By Kirk Petersen
Neva Rae Fox, the chief spokeswoman for the Episcopal Church for more than a decade, apparently left her employment abruptly Wednesday, for reasons that have not been made public.
Senior leaders at the church center did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and Fox could not be reached. Fox’s contact information was deleted on Wednesday or early Thursday from the staff directory and communications office pages on episcopalchurch.org.
Lisa Webb, associate officer for public affairs, is now listed as the primary contact for public affairs. She also has not responded to inquiries, and her automatic email reply describes her as “currently unavailable.”
The action comes just days after Fox was in London with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to handle the avalanche of media attention related to his sermon at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The sermon attracted enormous attention around the world, and was the highest-profile event for the church in years. Media coverage of the presiding bishop has been overwhelmingly favorable, and is continuing at a rapid pace.
The departure also comes six weeks before the start of the church’s 79th General Convention, a 10-day extravaganza that occurs every three years. General Convention is the governing body of the 2 million-member church, and is often a source of continuing debate.
Fox was appointed to the position of staff officer for public affairs in 2007, after seven years as communications director for the Diocese of New York. She is well known throughout the church’s far-flung communications community, having worked with dioceses and Episcopal organizations throughout the country.
Her name appeared every day in the contact information of Daily Scan, an email compilation of news stories about the church. No Daily Scan was published on Thursday, and the edition on Friday was from the Office of Public Affairs.
Last year Fox began a three-year term as one of more than 40 members of the Living Church Foundation. She is not on the eight-member board of directors, who are elected by the foundation members at annual meetings.
Fox has led the church’s communications efforts at General Conventions in 2009, 2012, and 2015. This year’s convention will consider requiring that all dioceses distribute a wedding liturgy for same-sex couples and allowing such ceremonies, over the strong opposition of about a dozen bishops. The 2015 General Convention approved the liturgy for trial use with the permission of the local bishop diocesan, and such marriages are permitted in 93 dioceses across the United States.
Other hot-button issues at convention will include a proposal for a comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer (1979); examination of the church’s disciplinary process for bishops, priests, and deacons; and a dispute between the two governing bodies — the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies — on whether the president of the deputies should be compensated for what has always been a volunteer position.
The 2018 convention will be held in Austin July 5 to 13, but some meetings will begin on July 3.
Update: In a May 29 email to Episcopal Communicators, the Rev. Canon Michael Hunn acknowledged that Fox no longer works for the Episcopal Church. He provided no further information about the circumstances of her leaving.