Some brief background:
After a formal, independent investigation, Bishop Stewart has been charged in the ACNA (not civil court) for neglect of duties as a bishop and conduct causing scandal to the church. The presenting matter in the case relates to questions about how Bishop Ruch responded to victim complaints regarding sexual abuse by a lay ministry leader, Mark Rivera, in a DUMW member parish. Mark Rivera has since been convicted of sexual crimes and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
In yesterday’s message to the ACNA, Archbishop Foley was careful to note regarding the tribunal for Bishop Ruch that “one is innocent until proven guilty and yet (we must) take seriously all accusations brought to us.” He, along with other ACNA leaders, have been careful to express that their concerns are with the process of the tribunal, not to argue the merits of the claims presented.
Archbishop Foley (and other signatories of yesterday’s letters) have addressed concerns that the trial process has now been compromised; that, among other concerns, tribunal members risk biased judgments because of conflicts of interest with Bishop Ruch and/or DUMW. The Provincial Tribunal, which includes four ACNA bishops, now stands opposed to Archbishop Foley and the Provincial Office on this matter.
Though these are complicated matters, the implications of the current conflict are great. There is currently an impasse between the Provincial Tribunal and senior leaders in the ACNA, most notably, Archbishop Foley Beach.
In a very difficult and delicate situation, I am deeply grateful for Archbishop Foley’s witness and commitment to the principles of impartiality, integrity, and justice.
This is a troubling time for the ACNA. Though this matter occurs far away from our context in Knoxville, this is a matter that affects our spiritual family. We must be intercessors for healing, reconciliation, truth, and justice in this matter.
When disputes arise among church leaders, it can be tempting to expend energy in analysis, commentary, or–God save us–speculation. If this conversation arises, whether in person or online, be mindful of your speech and the Rule of St James: ‘let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger’ (James 1.19). Christ has given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5.17), not a spirit of dissension or quarreling (Titus 3.9) There will be spirited debates about this matter, but I pray that our spirit will be that of St Paul, writing to Timothy; that ‘first of all’ we give ourselves to the urgent work of prayers, supplications, intercessions, and thanksgivings for all people (1 Timothy 2.1)
A Collect for the Universal Church
Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.