ACNA and sexual misconduct

Yesterday the ACNA posted this press release:

Earlier this year, the Board of Inquiry, a panel required by the Anglican Church in North America’s Constitution and Canons, found cause for ecclesiastical charges to be brought against The Right Reverend Ron Jackson. These charges were brought forward after private, earlier efforts by the Archbishop and fellow bishops to facilitate restoration proved unfruitful.

On Tuesday, June 2, 2020, Bishop Jackson admitted to the use of pornography over many years and pleaded guilty to the charges of sexual immorality (Canon IV.2(6)) and conduct giving just cause for scandal or offense (Canon IV.2(4)).

According to Canon IV.8(2) it is the responsibility of the College of Bishops to impose a sentence when a bishop is guilty of an ecclesiastical charge. Meeting on June 2, 2020, the College voted to impose the sentence of deposition from the sacred ministry on Bishop Jackson. His holy orders have been removed, and he is no longer permitted to engage in ordained ministry in the Anglican Church in North America.

In making this decision, the College of Bishops grieved the victimization of those caught up in the pornography industry and lamented the impact that moral failure in leadership has upon the whole Church and its witness. They also expressed their love and concern for Ron and Patty Jackson and their whole family, and assured them of the College’s unqualified desire to see Ron continue in the process of repentance and healing.

Please continue to pray for all those involved in or affected by this situation.

http://anglicanchurch.net/?/main/page/2053

Although grievous, this is a good thing. It is good that the man was exposed and removed, although it was so late in life that it worries me to think that he was in the clergy and in leadership for many, many years while engaged in a massively sinful double-life.

I hope that ACNA and the various sub-jurisdictions are doing a good job of screening leaders and guarding the flock. I know some problems are hard to detect and that wolves are good at hiding, but the veneration that many lend to bishops and clergy can make ACNA a very dangerous place if there are sexual crimes or patterns of sin taking root.

On June 10, 2012 Bishop Julian Dobbs ordained the Rev. Kent Hinkson to the diaconate. Hinkson was a volunteer minister at All Saints Church in Durham and had been a pastor at Presbyterian churches in Texas, California and Florida before joining the ACNA. In 2014 Hinkson met a man named Matthew John Reed on a gay website. On August 4 2014 Hinkson left his home and told his family he was going to visit a pharmacy and make a deposit at a Durham bank. Instead he met Reed at a restaurant, then proceeded to the Eno River State Park where there was a sexual encounter. Reed then threatened to reveal the rendezvous and asked for hush money. He became angry and killed Hinkson.

In 2019 Father Eric Dudley of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Tallahassee was found to have “…engaged in sexual misconduct against certain adult staff members and one other non-staff adult, abused his authority as an employer and priest and emotionally harmed those in his charge.”[1]https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/local/2019/11/25/st-peters-founder-eric-dudley-committed-sexual-misconduct-investigation-finds/4298058002/ This included things like:

With each of these reported victims, the relationships with Father Eric not only grew much more personal, but they eventually crossed physical boundaries. This usually occurred when the men were alone, and Father Eric engaged them in a personal conversation about previously known vulnerabilities. Almost inevitably, this resulted in someone crying and Father Eric engaging in some form of physical contact, such as putting his head in the reported victim’s lap, holding the reported victim’s hands, touching the reported victim’s feet, or otherwise caressing the reported victim. In many cases, the physical contact escalated to the point that Father Eric was arranging to sleep in the same bed as the reported victim; he even kissed a reported victim on the mouth. If the respective person expressed any uneasiness with the touching, Father Eric would either normalize the behavior (such as by explaining that he was just an affectionate person or talking about men holding hands or kissing in other cultures) or reassure the victim that he was not sexually attracted to men.

Eventually this escalated:

As the communications, meetings, and personal activities that Father Eric demanded from these young men grew in frequency and intensity, the reported victims and their spouses became increasingly annoyed and troubled. Attempts by the reported victims to reduce communications and contact with Father Eric, however, were often met with guilt trips, anger, and sometimes rage. Father Eric’s escalation of misconduct over time led each victim to disclose their experiences.

Were there clues in the past of these clergy that might have revealed the problems before they were brought into ACNA? How thorough is the vetting process for established clergy coming in from elsewhere? I know in AMiA before 2010 it was broken and allowed divorced priests in that should never have been allowed in.

ACNA had made a great deal of having a “startup culture” and has valued an “entrepreneurial” mindset in its clergy or aspiring clergy. I would say that we have been “hasty in the laying on of hands” and we are stuck with clergy who should not be ordained. I don’t mean those in sexual sin but unorthodox and unsound, spineless and clueless. But the case of Bishop Jackson shows that there may also be issues of sexual sin. Given the correct conduct of the Council of Bishops we can be grateful, but it is something that bears watching. Let’s hope that there isn’t fire where there is smoke and that we haven’t got a larger problem on our hands.

References

1 https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/local/2019/11/25/st-peters-founder-eric-dudley-committed-sexual-misconduct-investigation-finds/4298058002/

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