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Episcopal Church fires two top executives for workplace misconduct

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaches during his installation service on Nov. 1, 2015 at Washington National Cathedral. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks


 (RNS) Episcopal Church presiding bishop Michael Curry has fired two top executives for failing “to live up to the church’s standards of personal conduct in their relationships with employees.”

Sam McDonald, deputy chief operating officer, and Alex Baumgarten, director of public engagement and mission communications, were accused of misconduct and put on administrative leave Dec. 9.

Curry announced both men were found to have violated the church’s workplace policies, according to a staff update released by the church Monday afternoon (April 4).

RELATED STORY: Bishop Michael Curry’s vision: A world transformed by the love of God

The exact complaints against the men have not been made public. The church release said investigators from the employment law office of Curley, Hessinger & Johnsrud, “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.”

A third executive, Bishop Stacy Sauls, the chief operating officer who was also suspended in December,, was cleared of the complaints, and found to be unaware of McDonald and Baumgarten’s “policy violations,” the church statement said.

Still, Curry, who became presiding bishop Nov. 1 and called this “the first major challenge” of his tenure, said Sauls will not continue as COO and “conversations are underway” to implement a move.

“We have healing to do,” Curry said. “Trust must be rebuilt. Unhelpful patterns of behavior need to be replaced with new ways of working together.”

He has ordered an independent human resources audit to be followed by “substantive retraining” for all employees. To that end, Curry said, he’s hired specialists to address “the culture of the staff” and move toward “healthier cultural patterns.”

(Cathy Lynn Grossman is senior national reporter for RNS)

About the author

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman specializes in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics. She also writes frequently on biomedical ethics and end-of-life-issues


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  • “Our lack of human compassion is rather starkly revealed in most of the candidates we consider worthy of public office in the USA. I am not sure if this is as much a judgment on the politicians’ delusions as it is on the spiritual and human maturity of the American electorate itself. That so many who call themselves evangelical (“Gospel”) cannot see through this charade, has become an embarrassment for American Christianity. Many now see our cultural Christianity really has very little to do with Jesus. Any candidate is praised & deemed worthy of high office because we think, “He speaks his mind” (when it is actually our prejudices that he is speaking aloud). 2000 yrs of Jesus’ teaching on compassion, love, forgiveness, & mercy (not to mention basic kindness and respect) are all but forgotten in a narcissistic rage. Western culture has become all abt the self, & that is just way too small an agenda. The very self that Jesus said “must die” is now just about all we are.” Richard Rohr

  • I feel grateful for ++Curry’s straightforward and dignified handling of this matter. I appreciate the Episcopal Church as a religious tradition run by and for adults.

  • Looks like the church is learning what the corporate community learned a couple decades ago with the quality movement: that is, when an organization is rotten at the top, it can’t be expected to deliver extraordinary outcomes at all the other levels. It’s just a healthy slice of down-in-the-trenches spirituality: cynicism robs the worker-bees of the extra energy to make the critical difference between mediocrity and excellence.

  • Wow. Maybe they should have gone through the same Safe Church training that all of the vestry members are required to take! Or maybe only the rank and file has to do that?

  • I would need actual facts to make any judgments about these men. So far, neither facts nor justifications have been presented for their peremptory dismissal. “Trust”? I think not.