Three top officials with the Episcopal Church have been suspended by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Chief Operating Officer Bishop Stacy Sauls, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission Samuel McDonald, and Director of Public Engagement Alex Baumgarten were placed on administrative suspension on Wednesday, December 9.
“This is a result of concerns that have been raised about possible misconduct in carrying out their duties as members of senior management of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society [DFMS],” Curry explained in a letter to Episcopal Church staff that was made available on the afternoon of Friday, December 11. The DFMS is the organizational name for the national Episcopal Church.
The letter does not disclose the allegations against the three senior officials, but explains that an independent investigator will examine the concerns. No information was given about who made the allegations.
“To protect the integrity of that process, we will not be able to say more about the concerns at this time,” Curry states. The Presiding Bishop, who took office November 1 following his election at this summer’s Episcopal General Convention, told staffers that there will be a video conference on Monday, December 14.
Curry asked church staff to “refrain from speculation” in order to “ensure the integrity of a fair and just process.”
While no further information was offered in the staff letter, there have been recent tensions between church staff and Episcopal Church Executive Council, an elected body that convenes in the three year period between General Conventions.
On November 18, a concealed audio recording device was found during a meeting of the Executive Council in Linthicum Heights, Maryland. The device was placed near the table where Curry and Episcopal House of Deputies President Gay Clark Jennings had been seated during plenary sessions. At several points in the meeting, the council went into executive session and staff and visitors were asked to leave the room.
Participants were asked to check their tabletops and to look under their tables for any additional devices, none were found.
Episcopal News Service reported that General Convention Executive Officer and Executive Council Secretary Canon Michael Barlowe told the council that his staff was checking to see if there were security tapes that could be reviewed to determine what happened.
Update: 04/19/2016: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has announced at the conclusion of the investigation that McDonald and Baumgarten have been terminated due to workplace misconduct. Sauls has been cleared of any wrongdoing, but will not continue on as Chief Operating Officer at the Episcopal Church Center. Church Public Affairs Officer Neva Rae Fox has told G. Jeffrey MacDonald of The Living Church that Sauls is no longer employed at the church’s headquarters. The Christian Post reports:
Throughout the investigation the specific allegations leveled against the three officials was not specified, neither did they get mention in the recent update.
Curry did note, however, that certain actions were going to be taken now that the investigation was concluded, including “an independent human resources audit and procedural review of all of our workplace system safeguards and functions” and the retention of a firm called Human Synergistics to help create a healthy workplace.