Wilcoxen, who is now a rector at a parish in Sydney, Australia, and noted he doesn’t speak for current Rez leadership, said he thinks the investigation was stacked against Claire. Even so, he added, Claire was technically “cleared” by the investigation because it didn’t uncover a canonically actionable offense.
The reported survivors maintain the investigation didn’t result in actionable charges because spiritual abuse is not explicitly in the canons. However, they argue, this doesn’t mean Claire should evade accountability. Their letter says Claire should be charged with “conduct giving just cause for scandal or offense, including the abuse of ecclesiastical power or financial malfeasance not otherwise actionable,” among other charges in the Christ Our Hope canons.
After the first investigation was deemed insufficient, the diocese eventually hired a second firm, Grand River Solutions, to assess the diocese’s handling of the abuse allegations against Claire.
Since then, reported survivors say the diocese has dismissed questions and denied requests to show them the contract between the dioceses and GRS. They add that Breedlove has not answered whether the confidential information survivors provided for the previous investigation will be used in the subsequent investigation, or whether the new investigative report will be made public. And while they say Breedlove was supposed to present an admonition against Claire on March 18, the nature and content of that admonition is unclear.
“At no point was justice for us as victims front and center,” one former Rez employee said. “It’s just been the institution looking after itself and its own, and that’s what’s been most hurtful, overall.”
The open letter takes issue with the fact that Claire has remained in his current position and says the diocese “has failed to mitigate the risk of abuse to additional people,” all while “new victims have come forward.”
For his part, Wilcoxen said he believes the situation is “a case of very normal, relational conflicts and dysfunctions” within a church environment that have “been put into the prism of this vague category of spiritual abuse, and this notion of believing victims.” These concepts have been weaponized to prevent the conflicts from being appropriately addressed, according to Wilcoxen.
The reported survivors pointed out that 10 survivors came forward in the initial investigation and that Wilcoxen hasn’t spoken directly with any of them about their accusations.
“It is of course expected that there would be conflicts and misunderstandings between pastors and parishioners, or between pastors and their staff,” said a former employee in an email. “However, the nature and pattern of the conflicts and difficulties experienced with Dan by numerous people, over many years, fall far outside those general parameters of expected conflict.”
Christ Our Hope isn’t the only ACNA diocese to be grappling with abuse allegations. For months, the Upper Midwest Diocese has been working to address allegations of ecclesial abuse and sexual abuse. ACNAtoo launched in June 2021 as a platform to hold ACNA leaders accountable for all forms of abuse.
“Spiritual abuse is worthy of attention and accountability because it is incredibly destructive,” ACNAtoo advocate Abbi Nye told RNS. “Since it is tied to how people view God and how God views them, it can be crippling in every aspect of life. It leaves its victims debilitated and despairing, even cut off from their God.”
The ACNAtoo open letter requests that, in addition to apologizing to victims and holding Claire accountable for his “alleged sins,” the diocese publicly release the contract it signed with GRS and share the full investigative report at the request of reported victims who were involved in the investigation.
“This is the most messed up situation regarding a church I’ve been part of, but God can make this new,” said one former Rez member. “We would shed tears of joy if there would be a turnaround and people would apologize, start this over, listen to us, hold themselves accountable for what has happened. We are so ready to forgive … but for that to happen, there needs to be repentance.”
This article originally appeared here.