Pastoral Letter from Bishop Rickel on Suspension of Statute of Limitations for Clergy Sexual Misconduct

To all the good people of the Diocese of Olympia,

This past summer, at our General Convention in Austin, Texas, the Episcopal Church took historic and much needed steps in addressing past abuses by clergy toward lay persons and  other clergy in the church.  For far too long there has been too much silence, and often misdirection, when persons in our church were brave enough to bring such allegations forward. I am writing this letter, and asking that it be read in every congregation,on Sunday January 6th and/or January 13th,  in order to make you aware of the implementation of one specific resolution from General Convention, namely, D034, which called for the lifting of the statutes of limitations as spelled out in Title IV.19.4 of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church specifically as it relates to sexual misconduct of clergy. That three year period of suspension begins on January 1, 2019 and will run until December 31, 2021.

While the canon in question, and all the wording of D034, is attached to this letter and available on our diocesan website, the bishop’s blog, and in hard copy for anyone who wishes to have it in that form, the basic result of this suspension is that any allegation against a cleric in this Church for acts of sexual misconduct may be brought forward in this three year window regardless of any prior invoking of a statute of limitations. In short, you do not have to wonder if the allegation comes from too long ago.

In our diocese, the Intake Officer for such allegations is the Rev. Canon Joan Anthony. She can be reached at the Diocesan Office or by simply emailing her at janthony@ecww.org. She can also be contacted directly by phone by calling the diocesan office. If, for any reason you do not feel comfortable reporting this to her, you may also report to the Canon to the Ordinary Marda Steedman Sanborn, your local cleric, any diocesan staff member, and finally the bishop himself. Keeping your confidentiality, especially in the early phases of any allegation and investigation, is our duty.

While I am in complete support of this measure, and voted for it at General Convention, I also want to make clear that since the moment I walked through the doors of DHouse to become the 8th Bishop of Olympia, whenever this particular clause regarding statute of limitations has arisen, my response has always been, “there is no statute of limitations in the Body of Christ.” This has been our policy for the past nearly 12 years and will remain so even beyond this 3-year suspension. Also attached to this letter is the letter on this topic addressed to the church, from the President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings, and our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. I urge you to read that too.

There is yet much more work to do on this topic. Our diocesan convention passed a resolution at our most recent convention which calls for the creation of a Task force on Sexual Harassment in our diocese. At our upcoming clergy conference all of these topics will be a major focus of our time together, including input from clergy on the make up of the Task Force. I invite anyone in the diocese, clergy or lay, to also offer your input on the creation of this committee. You will be hearing much more about all that, and many other topics in the days to come.

I want to summarize that this resolution, as well as our diocesan policy, has as its goal to break down every possible barrier to reporting an allegation of sexual misconduct in this church. As President Jennings and Presiding Bishop Curry said so well in the end of their letter, I will end this one. May this resolution and other steps help “our church move closer to the day when, having repented of our sins and amended our common life, we may be restored in love, grace and trust with each other through our Savior Jesus Christ.”

Please pray for all those affected by misconduct, and pray for our Church. I remain your faithful servant.

The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel
VIII Bishop of Olympia

Complete text of Resolution D034 can be found here: https://www.vbinder.net/resolutions/D034?house=hb&lang=en

Letter to the Episcopal Church from the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies
 
Statue of Limitations Suspension for Clergy Sexual Misconduct Begins 
January 1, 2019
 
[December 12, 2018]
 
Dear People of God in the Episcopal Church:
 
Nearly a year ago, we issued a call for the church to examine its history and come to a fuller understanding of how we have handled or mishandled cases of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse through the years. In particular, we asked to hear voices from the wider church at General Convention so that deputies and bishops might consider both how to atone for the church's past and shape a more just future. As followers of Jesus of Nazareth, as children of God with all people, we could do no less, and we must do more.
 
In July, General Convention considered 26 resolutions and one memorialaddressing  issues the #MeToo movement has brought to light, many of them developed by the House of Deputies Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and Exploitation. One of these resolutions,Resolution D034, suspends for three years the canon (church law)  that places a time limit on initiating proceedings in cases of clergy sexual misconduct against adults. There is no time limit on reporting clergy sexual misconduct against children and youth under age 21.
 
As a result of this resolution, from January 1, 2019 until December 31, 2021, those who wish to bring a case of sexual misconduct against a member of the clergy will be able to do so, regardless of how long ago the alleged misconduct occurred. Allegations of misconduct can be made to the intake officer in the diocese where the alleged misconduct occurred, or, if the allegation is against a bishop, to the Office of Pastoral Development. You can learn how to reach the intake officer in a diocese by checking its website or calling the bishop's office.
 
We hope that this temporary suspension of the statute of limitations will be one way for the church to come to terms with cases of sexual misconduct in our collective past. Between now and General Convention in 2021, laypeople, clergy and bishops appointed to several task forces created by the 2018 General Convention will be working on other ways of addressing these issues, including a process to help the church engage in truth-telling, confession, and reconciliation regarding our history of gender-based discrimination, harassment and violence.
 
We are grateful to the many deputies, bishops and other volunteers across the church whose careful work before, during, and after General Convention is helping our church move closer to the day when, having repented of our sins and amended our common life, we may be restored in love, grace and trust with each other through our Savior Jesus Christ.
 
Faithfully,
 
The Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry                      The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
Presiding Bishop and Primate                        President, House of Deputies