Let’s face it. No one’s ever accused the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia at being good at peacemaking, or for that matter, of having much common sense. Between property disputes, the recent ruckus with the Trustees of the Funds, the Title IV debacle at St. Thomas’ in McLean (one of the great examples of how not to handle clergy discipline of all time), and its never-ending dispute with me, about all you can say is that the diocese hires good law firms.
But if the diocese were smart, it would bring in an outside expert, particularly apropos the toxic quagmire that is Grace Episcopal. Specifically, I would recommend that it bring in the Rev. Robin Hammeal-Urban, expert on Title IV, for a stem-to-stern look, both at Grace Church and at Title IV as implemented in the diocese.
Right about now, I can hear you saying, “But you’re the only person who thinks that Grace is toxic.” But the reality is that John Cunningham left for that very reason, as have a great many others. And no matter how you parse it, the plummeting number of pledging units and declining Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) contradict the notion that Grace is a slice of paradise, just waiting to be discovered.
Part of the problem is that the Diocese has no concept that it must radically change to survive. The good old days of laissez-faire supervision of clergy are over. Moreover, having spent many years in litigation, the diocese is far too beholden to JP Causey and his legal advice. While the latter may be sound from a purely legal perspective, JP has no concept of restorative justice, or what non-sexual abuse is. As far as I can tell, his motto is, “Protect the organization at all costs, and damn the members.” I have seen that play out repeatedly, beginning with the mishandling of my case, continuing through the St. Thomas debacle, and more. After all, any diocese that can say perjury by clergy is not actionable under Title IV absent a criminal conviction is a hot mess and morally bankrupt.
So what would Robin bring? The answer is a fresh perspective, a knowledge of how things are supposed to work, an understanding of restorative justice, and the need to care for the people who make up the church.
As things stand, the diocese is utterly broken, from the hot mess that is Mayo House, to Susan Goff, to the ethical mores held by its clergy. Absent a sea change, the diocese will collapse of its own rot, and that will happen sooner rather than later. And the more tightly the diocese holds onto the past and refuses to confront reality, the faster it moves towards collapse.
As for the diocese’s slow-moving, cumbersome, iterative visioning process and racial reconciliation, we had the racial reconciliation listening sessions in 2015. The fact that five years later the diocese finally is doing something with the results is just embarrassing. In fact, at this pace, this may well be one of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia’s final initiatives before it collapses within the next 30 years.