Institutions News

Episcopal Church confronts past role in sexual exploitation

The Rt. Rev. Paul Moore Jr. arrives at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City on Sept. 23, 1972, to be installed as the 13th Episcopal bishop of New York. (AP Photo)

NEW YORK (AP) — With striking displays of candor, the Episcopal Church is acknowledging the potency of the #MeToo movement by officially lamenting its past role in sexual exploitation and pledging steps to combat it.

The Protestant denomination’s national convention this summer included an emotional session at which first-person accounts of abuse by clergy and other church personnel were read aloud by bishops of the same gender as the victims — six men, six women. Dioceses nationwide are now seeking to gather and share similar stories from victims in their local church communities.


RELATED: Episcopal Church needs to look for #MeToo in the details (COMMENTARY)


That process of story sharing has been particularly dramatic in the Diocese of New York, where Bishop Andrew Dietsche released a blunt pastoral letter on Sept. 11. It described the most famous of his predecessors, the late Paul Moore Jr., as a “serial predator” who engaged in “long-time patterns” of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Moore, as charismatic bishop of the diocese from 1972 to 1989, became one of the nation’s foremost liberal Christian activists. He supported the ordination of women and gays while assailing racism, corporate avarice and various U.S. military policies.

It has been known for a decade that Moore, who died in 2003, was bisexual and had a long extramarital affair that began when a young man came to him for counseling. Moore’s daughter, Honor Moore, revealed that in a 2008 memoir.

Shortly after the memoir’s publication, then-Bishop Mark Sisk issued a pastoral letter describing Moore as “an exploiter of the vulnerable” who had been the subject of multiple complaints. But the scope of Moore’s abusive sexual misconduct has become known only this year, notably at a Catskill Mountains retreat in the spring attended by clergy from the New York Diocese.

At one session, participants were invited to share stories about difficulties they faced in their ministries. Among those at the event was the Rev. Alison Quin, rector of Christ the King Episcopal Church in Stone Ridge, N.Y.

As recounted by Quin in a May 6 sermon, one female priest arose to denounce Moore as a serial exploiter who had affairs with many young priests and lay people. Quin said a male priest in his 60s came next, saying, “I was one of Paul Moore’s boys — he seduced me when I was a new priest. It nearly ruined my life.”

Recalled Quin, “Many of us were in tears at the end of the morning — at the suffering we heard, at the terrible mix of good and evil in human beings, at the brokenness in the church.”

Honor Moore, in an interview, said she was dismayed that her father was the only person named in Dietsche’s letter and objected to the label “sexual predator.”

“It doesn’t seem like a fair term,” she said. “He was a sexually active gay man who lived in an era of unfortunate boundaries.”

Neither the retreat session nor Dietsche’s letter had been previously reported. As detailed in the letter, the New York Diocese is now seeking to gather first-person stories from abuse victims throughout the community, with plans for a Nov. 9 service that would resemble the national convention session in Austin, Texas, in July.

A #MeToo task force formed by the diocese has set up a Google Docs program through which victims can anonymously submit accounts of their experiences. There’s also a help line through which callers can receive confidential pastoral care, and another phone number for victims who want to make an official report of sexual misconduct.

The diocese is reaching out to abusers, as well as victims, inviting them to anonymously acknowledge misconduct and repent for it.

“The season of listening has come,” Dietsche wrote in his letter. “And may we find in the sharing of stories … a renewed commitment in ourselves to create and nurture communities where no one must live in silent pain.”

Mary Glasspool, who serves under Dietsche as an assistant bishop, has been fielding some of the calls to the help line and also tracking responses to the invitation to share stories of sexual abuse and exploitation.

“Not everyone wants their story wants their story publicly told — some want it responded to privately,” she said.

At the national level, the Episcopal response to the #MeToo movement took shape last January when the church’s top leader, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and one of his colleagues issued an open letter calling for an examination of how the church had “handled or mishandled cases of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse through the years.”

Ahead of the national convention in Austin, a #MeToo Planning Team organized the “Liturgy of Listening” that featured the first-person accounts of victims. Among those sharing their stories were a church employee subjected to lewd comments from a male rector, a woman raped by a priest from whom she was receiving spiritual guidance, and a choir boy subjected to emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

Hundreds of people attended the 90-minute service. The Episcopal News Service said some were in tears when it ended; others exchanged hugs with those near them.

Before the convention adjourned, bishops adopted a covenant that commits them to seeking a more forceful response to sexual exploitation and harassment. In addition to holding “listening events” in their dioceses, bishops are being urged to eliminate pay and benefit inequities among their staff, create and enforce equitable parental leave policies, and transform their church community “into a more just, safe, caring and prophetic place for all.”

“It’s a living, flowing kind of movement that’s really about love and reconciliation and healing,” said Bishop Todd Ousley, who heads the national church’s Office of Pastoral Development. “We don’t know where it’s going to end.”

In some respects, the Episcopalians’ initiatives mirror efforts undertaken this year by the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., to combat sexual exploitation by clergy and other church personnel. In July, after a series of revelations about misconduct, the SBC announced plans to create a high-level study group to develop strategies for deterring sexual abusers and ministering to their victims.

Alison Quin says she and members of her congregation believe the Episcopal church will be stronger for addressing sexual exploitation head-on.

“Unhealthy secrets can destroy an institution,” she said.

About the author

David Crary

57 Comments

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  • It has been known for a decade that Moore, who died in 2003, was bisexual and had a long extramarital affair that began when a young man came to him for counseling.

    I suspect that Moore was more than likely gay, not bisexual, and simply got married to a woman in order to advance his career, as so many gay men of that generation were wont to do back in the bad old days when the world would not have accepted them any other way. (I, like many others, chose a different route.) Like so many, he wanted to eat his cake and have it too, and ended up hurting a lot of people along the way. I’ve known many gay men like that through the years. For them, their career was paramount, and whatever it took to advance it they were willing to do, up to and including pretending to be straight and getting married to a woman in order to “prove” it.

  • It is probably worth noting that the late Bishop Moore was not the only focus of the session:

    “… first-person accounts of abuse by clergy and other church personnel were read aloud by bishops of the same gender as the victims – six men, six women.”

    Anyone who thinks that on a per capita basis sexual abuse is a Roman Catholic event should wake up.

  • I think it’s important for all religious bodies to examine their consciences, but I’m not sure it was necessary to throw Bishop Moore, a giant of the civil rights movement, under the bus to do so. I can’t imagine people are still surprised that extraordinary men (and women) are often flawed, or that sexuality is more complicated than our binary binoculars permit us to see.

  • Being “a giant of the civil rights movement” is not a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card.

    As to “binary binoculars”, I believe you’re referring to mammalian biology and standard Abrahamic religions from the scientific and religious perspectives respectively.

  • Why does anyone even go to church anymore? Churches are only there for kids to get molested in them.

  • Ah, the Episcopals trying to find authenticity…….
    Yes, they are a protestant church, but instead of protesting against the RCC, the protest against Christ and make a mockery of all He stood for.
    As far as exploiting the vulnerable – they draw them from Christ’s truth and mock His death teaching that He will condone sin and sharing communion with unrepentant sinners..
    They should be on their knees for the mockery they have made of the Bible:
    I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
    10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant[b] of Christ. Galatians 1:6 (edited)

  • The Episcopalians are right to tackle sexual abuse head-on. Let’s hope that other bodies will follow suit.

  • The term is Episcopalian. In some countries, Anglican.
    It’s you, in your ignorance, here, who continually makes a mockery of Christ.

  • Your comment about Paul Moore is in the vein of Pat Robertson’s comment today that the US shouldn’t harm a $100 billion deal in arms trade overr the life of one man. Both are disgustingon their face.

    You don’t dismiss the pain, suffering and ruinnation of peoples lives because you have some sort of misguided respect or idolatry for this man in the realm of civil rights. Freedom from sexual exploitation should be a civil right. A step towards justice is truth-telling.

    “He was a sexually active gay man who lived in an era of unfortunate boundaries.” That doesn’t explain or excuse using his position to find and pressure folks in a weakened state into being his sexual partners. That statement is very close to blasphemy.

  • Actually, the two statements are markedly different. Robertson was dealing with a current event. The Episcopal Church went looking for past instances of abuse and tarred the reputation of a man who, in addition to having been abusive, was also a man who worked tirelessly for social justice back when social justice was less than popular. There were ways of acknowledging Bishop Moore’s flaws without throwing him under the bus. No one suggested dismissing the pain and suffering of people’s lives. And your quote is not one I made. If you’re going to take exception to something, try to get it half-right.

  • I don’t think they are that different.

    TEC didn’t go looking for past abuse, TEC gave victims of past abuse the opportunity to finally be heard. Victims telling their stories pointed to the abusers. It appears that there was so much more to the abuse by Moore than had ever been realized. However, I don’t see how acknowledging that is throwing the man under the bus. As an Episcopalian, I don’t see that anything positive that he did in his life sufficiently begins to counteract this vile sin.

    Anyone with good reading skills, including memory & comprehension, would know that the quote was said by Moore’s daughter.

    I do take acception to your comments and I got it 100% correct.

  • You simply can’t let go of the notion that being “a man who worked tirelessly for social justice back when social justice was less than popular” does not constitute a Get Out Of Jail Free Card.

    Be sure to copy us your letter to the Governor seeking Bill Cosby’s pardon because for generations he was Mr. Dad.

  • When you know what you are talking about then we can discuss your wrong ideas about me. Until then, I suggest you develop a relationship with Christ and get to know Him.

  • If you go around claiming that a virgin gave birth and that all sex outside of heterosexual monogamous marriage is sinful, you’re a cult.

  • There is nothing to speak about. You’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You’re a mockery of Christ.

  • That’s your opinion. Sadly, your message is so full of hatred for others, no one hears it, if you actually have one.

  • Yes, I have been there a few times. Just because it is your experience, doesn’t mean that it is everyone’s.

    If you were molested, you need help, not venting rage on the internet.

  • Says the person saying that Christ contracted Himself and that sin won’t send one to Hell. We know you think you have received a special revelation from Christ, but, the only one who would lie that badly is satan. And you believed him.

  • Not I deary, we, millions of Christians who dispute your arogant mockery of the love of Christ, with the hatred in your heart. We pray for folks like you every hour, that the cold stone in your soul is replaced.

  • You would need to be a Christian, following a Christian to make those determinations. Christians don’t lead people to Hell. Stop.

  • It hasn’t been a secret as to which church I was a member, you’re just slow on this as on everything else. My knowledge of scripture runs circles around your feeble attempt to understand scripture in Englis translations. Be gone, your very presence is a mockery of Christ.

  • Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11English Standard Version (ESV)
    You’ve been shown to be a liar again. Blessings

  • Your hatred that you spew here is the very bile of the depths of hell itself. Pretending that you speak for Christ here is a mockery. Be gone.

  • No need for me to leave David.
    Someone has to tell people the truth about Christianity. You have not, nor seem capable of it.

  • Sadly for you, you have no truth, just the hatred & bile from the depths of hell. That is the only fruit that you teach here, how to hate others.

  • I’m not RC, nor do I normally defend them, but, there are probably more RCC clergy than can be counted. The RCC probably don’t know the number. That does not excuse the assembly by any means, but it would explain the amount of abusers. The celibacy rule probably draws these men initially hoping to divorce themselves from their sexual wickedness and then I don’t know what happens, but they fall.

  • Mglass, part of their mantra is helping people stay immoral with the hopes that Christ will wink at it. He doesn’t.
    They don’t teach against sexual immorality. They celebrate it.
    “We have a legacy of inclusion, aspiring to tell and exemplify God’s love for every human being; women and men serve as bishops, priests, and deacons in our church. Laypeople and clergy cooperate as leaders at all levels of our church. Leadership is a gift from God, and can be expressed by all people in our church, regardless of sexual identity or orientation.”
    They support sexual sin as defined by Christ.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11English Standard Version (ESV)

    9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    Christ called sexual sin, a sin that would keep one out of the Kingdom of Heaven.
    They are abusing their followers and helping some not being able to see the Kingdom of Heaven – that is abuse.

  • Venting rage is therapeutic. Psychiatric counseling is surprisingly expensive, unlike trolling.

  • So you troll these forums, venting your rage because it is cheaper than actually seeking professional help?

    It obviously isn’t helping much as you don’t appear to be getting any better. You’ve been trolling the comments for months with the same hatred & rage.

  • “I don’t know what happens”

    Ain’t it the truth. You never know what you’re speaking about here. You just spew hatred & hellish bile. Your rantings are an embarrassment to the name of Christ.

  • You’re one of the few folks here claiming that you have the devine right to determine who is Christian and who is not. I don’t put my faith in your hands. As for me, I follow Christ. Period.

    We are done here. I shan’t be replying to any more of your bile & hatred.

  • That wasn’t the case in Australia. The Royal Commission here found a disproportionate amount of sexual abuse in Catholic Church organisations.

    “Of those abused in a religious institution, 61.4% were in a Catholic institution, 14.8% Anglican, 7.2% Salvation Army and the rest in various denominations.” https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/dec/15/child-sexual-abuse-royal-commission-recommendations-and-statistics-at-a-glance

    Please note that this is a world-wide problem for the churches and other institutions that deal with children.

  • Homophobes and transphobes keep threatening to kill me. They kill hundreds if not thousands of LGBTQ+ people worldwide every year. The trolling will continue until your grasp of reality improves.

  • As an openly gay man, I am neither homophobic nor transphobic.

    As a psychologist, I feel that your hate filled comments demonstrate a very disturbed individual.

    As a Christian, your attacks on all Christians I find hurtful and false.

  • People like Bob Arnzen and floydlee spread the kind of hateful lies that get LGBTQ+ people killed, and RNS can’t be bothered to moderate their forum, so I do it for them.

  • There is “being a friend of sinners,” and approving of their sin. This assembly is literally sending people on the road to Hell.
    Part of the “sexual abuse” is leading these people along the road to Hell – if they really want to do something about sexual abuse, listen to Christ and stop that apostasy.

  • No. There are many of us who come here to stand up for Christ – more selective reading on your part David?

  • Awwww……..are you following me David? That’s good. If you read what I say, you may learn something that will help you to honour Christ.
    Let’s start with the Episcopalians encouraging homosexuality: Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

  • No. The citation I supplied made it clear that the “institutions” examined included both religious and secular organisations.

    “Abuse took place most commonly in an institution managed by a religious organisation (reported by 58.1% of survivors). Government-run institutions accounted for 32.5% and non-government, non-religious institutions for 10.5%.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/dec/15/child-sexual-abuse-royal-commission-recommendations-and-statistics-at-a-glance

  • It seems that you are so hostile to Episcopal policies on inclusion that you don’t want to give them any credit for taking a stand against sexual abuse. I would have thought that any fair-minded individual would have given them at least some credit for taking this stand.

    Are you saying that taking a stand against sexual abuse isn’t necessary?

  • I am hostile to frauds, misrepresenting Christ, using their congregants for political purposes and lying about sin. Oh well.

  • You have stated that repeatedly, but you did not answer my question. I’ll put it bluntly.

    “Bishop Andrew Dietsche released a blunt pastoral letter on Sept. 11. It described the most famous of his predecessors, the late Paul Moore Jr., as a “serial predator” who engaged in “long-time patterns” of sexual exploitation and abuse.”

    Was the current bishop right or wrong to denounce this sexual exploitation and abuse? YES or NO?

  • IT’s all smoke a mirrors. I was a vicrum and have a witness to what was going on in the parish, the man’s own daughter who is still alive. People refuse to speak to her and we have gotten no justice. It ruined my life and no one cares. They simply wait for me to die. And what’s funny was, all I asked for was an apology.

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