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Statement from PB Curry on the independent investigation conclusion

Statement from PB Curry on the independent investigation conclusion

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry read a statement to the staff of the Episcopal Church Center at 2 pm EST today, concerning the investigation initiated on December 9, 2015, into potential violations of personnel policies. Two staff members have been terminated, and a third has been found innocent of violations or knowledge of said violations, but will be replaced in order to implement different leadership policies and directions. The investigation found general problems in the workplace environment, and a firm has been retained to help the ECUSA address deeper issues and implement a better and healthier culture.

The full statement is printed below, and on the House of Deputies site.

April 4, 2016

Thank you for gathering today.

As you know on December 9, 2015 I placed Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Sam McDonald, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission, and Mr. Alex Baumgarten, Director of Public Engagement and Mission Communications, on Administrative Leave pending an investigation into formal complaints and allegations of potential violations of personnel policies of the DFMS, received from multiple members of the staff of the Presiding Bishop.

At my request, the firm of Curley, Hessinger & Johnsrud conducted an independent investigation into these complaints and allegations. In calling for an independent, external investigation, I presumed neither guilt nor innocence, but committed only to a search for the truth. That search for the truth required a thorough and comprehensive investigation. The investigators met with or had phone conversations with over 40 different persons, including the three individuals named in the complaints, and reviewed thousands of pages of documents. The Episcopal Church offered no constraints nor influence on the investigation, and the confidences shared with the independent investigators have been safeguarded.

The actions that I am taking are based on the facts determined and findings reached by that independent investigation.

Findings and Action

Our task as staff is to serve The Episcopal Church in such a way that it can serve the world in the Name and in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. We are therefore all called to strive for and adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct embodying the love of God and reflecting the teachings and the way of Jesus.

I am saddened that the investigation has concluded that two staff members violated these standards. Specifically, Sam McDonald and Alex Baumgarten were found to have violated established workplace policies and to have failed to live up to the Church’s standards of personal conduct in their relationships with employees, which contributed to a workplace environment often inconsistent with the values and expectations of The Episcopal Church. Both are therefore immediately terminated.

The investigation concluded that Bishop Stacy Sauls did not violate workplace policy, was unaware of the policy violations of the two staff members reporting to him, and operated within the scope of his office. No further investigation is warranted. Nevertheless, given the needs for staff leadership in light of my priorities for the direction of the Church, Bishop Sauls will not continue as Chief Operating Officer of the DFMS. Conversations are underway to implement this decision.

Going Forward

With the independent investigation behind us, I want to say something about how we will go forward from here.

We have healing to do. Trust must be rebuilt. Unhelpful patterns of behavior need to be replaced with new ways of working together. This will not happen overnight. Nonetheless, it will be rewarding. We will all need to be open to feedback- myself included. We will all need to imagine a better working environment and be willing to change to make things better.

a. HR audit and procedural review of all safeguards systems

Going forward, I am committed to ensuring that concerns about workplace misconduct and other kinds of complaints or conflicts are addressed effectively, early, efficiently and on the lowest level possible. To that end, I am in the process of engaging an expert in this field to conduct an independent Human Resources audit and procedural review of all of our workplace system safeguards and functions, with a particular attention to providing and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace environment for all. At the conclusion of this audit and review, we will conduct substantive retraining for the entire Episcopal Church staff.

We have been and will continue to pray for all those impacted by this situation, and we are providing or will provide direct pastoral support to those individuals who desire it.

b. Work toward a healthy culture

It is clear to me that the real and more important work we must do together going forward is not primarily organizational and structural, but deeply cultural and spiritual. Toward that end we have retained a firm named Human Synergistics. They come highly recommended by people whose wisdom and judgment I have great confidence in, and they bring extensive experience and the capacity to help us address concerns about the culture of the staff and our system that have now come to the fore in part because of this situation. They have done great work helping the Diocese of Chicago and many other organizations understand their culture and move quickly into healthier cultural patterns. In the near future, every member of staff will be asked to participate in a series of surveys about the culture we have now and how, together, we can move it in a healthier direction. I ask for your courage as we do this. We will need to work together to recognize and change old patterns of behavior which are not helpful, to imagine new possibilities for our work environment, and ultimately to claim the high calling of serving God by serving the people of God known as The Episcopal Church in the work of serving and witnessing to the way of Jesus of Nazareth which is the way of the very love of God.

c. Operations in the meantime

In practical terms, we will continue in the structure we have used since early December as we adapt into ever more effective structures to meet the needs of the church in the future.

The leadership team will continue to include myself, Chief Financial Officer Kurt Barnes, and Canons Charles “Chuck” Robertson, Michael Hunn and Stephanie Spellers. We will be working with you on creating a responsive and collaborative leadership environment. We will give you more information about what will happen with the canonically described COO position in due course.

The Mission Department team leaders will continue to meet weekly with the Canons to coordinate the ministry of that department. I will join those meetings every 4 to 6 weeks so I can be more closely connected to those ministries.

Canon Robertson, with the help of the Reverend Mark Stevenson, will continue to guide the Office of Government Relations and its work of public policy advocacy for a more just and humane national and global community. We will be working on determining the shape of leadership needed for the long term.

Canon Hunn will continue to guide the Communications Department while we reimagine how the communications department can help the church do evangelism by telling the good news through every medium from Twitter to print to YouTube. Ultimately we will hire a new Director of Communications once we determine the kind of person we need to lead us into the future.

Canon Spellers will continue to guide and partner with leaders on Evangelism, Reconciliation, Church Planting, and Ethnic Ministries. We will work together to reimagine how that work is best structured and how evangelism and communications are seamlessly connected.


In spite of the stress and difficulty of the last few months you have continued to do our work faithfully. I am so deeply thankful for that and honored and blessed to serve our Lord with you.

Our task as staff is to serve The Episcopal Church in such a way that it can serve the world in the Name and in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Our commitment to taking our place as part of the Jesus Movement in the world, our commitment to the work of evangelism, our commitment to the work of racial reconciliation is directly tied to this. And I am unswerving in my commitment to that.

While I did not anticipate this situation as the first major challenge of my tenure as Presiding Bishop, I am likewise unswerving in my commitment to each of you that we will work together to have a workplace that reflects the love of God and the teachings of Jesus. We will work together to have a workplace that really does look something like the dream that God intends for us all and the whole world.

God love you. God bless you.

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry


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Will Abbott

No, but it could be filled with someone already on staff, thereby combining positions. Or it have duties changed such as to refocus the position. Some of the duties might be redistributed to other positions. In all of these cases, the position would change such that +Sauls might not be a good choice for the job.

Will Abbott

One thing I’m seeing in this regarding the COO and +Sauls: the communique says, “We will give you more information about what will happen with the canonically described COO position in due course.” Not, “we will begin to find a replacement COO and let you know who that is in due course.”

This suggests that +Sauls would be leaving anyway, regardless of whether this investigation happened or what it found; but the investigation did happen before ++Curry’s plans were ready. It also sounds like +Sauls will not simply be replaced with someone else, who may do the job better or worse, but that something different is going to happen with the position itself. This is a point I have yet to see made, and strongly says that announcing +Sauls’s leaving in this is merely a way of tying up that loose end — he’s not going back to work, but not because of the investigation.

Marshall Scott

There is some limit in what can happen with the position as it was indeed “canonically described” in Salt Lake City. That doesn’t mean there’s no room. General Convention wasn’t that picky. However, it’s not like it would not be filled.

edited – ed

Bubba Fontaine

I do not see anything nefarious–typically of an action or activity) wicked or criminal. OED I see someone wrongly treated. In view of the conclusion that “+Sauls did not violate workplace policy … and operated within the scope of his office”, other than by application of a non-existent, unexplained workplace policy or scope of his office, how can one find guilt on someone exonerated?
At least this exchange is giving me some insight as to those who infer a lack of appropriate conduct or oversight by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama in fulfilling (or as their opponents would contend) or failing to fulfill their duties in office.

Bubba Fontaine

Passing this on the hunch Bubba is your nickname. If not, please post in the future using your first & last names. – ed

“Not guilty” is used when there is not adequate information to find guilt or convict. “Exonerate: (Especially of an official body) absolve[s] (someone) from blame for a fault or wrongdoing, especially after due consideration of the case.” (OED)
The PB’s exoneration proclamation was absolute and leaves no room to believe any type of fault–ethical or legal: “The investigation concluded that Bishop Stacy Sauls did not violate workplace policy, was unaware of the policy violations of the two staff members reporting to him, and operated within the scope of his office. No further investigation is warranted.”
I find it tragically and sadly ironic that Bishop Sauls was found to be without sin in this yet he is being stoned.

John Chilton

I think Bishop Sauls can take care of himself, and for all we know has negotiated compensation for leaving. It seems to be that keeping him on as COO would have been counterproductive to the mission of church and the spirit of making a new start. That appears to be the PB’s judgment and I am glad for the decisiveness. I will not be shedding a tear over how unfair it is that he is gone even though he was not found guilty. Ideally a new PB can just ask for the COO’s resignation when he or she comes on board. It’s that way in plenty of dioceses, perhaps even in Sauls’ experience when he was the superior.

John Chilton

Mr. Fontaine sees something nefarious in the treatment of Sauls. I don’t. The stuff happened on his watch whether he knew about it or not, whether or not he should have known or not. It’s not uncommon to clean house under the circumstances — The staff needs a clean start, and that’s not going to happen with Sauls still there. I wish Curry had been able to say that Sauls resigned, but it appears that not the route Sauls chose. I’d call that the honorable route, putting the good of the staff before himself even if he’s done no wrong.

Eric Bonetti

I agree with John. The problem with +Sauls may well be that he has not done those things that he should have done. This would include having his finger on the pulse of staff morale, building a culture of caring and collegiality, and insisting on the highest ethical standards.

Michael Morris

I don’t really have a problem with the outside investigators, especially since the Presiding Bishop had just assumed the office when the story broke. What bothers me a little is that we have a probably necessarily opaque statement which seems to parade as something more transparent. I’d be happier if it just said something like “For reasons of HR and pastoral confidentiality, we recognize this is a stone wall and not a window.”

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