“Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar.” C. S. Lewis”
Bishop Ruch of ACNA faced accusations surrounding his apparent delay in dealing with the allegations of abuse by Mark Rivera.
I wrote in July 2021: The Anglican Diocese of the Upper Midwest Was Outplayed by #ACNAtoo and Is Finally Forced to Deal With Abuse Victims in Their Midst.
Religion News Services/Bob Smietana posted Prominent Anglican bishop takes leave of absence amid ongoing accusations of mishandling abuse allegations. He takes a look at the accusations.
Bishop Stewart Ruch III of the Anglican Church in North America’s Upper Midwest Diocese had known since 2019 that former lay minister Mark Rivera had been charged with felony child sexual abuse. But he did not tell people in his diocese about the abuse allegations until last month — which Ruch has called a “regrettable error.”
…At least 10 survivors’ allegations of abuse by Rivera have been reported to the diocese since 2019, with allegations including rape, assault, child sexual abuse and grooming.
According to a letter from Ruch in May, Rivera attended Church of the Resurrection — the diocesan headquarters — in Wheaton, Illinois, from the mid-90s until 2013. According to one victim’s mother, he also served as a prayer minister, preschool volunteer, youth leader and small group leader.
From 2013 to 2019, Rivera was lay minister at Christ Our Light Anglican, an ACNA church plant in Big Rock, Illinois, many of whose founding members were from Church of the Resurrection.
Bishop Ruch was also accused of creating an authoritarian subculture.
Things are not going very well over at The Anglican Church of North America (ACNA.) In January 2022, I wrote; Spiritual Abuse: Looks Like The ACNA Is Also In On the Game #ACNAtoo which seemed to indicate an authoritarian bent on the part of Bishop Ruch.
It appears Bishop Ruch Stewart, a key figure in this mess, speaks for The Holy Spirit.
Former church members say the allegations are an indictment of an authoritarian culture that originated with Ruch.
“There’s this emphasis on the supernatural that enforces specifically the authority of Bishop Stewart in his position of speaking for the Holy Spirit,” said Harrison. “Whether deliberately or not, it is set up to support the idea that Bishop Stewart is the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit to this church.”
One couple tried to understand a decision in which they were not chosen for a position. It appears to me that they were attacked instead of supported and understood.
In a follow-up meeting at the Ruchs’ house, Stewart Ruch allegedly instructed John to apologize to Damiani for questioning his decision, suggested John was idolizing church planting and said he and Jenna were too dependent on one another in their marriage. Ruch did not address the Perrine’s concerns about the hiring decision.
Many victims are not pleased with the ongoing investigation.
Ruch was put on a leave of absence while ACNA tried to figure out what happened. However, the victims were not happy about how the supposed independent investigation was being handled. Kathryn Post of
ACNAtoo Religion News Service wrote a post for Christianity Today: Survivors Remain Skeptical of Anglican Diocese Investigations.
Survivors of abuse were given information about how to contact two firms, Husch Blackwell and Telios Law Firm, that will conduct parallel investigations into sexual abuse and abuse of ecclesiastical power, respectively. The denomination also furnished a number for ACNA’s confidential support hotline and said that there is a fund to assist sexual abuse survivors.
But the announcement did little to answer accusations from a group called ACNAtoo and others that the investigations do too much to protect the church. It comes weeks after three of eight people appointed to a Provincial Response Team to oversee the sexual abuse investigation resigned, saying the team’s process “never felt survivor-centered.”
Toxic culture should not happen in a church that started because of the toxic culture in the Episcopal Church from which they split.
This post, written in February 2022, observed that Bishop Ruch was accused of creating a toxic culture of submission and control.
Others have said Bishop Stewart Ruch III, who has been on a leave of absence since July, and other church leaders created a toxic culture of submission and control at Church of the Resurrection, the diocesan headquarters.
This caused me to become quite angry. When I went to an Anglican church in my area after leaving my SBC church over what I considered the mishandling of an enormous sex abuse scandal that hurt many teen boys. I was still holding onto the remnants of her Pollyanna phase and thought, “Surely the Anglican Church will understand. Look how hard it was for them to function within the Episcopal church. They left and set up a new church system, one I thought was based on lovingkindness.” Instead, I got a swift kick to the dupa. It appears that there was an authoritarian culture in that church as well.
How does a group of churches which fought so hard to “do it right” become those who do it wrong, especially when it comes to abuse?
Is it any wonder the investigation isn’t being supported by some survivors and members of the Response Team?
It appears that some survivors do not trust the investigation:
A woman named Holly who is another alleged victim, and who also asked to keep her last name private, has likewise declined to participate in the sexual abuse investigation. “ACNAtoo has been fighting for a safe investigation on my behalf and the ACNA has chosen to completely disregard the wishes and requests of many of Mark’s victims, including mine,” she said.
Some have resigned from the Provisional Response Team.
Recent resignations of three ACNA Provincial Response Team members have only added to her concerns about participating in the investigations.
Autumn Hanna VandeHei, Gina Roes, and Christen Price resigned on January 17 and, in a public letter, said the Provincial Response Team had dismissed their recommendations about being sensitive to survivors in public communications and failed to promptly deliver financial assistance to victBishop Ruch does a 180 and appears to view survivors as “the enemy.”
Bishop Ruch does a 180 and now appears to view the survivors as enemies from Satan.
Dee, the original Daughter of Stan (sic), shakes her head. Once the “Satanic attacks” approach is used, one can be sure that the survivors are viewed as poop on the bottom of shoes that needs to be cleaned off. Religion News Services posted ACNA bishop, alleging ‘spiritual attack,’ makes appeal for his return.
Initially, Ruchs showed us his contrite side. He was worried he was in trouble.:
When he went on leave, Ruch appeared contrite, telling church members in a July 2021 letter, “I want you to be able to trust me as your bishop and pastor. I feel like the best way to walk in integrity now is to step aside as this process moves forward and as efforts are made to serve any survivors of abuse.”
Now, we see the real Ruchs.
Both my diocese and the ACNA got hit this summer by a vicious spiritual attack of the enemy,” Ruch wrote to the denomination’s top official, Archbishop Foley Beach, on Jan. 14. “I believe this is the case because both entities are doing robust Gospel work, and Satan hates us.”
“He who Satan hates” now wants a comeback.
“I have decided to come off of my voluntary and temporary leave of absence effective March 7, 2022,” Ruch announced to Beach. “I believe my calling as a bishop who is responsible for leading and pastoring my diocese requires me to return to my work of service, preaching and oversight.”
He says the ongoing investigation is not biblical™.
The ongoing investigative process, he further said, was neither “canonical or, more importantly, biblical.”
He says his reputation has been damaged. Will there be legal action soon?
I always worry when people say, “My reputation has been damaged.” Threats of potential legal action often follow it. Keep an eye on this one.
Nonetheless, he told Beach that he is “open to dialogue about the process of facilitating my return and addressing strategies for repairing the damage done to my reputation.”
And, don’t say I didn’t tell you. Here is a statement by Ruch’s church lawyer.
In an accompanying letter, Alec Smith, who serves as Ruch’s advising chancellor, or church lawyer, argued that ACNA leadership had illegitimately expanded the scope of the investigations. That letter claimed the investigation had treated Ruch as if he had been “credibly accused of misconduct and was pending potential ecclesiastical discipline.”
Acting Bishop John Miller, obviously trying to calm things down, asked Ruchs not to come back yet. Ruchs was not amused.
Go to minutes 21-22:30 from the “appearance” link below to see the church happily inviting Ruchs and his family to come to services at the church. Given the applause, it appears his comeback is imminent.
According to Keuning’s account, Bishop John Miller, the acting bishop in Ruch’s absence, called Ruch on behalf of the Bishop’s Council to ask him to remain on leave until after the independent investigations conclude, which drew an “irate” response from Ruch, according to Keuning’s account. In the run-up to Easter this month, Ruch put in a surprise appearance at Church of the Resurrection and was welcomed by cheers and applause.
There appears to be hostility towards victims by some in the ACNA leadership, which does not bode well for victims.
Roes and the other two former Provincial Response Team members, Autumn Hanna VandeHei and Christen Price, told RNS that they “discovered that there was a disturbing level of hostility toward ACNAtoo” on the Provincial Response Team.
Roes, VandeHei and Price believe ACNA leaders must demonstrate “humility, repentance, and a willingness to ask for, and listen to outside, experienced help.”
“The trope that the ACNA has been victimized by ACNAtoo, that ACNAtoo is Satan’s tool sent to attack the church must be rejected,” Roes, VandeHei and Price said.
- The investigative process is not going well and may need to be revamped. I suggest that the leadership approach G.R.A.C.E.
- Ruchs is poised for a comeback before the process is complete.
- Victims are right to be concerned.
- Who is the “Guy on the White Horse” that can deal with this? Is there a real leader to be found?
- ACNA must remember it’s roots. Do not do to victims what the Episcopal Church did to them.
- ACNAtoo is providing a valuable resource.
Was it Helen K. who mentioned G.R.A.C.E. had been approached but was going through it’s own troubles with restructuring and couldn’t take the case?
Helen K.’s reports gave me chills. When someone stands and speaks truth to power with clarity, knowledge and grace, it’s stunning and humbling.
As someone on Twitter noted: “If the @The_ACNA can’t be home to someone such as Helen, is there a home here for me?”
ACNA leaders have been asked again and again to hire GRACE. It was the only firm one group of survivors trusted. ACNA hemmed and hawed and said it was under consideration. Helen reports that GRACE was in the midst of a reorganization last summer and did not reply to queries from ACNA, which is one reason they chose a different firm.
How sincerely they were considering GRACE is unknown, and now there is a conflict of interest b/c Boz Tchividian, founder and board member of GRACE, is representing one of the survivors in a lawsuit against the ACNA.
However hearsay suggests some in ACNA thought GRACE was too $$$ and slow when they investigated the ex rector of St Peter’s, a FL ACNA church, some years ago.
IMHO, they never were seriously considering spending money to hire outside help and likely still won’t now.
From the OP: “Once the “Satanic attacks” approach is used, one can be sure that the survivors are viewed as poop on the bottom of shoes that needs to be cleaned off.”
Raised by a nurse, and my kids aren’t so far out of the diaper stage that the memories have faded, so forgive my clinical view, here.
Poop may make a stink, but it also tells us when something is wrong with the body. If someone in a body of believers is making a stink, it behooves leadership to ask “why” before jumping to conclusions.
It was Helen K. for about G.R.A.C.E. not being available when initially asked though her knowledge is second hand. https://www.acnatoo.org/acna-witnesses/bc-resignation-reason02
Also in part 4:
“Our UMD Canons and Bylaws were seen as an outlier by the ACNA (see the denomination’s Canons here for reference) and were very unique in the absolute power that they delegated to the Bishop.”
At the end of ACNA announcement of the firm that was chosen, they say that GRACE was not chosen because the founder, current board member, and fundraiser is representing the family of one of the victims. There is a conflict of interest. https://anglicanchurch.net/firm-hired-to-investigate-allegations-of-misconduct-in-upper-midwest/
Rachael Denhollander has also been discussed as someone who could help the ACNA Provincial leadership.
In two of my former ACNA churches, there was an underlying attitude that they were “special” and oh, so right.
I’m glad you didn’t put his picture up here this time. The eyes told me everything from the start. He is the real boss of ACNA because he negotiated his own separate canon laws. “Robust gospel” is merely one of those movable slogans.
I was a little surprised to read Bishop Ruch’s statement and find that it used ten or a dozen of the same words and phrases used by every other religious Big Cheese when he’s defending his power and his ego.
The reason I was surprised is that it seems as if, by now, the Big Cheeses should recognize that they sound like a Babylon Bee parody and should come up with some new expressions so as not to be so ridiculous.
Just to be blunt here, ACNA started because the Episcopal Church-USA, decided it was OK to ordain gay and lesbian persons. It’s not the first outfit to separate over such a thing, there’s a church near my mother’s that became part of the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) after the ELCA did the same thing. My personal opinion–and only my personal opinion–I couldn’t attend a church that decided to split over LGBTQIA people.
What did dp to them? The Episcopal Church did what was needed to retain ownership of the properties that each diocese legally owns – based on a structure and legal precedent going back before the first Washington administration. (In the the Epsicopal church, the parish does not own the property, the diocese does; when an entire diocese left, they took their own church properties with them, without challenge.) In one significant instance, as soon as the Episcopal church won the rights to the property it already owned, they immediately leased the larger new facility to the new group. My own parish also went through this division, and we remain on good terms, members cross-serving within each others’ organizations, participating in small groups, attending each groups major services, and sharing as before some important local ministries. The Episcopal church didn’t do anything to them – other than winning in court when necessary the right to retain the properties they already owned.
Odd error. Let’s start over:
What did *the Epsicopal church do* to them? The Episcopal Church did what was needed to retain ownership of the properties that each diocese legally owns – based on a structure and legal precedent going back before the first Washington administration. (In the the Epsicopal church, the parish does not own the property, the diocese does; when an entire diocese left, they took their own church properties with them, without challenge.) In one significant instance, as soon as the Episcopal church won the rights to the property it already owned, they immediately leased the larger new facility to the new group. My own parish also went through this division, and we remain on good terms, members cross-serving within each others’ organizations, participating in small groups, attending each groups major services, and sharing as before some important local ministries. The Episcopal church didn’t do anything to them – other than winning in court when necessary the right to retain the properties they already owned.
Regarding the “He Who SATAN Hates” card (from a veteran of The Satanic Panic):
Like Bob Larson, “SEE HOW HOLY and GODLY I AM????? SATAN Himself personally singles ME out as his Mortal Enemy!!!!!”
Look Holy F-tard, the RL model of Sauron and Morgoth has bigger fish to fry than personally persecuting YOU. A psychopath of an Archangel has a bigger goal than that, no matter how petty his psychopathy. Just like his ego had bigger goals than making Goodwife Prudence’s cow give sour milk in 1692 Salem.
THEIR EGOS WON’T LET THEM.
“TOUCH NOT MINE ANOINTED!!!!!”
(Wasn’t this “Satan” guy they preach about also known for a Big Ego? And the resulting inability to let go of anything that stroked that Ego?)
“Bishop Ruch does a 180 and now appears to view the survivors as enemies from Satan.” (Dee)
Looks like Mr. Ruch has made Satan’s Hit List!
I’m sure he would think (like Robert Morris) that any reference to this by the media or in the blogosphere would also be an attack from Satan because he has been such a stellar Christian leader:
“I have to say this, um, I’m really concerned about how much time people spend on the Internet. I’m extremely concerned about it. Extremely concerned about it; here’s one thing, just even the blogs that mention Christian leaders, and I’m one of ‘em. Praise the Lord, I’ve made the Satan, Satan’s hit list now you know …” (Robert Morris)
I’ve wondered the same. I think asking for a referral from GRACE would be a reasonable request.
Right? They might as well just go ahead and admit that they think they are entitled to do whatever they want.
The whole Easter appearance was a bold defiance of the Province.
By Divine Right.
“BECAUSE I WANNA, GOD HATH WILLED IT!”
“Toxic culture should not happen in a church that started because of the toxic culture in the Episcopal Church from which they split.”
Please tell us just what you think the toxic culture was exactly.
Thank for setting story straight.
Muslin, fka Dee Holmes,
You are correct about root cause of split.
It almost seems as though they have a handbook that they all follow. Quite weird.
Church of the Resurrection Wheaton separated from the Episcopal Church because of those issues even before ACNA was formed. It was first independent and had been part of the AMiA (before the leadership blew up). CotR had a ministry of healing “sexual brokenness.” https://americananglican.org/diocese-chicago-deja-vu-20-years/
There is a long history of doing what they want.
Kathryn Post is actually a Religion News Service reporter, not part of ACNAtoo.
I belong to an ACNA church, and I’m beyond disgusted by all of this. I don’t even want to go to church when our bishop visits. Not sure if there are enough good men left in the denomination to replace these awful bishops! (I know they won’t consider a female bishop.)
“The Devil Made Me Do It” – Flip Wilson. There’s one of his skits on YT about how the Devil made a woman buy a dress. It’s basically, the Devil made me do this, the Devil made me do that, all the way to the Devil made me sign your name on a check to buy this dress. Something to think about.
[Adopting world-weary tone:]
In another case, the nouveau Anglicans locked the Episcopalians outside, and hung a new sign over the churchyard without consulting the dead buried out back. Neighboring Protestants let the Episcopalians worship in their church basement for a few years, until the courts eventually ousted the nouveau Anglicans.
My advice about schisms: Just stick together and solve your problems, folks. No need to demonize anybody. Yeah, you might be all high-n-mighty over not ordaining teh gayz, but I have seen the Forces of Purity engaged in back-stabbing, gin-swilling, infidelity, and robbery of their own children’s bank accounts. Try personal repentance before you impose it on others.
Various pugs are inspecting my reply, which I’m sure will be just as excellent as if I had removed my shoes and X-rayed my keys before writing it. However, I did not take those precautions, and so my words were pulled aside for a private canine interview.
Gosh, the suspense! 🙂
“Stupidity, fear and greed are the 3 great forces that rule the world!” Einstein
The fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control.
Supposedly a church is the outward expression of the Body of Christ in a community.
When it’s not, it’s not. The Body of Christ.
What do we then do? In our case, move on. When church leadership steps out of fellowship with God, for us, there’s no point.
They might as well be any other org in the community except now they misrepresent who they are. They are not the Body of Christ. Deception. (If my book club stopped reading books, I’d stop attending.) They’ve have lost their way. And we’re not going there with them.
Jesus, “Empty tombs.”
Goodbye. They can do “their thing”, whatever that may be. Without us. We’ve lost interest.
I’m simply repeating their own words for why they left. I theorized that those who left due to the perceived culture would attempt to be extra kind to those who are abused or those who suffered under a difficult church. Given that it appears not much has changed, I am led to believe that there were problems on all sides.
Do you remember that silly od song “I’m Henry the 8th I am?’ After singing the shot stanza, it would say “2nd verse same as the first, a little bit louder, a little but worse” For some reason, I thought of that when answering this.
A general comment about disagreements and schisms. Some churches place undue emphasis on Matthew 18, using it to concentrate power and silence dissent.
What if they switched over to Matthew 10? Give the message, and simply shake the dust off your sandals and leave if people are not receptive. Let God sort it out.
I guess leaving quietly is for us little people.
Or maybe we are squabbling about things that will not bring down God’s wrath upon those who disagree.
I am heartened to hear what’s happening in your parish. Any time two groups have to resort to the courts to resolve difference, people tend to get irritated with one another. This leads to feelings “getting hurt” and people doubling down for the win.
I am a believer in going to the courts to resolve differences. This is not what many think given Scripture’s admonition to resolve this internally. Sadly, internally rarely works when there is a gulf between parties.
One of these days I think I’ll write an illustrated Sunday school book called My First Schism, so kids will know what to expect, as well as how to recover and how long that might take.
I’m not quite joking about this. Church disputes are terrible for children. If I seem super animated about this topic, it’s because I went through a multi-year schism as a young teen in a Protestant church (not Anglican by any stretch). Grownups at coffee hour wanted me to take sides against a pastor who was helping me through a very difficult time at home.
Since he was a good guy, they accused him of attempting to teach difficult concepts in obscure foreign languages, like defining the word agape. He quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Why, he once preached an entire sermon on the theme of reconciliation!
The schismatics succeeded in driving the pastor to resign. They simply could have left, in the style of Matthew 10:14. After the resignation, every pastor for miles knew that a faction in the congregation had mistreated our pastor. It took many years for the place to attract well-rounded, hard-working pastors.
Eventually the congregation did recover. I actually spent years worrying that any pastor I appreciated was going to be driven off by an angry coffee hour mob.
Good idea – do it! I suggest you include a chapter “What Is Church & What Isn’t Church.” Even adult churchgoers could benefit from such instruction.
I truly believe that one of the greatest obstacles folks face in going to church is remembering the hell their parents went through in church … contention, angry business debates, severed relationships over disagreement about jots and tittles, etc.
A Treatise Concerning Scandal by James Durham, a Scottish Covenanter, is well worth a read.
It is so hard to see what is going on with the leaders. I have had to miss some important occasions because there was a bishop involved.
Yes, religious burnout is a real ailment … it occurs when a churchgoer is in a place that is exhausting rather than refreshing in the presence of the Lord. The key is to get out before you burnout. “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together” was not meant for a contentious people. Instead: “I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not be a partner in her sins.”
Doesn’t this sound like the same dynamic you get in a bitter divorce, where each feuding parent tries to weaponize the children against the Other? And if the child resists this in any way, he/she is One Of Them and thus fair game?
Headless Unicorn Guy,
Too many churches confuse the public and the private. If leaders are abusive or dishonest, that certainly needs to be documented and exposed. But if a random member’s marriage is in trouble, or their children are struggling, the answer is private counseling, not public exposure and confession.
There are no guarantees that a particular structure or approach is safe. Still, I’m grateful to have belonged to churches that have corporate confession or private confession, rather than show trials and testimonies.
“I have the Absolute Right to do Anything to Anybody.”
— Caesar Caligula
Is the ACNA overall run poorly or is it just some problem churches? I left an ACNA church over some things I didn’t like (long story) and then a scandal (unrelated to the things I had a problem with) was in the news and I thought, wow, things are worse than I knew. It all soured me on wanting to try another ACNA church – it is probably unfair but I’m really burned out.
Today, there was a lawsuit filed against Christ Our Light Anglican for negligence related to child sexual abuse allegations. Several other entities are respondents including the Upper Midwest Diocese and the ACNA.
There are some good ACNA pastors and churches- I think mine are pretty healthy. The national leadership definitely needs an overhaul, though. Hopefully the lawsuit will open their eyes.