Photo by Lynette Wilson • Episcopal News Service
An ecclesiastical court of the Episcopal Church is looking into allegations involving the Rt. Rev. Jean Zaché Duracin, Bishop of Haiti, according to church staff.
The case pending before the church’s hearing panel does not involve allegations of financial misconduct, according to Neva Rae Fox, public affairs officer. She did not say what the charges entail.
Duracin is the second Episcopal Church bishop with a case pending before a church court. The other is the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles, whose pending trial will assess three types of allegations, including whether he acted deceitfully when evicting St. James the Great parish in Newport Beach and attempting to sell the multimillion-dollar property.
Bishop Duracin’s case might or might not involve misconduct. Church courts also investigate other allegations, including civil matters, doctrinal offenses, and abandonment of the Anglican Communion, said Mark Duffy, director of the Episcopal Archives.
Since 2000, six bishops have been deposed on charges of abandoning the Anglican Communion. Only two have gone to trial for misconduct.
The investigation into Duracin’s behavior comes as the Episcopal Church takes a closer look at its relationships in Haiti. Among the concerns: insufficient tracking of where funds donated for construction end up.
“We are reassessing Haiti,” said Director of Development Tara Holley at the June meeting of the church’s Executive Council. “We are revising the MOU [memorandum of understanding]. We’re looking for accountability, for transparency, for leadership, thoughtful reporting, accurate reporting and job descriptions. We’re looking at all of these pieces of project management that will make things in Haiti run more smoothly.”
Duracin, 69, has served as been Bishop of Haiti since 1993. His diocese is the largest in the Episcopal Church, counting 83,700 members and more than 100 congregations.
In June, the Episcopal Church imposed a moratorium on what had been an active, multimillion-dollar fundraising push to support projects in Haiti. The pause came after a donor rescinded a $5 million gift to Haiti. The donor instead gave only $700,000 to help rebuild St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children, which had been reduced to rubble in the earthquake of 2010.
To suspend fundraising and try to improve financial controls marks a rare and laudable step for an organization involved in supporting Haiti, said Dan Beeton, director of international communications at the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research. The center monitors charity projects through its watchdog Haiti Relief and Reconstruction project. The moratorium also raises questions about what might have become of donated funds, he said.
“There are probably some very interesting reasons why they felt they needed to do that,” Beeton said. “It’s pretty unusual.”
At meetings in the past year, Executive Council’s Joint Standing Committee on World Mission has three times closed its doors to the press and public for more than an hour to address issues in the Diocese of Haiti. Allegations of financial misconduct were not discussed in those sessions, said committee member Marion Luckey.