Caroline F. Malseed

I was unable to log in to add my name but I agree wholeheartedly with my sister priests. I am appalled by the Rev. Danforth's statement and hope he will reflect on Christ's loving support of women who were oppressed and violated in his time.

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Mike Grigsby-Lane
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Mike Grigsby-Lane

I believe Dr Blasey, I believe Anita Hill!

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Susan Russell
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Susan Russell

Honored to be amongst such a great cloud of witnesses. For me it was a no-brainer opportunity to hold a brother priest accountable for behavior what runs counter to our baptismal covenant to respect the dignity of every human being by categorically dismissing the lived experience of survivors of abuse. In John 8:32 Jesus promises us that “the truth will set us free” – and the way to get to the truth of sexual abuse, harassment and assault is to investigate allegations when they are brought forth … not shame, blame and attack those who bring them.

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B. D. Howes
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B. D. Howes

I hear it so often, I’m no longer surprised to hear a partisan using the baptismal covenant as a cudgel to attack those with whom they disagree. Years ago, Rev Russell, I left All Saints Pasadena because the parish had decided to pick and choose whose dignity to respect. Your words are “every human being” but when taken in context, you equivocate. I don’t know what really happened or even if anything happened in the alleged incident. The only conclusion I can reach is no conclusion at all except that real people have been hurt and I blame that on those who trade integrity for partisan advantage. My heart goes out to Dr Ford, Judge Kavanaugh, and their families. They are all victims in my opinion.

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Philip B. Spivey
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Philip B. Spivey

Looks like the good Reverend Danforth needs a Safe Church intensive and some brown soap; the kind my grandmother occasionally threatened to bring out.

My grandmother would also point out that... "You can always judge a person by the friends they keep." This trio of patriarchs do, in fact, have a great deal in common.

N.B. Through-out history, women have been in the forefront of revolutions for social change---here and globally. Until recently, however, women were rarely given the microphone. Thankfully, that sin is on the way to redemption.

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Debora Luther
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Debora Luther

As someone who has been subject to domestic violence and repeated sexual abuse (including rape by a serial rapist), I applaud the women of our church for standing up to former Sen. Danforth. Thank you.

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