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Abuse survivors blast Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

Episcopal Survivors Network

Diocese refuses to follow current church-wide abuse prevention policies

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The Episcopal Survivors Network (ESN), which represents survivors of both sexual and non-sexual abuse in the Episcopal Church, today blasted the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia for failing to comply with the denomination-wide requirement to adopt updated Policies for the Protection of Children and Youth.

Additionally, the Diocese has shrugged off the requirement to adopt updated Policies for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults.

The matter was first reported in the online Episcopal watchdog publication, Anglican Watch.

Legislation passed by the 2015 General Convention, resolutions A073 and A074, requires all dioceses to adopt policies consistent with or exceeding, the provisions set forth in the church-wide Model Policies no later than January 1, 2019. The model policies were promulgated in 2018 and reflect:

  • The church’s commitment to full inclusion.
  • Evolving understandings of gender.
  • Efforts to address bullying and other non-sexual abuse.
  • Recommendations regarding public, criminal, and financial record checks for staff, volunteers, church wardens and contractors.

Among the requirements:

  • Each church or organization adopts a written policy consistent with diocesan policy.
  • Each diocese conducts a Safe Church Audit every three years.
  • Each congregation and organization conduct a Safe Church Self Audit annually and submit the results to the bishop’s office.
  • Each church or organization must post local policies in areas where programs are held.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the diocese’s refusal to comply with the mandates of General Convention,” says ESN spokesperson Eric Bonetti. “It is ironic that, not long ago, diocesan assistant bishop Jennifer Brooke-Davidson sat on the Title IV hearing panel that dealt with Bishop Love’s refusal to follow policies adopted by General Convention. Yet the diocese is engaging in exactly the same sort of conduct that got Bishop Love in trouble.

“Indeed, ESN believes the Model Policies do not go far enough in addressing bullying, shunning, and other abuses that occur far too often due to the power differential inherent in pastoral relationships. Children and vulnerable adults of course deserve protection, but the typical standard in the denomination is ‘no blood, no foul,’ and there is a profound reluctance at the diocesan level to address clergy misconduct, even when it involves adultery or allegations of criminal activity.

“Thus, we believe policies need to specifically address non-sexual abuse in all contexts within the church. Simply put, catch-all phrases like ‘conduct unbecoming’ mean nothing in a denomination that does not take abuse seriously.

“It is inconceivable that, almost four years later, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia is still refusing to comply with the mandates of General Convention. We also note that Episcopal schools, nursing homes, and other related organizations are entirely unaware of the new requirements and completely non-compliant. And as the largest domestic diocese in the church, Virginia leads by example, whether it intends to or not.

“This failure to adopt mandated policies, combined with dismal training of diocesan Title IV intake officers, the Diocese’s consistent refusal to follow the Title IV canons, and its recent refusal to discipline an adulterous priest make clear that this a profoundly dysfunctional diocese, in many ways only nominally Episcopal in polity. And it certainly does not honor the Baptismal Covenant,” Bonetti states. “Countless times I and other ESN members have had church members make obscene gestures, urge us to commit suicide, accuse us of being mentally ill, or engage in defamatory conduct. One standing committee member even told us we were ‘absolutely out of line’ for complaining.

“ESN cautions anyone considering the Episcopal Church to look at the actions, not the words. And the Diocese of Virginia simply can’t be bothered,” he concludes.

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The Episcopal Survivors Network (ESN) is a nonprofit network of survivors of abuse and their allies. We are dedicated to:

  • Speaking out on behalf of those hurt by the church.
  • Advocating for healing.
  • Whenever possible, fostering positive relationships.
  • Seeking justice.

ESN is on the web at http://episcopalsurvivors.org.

Contact:
Eric Bonetti
Episcopal Survivors Network
(202) 650-0942
[email protected]

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.

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