Friday, February 3, 2012

Canadian Anglican priest returns to the pulpit after serving time in prison for indecent assault--and then resigns in the wake of negative publicity

Now the overseer is to be above reproach,
He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
I Timothy 3:2a,7 (NIV)

"Rev." Wayne Lynch may be qualified for leadership by the standards of the Anglican Church of Canada, but not by the standards of God. It should hardly need saying that paying one's debt to society doesn't equal being above reproach in the church of Jesus Christ; that forgiveness and restoration to fellowship in the body of Christ (assuming that Mr. Lynch is, in fact, a true member of the body of Christ) doesn't mean restoration to a position of leadership within the church; and that being a "nice, fine person, a gentleman" doesn't prevent someone from being biblically disqualified from a position of leadership in the body of Christ. As reported by Sheila Dabu Nonato of Postmedia News, February 1, 2012:

After seven years of therapy and following consultation with high-ranking church officials, an Anglican priest who was convicted of indecent assault more than a dozen years ago, is back at his Nova Scotia parish, but with restricted duties.

Rev. Ron Cutler, a bishop of the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, told Postmedia News that Rev. Wayne Lynch has been permitted to celebrate the Eucharist at Annapolis Royal's St. Luke's Anglican Parish. Lynch returned to the parish two years ago and performs some duties every second month.

"He is permitted to preach, but has very rarely done so. He is permitted to baptize, marry or conduct funerals. Once again, this would be at the request of the rector of the parish," Cutler wrote in an email.

"To my knowledge, he has not led either of these liturgies, although he has assisted," he wrote.

His return is generating controversy within the congregation. Lynch's friend, Leslie Marcus, said he's been "told that some members of his church are disturbed about his connection with the church."

"But isn't there such a thing as forgiveness?" said Marcus, a 74-year-old retired university professor. While Marcus said he does not condone what Lynch did - "molesting a young person" in the 1970s - he said he's surprised the issue is being brought up decades later.

"He's paid his price, his dues to society," Marcus said.

A reconciliation process between Lynch and his diocese began seven years ago, Cutler said, when Lynch was given one-time permission to celebrate at a Eucharist service with then-Nova Scotia and P.E.I. Bishop Fred Hiltz, who is now the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, to mark the 90th birthday of Lynch's mother.

In a May 25, 2005 letter to Anglican clergy in his diocese, Hiltz wrote of his intention to invite Lynch to attend the service at St. Luke's Church.

In the letter, Hiltz referred to Lynch's 1999 charges and conviction of "indecent assault arising from incidents dating back some 20 years."

Lynch received a conditional sentence of two years less a day and an 18-month probationary period.

He completed the sentence and participated in ongoing therapeutic counselling, Hiltz wrote.

"From time to time over the last three years, Wayne and I have had conversations about the possibility of his restoration as a priest in good standing with permission to function under special circumstances as determined by the bishop in consultation with the rector, wardens and Council of the Parish of Annapolis," Hiltz said.

"I will take into account a number of factors, and I will seek the counsel of others, endeavouring to make the most appropriate decision for Wayne and for the church," he continued, noting that he would take "great care" in making decisions on the matter.

Meanwhile, Cutler said Lynch's reconciliation process with the Anglican Church has included therapy, mentoring by the parish rector and regular consultation with the diocesan bishop.

He also noted that Lynch "is not permitted any other priestly function, other than liturgical."

Some parishioners declined to comment on the case while others, such as Marcus and Audrey Barteaux, said Lynch deserves a second chance.

"I think he's a lovely person and the church has forgiven him, and why doesn't everybody else forgive him?" said Barteaux, who's attended the parish for two years.

Marcus met Lynch at a cafe almost four years ago and would often chat about politics and the monarchy.

He said he was "totally shocked" to learn of Lynch's background from a recent media report, but described his friend as "a very nice, fine person, a gentleman."

February 6, 2012 update: Mr. Lynch has resigned his position at St. Luke's. As reported by Gordon Delaney in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, February 3, 2012:

ANNAPOLIS ROYAL — A former Nova Scotia man who was sexually assaulted by an Anglican priest says he was shocked to learn his abuser had again been performing duties at a small Annapolis Royal church.

The priest resigned Thursday in the wake of the controversy.

In an interview from his Ottawa home, Glenn Johnson said he was "flabbergasted" that Rev. Wayne Lynch had been performing duties at St. Luke’s Anglican Church before his resignation.

"I would think that the church would know better."

Johnson, 48, was sexually assaulted by Lynch in the late 1970s while serving as an altar boy at All Saints Anglican Church in Brooklyn, Queens County. He was 13 at the time.

After harbouring the secret for years, Johnson went to police in 1999 and Lynch was charged with indecent assault. He pleaded guilty. The court was told at the time that Lynch, now 61, performed oral sex and masturbated him while he was in his early teens. The abuse continued for two years until he was 15.

Lynch was sentenced to house arrest for two years less a day, followed by 18 months’ probation. Johnson said he was told by the church at the time that Lynch would never be permitted to perform church duties again.

"As far as I knew, when he was convicted, part of the arrangement was that he would no longer be a priest," he said.

As news spread this week about the priest’s recent activities at St. Luke’s Anglican Church, the Right Rev. Ron Cutler confirmed Thursday that Lynch has resigned.

"Today, Wayne Lynch submitted his resignation from any and all participation in the life of the parish of Annapolis. The resignation has been accepted," Cutler, suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, said in an email to Johnson.

Lynch did not respond to interview requests.

Earlier Thursday, a spokesman for the group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said he was told that Lynch resigned in light of the controversy.

"These victims are sick and tired of everything being shoved under the rug," said Dave Mantin.

He had asked the 271 members of the group to call the Anglican diocese to complain.

"It’s just completely crazy to think you could put a convicted pedophile in front of new children and think the parish is going to allow it," Mantin said. "We have to make sure, as a society, that this doesn’t continue."

In the email, Cutler reiterated statements about Lynch’s former duties made to CTV News earlier this week.

Cutler told the television network that Lynch had slowly been regaining responsibilities over the past 10 years at St. Luke’s.

Cutler said Lynch was able to preach and read the gospel as part of Sunday liturgy, but he had no pastoral responsibilities.

With the rector’s permission, Lynch was allowed to perform marriage ceremonies, baptisms and funerals, Cutler said.

Lynch voluntarily relinquished his licence after his conviction but asked to be reinstated after he served his sentence, Cutler said.

The church believes in reconciliation "if at all possible," he said. The Anglican diocese reached an out-of-court cash settlement with Johnson in 2000 after he filed a lawsuit against the church. Under the conditions of the settlement, neither side can discuss the amount.

But Johnson said he still suffers emotional trauma from the abuse and is receiving counselling twice a week.

He said there were people in the church who had no idea they had "a pedophile doing church functions for them."

Johnson said Lynch should not have been given church duties.

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