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Priest accused of pulling gun in road rage incident

Priest accused of pulling gun in road rage incident

UPDATE: from Eric Bonetti corrections to previous blog post. Adams did not serve as Rector of Christ Church (previous position) – and a plea not to rush to judgment.


Lately many news outlets have carried the report of a priest from North Carolina who allegedly pointed a gun at another driver in an apparent road rage incident. Eric Bonetti, a frequent contributor to the Café reflects what the church might do pastorally for the church he serves and for the priest and his family:

This [past] weekend the news media [was] abuzz with the arrest of Fr. Rian Adams, rector of Calvary Episcopal in Fletcher NC. The news follows allegations that Adams pulled a semi-automatic weapon during an incident of road rage along the Florida turnpike.

Before going further, it’s important to remember that we are only hearing one side of the story. Adams is presumed innocent, both as a matter of canon and criminal law, until found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. Further, we have scant information on the conduct of the persons in the other vehicle; if, for example, they pulled a weapon first, Adams’ response may be seen in a different light.

That said, this is a case that warrants both a fast response by the diocese and a thorough, deliberate response. And this may be our chance to heed the lessons learned from the Heather Cook case.

Read it all here.


For background on the incident and the priest, see below:

From Palm Beach Post

road rage incident along a stretch of northbound Florida’s Turnpike led to a North Carolina Episcopal priest’s arrest this week after he allegedly pointed a handgun at another vehicle, according to authorities.

William Rian Adams, 35, of Fletcher, N.C., faces two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after authorities alleged he pointed the weapon at two people late Wednesday at mile marker 125 near Palm City in Martin County.

According to a Florida Highway Patrol report, Adams was driving a red Chevrolet Corvette when he attempted to brake check a Chevrolet Silverado pickup that was closely following his vehicle.

911 tape released here.

Some background on Adams from when he assumed the position at the North Carolina church in the Diocese of Western North Carolina:

The new rector at Calvary Episcopal Church in Fletcher, N.C., spent 10 years in the military as a chaplain reaching out to and serving soldiers regardless of who they were or what they believed.

Adams, 34, served as a military chaplain with special operations forces for 10 years before an injury he suffered in a helicopter accident forced him to retire. He served for about a year as rector at Christ Church Frederica in St. Simons Island, Ga., before coming to Calvary.

The church welcomed Adams, his wife, Amber, and their son, Brody, with a reception after services on Sept. 11 and with the surprise of an old fashioned pounding. The tradition of a pounding involves people in the church bringing a pound of various items for the preacher’s kitchen including a pound of sugar, flour or other necessities.


Image from now closed Twitter account.

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Helen Kromm

Why my appearance or disappearance within these pages becomes a point of concern to you is anyone’s guess. Although your record of harsh attack and mudslinging in disparaging and pointed tones with anyone who disagrees with you is pretty much well known.

Innuendo? Well, here is what we know as fact.

We have for whatever reason an Episcopal Priest in a red Corvette armed with a Glock 40 travelling Florida interstates on vacation with a woman not his wife on a holiday weekend.

We know that as fact. Those facts are not in dispute.

We can surmise that the Priest in question brake checked a tailgater. That action, aside from being inconsistent with the Priesthood in my opinion, is a chargeable offense in the State of Florida as either reckless driving or reckless endangerment. That is a fact.

There’s another fact here that rankles me, and is based on Father Williams statement prior to apprehension.

“If it it makes any difference, um, I’m a priest in the Episcopal Church, and she’s a theology professor. Just enjoying vacation.”

I have to wonder why he would say this. To me, seeking special consideration from a police officer based on the fact you are an Episcopal Priest lacks both integrity and dignity. What difference would it or should have it made in the eyes of the law? Why say such a thing that implies you might be entitled to preferential treatment because of this, and why involve or invoke your affiliation with the church?

We do not know how this will end. We do not that the record of transparency regarding these issues within the church is often wanting. It is not mudslinging to discuss the fact of this news within these pages.

Prof Christopher Seitz

This much calmer and less speculative comment is certainly to be commended. Perhaps the Heather Cook comparison piece could be taken down — as much for her sake as his.

I grew up a stone’s throw from Calvary Church Fletcher, by coincidence, and will pray that all is well. It is a small rural church community.

As for red corvettes, one could speculate it is a rental car handed out by happy agents. It is certainly a target for attention, no matter what.

Eric Bonetti

Mr. Seitz,

Yet again, the whole point is that we don’t know whether or not this is an incident akin to the Heather Cook situation. We cannot know that until the matter is thoroughly explored, and the possibilities range, as I stated clearly in my original post, from a one-time behavioral issue to some serious possibilities, including PTSD. Regardless of the root cause, the matter requires a pastoral response at every level. What the church as an institution should not do is to assume the matter away.

Fortunately, the diocesan statement indicates that a pastoral response is underway, and its references to conversation and processes suggest that it is taking an appropriate, measured response to any possible next steps. That is very much in keeping with my original article.

I also have encouraged readers to avoid folding extraneous issues into the matter, including his choice of vehicles. While I know of few priests with red Corvettes, surely that is among the least of anyone’s worries just now.

David Allen

Eric, this forum software is doing strange things. I left my last comment as a reply for Helen, but it placed it as a reply to you. My apologies.

While I am here speaking to you though, I would like to point out that the possibilities do not range from a one-time behavioral issue to some serious possibilities, including PTSD. They range from the priest being totally innocent of any wrong doing on his part, because he has been falsely accused, to other possibilities. I have to agree with Dr Seitz, there is no need to muddy the waters with speculation and innuendo.

(At this point I have no idea where this comment might appear in the thread.)

Eric Bonetti

Hi David. Not to worry; I understood what happened.

Of course, it is possible that nothing at all transpired, but my hunch is that this in an unlikely scenario, as the arresting officer would have to have probable cause to make an arrest. And, as a former police officer, my experience is that most officers are very careful in this space; false arrest is not a charge any officer wants to face.

That said, this situation no doubt has caused plenty of pain, including to parishioners. Naturally enough, church members have affection for their clergy, and I well remember my distress when my rector suffered a near-fatal injury. So I am glad that the diocese is taking the matter seriously in every sense.

Recall, too, that my comment about the possibility of PTSD also was made in the context of appropriate pastoral care for all involved. My own bishop recently took classes on responding appropriately to PTSD, and having worked extensively with veterans struggling with this issue, I am glad that awareness of the issue is increasing in the faith community. This also is a challenge that is greatly underfunded; see for some startling statistics.

FYI, I have a family member who is dealing with PTSD as a result of abuse by a clergyperson. At the time of the abuse, church officials knew of the situation but declined to intervene on the basis that the situation was not, “of weighty importance to ministry of the church.” So I have firsthand experience with the pain and suffering that can result when the church chooses to ignore allegations of potential clergy misconduct.

David Allen

Yes, we know this as fact; an Episcopal Priest in a red Corvette armed with a Glock 40 traveling Florida interstates on vacation with a woman not his wife on a holiday weekend. Period. That’s all we know and nothing in the facts we have should allow us to make any comments pro or con, especially innuendo that this is a sordid situation.

It is not a fact that he brake checked anyone, so there is nothing that we may surmise. It could be a complete fabrication by the driver & passenger of the pick-up truck. As well as the accusation that he pointed a gun at anyone.

As to the statement that he made to the officer, that is your personal-made-up-rule about how a priest, a theology teacher, other Episcopalians or Christians in general should behave.

The things that you have stated in comments here regarding this priest and this situation, in my personal-made-up-rule of how we should behave constitutes mudslinging. Which in my experience, is most often why you pop in to make comments.

Prof Christopher Seitz

Mr Bonetti, your blog posting is explicit. The Title and thrust are very clear. This is a Heather Cook like event. In her case people saw the problem and said nothing. We must be on high alert. Mental health officials need to be called in. I will not paste and copy 4 full paragraphs on PTSD, advice about how the parish and diocese should act, what it means to have done militay service, and so forth — all this in the face of really not knowing very much at all. The correction piece you posted subsequently is far more measured as are your efforts here. That seems very much more careful given what we know.

Professor Christopher Seitz

Mr Bonetti, I believe you are an attorney. I am only pointing out that your comments assume what is nowhere in fact. We know nothing about PTSD. We know nothing about road rage and only allegations to that effect by a 911 caller. This kind of speculation only fuels further, like why is he not with his wife on the 4th of July. You keep referring to my distorting things — yet you are the instigator of the distortion and my only plea is that the facts be allowed to emerge. I am not “distorting the situation” — the “situation” is to do with a car incident in FL about which I prefer to reserve judgment until the principals tell us more. Have a good day.

Eric Bonetti

Mr. Seitz,

I believe I have been very clear that all involved should withhold judgment, and that the focus should be on pastoral care for all parties involved. Moreover, I have advocated that the diocese take a slow, deliberate, but comprehensive look at the potential issues that may arise from this matter, while moving quickly to address the potential near-term issues in this case. I have not in any way initiated any distortions, nor is there any reason, as you have intimated in your prior posts, to apologize for this approach.

Nor have I “assumed what is nowhere in fact.” I have made very clear that, at this juncture, we are primarily relying on secondary sources, and that a court of competent jurisdiction must, both for canonical and potentially criminal matters, ultimately decide the facts. You do not have the facts, nor do I. Thus, your assertion that I have “assumed” anything is a logical fallacy, for I have explicitly said that nothing may be assumed at this juncture.

Meanwhile, we must be open to a full exchange of information apropos this situation, and to dealing justly and compassionately with all parties to this matter. Our primary focus must be on caring for all affected by the alleged actions of Fr. Adams and exploring the possible larger issues raised by his alleged conduct. Your efforts to turn my comments into something more than this do no favors to Adams+, his family, his parish, or anyone else hurt by his alleged action.

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