“How about we never talk about what happened and why I feel the way I feel. We just pretend that everything is fine and I just scrub myself red every night, allowing my mind and body to retreat into oblivion. Yup sounds like the perfect plan.” ― Astrid Lee Miles, Recovering is an Art
I’m not sure of how and where to start this post. Let me first talk about Twitter. I have a number of people following me and I follow quite a few, but far fewer than the number of followers. Please do not assume that I see everything on my timeline or even in notifications. As those with busy Twitter accounts will agree, it is next to impossible for me to keep up with everything in that forum. At the same time, it is the place where I often learn information. Unfortunately in this instance, I did not see the Twitter threads. Most likely this was due to being way busier than I could have ever imagined.
What I would ask is this. Do not assume I see everything on Twitter. Also, sometimes it is difficult to follow a Twitter thread, especially an important one in which a survivor victim is describing a painful situation of abuse that involves a church or a denominational hierarchy. I apologize for not catching this situation earlier. However, as events have evolved, I am impressed by a group of people who have already impacted their denomination.
The Anglican Diocese of the Upper Midwest and abuse victims.
Here is the post that I wrote in which it appeared to me, at the time, that things were being handled. The Anglican Diocese of the Upper Midwest Makes Plans for an Independent Investigation of Their Actions Surrounding Accused Predator, Mark Rivera
As it now appears, things were not handled well whatsoever. A series of missives from Bishop Stewart Ruchs (who is both a pastor of the Church of the Rez and the leader of this section of his denomination) appeared to indicate that it was more and more likely that some of the leaders, including Bp. Ruchs, may have poorly handled the survivors/victims who reported their sad stories to them. To make matters worse, it appears that a number of members of these churches involved may have contributed to the pain of these folks. It seems that many of them adored Mark Rivera, a catechist. Marko (as he signed some emails) appears to have been a classic groomer. It is now apparent that he fooled families and the diocese.
Last night, a new update appeared on the diocese website: Bp. Stewart’s Important Letter to Diocese on Investigation He has decided to take a leave of absence.
Dear Upper Midwest Diocese,
Throughout my ministry I have sought to live in full submission to the Lord, His Scriptures, and the Church. Significant concerns have been raised about my response to allegations of abuse in our former diocesan congregation, Christ Our Light of Big Rock, Illinois. I understand that my leadership and my handling of these allegations have been called into question.
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. Therefore, I have requested permission from Archbishop Foley for a temporary leave of absence during the investigation, and he has granted that request, effective today. I am submitting myself to Archbishop Foley and the ACNA leadership. More details will be forthcoming from the Archbishop’s office and the Bishop’s Council (our diocesan board).
So what happened here? #ACNAtoo happened!
I cannot say this enough. When victims take their stories to social media, they suddenly get noticed. Heather Griffin, an ACNAtoo volunteer wrote Why #ACNAtoo? Here are some highlights.
They are joined by their advocates, friends, and current and former members of ACNA. Like #MeToo, #ChurchToo, and #SBCtoo before us, we seek to make the voices of survivors heard so we can learn from their stories and serve them well as they pursue recovery and justice.
We also seek to prevent the unspeakable pain they have experienced from ever happening again at the hands of ACNA leaders or members. We hope to always be a people that are learning and growing in wisdom in Jesus so that we can be wise in preventing abuse when possible. When a predator manages to sneak through even our most vigilant defenses and abuse tragically occurs, we want to care for survivors well and provide them with the care that they need. We also know that many ACNA members are survivors of abuse perpetrated outside of ACNA. We want to listen to them, learn from what they have to say, and serve them well.
When survivors do report abuse, we want to see policies in place to make sure that the allegations are investigated in ways that make it safe for unknown victims to come forward. We want to make sure that leaders who feel threatened by what the investigation might reveal about their own choices or those of their friends do not have control over the investigation or its final report. We want to make sure that the first concern of any diocese that receives a report of abuse is to prioritize the well-being of the survivors of abuse rather than protect the reputations of church leaders and institutions. We want our ACNA leaders to respond to allegations of abuse not as “legal challenges” but as a call to embody the character of Christ to all those involved.
…I also know that some of you are confused and are not sure who to believe. Believing the survivors might mean that you have also believed things about people that you love that you do not want to be true. The things that you are hearing from survivors may not seem consistent with the best experiences that you have of them or your knowledge of their sincere good intentions.
Please take time to read the whole letter. She speaks well.
The accusations against Rivera
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.
The victims do not wish to participate in an investigation by Grand River Solutions.
The diocese has apparently contracted with Grand River Solutions but the victims do not feel this group has the necessary qualifications. I’m inclined t agree with them. It is vital that this investigation be handled by trauma-informed investigators who are skilled at working with and caring for victims of all ages. The investigation is necessary but it must be performed by skilled organizations like G.R.A.C.E.
Following the announcement, Rudenborg and a team of survivors and advocates expressed concerns about Grand River Solutions’ investigative approach. Rudenborg said the firm lacks experience in trauma-informed care for victims and their families and has ineffective outreach strategies for finding other potential victims.
After speaking with Grand River Solutions, Rudenborg and the 9-year-old victim’s mother emailed Ruch declining to participate in the investigation.
Scot Mcknight who is ordained in the Anglican church expressed his dismay.
“It took too long to inform the churches involved, the families involved,” said Scot McKnight, an ordained Anglican and author who co-wrote a 2020 book about abuse of power in the church.
“They did not try to find all instances of sexual abuse. They did not incorporate the survivors into the process so that they would know what was going on and what was needed to be done,” said McKnight.
“I’m disheartened by ACNA at a profound level. If ACNA does not handle this case with Stewart Ruch right, ACNA will never recover,” he added.
Here is the Twitter thread by the mother of the 9-year-old child that caused me to be deeply concerned with the response of the diocese.
Here is a link to that Twitter thread.
The following is deeply disturbing to me on many levels. I called the Church of the Rez yesterday. At this point, the diocese is not commenting on anything. However, today, I sent an email to the dioceses containing three questions. One of those questions regarded the apparent support of Mark Rivera by the leaders in the diocese. It is alleged that the church/diocese assisted him in getting funding for a *good” lawyer.” I wondered if similar assistance was given to the victims.
I also asked if the diocese had folks sit with Rivera during his arrest and subsequent charges while not giving the victim’s family similar support. Perhaps this alleged action is the most disturbing of all. This appears to be the actions of a denomination that has been asleep at the wheel when the #churchtoo movement was gaining national support. They must have missed the SBC’s spanking on the world stage for their awful history of sex abuse in the pulpit. Were they merely waiting for their own embarrassing revelations? Well, here it is!
Here is the Twitter thread by joanna Laurel who was molested by Mark Rivera. (This has been shared on the RNS article as well.) Again, this causes me to think that the diocese has not been in the hands of those who truly care for the abused.
I guess what upsets me the most is the fact that this victim has to tell her story on Twitter because no one was listening at the diocese. Yesterday I called the diocese headquarters. The message on the machine said something like “I will be away until the following date.” It looked like no one was home.
There is so much more to say but this post is getting long. I’m quite sure TWW will be writing more in the days and weeks to come.
Thought for the victims
- Keep up the website.
- Love the website!
- Add stories as they arise.
- You all are incredibly brave.
- You have already made a difference. Bp. Ruchs has stepped down.
- Keep up the pressure. Say/write something each day.
- We are listening.
- Please let us know if we can help.
Thoughts. for the ACNA
- Get Scot McKnight involved and listen carefully to what he says.
- Do what Scot McKnight says.
- The ACNA is on a precipice. Make sure you take your next steps very carefully.
- Consult the victims. They know what they are talking about.
- Get real help so you can help the victims.
- Get trauma-informed specialists involved.
- Make sure that the victims have people who they can trust who are available 24/7.
- Stop sitting on the side of the abuser.
- Sit with the victims.
- Be prepared that this revelation is going to get harder before it gets better. It should have been handled much sooner.
My prayer is that the diocese will finally get it and that the victims will find some peace as they go through this heart-wrenching experience.