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Upper Midwest ACNA Bishop Takes Leave of Absence Following Revelations of Sexual Abuse

Upper Midwest ACNA Bishop Takes Leave of Absence Following Revelations of Sexual Abuse

By David W. Virtue, DD
July 9, 2021

Stunning revelations of sexual abuse and child sexual abuse in the Anglican Diocese of the Upper Midwest (ACNA) by an Anglican layman have forced Bishop Stewart Ruch to take a temporary leave of absence.

In a letter to his diocese, Ruch said significant concerns had been raised about his response to allegations of abuse in his 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 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." Ruch said that ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach had granted his request.

A group Letter of Lament and Solidarity from some 40 ACNA women clergy to survivors of abuse in the Diocese of the Upper Midwest expressed their support to those and other survivors of abuse. https://virtueonline.org/group-letter-lament-and-solidarity-acna-women-clergy-survivors-abuse-diocese-upper-midwest

"We appreciate your vulnerability and bravery and seeking help and protection. We grieve with you, and are praying for your healing and recovery from trauma, and commit to advocate for you and all of those who endure sexual abuse. We hear you and want you to know you are not alone. As you navigate the coming months, know that you, the other survivors, and the entire Diocese have our constant prayers."

Bishop Ruch was not implicated in the sexual abuse. He pointed the finger at Mark Rivera, a layman. Survivors raised issues of sexual violence allegedly committed by Rivera.

The bishop said the diocese has contracted with an independent firm, Grand River Solutions (GRS), and asked them to carry out a thorough review. "I was asked to step aside from this important decision to avoid any conflict of interest."

Ruch said the full report will be made public and will protect victim identities. "Our intention in hiring GRS has always been transparency and we plan on a full public release of the report in keeping with that intent. We seek to walk in the light. Our agreement with the investigative firm is that the diocese will not assert any privilege over the report nor make any edits to it."

Ruch said the scope of the investigation is diocesan-wide and will include any shortcomings of the diocese.

Investigative journalist Julie Roys of the Roys Report, that exposed Ravi Zacharias, shared a statement announcing the departure of Father Eirik Olsen from the board of directors of The Roys Report (TRR). Olsen, who is part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), is helping to manage a sexual abuse case in his diocese. One of the victims has accused Olsen of being complicit in protecting the perpetrator.

The Roys Report quoted Joanna Laurel, a survivor who accused former lay leader Mark Rivera of raping her and sexually assaulting others. The report says this victory is a small one.

On June 26, Laurel posted an extensive Twitter thread documenting Rivera's abuses and implicating multiple ACNA leaders, including Bishop Stewart Ruch III, in mishandling the allegations against Rivera. After Laurel posted her thread, the Rev. Dr. Esau McCaulley responded, tweeting, "A brief note to say that @Tish_H_Warren and I are aware of the sexual abuse allegations in our province and we are in communications with our Bishop about them. We stand with and support all victims of abuse."

The Rev. Tish Harrison Warren also sent a tweet, saying, "...Thank you to the victims for their bravery in coming forward. May we all do right by you. We stand with and support all victims of abuse. Amen."

In her explanation of why this victory feels hollow, Laurel said, "Five different times in our email correspondence with the Bishop's team we asked for the investigation's final report to be made public. FIVE times. There may have been more. I do not have the emotional capacity to dig through more emails right now to check...Every time he put us off and evaded commitment. Then, on June 29, one man with public clout and social standing was able to get Bp. Stewart to make this basic, obvious commitment that a whole team of survivors and advocates couldn't extract from him despite months of begging."

Laurel said she is grateful for McCaulley's advocacy, but she is not grateful that it took a church leader with influence for someone in power to listen to survivors:

"Bp. Stewart ignored 5 pleas to make the final report public. He made no mention of a public report in his May 4 announcement [see below]. He ignored our polite requests. He ignored our grieving, emotional appeals. His new update implies that publicizing the report was always the plan. It was not always the plan. If it had been he would have told us when we asked...There is so much more, but I am weary. I have been at this for months, day after day, holding it together, setting aside my deep, raging sorrow in order to do the work of truth and justice. I am utterly exhausted."

A number of angry bloggers have tried linking Bishop Ruch who chaired a Taskforce to develop a Pastoral Statement on Same Sex Attraction & Identity with the current sex abuse charges, but there is no connection or direct link between the two.

For more click here: https://religionnews.com/2021/07/13/acna-leaders-to-take-over-abuse-investigation-in-upper-midwest-diocese-foley-beach-stwewart-ruch-bishop/

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