Episcopal Church Terminates 2 High Ranking Leaders After Internal Investigation

(Photo: Reuters/Mike Theiler)The Reverend Michael Bruce Curry (C) walks the aisle as he arrives for his Installation ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral, in Washington, November 1, 2015. Curry becomes the first African-American Episcopal presiding bishop, after previously serving as Bishop of North Carolina.

The Episcopal Church announced Monday that it has fired two high-ranking officials and will demote another following an independent internal investigation for inappropriate workplace behavior. Church officials did not elaborate.

Last December three Episcopal Church officials, Chief Operating Officer Bishop Stacy Sauls, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission Sam McDonald, and Director of Public Engagement and Mission Communications Alex Baumgarten, were placed on administrative leave.

The Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, released a statement yesterday providing an update on the investigation.

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(Photo: Washington National Cathedral/Danielle Thomas)A procession at the installation service for the Rev. Michael Curry, first African-American Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, held at the Washington National Cathedral in the District of Columbia on Sunday, November 1, 2015.

"Our task as staff is to serve The Episcopal Church in such a way that it can serve the world in the Name and in the Spirit of Jesus Christ," explained Curry.

"We are therefore all called to strive for and adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct embodying the love of God and reflecting the teachings and the way of Jesus."

Curry stated that McDonald and Baumgarten were "immediately terminated" as a result of the internal investigation.

"Sam McDonald and Alex Baumgarten were found to have violated established workplace policies and to have failed to live up to the Church's standards of personal conduct in their relationships with employees, which contributed to a workplace environment often inconsistent with the values and expectations of The Episcopal Church," continued Curry.

"The investigation concluded that Bishop Stacy Sauls did not violate workplace policy, was unaware of the policy violations of the two staff members reporting to him, and operated within the scope of his office. No further investigation is warranted. Nevertheless, given the needs for staff leadership in light of my priorities for the direction of the Church, Bishop Sauls will not continue as Chief Operating Officer of the DFMS."

Last December, Curry announced that Sauls, Baumgarten, and McDonald were suspended pending investigation by the firm Curley, Hessinger & Johnsrud LLP, of New York and Philadelphia, which specializes in employment and labor law.

"I have today engaged a law firm to conduct an independent investigation of the concerns that led me to place three members of senior management on administrative leave last week," said Curry in an official letter last year.

"[They have] begun a review of the concerns that have been raised, and are expected to brief me about its plan for the investigation early in the new year."

Throughout the investigation the specific allegations leveled against the three officials was not specificed, neither did they get mention in the recent update.

Curry did note, however, that certain actions were going to be taken now that the investigation was concluded, including "an independent human resources audit and procedural review of all of our workplace system safeguards and functions" and the retention of a firm called Human Synergistics to help create a healthy workplace.

"While I did not anticipate this situation as the first major challenge of my tenure as presiding bishop, I am likewise unswerving in my commitment to each of you that we will work together to have a workplace that reflects the love of God and the teachings of Jesus," concluded Curry.

"We will work together to have a workplace that really does look something like the dream that God intends for us all and the whole world."