(RNS) — As a Dalit woman on the lowest rung of India’s traditional caste system, Roja Suganthy-Singh grew up viewing the church as a haven where grace was extended to all, regardless of caste differences.
Today, the institution no longer represents safety for Suganthy-Singh. “I don’t know when I will be able to sit in a church and feel normal again,” she told Religion News Service. “That was robbed of me.”
In June, Suganthy-Singh’s two adult sons, Nivedhan and Eklan Singh, made allegations on social media that their father, the Rev. Prince Singh, the Episcopal Church’s provisional bishop of the dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan, was guilty of physical abuse, alcoholism and emotional abuse.
Suganthy-Singh and her sons are calling for Prince Singh, who they say is unfit to serve as clergy, to step down or be pushed out of his position. They also have asked for an investigation into the response to their allegations by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the primate of the denomination, and Bishop Todd Ousley, who heads the denomination’s Office of Pastoral Development. The Singhs say both bishops mishandled their allegations.
Prince Singh is voluntarily participating in a Title IV investigation, an internal disciplinary process for Episcopal clergy accused of misconduct.
In a June 30 video update to his diocese, Prince Singh said, “While I cannot control the outcome, it is my firm belief that this thorough examination will determine that I have not broken my vows in ordination, or my adherence to the canons. I know I have not done the things my sons report.”
In a statement to RNS, Curry acknowledged the suffering of the Singh family and committed to discerning a way forward “in love and justice.”
“We were heartbroken to receive the email detailing abuse and other concerns in December, and our immediate focus–in addition to pursuing comprehensive evaluation options regarding Bishop Singh and considering the disciplinary process of Title IV–was on how we might help family members heal,” Curry wrote. “We should have communicated more, and more effectively, with the family about all that we were considering, which may have alleviated some part of the suffering.”
Spokespeople from the Episcopal Church and for Singh’s diocese told RNS they could not comment directly on an ongoing TitIe IV investigation.
As a priest in New Jersey and later bishop of Rochester, New York, from 2008-2022, Prince Singh was a charismatic, beloved leader known for dynamic preaching and for serving alongside his then-wife, Suganthy-Singh. “There was always a presentation that they were doing really well, happy and on the same page,” said one former parishioner.
When Prince Singh sent an email in February 2021 to thousands of clergy and laypeople announcing that he and Roja had “mutually decided to end our marriage,” it was a shock.
“After some intentional therapy and marriage counseling, Roja named the truth that our marriage is over,” the email said. “While it was difficult to absorb initially, upon further reflection, I agreed with her.”
For their sons, however, the letter immediately rang false: The desire for divorce was not mutual, they said. Suganthy-Singh had agreed to a temporary separation for her physical and emotional safety, Nivedhan said, only after their father had demanded a divorce with increasing frequency in recent years.