“This should alarm you”: An appeal to ACNA clergy by the Rev. Gina Roes

Below are some excerpts from a letter from the Rev. Gina Roes to Anglican Church in North America clergy concerning ACNA’s handling of sexual abuse charges. The letter was posted, by permission, on the survivor advocacy group ACNAtoo although Roes is not a member of that group. Together with two other members, Roes resigned from ACNA’s Provincial Response Team tasked with addressing those charges and the mishandling of those charges. ACNA is a group that broke away from The Episcopal Church and is not recognized by the Anglican Communion.

My Fellow ACNA Clergy,

I write to you as someone who has taken ordination vows, just as you have. I ask for your prayerful consideration to listen, in the coming days, to accounts of our denomination’s response to abuse survivors: namely, that both the Upper Midwest Diocese (UMD) and Provincial leadership have prioritized their power over truth-telling, accountability, and healing….

When sexual abuse was first reported to church leaders in 2019, as the UMD and then the Province stepped in to address the alleged mishandling of abuse, the survivors were supposed to be the focus. Their needs, as the wounded, were supposed to be paramount. And they were wounded on our watch, in our denomination, by people who fall under our umbrella. Unfortunately, as forthcoming disclosures will show, the UMD and the Province have each shifted their focus in the past months to institutional self-preservation and image management.

Autumn VandeHei (a Victim Advocate for 25 years), Christen Price (an attorney who litigates sexual abuse/trafficking cases), and I (a Professional Counselor specializing in trauma for 25 years) were selected by the Province to be the “trauma-informed experts” who would help to guide the process toward healing for survivors as the Province sought to gather information and select an investigative firm. We were tasked with ensuring that survivors were cared for and not re-traumatized.

Despite this assignment, it soon became clear that the dynamics of the PRT made it impossible for us to perform this task….

…We were standing with the survivors, trying to find the other side of the chasm to connect their needs to the healing Body of Christ. But after our resignation we were met with hostility and power plays from those who also made vows to be a bridge, but instead actively engaged in sabotaging us.

…the Province’s refusal to authorize standard parameters and practices has made it impossible for survivors to safely participate in either of the two concurrent investigations….

…The dynamics between the UMD and the Province are not collegial, and within this intra-denominational conflict, both have triangulated and scapegoated….

…Attempting to go through the proper channels to address the (at this point) multiple issues with the PRT, Autumn, Christen, and I meet with Bp. John Guernsey, the Dean of Provincial Affairs, on February 11, 2022…. After we tell him that the counseling support that was promised to survivors in November has not yet materialized, he tells us that the greatest lesson he has learned in this experience is that it is imperative to be vague with survivors. If you make specific promises that you can’t keep, then they just get angry.

As it stands, our structures inhibit justice and healing for wounded people, our official channels for accountability are broken, and those who have failed in their duty of care seem to be perpetually in a defensive stance, protected by their position of power and those in their circle of influence. It is noteworthy that five professionally credentialed women, all volunteers, have resigned citing strikingly similar concerns. This should alarm you.

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