Anglican Bishop takes a temporary leave of absence after a "regrettable error; SNAP urges more investigation and a harsher ecclesiastical penalty
Popular Anglican Bishop Stewart Ruch III of the Anglican Church in North America’s Upper Midwest Diocese has stepped down for what he termed a “regrettable error.” That error was the refusal to inform the faithful in his Diocese that lay minister Mark Rivera had been charged with felony child sex abuse in 2019. The Bishop had known of the charges since that year, but only informed the parishioners of the Diocese last month.
To us, this is not a "regrettable error;” it is covering up for an accused perpetrator. It mirrors the actions of other church organizations and officials who are far more concerned about their wealth and reputation than they are about victims who have suffered terrible harm and will endure a lifetime of trauma.
We urge Archbishop Foley Beach, Primate of the ACNA, to take additional action against Bishop Ruch. The Bishop has demonstrated that he can not be trusted with the care of children, vulnerable adults, and the community as a whole. In our view, Bishop Ruch brushed aside what he learned about Rivera. The Anglican Bishop should also be investigated by secular authorities to ascertain if he violated any child protection laws.
Rivera attended the Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois, the Diocesan headquarters, from the mid-90s until 2013. Reportedly, he was a prayer minister, preschool volunteer, youth leader and small group leader there. From 2013 until 2019 Rivera was lay minister at Christ Our Light Anglican in Big Rock, Illinois.
Bishop Ruch was at Church of the Resurrection from 1988. He became its rector in 1999, and was consecrated the Bishop in 2013. Rivera apparently worked under the direct supervision of Bishop Ruch from 1999-2019.
Rivera is currently being prosecuted for felony sexual assault and predatory abuse of a victim under 13 years of age. A trial is set to begin in October 2021. At least ten survivors have come forward to the Diocese since 2019. The allegations against Rivera include rape, assault, child sexual abuse, and grooming.
The mother of a 9 yr. old victim from Christ Our Light Anglican first reported allegations of abuse against Rivera in May of 2019. She informed the Church of the Resurrection leadership in June 2019, notifying them of seven other possible victims.
After Rivera’s arrest, two other victims courageously came forward in November of 2020. A group of survivors and advocates requested third-party involvement in January 2021. The Diocese publicly shared news of some of the allegations in a May 4 letter and announced they had hired a third-party investigative firm, Grand River Solutions. It is no surprise to us that the independent firm was selected without input from the survivors.
The ACNA has had several high-profile abuse and sexual misconduct cases within the last two years. Bishop James Hobby of Pittsburgh resigned in November, 2020, for mishandling abuse allegations about a priest in his Diocese. Bishop Ron Jackson of the Great Lakes Diocese was defrocked in 2020 after pleading guilty to sexual immorality due to the longstanding use of pornography.
We commend the brave mother and the other victims of Mark Rivera who have come forward. They deserve to see the wheels of justice move in this case and a conviction handed down. They also deserve to see Bishop Ruch face additional discipline for his refusal to act. We urge anyone who experienced or witnessed abuse within the ACNA to come forward to law enforcement immediately and only then make an additional report to the ACNA.