Episcopal Church congregation told not to report complaints to press amid bullying

MEMBERS of the Episcopal Church’s clergy and congregation who have suffered injustices have been urged not to speak to the press and to file complaints internally.

The Anglican Church of Scotland is currently mired in a bullying scandal over allegations that the Very Reverend Anne Dyer, Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, tormented a younger member of the clergy so much that he would have contemplated suicide.

The Scottish Episcopal Church’s college of bishops responded to the incident by acknowledging that people in its northeastern diocese had gone through “deep distress”.

It was reported by The Times that the group urged people with complaints to engage in a mediation process with Dyer or raise concerns through its “established processes.”

Serious concerns were flagged about Dyer’s conduct and the finances and governance of his diocese in a 122-page report that was sent to the charity watchdog.

The file contains allegations of “blatant” intimidation by Dyer who pushed one of his subordinates to the limit.

Henna Cundill, a former trainee priest who eventually left to join the Church of Scotland, said: ‘I became very concerned in 2020 when someone expressed suicidal thoughts.

In a statement, the college of bishops said, “We recognize that some in the diocese have experienced deep distress.

“We would like to make it clear that anyone affected who feels aggrieved in any way is offered appropriate pastoral care and that claims of wrongdoing are properly reported and addressed.

“We are encouraged that the Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney and others in the diocese have engaged in the mediation process and we are confident that this is helping with healing and reconciliation.”

The college of bishops also said it was “very disappointing” that details of the complaint to the Scottish Charity Regulator had been reported by the press.

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“We strongly urge anyone with complaints to engage in the mediation process or submit allegations using the church’s established processes,” the statement added.

Church employees said Dyer made their work lives intolerable.

The Reverend Isaac Poobalan, rector of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Aberdeen, said Dyer’s behavior gave him nightmares.

In a written communication, he said: “My health and well-being have been stretched to the limits of my ability to cope.”

Poobalan was suspended via email after being accused of failing to give “absolute obedience” to Dyer before an internal investigation reinstated him.

Employee testimony said: ‘Anne Dyer resorted to open mockery of this individual, berating him in front of others and opposing any ideas he suggested.

“Their skills and abilities were undermined almost daily.”

Another said: ‘On several occasions I have had to provide support following events that could have been categorized as bullying.

In 2021, the church refuted the bullying allegations which had been reported by The Times as “unsubstantiated and anonymous allegations”.

A few weeks later, the church commissioned an independent review which was conducted by Professor Iain Torrance, a former Church of Scotland moderator.

Torrance’s report found Dyer overseeing a culture of “systematic dysfunction” and “bullying” and called for Dyer’s immediate removal from his post.

The findings were rejected by the church’s seven bishops, including Dyer, and instead endorsed mediation.

Martha J. Finley