Western Massachusetts priest pleads guilty to child pornography possession; diocese reveals abuse allegation

By Egan Millard
Posted Feb 24, 2020

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Gregory Lisby, a priest in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography on Feb. 21, having been charged after FBI agents raided the rectory where he was living in September. The same day, the diocese also revealed that, since Lisby’s arrest, it has “received devastating credible evidence” that Lisby sexually abused a teenager.

The Rev. Gregory Lisby. Photo: Diocese of Western Massachusetts

Lisby had been living with his husband, then the rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Worcester, in the church’s rectory with their two children when the FBI found nearly 200 images and videos of child pornography in a Microsoft account Lisby used, according to court records.

At the time, Lisby was working as a kindergarten teacher in a public school in Holyoke, having been suspended in 2018 from his position as rector of All Saints Church in Worcester “for an inappropriate relationship with an adult that did not involve sexual contact,” Western Massachusetts Bishop Douglas Fisher wrote in a letter to the diocese shortly after Lisby’s arrest. Fisher added in that letter that the diocese had “no reason to believe that children in our diocese have been victimized in this situation.”

Lisby pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography in federal court in Worcester. In a letter to the diocese announcing Lisby’s plea, Fisher also shared that the diocese had learned of the abuse allegation against Lisby. The letter did not specify where or when the abuse is alleged to have occurred except to say that it happened after Lisby was ordained a priest in 2007. A spokeswoman for the diocese declined to provide additional details, in the interest of the victim’s privacy, but said that law enforcement is aware of the situation.

“I am deeply saddened to know that a priest is alleged to have committed such a grievous sin,” Fisher wrote, “and on behalf of the entire church, I offer my most heartfelt apology to the victim, the victim’s family and to everyone whose trust in the church has been violated.

“I cannot undo this terrible situation, but I can commit our diocese to telling the truth and seeking healing and reconciliation for anyone who has been harmed by Lisby.”

Fisher stressed that Lisby’s husband, who has filed for divorce, “remains a priest in good standing and a valuable leader of the diocese” and “is in no way implicated in any of these charges.”

Lisby is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25 and could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Fisher said the diocese is in the process of removing him from the priesthood.

Fisher encouraged anyone who wishes to share relevant information about Lisby to call him confidentially at 413-417-2401.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.