It has come to my attention that a presentment was filed against ACNA Bishop Bill Atwood that to my knowledge has never been publicly announced. The presentment was submitted in November 2022 and accuses the bishop of “…conduct giving just probable cause for scandal or offense, including the abuse of ecclesiastical power; willful disobedience of the ACNA Canons, and habitual neglect of the duties of the Office of Bishop.” Sources say that the Province did not seat a Board of Inquiry for five months after receiving the presentment, a rather baffling turn of events if true.
The presentment alleges that around 2015 a written report involving a clergy person in Atwood’s diocese abusing his family was submitted to the bishop. The bishop did not respond to this report until seven years later, when the Standing Committee authorized an investigation into this situation and inhibited the clergy member. The report to Bishop Atwood in 2015 alleged “…physical, verbal, emotional, economic and spiritual abuse…”
Bishop Atwood was accused of not following ACNA’s canons, which stipulate that “…Whenever possible the Bishop shall meet in person with the accusers to determine their credibility and the credibility of the accusations.” The presentment further states that Bishop Atwood did not start an investigation but also did not tell the reporter that their accusation had no merit, thus leaving the reporter in limbo with no path of resolution. The alleged abuser was allowed to continue in ministry for the next six years. In October 2021 the alleged abuser was inhibited.
A second count in the presentment alleges that Bishop Atwood violated confidentiality by disclosing details of the abusive situation to others and further described the victim as “crazy.”
A Board of Inquiry for these allegations was seated in April 2023. Bishop Atwood announced his retirement that same month.
Sources say that the Board of Inquiry that was to investigate this situation refused multiple signatories, including clergy, from submitting further evidence or testimony, and then proceeded to dismiss the presentment for lack of evidence. Thus there was no trial for the bishop, no investigation at the provincial level, and no third-party, independent investigation.
Bishop Atwood has been a leader in ACNA for a long time, serving as the chair of the task force for the episcopacy which approves and trains new bishops, so we can infer that he has broad influence within ACNA. Bishop Atwood apparently pushed Todd Atkinson through to reception in the College of Bishops. He was able to form a small, non-regional diocese, with little oversight. Atwood is the Dean for International Affairs and at the Provincial Council of 2023 it was announced that he was working on forming a new diocese.
Atwood has announced that he is retiring in 2024, and there is no succession plan in place for his diocese. According to a newsletter from the Diocese:
At our September meeting, the Vestry unanimously agreed to accept the Diocesan Discernment Team’s (DDT) recommendation to formally join the Anglican Diocese of the South, also known as ADOTS. While it was a simple motion followed by a short discussion, the process of discerning a new diocese and the lessons learned in this journey were anything but simple and short.
So the International Diocese will soon cease to exist.