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Retired Bishop Warner of Olympia restricted from ministry

Retired Bishop Warner of Olympia restricted from ministry

Bishop Greg Rickel of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia announced today that his immediate predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Vincent W. Warner, has been restricted from exercising his ministry as a bishop or priest by the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Warner is under investigation by the presiding bishop’s office following a credible allegation of recurrent marital infidelity, Rickel said.

“I first heard the allegations several weeks ago, and promptly reported them to the presiding bishop’s office, which is the procedure required by the canons of the Episcopal Church,” Rickel said. “On Monday, I received word that Bishop Jefferts Schori had restricted Bishop Warner’s ministry.”

Rickel said that the current allegations involve neither minors nor individuals who were in the bishop’s pastoral care.

This matter will be investigated and resolved according to procedures outlined in Title IV of the canons of the Episcopal Church.

Warner was bishop of the diocese from 1989 to 2007.

“I urge clergy and lay leaders to reach out to those whom they believe might need support during this time,” Rickel said. “I also urge you to say your prayers for all involved, for this diocese, and especially for Bishop Warner and his family.”

Read the letter here.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on the story

The retired longtime Episcopal bishop for Western Washington has been barred from exercising his ministry following what his successor calls “a credible allegation of marital infidelity.”

Warner said the allegations did not involve contact with minors or individuals under Warner’s pastoral care. The retired bishop had opened a consulting business in conflict resolution.

The infidelity allegations will be investigated and resolved according to canons of the Episcopal Church.


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Dave Paisley


If we’re going to hold “church leaders” accountable for everything, then vestry members on up should be subject to fidelity screenings. Any questions should result in just this kind of witch hunt. Then we can be just like the Southern Baptist Convention. Or worse. Yay!

(Note – in no way do I condone marital infidelity, but I do acknowledge that it happens, that it’s bad, and that people are hurt in the process. On the other hand, it’s not exactly Auschwitz Part 2.)


Active or retired, this is marital infidelity, and as a bishop of the Church one is required to be faithful in one’s commitments. I think even if we hold to an ethic of grace for those who go through divorce, marital infidelity is still just that: breaking a covenant. Bishops and priests should have high standards (as should all Christians) seeing as they are heads of the Church, examples to all the faithful. Is that a heavy load to bear? Yes, but that’s what a discernment process is for (I’m in it now).

This doesn’t mean we have to vilify. To the contrary, we should be merciful, but this is still a serious issue, not just a private affair. I don’t see why it’s absurd to hold our leaders accountable in commitments they have made.

Catherine Alexander

Has anybody reading this ever been involved in a Title IV process at the national level? I have, and unfortunately, I cannot agree that those canons “give victims a way to become survivors.” Or, perhaps I should state it this way: the canons themselves may provide for that, but the ways particular bishops choose to follow or not to follow the canons clearly serve the interests of the institutional church and not the victims. For example, I was not assigned an advocate until I had submitted a written complaint. Of course, an advocate is important in helping you write the complaint in the first place, because an advocate (theoretically) knows the system and how it works. Once I received an advocate (after I had asked for one for over a year — and finally gave in and wrote a complaint without one), I was assigned somebody without experience serving as an advocate at the national level. Nobody from the Office of Pastoral Development or the Title IV Review Board returned my advocate’s phone calls until after the Title IV Review Committee had rendered their judgment.

I know the canons have been revised since this happened, but if you’ve been victimized by a powerful bishop, I imagine you’re pretty much on your own. They haven’t been revised enough to ensure that those in power don’t abuse the very system created to protect those without power.

I’d speculate that this would have been swept under the rug if +Warner were active rather than retired. My guess is that they’ll take +Warner down over this. Anytime a bishop says he or she is “praying” for you, you’re screwed. That’s secret language for “we’re not going to help you, even though we could.”

Paige Baker

Ann–it has been explicitly stated that the allegation does not involve minors or someone under +Warner’s spiritual/pastoral care. I’d be the first one to throw the book at him if either of those had been the case. As it does not appear that WAS the case, I don’t think it’s anyone’s business.

What has happened in the RCC is an obscenity. I don’t believe that any thinking person would disagree with the contention that we need to ensure that people in power cannot abuse others.

But we also need to be sure that we aren’t caught up in some kind of witch-hunt as a way of easing our consciences about what we did not do in the past.

Bishops and priests are no different from anyone else–they are human and they make mistakes. Maybe some people see a retired bishop as “the church”–but I don’t, and I suspect I’m not alone in that. I see no reason to humiliate someone who is no longer exercising pastoral authority for private behavior that does not cross the lines of abuse of minors or parishioners. If evidence comes out that +Warner did either of those things, I will happily withdraw my objections.

Ann Fontaine

Dear Paige: we have Title IV to address the issues that have been covered up for years sexual abuse, exploitation and harassment by those who hold power in our churches. Children and adults have been abused and had no way to obtain justice and restoration of their lives. The RC church is the most visible of those who choose the cover up road. I was among those who instituted the process for getting these Canons. We still have a culture of blame the victim and circle the wagons. This section of our canons give those who have been victims a way to become survivors.

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