Bishop Prince Singh’s family calls for independent investigation into presiding bishop’s handing of abuse complaint

By David Paulsen
Posted Jan 12, 2024
The Singhs

From left, Jebaroja Suganthy-Singh, Nivedhan Singh and Eklan Singh speak in a video on their website, Episcopal Accountability, which accuses church leaders of failing to properly respond to their abuse complaints against Bishop Prince Singh.

[Episcopal News Service] The family of former Rochester Bishop Prince Singh has called for an independent investigation into how Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Bishop Todd Ousley, the former Title IV intake officer for complaints against bishops, handled their allegations of domestic abuse by Singh.

Singh’s ex-wife and their two adult sons have accused Curry of not taking prompt and sufficient action in response to their claims of abuse, which date back to when the sons were boys. They first made the claims directly to Curry in December 2022 and revealed them publicly in June 2023, after they said Curry and other Episcopal leaders failed to follow the church’s Title IV disciplinary canons regarding bishops and other clergy.

Since then, a Title IV reference panel has referred Singh for an investigation under the canons, according to an email update Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, vice president of the House of Bishops, sent to her fellow bishops on Jan. 10.

Gray-Reeves’ update, a copy of which was obtained by Episcopal News Service, included two attachments. In one, Gray-Reeves informed Singh’s family that she she was recusing herself from the Title IV complaint involving Curry. The Rt. Rev. Herman Hollerith IV, retired Southern Virginia bishop, will take her place.

The second attachment is a 19-page letter dated Dec. 28, 2023, from Singh’s family to all Episcopal bishops, detailing their objections to the handling of their complaints by Curry and Ousley, who leads the church’s Office of Pastoral Development. Ousley served as intake officer for Title IV complaints against bishops until last year, when Curry reassigned that role to a newly hired intake officer for bishop complaints.

When the family went public with their allegations last June, Singh was serving as bishop provisional of the diocese of Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan. Curry recused himself from the case, designating his Title IV role to the Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III, a former bishop of East Carolina and former dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.

In September 2023, Daniel restricted Singh his ordained ministry while the Title IV case was pending. Singh resigned as bishop provisional a day later.

Bishop Prince Singh, at the time the provisional bishop of the dioceses of Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan, appears in a video message June 16, 2023. Photo: YouTube

Singh had been elected by the two dioceses in October 2021 and took office the following February. At the time, the bishop faced growing family strife. He and his wife, Jebaroja Suganthy-Singh, finalized their divorce in April 2022, and in December, she sent a letter to Curry saying she and her sons felt ignored and abandoned by the church. The sons, Nivedhan Singh and Eklan Singh, sent separate letters to Curry detailing the physical and emotional abuse they said they suffered at the hands of their father.

In written responses, Curry pledged his support for the family, and in February 2023, he met with Suganthy-Singh on Zoom, saying he previously had been told they did not want to be contacted. The family has since launched a website, Episcopal Accountability, to document their correspondence with Curry, arguing that Curry and Ousley failed to follow the Title IV disciplinary canons or even inform the family that the canons might apply to their case.

Their most recent letter to the House of Bishops calls for a third-party investigation of the matter, saying they have no faith that a bishop or other clergy member could impartially investigate their complaint against Curry and Ousley.

“Survivors of abuse who have already been failed by the church should not be sacrificed to uphold the images of leaders who have repeatedly failed in their duties,” they said in their letter. “We are not pursuing this course out of a desire for revenge or out of bitterness. Rather, we wish for the goals of Title IV for ‘healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation among all involved or affected’ to be truly achieved.”

As is consistent with the private nature of Title IV cases, Curry and other churchwide leaders have said little publicly about the claims against Singh and the separate claims against Curry and Ousley. Gray-Reeves’ letter suggests that the case against Singh has advanced to an investigation but has not yet been referred to a hearing panel, the body that would consider formal charges against a bishop.

Gray-Reeves’ letter confirms for the first time that Curry and Ousley are the focus of a Title IV inquiry. In response to an inquiry by ENS, the church’s Office of Public Affairs said only that the matter is in the intake stage. Most complaints against bishops are resolved without the matters reaching a hearing panel.

In a case involving a bishop, much of the initial work is completed by an entity known as the Reference Panel, which includes the presiding bishop, the intake officer and the president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, an 18-member body made up of a mix of bishops, other clergy and lay leaders.

Gray-Reeves noted that when the presiding bishop is the focus of a complaint, the vice president of the House of Bishops fills the Title IV role normally held by the presiding bishop.

She said she is recusing herself because of her “current pastoral relationship with Bishop Curry and his family during this challenging time,” presumably a reference to Curry’s ongoing recovery from multiple surgeries to treat a subdural hematoma. He was released from the hospital this week and is recovering at his home in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Singh’s case is one of several involving Episcopal bishops in recent years that have fueled renewed scrutiny of the church’s Title IV canons. Some Episcopal leaders have called on the 81st General Convention, when it convenes this June, to address what is perceived as a different standard for bishops than is applied to other clergy.

Curry, who chairs the House of Bishops, released a video message in September 2023 asking the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons “to listen to the concerns and hopes of the laity, clergy and bishops of this church” and “to recommend to the General Convention needed canonical and procedural changes in ecclesiastical discipline of bishops.”

In October, the commission called for churchwide input as it considers a range of Title IV concerns. The commission added that the goals of its deliberations are to ensure rules that “work well in practice to protect people from misconduct; resolve complaints fairly, promptly, and efficiently; and screen out meritless claims.”

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.


Tags