29 June 2021
Beloved Upper Midwest Diocese:
I am writing to give you an update on the ongoing independent investigation that I announced to you in this pastoral letter several weeks ago about a heartbreaking situation in one of our former congregations in Big Rock, Illinois.
As some of you may be aware, one of the survivors recently spoke about this on social media, identifying herself as a victim of sexual violence and raising important questions and concerns about the diocese’s investigative process related to Mark Rivera.
Let me first say that I and our diocesan leadership continue to be deeply grieved and disturbed that anyone within our diocesan community has been victimized. This is an extremely painful, traumatic experience. We long for our diocese to be a place of true safety for all.
Not only that, but we are committed to responding to any allegations of abuse within any of our churches in a forthright, godly manner that involves the proper authorities, holds leaders accountable, and protects and honors victims. To that end, we started a process of researching independent review firms in January.
My goal in this letter is transparency: about our decisions, our processes, and my commitment to learn from my mistakes as a leader.
Let me speak to the independent review. As you know, the diocese has contracted with an independent firm, Grand River Solutions (GRS), and asked them to carry out a thorough review. After researching and interviewing seven different firms, our diocesan leadership team appointed a leader to select one of these firms. This leader chose GRS for its responsiveness, past work with victims, and professional reputation. I was asked to step aside from this important decision to avoid any conflict of interest.
I want to speak to the concerns that have been raised about the firm’s process, concerns that I can imagine some of you may share.
First, 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.
Second, our agreement with the investigative firm is that the diocese will not assert any privilege over the report nor make any edits to it.
Third, the scope of the investigation is diocesan-wide, and will include any shortcomings of the diocese.
Brothers and sisters, the primary goal is to provide a safe opportunity for any other victims to come forward. We also desire to understand how the church made mistakes and to take responsibility. Finally, GRS will evaluate all our safety practices and make recommendations as to how those practices can be improved.
I want to reiterate what I said several weeks ago, that I deeply apologize for not notifying the diocese earlier of the abuse that took place. I mistakenly assumed that the legal system would bring about justice much faster. I was ignorant of the additional steps we should have taken to create a safe haven for victims to come forward. I am very sorry for this.
That said, I am grateful for the immediate steps that were taken. Mark was removed from his lay leadership position at Christ Our Light Anglican in Big Rock, and the church was made aware of the accusations. Local authorities were immediately contacted on multiple occasions with new information and safety concerns. We have sought and continue to seek to care for victims.
Like many of you, I was very concerned by some of the claims made about our care. This is precisely why we think it is so important to submit ourselves to a third-party investigation.
I look forward to a broad investigation that will reveal how we can improve. We desire truth and submit ourselves to this process. We are open to the findings and their applications, striving to learn how to prevent such abuse in the future as well as the best way to provide a clear and safe process for victims to come forward.
We as a diocese will continue to provide updates on this process. Due to the current proceedings of both the criminal investigation and independent review, there may be some details that I am unable to comment upon until the final report is released, but I will strive to share as much as I am able.
If you or someone you know may have been harmed by Mark, or if you have any concerns or information connected to this investigation, we encourage you to contact the independent firm at Reports@GrandRiverSolutions.com to make a confidential and safe inquiry. If you have general questions or concerns, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
With much love,