I am writing to share an update with you on the Provincial processes pertaining to Bishop Stewart Ruch III. Last fall, after evaluating a breadth of evidence, a majority of the Provincial Investigative Team-UMW recommended a Presentment be considered against Bishop Ruch. A Presentment is a written document under Canon IV.4.1 setting forth specific disciplinary charges under Canon IV.2. Subsequently, on December 22 and 23, 2022 three bishops signed a Presentment charging Bishop Ruch with violations of Title IV Canon 2. After receiving the Presentment, I, in accordance with my requisite duties under the Canons, began the process of selecting a Board of Inquiry to evaluate the Presentment.
In the midst of this appointment process, on January 31, 2023, Bishop Ruch made a secret appeal to the Provincial Tribunal to declare the Presentment invalid. The Tribunal failed to give proper notice to me, the Presenting Bishops, or the Provincial Chancellors. We were not given a copy of what Bishop Ruch filed and we were not given opportunity to address the issue. We did not even know the Tribunal was involved until it issued on February 4, 2023 what it called a “stay order,” attempting to block the process and compel me to halt the process of fulfilling my canonically mandated responsibility to appoint a Board of Inquiry and referring the Presentment to it.
The Tribunal consists of seven members, four of whom have clear conflicts of interest in the related controversy and should have recused themselves prior to the Tribunal considering the petition from Bishop Ruch:
- Two members are bishops who consented to a demand for an investigation of rumors made by Bishop Ruch pursuant to Canon IV.4.2. and related to an overlapping set of facts with those involved in the Presentment.
- Both bishops were in direct pastoral contact with Bishop Ruch and the diocese over the last two years as the related investigations have been ongoing. Each has served at some point since July 2021 as his “episcopal visitor,” providing spiritual and pastoral support to him during the investigations.
- One of the bishops has also been identified by an officer of the Diocese as one of the “bishops who function as his advocates” on his behalf in interactions with the Archbishop and the Province.
- During the investigations, another conflicted individual on the Tribunal served as legal counsel to the Greenhouse Movement organization and to officers of the Greenhouse Movement who have been accused of misconduct, been subjects of the relevant investigations, and who are named in the Presentment against Bishop Ruch.
- A fourth individual’s organization received renumeration from the Diocese of the Upper Midwest for services he rendered in advising them on necessary amendments to their diocesan constitution and canons. Prior to undertaking that work, he was advised of the need to recuse himself from the Provincial Tribunal if the controversy eventually came before the Tribunal. However, he subsequently engaged in work for the diocese and yet chose not to recuse himself from the Tribunal.
That these four members failed to recuse themselves from the deliberations of the Provincial Tribunal has undermined the integrity of the Tribunal. The Tribunal has engaged in a number of significant errors since it first received the Petition from Bishop Ruch and his Chancellor, Charlie Philbrick, including, among other things, not notifying me or the Presenting Bishops upon receiving the original petition, not giving us notice or a chance to be heard before issuing its “stay order,” and participating in ex parte communications (i.e. conversations with only one party) which they have repeatedly refused to disclose.
The Provincial Chancellors, Provincial Officers, and I do not believe the Tribunal has jurisdiction at this stage of the Title IV process. I and the other Provincial Officers are grieved by the Tribunal’s attempts to usurp authority not granted to it in the Constitution and Canons and by their disregard for essential and foundational principles of Biblical justice, such as having an impartial panel and providing notice and the opportunity for both sides to be heard before taking action. Canon IV.5.7 requires that “[t]he Provincial Tribunal…shall establish [its] own procedures” which “shall be consistent with principles of fairness, due process and natural justice.” Due process requires notice and the right to be heard by an impartial tribunal.
Joined by the Dean of the Province, Bishop Ray Sutton, Chancellor Scott Ward, Vice-Chancellor Jeff Garrety and the Dean of Provincial Affairs, Bishop John Guernsey, I filed a detailed response to the Tribunal’s Stay Order on March 24, 2023. Our response challenged both the impartiality of the four conflicted members and the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. Our response expressly did not argue the merits of the claims about the Presentment because impartiality and jurisdiction are threshold issues that must first be resolved before a court can take up a case. Our response explicitly reserved the right to address the merits at the proper time.
It has been my hope and prayer that the Tribunal would reverse course. Unfortunately, the conflicted members did not recuse themselves and the compromised Tribunal has not reversed course. Yesterday, on June 6, 2023, the Tribunal denied all the motions which the Province submitted. The Chancellors, Provincial Officers, my Provincial Team, and I have worked diligently to fight against the usurpation of canonical authority and the obstruction of the Title IV disciplinary process. The Tribunal took up this matter in secret, in violation of its own rules, and in ways that appear to be affected by conflicted roles and results-driven outcomes.
I regret to inform you of this sad development and the four-month delay brought about by Bishop Ruch and the Tribunal in an already lengthy process, but as members who love this Province you have a right to know. The Title IV disciplinary process is designed so that justice might be rendered for wrong-doing, keeping in mind that one is innocent until proven guilty and yet taking seriously all accusations brought to us. It is most unfortunate that the Provincial Tribunal has sought to interfere my canonical duties as Archbishop.
You can read more in-depth analysis in our Motions to Dismiss and Disqualify here.
The Tribunal’s decision denying those motions is here.
I realize that this is a lot to digest. As appropriate, further explanatory information will be forthcoming in the weeks to come.
I ask you to join me in praying for this entire situation and all those affected. In all things we must seek the honor and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Faithfully yours in Christ Jesus,
The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church in North America