ACNA takes charge of investigation into handling of abuse claims

Bishop Stewart Ruch III has taken a leave of absence as the diocese’s handling of abuse allegations is investigated.(Photo: Diocese of the Upper Midwest)

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has taken charge of an investigation into the “mishandling” of sexual abuse allegations. 

A third party investigative firm was hired by the Diocese of the Upper Midwest in the spring to examine how it dealt with allegations of sexual abuse against lay catechist Mark Rivera. 

Rivera was lay leader at Christ Our Light, an ACNA church in Big Rock, Illinois, when he was accused of abusing a 9-year-old girl.

In June 2019, he was charged with felony child sexual assault and abuse, and will stand trial in the autumn. 

In a letter to members of the Upper Midwest Diocese, Bishop of the Diocese of the Upper Midwest, Stewart Ruch III, said “regrettable errors” had been made in his handling of the allegations.

“Let me begin by saying there are those who have been horribly victimized in these events,” he said.

“I desire to own where we have not served them as well as we should have and to care for any potential victims who may still come forward.” 

Ruch took a leave of absence on 8 July “to create any needed space for the Province to take next steps regarding this serious matter and to assure the people in the diocese as well as the survivors involved that there will be a transparent and independent process.”

In a letter to ACNA members, the denomination’s leader Archbishop Foley Beach confirmed the province would be taking up oversight of the investigation into the Upper Midwest diocese.

The process will be overseen by a Provincial Response Team formed of provincial leaders “committed to act with thorough professionalism and with deep care for the survivors”.

“We are prayerful and hopeful that this will help bring forth truth and confidence so healing and restoration can be facilitated,” said Beach.

“The Provincial Response Team will be responsible to select all appropriate entities for this investigation and for the care of survivors.

“The team will continue to engage with the survivors throughout the investigation and to conduct this investigation with transparency and integrity.

“The Province takes this seriously and desires to ‘walk in the light’ (1 John 1:7) and to ‘conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (Phil. 1:27).”

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