The presentment against Stewart Ruch contains extremely troubling facts which bother me personally. They concern Joshua Moon, a man I knew as a fellow parishioner and acquaintance at Church of the Cross in Hopkins, Minnesota. I don’t remember when I first became aware of him, but early on in my time at Cross he started preaching and teaching—I arrived there in late 2014. I loved it when he preached because he was Reformed and a Hebrew scholar, whose sermons always seemed very serious, moving, and deep. He had written books on Jeremiah and Hosea. I know that he was preaching at Cross at least as early as July 2015.
On February 5-7th 2016 I went to a retreat at Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay, Minnesota. Josh was the speaker at the retreat and it was great. I was invited to ride up to the retreat with Josh and our pastor, but my schedule didn’t work out and I preferred to drive alone. I don’t recall what Josh taught on, but I vividly recall him sharing details of his own biography. He said he had experienced severe trauma as a child and that he had struggled with pornography as an adult. He had stillborn twins and took that as God’s judgement on this secret sin. He could not have any other children and so he adopted. It was heartbreaking and seemed to be searingly honest! I knew he had been a Presbyterian pastor before and either he said or implied or I drew the conclusion on my own that the reason he was no longer in ministry was due to this pornography problem. What an amazing story of redemption God was working in this man, I thought.
What I did not know and what Josh never said was that he had been arrested for soliciting a prostitute in 2013. Had I known this, I would have thought it was insane that he was preaching again and being pushed into active ministry. The porn problem was troubling enough, but I figured (foolishly) that he must have a strong accountability system in place and that he was being restored. On September 11, 2013, Josh Moon was arrested and the Plymouth Minnesota Police Department filed this arrest report:
On 09/11/13, the Plymouth Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit and the Maple Grove Safe Streets did a joint operation in a reverse prostitution operation. This operation was conducted at the Crown Plaza located at 3131 Campus Drive.Plymouth Police Incident Report
A Maple Grove female officer was the undercover officer for this operation. This officer posted an advertisement on back page.com under the escort services tab, which indicated her availability, location, services, and phone number. The undercover officer for the Maple Grove Police Department fielded all phone calls and text messages that she received via the Internet advertisement. Please see her statement for further information.
During this operation, the Special Investigations Unit monitored Room 13 by video and audio recording. We also had an arrest team and an outside observation team for this operation.
At approximately 1550 hours, the undercover officer stated that she had a male suspect who stated he was in the area. The male called again and stated that he was parking. The undercover officer gave him the room number of 13.
A short time later, a male entered the room and had a conversation with our undercover officer. During this conversation, it was overheard the male stating that he has never done this before. The undercover officer asked what he was looking for. The male stated it depends, he didn’t know what’s out there to offer.
The undercover officer and the suspect male continued to have a conversation. During this conversation, the suspect male stated that he would like a half an hour and put down $70, which was $10 short of the $80 that our undercover officer initially quoted. The undercover officer said that would be fine and they would work with that.
Again she asked this male what he was looking for (sex or oral). The suspect male stated sex. The undercover female asked what kind of sex and what position. He said he liked different positions in different ways. Also during this conversation, I overheard the suspect male say to our undercover officer that he did not have protection. Our undercover female stated that was fine, that she did.
At this time the undercover officer gave the arrest signal. Officers arrested the suspect was was in the room. He did not have his shoes on and did not immediately comply by removing his hands out of his pockets. The suspect was detained without incident and was later identified as Joshua Nathaniel Moon,
Mr. Moon was brought back to the interview room. While en route to the interview room, Mr. Moon had a slight panic attack and did go unconscious for approximately 3 seconds. No medical attention was needed. Mr. Moon requested a glass of water. He was given a glass of water, and we opened the windows so that he could have some fresh air.
Mr. Moon recovered from his quick panic attack and was coherent and able to speak with me. After the Miranda, Mr. Moon did give a statement…
At the time of his arrest, Moon pastored Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Minnetonka, Minnesota, a ten minute drive from the Crowne Plaza where he was arrested–shown in the following picture.
The presentment contains the follow on facts from his arrest:
Presbyterian pastor Joshua Moon was arrested on September 11, 2013 for attempting to solicit a female prostitute in Plymouth, MN. He was subsequently let go from his position as pastor of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Minnetonka, MN, pled guilty on February 27, 2014, and was sentenced to 90 days in the Hennepin County Corrections Workhouse.
So after serving a prison sentence for this solicitation of prostitution, Moon found his way to Church of the Cross in ACNA’s Upper Midwest Diocese. The presentment says:
Bp. Ruch knowingly ordained and subsequently failed to inform a newly-planted Minnesota parish that their rector, Joshua Moon, had a criminal past of soliciting a prostitute. Moon was permanently removed from this newly-planted church in August 2022 for violating ACNA canons for some as-of-yet undisclosed inappropriate action towards a person under his spiritual care. Despite a two-year vetting process that revealed Moon’s gross misdemeanor for a sexual crime in 2013 (what a reasonably objective leader should consider disqualifying for ordination) Bp. Ruch not only green-lighted Moon’s ordination, he also chose not to disclose this history (and did not require Moon to disclose) to those who stood to be affected by it the most. This terrible lapse of judgment endangered and harmed the sheep at Resurrection Anglican in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota (“Resurrection”), and it again undermined the witness of the Church.
It was at this church plant that Moon again acted up. According to a letter from then Acting Bishop John Miller:
As more information has been obtained, our Acting Diocesan Chancellor, Mr. Todd Johnson, issued an Accusation of a Canonical Violation, which alleged that Fr. Josh engaged in “a series of inappropriate interactions with a fellow member of the clergy under his direct supervision and pastoral care” that “included serious lapses of judgement and failure to maintain boundaries which violated acceptable and expected pastoral and personal behavior applicable to an ordained presbyter in this Church, a rector in this Diocese entrusted with the pastoral care of God’s people, and a married man. These particular actions give rise to just cause for scandal both at Resurrection Anglican Church and the Diocese in violations of (the Provincial canons of the Church).”
As I mentioned, I was part of the church from 2014 until 2018. Josh was not yet clergy while I was there, but he was moving in that direction, and my wife and I discussed how we would have wanted to go to his church plant if we hadn’t moved away. Moon proceeded to become a deacon and then a priest. Did anyone talk to his former church about why he was let go or resigned? In an audio recording, Bishop Ruch admitted that he knew about Moon’s arrest from the first time he met him:
I knew that he had a misdemeanor for soliciting a prostitute and that he was arrested in a sting. He told me that the first time we met, seven or eight years ago. And let me stop there and then I can say some more…I made an error in judgment in ordaining Josh to the priesthood and I’m sorry and that’s really hurt you all and it hurt the church…I thought after his many years of ministry and service here in a non-ordained capacity that he had reached a point where he could be trusted, but I made the wrong judgment and it’s clear that he couldn’t be and I apologize for that, I’m very sorry for that.Audio from February 2023
The presentment continues:
Despite knowledge of this history, including a history of Moon’s admitted sexual addiction, Bp. Ruch would authorize Moon to preach in UMD churches as early as April 2015, and would go on to ordain him to the Anglican priesthood on October 28, 2020, later installing him as rector of a new UMD church plant, Resurrection, in 2021. Members of the church planting team were not informed about Moon’s criminal history. In June 2022, Moon violated the Provincial Canons of the ACNA and his vows of ordination. Moon’s abuse of power and predatory behavior created a situation in which his actions “gave just cause for scandal both at Resurrection Anglican Church and the Diocese . . . .” While on public leave of absence, Bp. Ruch stepped in to meet with parties involved, interfering in the investigation during the time period between June 18, 2022 and July 31, 2022. Moon was suspended from pastoral ministry for life; however, he retained his ordination status, and, with the permission of the Bishop, “may preach at parishes, missions, church plants, and other congregations, as requested by the Bishop, and/or serve as an educator under proper supervision.” In a February 18, 2023 conversation with two Resurrection Anglican members, Bp. Ruch admitted that he reviewed the investigation conducted by Moon’s previous church and concluded that, since the church did not defrock Moon, that was sufficient for continuing Moon’s ordination process in the UMD. Not only did this perpetuate the inaction of Moon’s previous church not to defrock him, it also created the conditions where that action may be repeated (should Moon move to another church community and they investigate his background, Bp. Ruch’s failure to defrock him may be seen as absolution). Bp. Ruch’s lapse in judgment in ordaining Joshua Moon showed a callous indifference to the physical and spiritual safety of the sheep he vowed to protect. His negligent decision ultimately placed Moon in an environment where additional harm was done. This was preventable from the outset.
The presentment concludes:
By allowing Joshua Moon to preach in diocesan churches so soon after his arrest and sentencing, and by ordaining and sending him out to plant a new church without informing congregants of who was leading them, Bp. Ruch brought contempt on the Church and undermined its witness. Bp. Ruch’s actions and inactions told the world that, if you happen to be in the good graces of the person in charge, your past criminal conduct will not impede your advancement, even at the risk of harming parishioners. The critique leveled here has nothing to do with the bounds of God’s grace. All signatories to these presentments agree that there is no sin Christ has not overcome by his death and resurrection. In contrition, Joshua Moon is entitled to the full panoply of God’s forgiveness.
Yet prudence requires faith leaders to exercise caution and restraint—and in this case, basic common sense—before admitting a priest to the service of an unwitting congregation. Joshua Moon never should have been led to believe he could serve in an ordained role in an ACNA parish. And if that wisdom could not have been discerned after much prayer and consultation, surely a threshold concern for future congregants would have motivated Bp. Ruch enough to inform unsuspecting church-goers of Moon’s past. In that scenario, at least, they would have had all the information needed to make an informed decision and to take personal responsibility for their gambit. But Bp. Ruch never gave Resurrection that opportunity, and that parish is still reeling today. At the very least, aside from the apology Bp. Ruch reportedly made during his visit to Resurrection on February 19, 2023, he owes that congregation an account for how he was convinced of the goodness of his decision, as well as to name his mistakes in detail and state what changes will be made with potential ordinands going forward.
If Bp. Ruch, a shepherd and overseer of God’s people, cannot see and name the dangers present in potential postulants, then how can parishioners trust the goodness of their leaders? And to the unbelieving world looking in on us—on what we do to each other, on what we do in response—what chance do they have to believe our Christ makes any difference?
Bishop Ruch has failed in his oversight of the Mark Rivera sexual assault case. He also failed in this case, when he decided that a man arrested for soliciting prostitution was a great candidate to be ordained. He currently has a pastoral resident on staff at Church of the Resurrection who was charged with second-degree attempted murder. The decent thing to do, even if he is convinced that he is right, would be to resign for the greater good of the Church. But this isn’t happening. Instead, he is forging ahead, forcing ACNA to spend time and money on a trial, and almost splitting the denomination earlier this year when a major rift between he and Archbishop Beach was exposed for all to see.