November 16, 2018
Dear Friends in Christ,
In recent years the Church has become more alert to patterns of exploitation of the vulnerable at the hands of the powerful. We continue to hear news reports of how members of the Church, regardless of denomination, have either perpetrated or have implicitly condoned sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or other forms of physical and verbal violence by clergy or those who have enjoyed some privilege of gender or position. Though the Episcopal Church has put many safe-guards in place, including requiring "Safe Church" training extensively, we still hear of accounts of the pain and suffering of those who have survived such damaging behavior.
God's mission is for healing, justice, amendment of life, reconciliation and the flourishing of all God's children. I believe it has been in the life giving and truth-telling Spirit of this mission for health and life that Resolution D034 was passed at the last General Convention. This amendment to our disciplinary canon (Title IV) suspends the statute of limitations for acts of abuse or exploitation that have been committed by members of the clergy. Previous to this resolution, acts alleged to have been committed by clergy over ten years ago would be outside the time limit for Title IV proceedings. From January 1, 2019 until December 21, 2021, this limitation has been lifted. For any act alleged to have been committed against children (defined as anyone under the age of 21), there has been, and continues to be, no statute of limitations.
It is also in this spirit that St. Paul's School in Concord, along with many Episcopal independent schools, has sought to be deliberate in acknowledging their own histories of abuse. On May 4, 2019, St. Paul's will host a service of lament and forgiveness and offer a time when stories of past trespasses may be shared in the hope of Christ's healing. As bishop, I look forward to participating in this service and the continuing work it represents. I hope you will continue to keep the St. Paul's School community in your prayers.
If you have an experience to share, we are prepared to provide listening ears and pastoral care. Canon Tina Pickering and the Rev. Caroline Hines are our Title IV Intake Officers and are available to listen and respond if you have anything to share about clergy who have not upheld appropriate standards of conduct. For more information about Title IV and clergy standard of conduct, click HERE. The Rev. Louise Howlett serves as the Bishop's Assistant for Pastoral Care and is also available for support, pastoral care, and referrals if you have experienced harassment, exploitation or assault of any kind.
Faithfully Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld