Anglican Bishop Faces Church Trial For Mishandling Sex Abuse Claims

A bishop in the Anglican Church in North America is heading toward a church trial as he has been accused of mishandling allegations of sexual abuse and spiritual abuse.

ACNA announced on Tuesday that Bishop Stewart Ruch III of the Anglican Diocese of the Upper Midwest, which is based in Wheaton, Illinois, will face an ecclesiastical trial.

This decision came via a Board of Inquiry that investigated a presentment, or a written document laying out charges filed by multiple clergy, submitted in June. The presentment will next be sent to the Court for the Trial of a Bishop, according to ACNA.

A public declaration issued Tuesday states that, in the judgment of at least two-thirds of the Board of Inquiry, there is probable cause to bring Ruch to trial for violations of Canon IV.2.3, Canon IV.2.4, and Canon IV.2.9. Specifically, he is being tried for violating ordination vows, “conduct giving just cause for scandal or offense, including the abuse of ecclesiastical power,” and “disobedience or willful contravention” of denominational bylaws.

In a statement, Ruch said he is “thankful” and “relieved that there will be an occasion to hear all sides and gain some resolution after two years.”

“Please bring your concerns to your clergy, vestry, or parish councils, who will offer care in every way possible. I am so thankful for your faithfulness in praying for healing for all and for the Lord’s leading during this painful season,” Ruch stated.

“Please pray for everyone involved in these proceedings. And pray that, in the meantime, our diocesan churches receive God’s blessing as they continue to carry out their Gospel work.”

In June 2021, ACNA was informed that there had been an “erosion of trust in the Diocese of the Upper Midwest due to allegations that the Diocese mishandled accusations of sexual misconduct.”

One prominent example was ACNA lay leader Mark Rivera, who was arrested and eventually found guilty of multiple charges of sexual assault, including against his 9-year-old goddaughter.

Issues over how the diocese handled the allegations led to the creation of ACNAtoo, a watchdog group centered on abuse survivors and their advocates within the denomination.

ACNA hired Husch Blackwell LLP to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct in the Upper Midwest Diocese.

The report revealed that Bishop Ruch believed it was law enforcement’s responsibility to uncover criminal conduct, and the church provided pastoral care. Ruch returned to office in October.

ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach accused Bishop Ruch of making a secret appeal to the Provincial Tribunal to declare a presentment against him invalid.

The Tribunal failed to provide proper notice, and a stay order was issued on February 4, 2023. Beach accused four of the seven tribunal members of having clear conflicts of interest and accused them of usurping authority not granted to them in the Constitution and Canons.

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