Effort coincides with election of bishop diocesan
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The Episcopal Survivors Network (ESN), a group of victims of abuse in the Episcopal Church, is calling for a boycott of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia over the diocese’s ongoing refusal to address clergy abuse in the church. The announcement comes as representatives of the diocese meet in Alexandria to elect a new bishop diocesan.
“We have notified all four candidates for bishop of our concerns in writing, as well as the standing committee, the executive board, and priests throughout the diocese,” said ESN spokesperson Eric Bonetti. “Only one candidate even acknowledged our concerns, and we were repeatedly brushed off by members of the standing committee. Others gave us political, anodyne answers. One even told us we are ‘absolutely out of line’ for complaining.”
“Given this utter lack of integrity, we are calling on all persons who have experienced abuse to boycott the diocese and to withhold all types of support,” Bonetti announced. “That includes pledges, bequests, loose plate donations, volunteer labor, and anything else that might allow the diocese to continue business as normal.
“Our demands are fair, reasonable, and consistent with the church’s theology:
- Taking abuse seriously.
- Ending victim-shaming, demonization, marginalization, and denigration.
- Forbidding clergy from engaging in retaliation for the filing of Title IV complaints.
- Ending coverup of egregious cases of sexual harassment of female church workers by clergy.
- Ending the diocese’s current practice of requiring victims of abuse to go to court to obtain redress.
- Ending the diocese’s current practice of dismissing Title IV complaints on the basis that criminal charges have not been brought.
- Ending the diocese’s current practice of ignoring victims of abuse on the basis that bishops have been told by the diocesan chancellor ‘not to get too involved.’
- Ending the diocese’s policy of leveling disciplinary charges against clergy in conjunction with property disputes, while stating that the diocese cannot pursue disciplinary charges against clergy if the abuse victim files a lawsuit.
- Taking formal action to intervene in high-conflict parishes and situations through use of outside experts.
- Retracting in writing untruthful statements made by diocesan officials about existing conflicts.
- Making clear that whistleblowers are honored and respected, and acting in the church’s best interest.
- Adopting written whistleblower and anti-bullying provisions.
- Adding bullying to existing safe church training.
- Removing church officials, chancellors, intake officers, and others who have covered up abuse or aided and abetted it by turning a blind eye.
- Imposing discipline on abusive clergy, up to and including defrocking them.
- Engaging in truth-telling about the church’s role in abuse of all sorts.
“We will not turn a blind eye to the church’s ongoing role in abuse,” Bonetti added. “It is inconceivable that a for-profit company would tell people that illegal conduct by its employees is acceptable on the basis that they have not faced criminal charges. Yet that is exactly what the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has done, in writing, on multiple occasions. And it is appalling that the diocese utterly ignores women who have faced egregious sexual harassment by clergy.
“Nor will we accept criticisms by church members who tell us our experiences are ‘a bunch of trash,’ who make obscene gestures, who brush us off, or otherwise behave badly. Either the diocese cleans up its act, or we will shut it down. And given the church’s rapidly declining membership, if nothing else we will outlast the diocese,” Bonetti concluded.
The group has launched a website, boycottdiova.org, and will be picketing churches, leafletting, and building coalitions with women’s groups, the LGBTQIA community, members of BIPOC communities, and others who have been abused, bullied, marginalized or oppressed by the diocese, its clergy and its officials.
Episcopal Survivors Network
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