The world is a tiny bit safer today.
After an investigation of serious complaints by at least two women in his new congregation, Scott Richardson has been stripped of his credentials as a priest in the Episcopal Church.
Scott took a prestigious job in a church in San Francisco in 2012, two years after I filed my complaint. My bishop had assured me that he would notify any future employer of Scott’s offense against me, so I was shocked at this news. Why would any church accept a minister with a record of sexual misconduct? Had the bishop broken his promise? I had spoken up solely to protect other women. Had I endured the trauma of being silenced and shunned for nothing?
I couldn’t take a chance that the new church didn’t know. So a few weeks before Scott was installed as their new rector, I sent an email to his new bishop, the heads of his pastoral search committee, and the church’s governing board. I told them in brief how Scott had harmed me. “To my knowledge,” I wrote, “I was the only complainant, but I strongly believe that I was part of a larger pattern. I’ve had no contact with Scott since I left the church, and I don’t intend to have any future contact. So although I hope he has reformed, I will never know. I have to assume the potential for harm is still there.”
A week later, when I’d gotten no response, I sent a similar note to the clergy and staff at his new church. I described Scott’s pattern of behavior and told them, “If he is still a risk, your awareness will help create a safer environment.”
And that’s where I had to leave it. There was nothing more I could do.
And now this news.
The bright note is that I didn’t learn this through the grapevine. On Tuesday afternoon, I got a phone call from my former bishop. Yesterday we met for an hour in his office. Knowing how this news might affect me, he wanted to share it directly and give me a chance to ask questions. He has sent a letter to my former congregation, inviting anyone with concerns about Scott to contact him directly and confidentially. He’ll be holding a congregational meeting next week. I let him know I would be there.
The bishop also told me that despite his words to me at the time — his finding that Kevin had sexualized the pastoral relationship — he hadn’t, in fact, made a finding of sexual misconduct. Instead he had “dismissed” my complaint as not being serious enough to warrant a canonical response. In light of new events, the bishop is now questioning that decision.
It has taken two days for my emotions to settle enough to name my strongest feeling, and that is relief. Six long years after I filed my complaint, finally — finally!! — I am confident that “Rev. Scott Richardson” will never harm another woman. Why? Because “Rev. Scott Richardson” no longer exists. There’s only Scott now. No pulpit, no honorific titles, and no pastoral counseling couch.
I’ll have more to say in coming weeks. For now, I’m just thanking God.