Long Island priest arrested on drug and pornography charges

On Saturday, a priest in Long Island was arrested and charged with drug possession and child pornography possession. Christopher King was serving as priest-in-charge at St James of Jerusalem, Long Beach, NY. Police allegedly found non-prescribed Xanax and methamphetamines in his house, and clips of child pornography on his computer. King has been fired from his position by the diocese, and the Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, Bishop of Long Island released the following statement Saturday morning:

This morning, I received notification that the Rev. Christopher King was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography and drug possession.

Father King had been licensed as a priest in our diocese since 2001 and was currently serving as the priest-in-charge of St. James in Long Beach.

The diocese and the entire Episcopal Church have a zero tolerance policy with respect to criminal conduct of any kind including the allegations made against Father King. As a result of these allegations, I have today terminated Father King’s license to function as an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Long Island.

We will also provide pastoral care and consult with the congregation and any others impacted by these charges.

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18 Comments
  1. John Merchant

    Why report this here? Just curious.

    • Jon White

      Why not? It’s news about an Episcopal priest and it’s something that is affecting a number of people. Despite good efforts, our church is not free from this issue. Shining a light dispels the darkness and, hopefully, counters a clerical bias that has too often in the past swept these things under the rug and made victims bear the heaviest burden.

      • Christopher McClain

        Thank you for this answer. Honesty and compassion are better than absolute silence.

  2. Dean

    [Dean – In future comments please take notice of our policy that you give your first and last name. Thank you. – ed.]

    Despite what has happened here, this is one more reason why I love, and chose the right church. This is God’s message of transparency and truth. Thank you for sharing this and dispelling the darkness. We are fallible and we make no declaration otherwise. Now we must hold him accountable, make amends for our own culpability, then help this man, and the community he has hurt. Prayers for all of those affected.

  3. Karla Mae Bosse

    So termination is based on mere allegations, not on a guilty plea or conviction? The Episcopal Church doesn’t recognize the presumption of innocence enshrined in our Constitution? What would Jesus think, I wonder?

    • Gregory Orloff

      From ancient times, the Church has always suspended clergy from active ministry when there are accusations of behavior unbecoming a clergyperson, then deposed them from the clergy if the accusastions are proven true, or reinstated them to active ministry if they are proven false. It’s a way of pastorally protecting the members of the Church from the possibility of further harm or scandal. No different, when you think about it, than law enforcement officers being suspended when questions of use or misuse of deadly force arise. They simply are not allowed to participate in active duty until their cases are cleared up.

      • Jay Croft

        Plus, trials usually occur some time after the arrest. To let such a person roam around or use a computer for nefarious purposes until a judgement occurs, would be irresponsible.

        The Bishop is right to immediately suspend this man, especially as police found child pornography on his computer.

    • Bill Louis

      Allegations? He was arrested when found in “possession” of child porn and drugs. What do you want the Bishop to do let him continue to have contact with children while he’s high, if he makes bail which I hope he doesn’t.

  4. Brother Tom Hudson

    The bishop wrote, “As a result of these *allegations,* I have today *terminated* Father King’s *license* to function as an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Long Island.”

    So, the priest was terminated on the strength of the allegations, although the evidence mentioned seems pretty hard to dispute (I suppose it could possibly have been “planted” in order to discredit him for some reason).

    Note that it is his “license” that is terminated, which usually means that he is not canonically resident in that diocese (unless the bishop mis-spoke). Any consequences related to his ordination would have to be taken by the diocese in which he is canonically resident.

    • Alan Christensen

      I assume the burden of proof for terminating a priest is not necessarily the same as the burden for conviction in a criminal court.

      • David Allen

        He functioned as the priest-in-charge with a licese in that diocese and has been charged with crimes that could put him in prison for a considerable amount of time. His ministry in that congregation is now dead, a sacred bond of trust has been broken, regardless of inocense or guilt, so his license to serve in that location has been revoked.

        Yes, I think that there is ample example in Christian teaching that the threshold for maintaining his license to act as a priest in the Church of God is lower than for conviction of a crime by the state. “Avoid the very appearance of evil.”

        I also hope that the bishop just left out the part that he will be offering pastoral care to the priest as well. I have to ask where was this bishop that a priest exercising the bishop’s pastoral authority could possibly get so far off kilter and the bishop not have any idea about it. Isn’t there a parable about the true shepherd vs hired hands?

      • Jon White

        David,
        I think your expectation of bishops is unrealistic. If you were involved in something that you worked very hard to keep secret do you think your parish priest would know? Do you really imagine a bishop in a diocese with 130+ congregations and probably 200 clergy is able to know each one well enough to detect a deeply secret vice? I don’t know Bishop Provenzano, but I suspect he, like most bishops I’ve known works to the best of his ability to shepherd his diocese. The impossibility of the bishop’s role is why we have in place things like background checks, psychological screening and an arduous process leading up to ordination. That all things won’t be found out is why we have policies and training in place to limit opportunity for abuse. As long as the church is made up of people, we will continue to fall short.

      • David Allen

        Father Jon, I know that what you state is most likely the reality on the ground in dioceses world-wide. Which is why I think that we took the wrong road at some point in our history when bishops became CEOs, leaving little time to do their actual calling, shepherds to the flock. We know from Church history that bishops were our first pastors and when the flock became too large bishops started dividing the flock into more manageable units and commissioning a new level of pastors to shepherd those units, priests. A priest holds no authority on his or her own, but have received the keys of ministry held by their bishop.

        If we reorganized the Church and gave administrative duties to someone else, and I believe that deacons can play a role there, then bishops could go back to primarily shepherding their flock, including greater attention to those priests whom the bishop has commissioned to share and exercise their ministry with them.

        That reorganization would also free up priests so that they aren’t spending so much time being mini-CEOs in their parish.

  5. Tim Kruse

    I’m struck by the difference between expectations for lay people (who when we relocate are then admonished to “have our ‘letter’ moved too”), and how how priests/deacons, who can be canonically resident in one diocese, but live for years and be licensed to function across the country in another diocese. I suspect that as long as these non-canonically resident priests send in their annual report to their licensing bishop, both bishops are only too happy to laissez faire their affairs (until something hits the press that is).

    • Jay Croft

      There may be good reasons for serving in a diocese where you’re not canonically resident.

      I physically live in one diocese (Maryland) but serve a congregation in another (Washington). I have no canonical status in the diocese where I live. If I were to serve a congregation in the Diocese of Maryland, I would need to be licensed in that Diocese.

      Even when one is licensed in another diocese, that diocese requires background checks and explicit permission from the bishop. It’s not a rubber-stamp process by any means.

    • Jay Croft

      Tim, there is no reason to malign bishops, who have a lot on their plate. There are a few bad apples, to be sure, but generally bishops take their calling as pastors to the clergy and pastors to their churches, seriously.

  6. leslie marshall

    Not good news. But I appreciate being informed.

  7. Brother Tom Hudson

    A quick check at the Clergy QuickFind (https://www.ecdplus.org/clergy/?clergyID=9870612039) shows that a John Christopher King, who serves at the parish of St James of Jerusalem by the Sea, is canonically resident in the Diocese of El Camino Real.

    As for the “termination,” Canon III.9.7(a) says, “No Priest shall preach, minister the Sacraments, or hold any public service, within the limits of any Diocese other than the Diocese in which the Priest is canonically resident for more than two
    months without a license from the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in which the Priest desires to so officiate. No Priest shall be denied such a license on account of the Priest’s race, color, ethnic
    origin, sex, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities, or age, except as otherwise provided in these Canons. [And here’s the effective clause:] Upon expiration or withdrawal of a license, a priest shall cease
    immediately to officiate.”

    So the bishop “withdrew” Rev. King’s license to officiate in his diocese. I guess that’s the same thing as “termination.” And it is immediate, since it is a privilege that is being withdrawn, and there is no canonical or juridical process involved. Apparently, a bishop may grant or withdraw this privilege at any time, without giving a reason.

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