Anglican Bishop Removed as Clergy Call for Transparency in Investigation

While the ACNA hasn’t offered public updates on a trial for Stewart Ruch’s abuse response, Todd Atkinson, a bishop appointed to assist him, has been deposed over inappropriate relationships.

Nearly three years ago, Bishop Stewart Ruch of the Anglican Church in North America’s Diocese of the Upper Midwest admitted “regrettable errors” in handling sexual abuse allegations against a lay minister, before taking a leave of absence. An acting bishop took over the diocese and another ACNA bishop, Todd Atkinson, was tapped to assist him.

But Ruch’s absence hasn’t quelled the simmering controversy in the diocese, a sliver of the small, theologically conservative denomination that split from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada in 2009 over those two denominations’ acceptance of LGBTQ clergy and marriage for same-sex couples.

On Monday, a group of ACNA clergy published an open letter expressing concern that there have not been public updates about a promised church trial for Ruch since November 2023. The letter pushes for regular updates on the trial’s progress and for information about why Ruch has not been inhibited, or limited in his duties, because of his alleged laxity in the past.

On the same day, Atkinson, the assisting bishop, was removed from ordained ministry after a church trial found he had engaged in inappropriate relationships with women and interactions with minors.

Atkinson’s misconduct dates back to at least 2012, six years before he joined ACNA, according to the church court’s order. In 2014, Atkinson began overseeing a Canadian church planting initiative called Via Apostolica that was later grafted into ACNA’s Diocese of the Upper Midwest in 2020. The church court found Monday that Atkinson repeatedly fostered exploitative relationships with multiple women under the guise of being their “spiritual father.”

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