The Diocese of the Upper Midwest recently shared these Frequently Asked Questions on its Investigation HubPage:
What is the investigation about?
Two separate investigations regarding our Diocese and overseen by the Province are underway:
Investigation into the Handling of Allegations of Sexual Abuse
In 2019, allegations of sexual abuse arose concerning a lay leader of a former church in our Diocese, Christ Our Light, of Big Rock, IL. This lay leader, Mark Rivera, was arrested by the authorities and removed from all church leadership positions. In late 2020, allegations of further abuse by Mark Rivera were revealed. The Diocese engaged a third-party investigative firm to investigate the matter in 2021. Last summer, at our request the Province took on oversight of the Diocese’s investigation into the handling of this situation. They turned the investigation over to a new firm, Husch Blackwell, in February 2022, and this investigation is currently underway.
Investigation into Abuse of Ecclesiastical Power
In the summer of 2021, complaints were made regarding aspects of the Diocese’s leadership and certain clergy member’s pastoral practices. The Diocese and the Province desire to lead a comprehensive process to assess the concerns that have been brought forward. The Province selected Telios Law firm to receive and review allegations of abuse of ecclesiastical power.
Why is the investigation taking so long?
The complexities of the matter have necessitated a careful and thorough process that has taken longer than we hoped.
How long will criminal proceedings for alleged sexual crimes involving Mark Rivera take?
The charges are being processed in the Kane County justice system. We don’t know or have any influence over how long this will take. Please join us in praying for justice to be carried out by the criminal courts.
Why hasn’t the Diocese said more regarding allegations concerning past volunteers, staff, and clergy?
We do not want to impede the investigation and cause further harm to any persons by making premature judgements or public statements regarding the allegations. While we wish this process were faster for all involved, we believe a thorough investigation will help bring about justice and healing. In addition, it is not our practice to disclose publicly the confidential details of individual pastoral situations. While considered and intentional, this approach has been difficult for many.
Why is Bishop Stewart taking a leave of absence?
Bishop Stewart is on a temporary, voluntary leave of absence which began in July 2021. He personally requested this leave in order to allow the Province to carry out an impartial and thorough investigation concerning his and the Diocese’s oversight of allegations of sexual abuse by a lay leader of the former congregation, Christ Our Light of Big Rock, IL.
Bishop Stewart’s voluntary leave of absence is not disciplinary or punitive. It is a procedural reality that allows appropriate space for a third party investigation into our Diocese’s response to allegations of sexual abuse within our congregations.
When will Bp. Stewart be returning?
We don’t know.
Who is providing care and leadership for the Diocese during Bp. Stewart’s leave of absence?
The Bishop’s Council is the standing committee of the diocese. It provides ecclesiastical authority in organizational leadership, vision, and budgets during Bishop Stewart’s requested leave of absence. Acting Bishop John Miller is serving the Diocese in Bp. Stewart’s absence. He has episcopal authority to carry out pastoral care of clergy and liturgical functions, including ordinations and confirmations.
What is the Diocese doing to protect parishioners and the vulnerable?
First and foremost, we believe that abuse of any kind has no place in the body of Christ and are heartbroken by stories of individuals who have suffered abuse within the context of the church.
The Bishop’s Council seeks to strengthen our Diocese for the long-term via three task forces:
- A Child Safety Task Force that will collaborate with diocesan churches as we seek to protect the most vulnerable in our communities
- A Response Team Task Force that will develop an external team and procedures for handling concerns or allegations unrelated to the current investigation
- A Constitution and Canons Task Force that will review our governing structures
Why is the second investigation firm, Husch Blackwell, necessary when the Diocese had already engaged Grand River Solutions?
In the spring of 2021, Diocesan leaders hired an investigative firm, Grand River Solutions, with the express desire of assessing how the Diocese responded to the initial abuse allegations against Mark Rivera. They did so as a result of their conversations with alleged survivors and with the hope of reaching out to any other potential victims and to learn how to better care for survivors of abuse in the future.
When the Diocese handed the process over to the Province in July 2021, the Province decided to lead their own effort of ensuring that alleged survivors could participate in the choice of an investigative firm. Some alleged survivors did not want to participate in the GRS investigation because they did not agree with the choice of GRS.
The majority of survivors who chose to participate in the selection of the Province’s investigative firm voted for Husch Blackwell along with all the members of the Provincial Response Team. (The PRT was tasked with selecting an investigative firm.)
What are the next steps after Husch Blackwell’s investigation?
As the Province states on its website, “The contract with Husch Blackwell stipulates the release of a ‘full public report that redacts names and identifying details to protect survivors and witnesses as appropriate.’ Husch Blackwell will release the report, and it will be relayed by the Anglican Church in North America through public communication channels upon reception.” Further, “the Provincial Investigative Team will make recommendations for potential canonical charges (see ACNA Constitution and Canons Title IV).”
You can find related updates from the Diocese on the Investigation Hubpage here, and additional answers to frequently asked questions on the Province’s website here.