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ACNA bishop, alleging ‘religious assault,’ makes attraction for his return

(RNS) — In July 2021 Stewart Ruch III, bishop of the Anglican Church in North America’s Higher Midwest Diocese, went on depart after making what he called “regrettable errors” in dealing with instances of abuse within the diocese.

By that point, many who attended the roughly 30 church buildings in Ruch’s diocese knew that the missteps Ruch was referring to needed to do together with his delay in informing them of the accusations in opposition to Mark Rivera, a volunteer chief at Christ Our Gentle Anglican, an Higher Midwest Diocese church in Massive Rock, Illinois.

Rivera had been arrested in 2019 and later charged with felony sexual assault and predatory abuse of a sufferer underneath 13 years of age. Since then at the least 9 others have made allegations in opposition to Rivera, who had beforehand been at Church of the Resurrection, the place Ruch served as rector after which as bishop. 

Ruch waited almost two years to inform anybody exterior ACNA management about Rivera’s alleged abuse. As he confessed in his leave-taking letter, “My mistake accounts for the numerous hole in time between Mark being accused of an offense and this communication to you.”

However the delay had already alienated some within the small denomination, which emerged from a 2009 break up with the Episcopal Church over LGBT points. Ruch’s dealing with of the allegations provoked not one however two parallel investigations — one into the accusations in opposition to Rivera and the diocese’s response and one other into allegations that Ruch and different ACNA leaders had created a tradition of submission and management at Church of the Resurrection.

Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois. Picture courtesy of Google Maps

When he went on depart, Ruch appeared contrite, telling church members in a July 2021 letter, “I need you to have the ability to belief me as your bishop and pastor. I really feel like one of the simplest ways to stroll in integrity now’s to step apart as this course of strikes ahead and as efforts are made to serve any survivors of abuse.”

However removed from mollifying Ruch’s critics, the investigations have solely stoked extra mistrust, with some survivors refusing to take part and three girls appointed to advocate for the victims quitting a panel appointed to assist handle the disaster on account of an absence of transparency.

Of late Ruch himself has struck a lower than penitent tone.

“Each my diocese and the ACNA received hit this summer season by a vicious religious assault of the enemy,” Ruch wrote to the denomination’s prime official, Archbishop Foley Seaside, on Jan. 14. “I imagine that is the case as a result of each entities are doing sturdy Gospel work, and Devil hates us.”

Bishop Stewart Ruch III. Photo via

Bishop Stewart Ruch III. Photograph by way of

“I’ve determined to return off of my voluntary and non permanent depart of absence efficient March 7, 2022,” Ruch introduced to Seaside. “I imagine my calling as a bishop who’s liable for main and pastoring my diocese requires me to return to my work of service, preaching and oversight.”

The continuing investigative course of, he additional stated, was neither “canonical or, extra importantly, biblical.”

Nonetheless, he advised Seaside that he’s “open to dialogue concerning the means of facilitating my return and addressing methods for repairing the injury achieved to my fame.”

Others are expressing solidarity with Ruch. In an accompanying letter, Alec Smith, who serves as Ruch’s advising chancellor, or church lawyer, argued that ACNA management had illegitimately expanded the scope of the investigations. That letter claimed the investigation had handled Ruch as if he had been “credibly accused of misconduct and was pending potential ecclesiastical self-discipline.”

“To place it bluntly, Bp. Stewart’s return to management is critical to stop the very actual threat {that a} Provincial forms will run roughshod over the diocesan integrity that’s core (to) Anglican polity,” he wrote.

Andrew Gross, spokesperson for ACNA, advised RNS in an electronic mail that the Provincial investigative course of “has been according to the Anglican Church in North America’s canons, dedicated to justice for everybody, and grounded in Biblical rules and compassion.” 

The polity, or governance, of the church is a component of what’s in query within the investigations. Rejecting the Episcopal Church’s hierarchical construction, ACNA purposely decentralized its group when it fashioned the brand new denomination, with every diocese deciding its personal guidelines. The delay in reporting Rivera’s case that prompted Ruch’s timeout, some say, could have been prevented if firmer processes had been in place.

However others say that Ruch and different leaders have made the state of affairs worse by defending the church as an alternative of attending to Rivera’s alleged victims.

Kane County, Illinois, booking information for Mark Rivera. Screengrab

Kane County, Illinois, reserving info for Mark Rivera. Display screen seize

Helen Keuning resigned from the Upper Midwest Diocese’s Bishop’s Council final month partly as a result of, she stated, of the way in which diocesan and denominational leaders allegedly solid reported abuse survivors as their enemy. Then, this week, Keuning launched Ruch’s and Smith’s letters to Seaside in a series of stories revealed on the web site of an anti-abuse advocacy group referred to as ACNAtoo.

In line with Keuning’s account, Bishop John Miller, the performing bishop in Ruch’s absence, referred to as Ruch on behalf of the Bishop’s Council to ask him to stay on depart till after the impartial investigations conclude, which drew an “irate” response from Ruch, in line with Keuning’s account. Within the run-up to Easter this month, Ruch put in a shock appearance at Church of the Resurrection and was welcomed by cheers and applause.

Keuning, who declined an interview with RNS, added that she had personally heard members of the Bishop’s Council demonize the work of ACNAtoo by charging that the group was being utilized by Devil to destroy Ruch and problem conventional views on marriage and feminine ordination.

“It is best to quick and pray earlier than you learn ACNAtoo as a result of it’s positively Devil’s work in our diocese,” Keuning wrote in describing the conversations.

She added that a number of members of the Bishop’s Council rejoiced once they realized of an account from a separate group of Rivera survivors, referred to as BelieveUsToo, who launched a statement difficult ACNAtoo’s advocacy and asking Ruch to be reinstated. 

RELATED: ACNA moves forward with investigation amid concerns from survivors and advocates

Keuning additionally revealed the contents of an April 28 electronic mail to her from Husch-Blackwell, the agency main the sexual abuse investigation, saying that any info from sources who want to stay nameless to ACNA management can’t be used to self-discipline clergy. 

The Anglican Church in North America logo. Courtesy image

The Anglican Church in North America brand. Courtesy picture

Keuning’s whistleblowing accusations have been backed up by the Rev. Gina Roes, one of many girls who resigned from the Provincial Response Group charged with overseeing the investigations. Roes revealed a post on ACNAtoo’s web site this week describing how ACNA and diocesan leaders “scapegoated ACNAtoo and the survivors for whom they advocate.”

Roes and the opposite two former Provincial Response Group members, Autumn Hanna VandeHei and Christen Value, advised RNS that they “found that there was a disturbing stage of hostility towards ACNAtoo” on the Provincial Response Group.

Roes, VandeHei and Value imagine ACNA leaders should show “humility, repentance, and a willingness to ask for, and take heed to exterior, skilled assist.” 

“The trope that the ACNA has been victimized by ACNAtoo, that ACNAtoo is Devil’s instrument despatched to assault the church should be rejected,” Roes, VandeHei and Value stated. 

RELATED: Alleged US Anglican abuse victims break with ACNAtoo and support bishop

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