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Alleged US Anglican Abuse Victims Break With ACNAtoo and Support Bishop

Booking photos of Mark Rivera. Photos courtesy of Kane County Sheriff’s Office

(RNS) — At least four self-identified survivors of abuse by Mark Rivera, a former Anglican Church of North America lay minister, spoke out against ACNAtoo, the anti-abuse advocacy group that has advanced charges against Rivera since last year, saying in a statement released Saturday (March 12): “ACNAtoo does not speak for us. We would like to be heard for ourselves.”

Shared via a new Twitter account called BelieveUsToo, the statement asked ACNA’s archbishop and College of Bishops to reinstate Bishop Stewart Ruch III of the church’s Diocese of the Upper Midwest, who began a leave of absence in July after saying he made “regrettable errors” in handling the allegations.

The BelieveUsToo statement said Ruch and the Upper Midwest Diocese have been unfairly blamed for Rivera’s abuse, and also claimed ACNAtoo co-founder Joanna Rudenborg is “unfit” to be a victim advocate.

ACNAtoo launched in June 2021 as Rudenborg made rape allegations against Rivera, who had already been charged with multiple counts of felony child sexual abuse and sexual assault. The group accused Ruch of delaying public disclosure of the allegations and asked for an independent investigation into the diocese’s handling of the case. In January, a designated response team named a law firm to lead it.

But days later, three members of the response team in charge of victim care — and who were not employed by ACNAresigned, saying the team had “downplayed” abuse survivors’ needs. ACNA proceeded with the investigation and announced a parallel investigation into abuse of ecclesial power through a separate firm. At least five survivors have declined to participate in the investigation after the denomination refused to waive attorney/client privilege or disclose its contract with the firm.

ACNAtoo responded to the BelieveUsToo statement in a statement of its own on Tuesday, saying “We believe you, #BelieveUsToo,” adding, “We’re grieved at the trauma you’ve experienced from Mark Rivera’s abuse and we are heartbroken by the ways you are still suffering.”

ACNAtoo went on to note that abuse survivors often disagree about what justice ought to look like. “One of our core principles is that we refuse to treat other survivors as adversaries, no matter what. When survivors publicly fight, abusers win,” the ACNAtoo statement said.

In an email to Religion News Service, Andrew Gross, spokesperson for ACNA, said ACNA was “thankful for the courage of the BelieveUsToo survivors who chose to go public last week and for all survivors who are working to build up the Body of Christ.”

The new group alleged that Rudenborg “abetted Mark Rivera in the abuse of a member of Church of the Resurrection” by allowing him to use her apartment for “sexual encounters” with one of the alleged victims who signed the BelieveUsToo statement and by affirming Rivera’s sexual relationship with the victim as “good and acceptable.”