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Title IV Charges Revealed as PB Election Nears

Less than two weeks before the scheduled election of the 28th presiding bishop, the church has disclosed disciplinary cases involving three of the five candidates.

The first indication something was amiss came in a letter posted by one of the candidates, Bishop of Central New York DeDe Duncan-Probe, on the morning of June 13. The letter on her diocesan website disclosed that a Title IV complaint had been filed against her, related to the way she described one of her graduate degrees.

She opened her message by indicating she was not alone, writing: “today a letter is being released detailing Title IV complaints against nominees for presiding bishop.” Hours later, Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry co-signed a letter describing five unrelated complaints against three of the candidates. In addition to Duncan-Probe, they are Bishop of Pennsylvania Daniel Gutiérrez and Bishop of Atlanta Robert Wright. Three of the Title IV cases have been dismissed.

The two other candidates for presiding bishop are Bishop of Nebraska Scott Barker and Sean Rowe, who is Bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Bishop Provisional of Western New York.

The election is scheduled for June 26 at the 81st General Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. The House of Bishops will choose from among the candidates, and then the House of Deputies will hold an up-or-down ratification vote. The new presiding bishop will serve a nine-year term.

Title IV already promised to be a major subject of debate at General Convention.  A legislative committee has been holding hearings on more than two dozen resolutions seeking changes to the labyrinthian Title IV process, which is widely considered to be broken.

One concern has been that Title IV is subject to “weaponization” for ideological or other purposes. Three of the five complaints described in the announcement were filed after the initial candidate slate was unveiled on April 2.

The announcement of the complaints was signed by Curry and by Vice President of the House of Bishops Mary Gray-Reeves, who serves as “Title IV Presiding Bishop-Designate” in cases where Curry recuses himself.

Bishop of Central New York DeDe Duncan-Probe

The announcement describes two complaints against Duncan-Probe, only one of which is active. A December 2023 complaint by a person the bishop did not permit to continue in the discernment process for ordination was dismissed February 20 by the intake officer, at the earliest step in the Title IV process. The dismissal was upheld March 21.

The active complaint was filed anonymously on May 5, less than three weeks after her nomination was announced, following a dramatic series of events.

Duncan-Probe was widely believed to be on the short list for presiding bishop candidates before the slate was unveiled on April 2, but she was not included in the initial announcement.

The fact that there were no women on the initial slate caused considerable online consternation, and Duncan-Probe was quickly nominated by petition, as announced April 16.

Duncan-Probe’s biography on the diocesan website says she has “a Doctor of Philosophy degree in theology from The Graduate Theological Foundation, completed at Oxford University.”

Some observers challenged this as misleading, noting that the current GTF website describes the Oxford part of the program as a two-week summer course.

“Although the program that Bishop Duncan-Probe successfully completed to earn her PhD in Theological Studies more than a decade ago looks similar to what GTF offers now, there are differences,” Communications Director Rachel Ravellette told TLC by email. From 2011 to 2013, “each summer she was on-site for three to six weeks meeting with her tutors and taking classes. She returned for eight weeks for her doctoral thesis research and writing. Between her trips to England, she completed online coursework with tutors and advisors throughout the year.”

Graduate Theological Foundation is a degree-granting institution headquartered in Sarasota, Florida. According to the website, GTF “does not hold accreditation from a Department of Education approved accrediting agency.” A voicemail message to the foundation was not returned.

“Although GTF was the degree-granting foundation, all of my coursework, research, and defense was completed through Christ Church at Oxford, being tutored by Oxford faculty,” Duncan-Probe wrote to her diocese. “As part of the affiliation, my papers and projects were assigned, assessed, and graded by the faculty at GTF.”

Bishop of Pennsylvania Daniel Gutiérrez

Gutiérrez also was named in two Title IV complaints, one of which is active, the other dismissed. Both were filed after his candidacy was announced.

Although his active complaint was filed anonymously June 5, it is related to a 2021 matter in which Gutiérrez was criticized for his handling of allegations of sexual misconduct against a priest in the diocese.

“As others have already noted, the timing of this filing is curious,” Gutiérrez wrote in a letter to people in a variety of leadership positions for the diocese. The letter was provided to TLC by his spokesperson, Jennifer Tucker.

Just six days after the anonymous complaint was filed, “The reference panel referred the matter for investigation on June 11, 2024,” just two days before the announcement from Curry and Gray-Reeves. A reference panel is the second stage in a Title IV complaint, after the intake officer, either of whom have the authority to dismiss a case outright if they deem it not credible.

Another anonymous complaint was filed against Gutiérrez on May 15, regarding a priest in the diocese who felt too harshly treated in a prior Title IV case. “The reference panel decided on May 28, 2024, to take no action other than appropriate pastoral response, and the matter was dismissed,” Curry and Gray-Reeves wrote.

Bishop of Atlanta Robert Wright

In March, TLC reported that the former head of a racial-reconciliation center affiliated with the Diocese of Atlanta accused Wright of an “abuse of power” for allegedly usurping authority over the center.

Catherine Meeks, the founding executive director of the Atlanta-based Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing, said Wright abruptly halted the search for a new executive director after two finalists had been identified for a second round of interviews.

Wright said “it became clear that the Center would benefit from additional clarification around its organizational structure, financial sustainability, and the scope of the executive director’s role. I made the decision to pause the process in order to focus on this work.”

Meeks filed Title IV charges against Wright for “ageism, ableism, microaggressions and abuse of power,” none of which are terms mentioned in the canons governing discipline for clergy. Wright said he was notified in February that Title IV charges had been dismissed, and the letter from Curry and Gray-Reeves confirmed that.

[June 14 update] Wright told TLC through a spokesperson that in keeping with the presiding bishop’s intention of balancing confidentiality with transparency, Wright was releasing an excerpt from the official statement by the president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops: The allegations “suggest a challenging relationship between two gifted and powerful leaders but do not demonstrate instances where Bishop Wright acted beyond his authority or otherwise committed an offense… this matter is hereby dismissed.”

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