Report to the House of Bishops
Rt. Rev. Gordon P. Scruton, Diocese of Western Massachusetts
August 5, 2003
On Monday, August 4, 2003 the Bishop, the President of the Standing Committee and the Bishop-elect of the Diocese of New Hampshire asked the Presiding Bishop to investigate two matters concerning the Bishop-elect which had come to light Sunday evening. The Presiding Bishop asked me to conduct the investigation, the focus of which was to determine if either or both of the concerns raised constitute cause for further investigation and thus sufficient reason to postpone the process of seeking consents to the election of the Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ and our Canons require us to hold each other accountable for our character and behavior. The Episcopal Church has clear policies in place to guide our response in such instances. These policies ensure that truth can be pursued and respect and care can be shown for all parties involved.
B. First Concern
Late Sunday evening, August 3, 2003, an adult member of a Vermont Episcopal congregation sent an E-mail to the Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, Bishop of Vermont (attached). The E-mail stated that “I am a straight man reporting homosexual harassment by a gay male priest from another Diocese.” Bishop Ely contacted the individual that evening, and the following morning to inquire further about the concern being raised and to assure the individual that the Church takes such concerns seriously. The individual then indicated to Bishop Ely that he had sent the E-mail to many bishops. Bishop Ely then informed the Bishop of New Hampshire and the Presiding Bishop of the concern being raised.
On Monday afternoon I spoke by speaker phone with the individual in the presence of Bishop Ely, his Chancellor, Thomas Little, and the Rev. Hays Junkin, President of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of New Hampshire.
I asked the individual to tell the story of his experience that caused him to raise his concerns. According to the individual, the events took place at a Province I convocation in November of 1999, at Mont Marie Conference Center in Holyoke, Massachusetts. There were two exchanges between the individual and Canon Robinson at the convocation.
In the first, the individual was seated at the beginning of a plenary session. As Canon Robinson was passing by him, the individual asked Canon Robinson a question about the order of events or the schedule or convocation procedure, or something of that nature. Canon Robinson put his left hand on the individual’s arm, and his right hand on the individual’s upper back as he listened to his questions and answered them. This incident was in public view and was brief. The individual said Canon Robinson answered his questions and spoke no inappropriate words. The second incident occurred later in the convocation, while the two were standing in proximity. During a light moment in the convocation, the individual turned to Canon Robinson to make a comment. In response, Canon Robinson touched the individual’s forearm and back while responding with his own comment.
The individual then described to me the feelings he had during these two exchanges. He said that in his opinion, Canon Robinson’s placement of his hands seemed inappropriate to him, given that they did not know each other, and presumed a far greater familiarity or intimacy than was the case. The individual said these incidents made him feel uncomfortable. He said he has never said anything to anyone about this, but did mention it to his wife but not at the time. He acknowledged that other people could have seen the exchange as natural and normal.
He said he had not thought that the House of Deputies was going to consent to Canon Robinson’s election, and when he learned consent had been given, he found himself late Sunday night needing to tell someone of his experience. He observed that when he wrote the E-mail, he was feeling upset, in part because he expected his concern to be brushed under the rug. He thought the Church would close ranks and not listen to him. I asked him whether he wanted to bring a formal charge of harassment. He said very clearly, no. He regretted having used the word “harassment” in his E-mail.
The Title IV disciplinary process for priests was then explained to the individual, and I asked him again if he wished to proceed to file a written complaint. Again, he indicated that he had no desire to pursue the matter any further. He said he was thankful the Church has taken this seriously, and that he felt “listened to.” He also indicated that he was not seeking any personal attention or notoriety, and regrets that it has been taken this way by some.
Bishop Ely knows the individual and is maintaining ongoing pastoral contact with him and his family, both personally and through their parish priest.
C. Second Concern
The second focus of my investigation involved concerns about a pornographic web site. Two bishops brought the website to the attention of the parliamentarian of the House of Deputies who reviewed the material and contacted the Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop on Sunday evening.
The concern expressed has been the involvement or lack of involvement of Canon Robinson with the website. The website in question could be reached through a link from the Concord, New Hampshire Chapter of an organization known as Outright. Canon Robinson has referred to his involvement with this organization in his resume, which is on the Diocese of New Hampshire website. He has also referred to his involvement with that organization in hearings during this Convention as an example of his work with youth.
In my investigation I have consulted with Canon Robinson and I have reviewed the website of Concord Outright. At the formal request of an American Anglican Council representative who this morning provided the Presiding Bishop with a disk prepared on August 2nd, I have reviewed a down stream link site which showed graphic sexual materials. I have also had communications from Outright in Portland, Maine where the web site is based, and from representatives of Outright in Concord and I have carefully reviewed them.
What appears to be beyond dispute is that Canon Robinson helped to found Concord Outright in 1995. Investigation shows that the organization was founded to provide support and counseling for young people concerned about their sexuality. Canon Robinson’s role in the Concord Chapter of Outright was primarily to provide training to insure that appropriate boundaries were observed for the protection of both young people and those working with them.
Canon Robinson ended his involvement in Outright in 1998 and has not been associated with Outright since that time. The web site was established in 2002. Canon Robinson was not aware that the organization has a website until this Convention. The response of Outright emphasized to me that Canon Robinson has had no part in the creation of the website.
I see no evidence that Canon Robinson was aware of or associated with the website or its contents.
In both allegations, it is my conclusion that there is no necessity to pursue further investigation and no reason on these grounds to prevent the Bishops with jurisdiction from going forward with their voting about whether or not to consent to Canon Robinson’s Consecration.
The Standing Committee of the Diocese of New Hampshire concurs in these conclusions and continues to seek the required consents.