Wyoming bishop placed on leave while he faces allegations under Title IV disciplinary canons

By David Paulsen
Posted Oct 16, 2023

[Episcopal News Service] Wyoming Bishop Paul-Gordon Chandler is the latest Episcopal bishop to face potential disciplinary action this year under the church’s Title IV canons, and he has been placed on administrative leave while the case progresses, according to an Oct. 16 church news release.

The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs provided no information about the nature of the allegations against Chandler, though a letter to the diocese from the chair of its standing committee cited “an alleged indiscretion with a member of our diocesan team.”

Bishop Paul-Gordon Chandler

The Rt. Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler was consecrated bishop of the Diocese of Wyoming in February 2021. Photo: Diocese of Wyoming

The restriction on Chandler’s ministry was enacted by Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, vice president of the House of Bishops, on behalf of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who is recovering from surgery. The restriction will remain “until further notice,” the Office of Public Affairs news release said.

At least two other Title IV cases against bishops have been initiated or resolved this year. Former Oklahoma Bishop Ed Konieczny faced allegations of sexual harassment from House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris stemming from a July 2022 incident at the 80th General Convention. Konieczny denied any misconduct, and Ayala Harris’ case was closed in July 2023 with a “pastoral response” and no further action.

And Bishop Prince Singh, the former bishop of Rochester, New York, who had been serving as bishop provisional of the dioceses of Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan, resigned in September to face a Title IV investigation into allegations of a history of physical and emotional abuse toward his two sons and his ex-wife. Singh has denied the claims of wrongdoing.

The Title IV canons apply to all clergy, including priests and deacons, though the process for handling complaints against bishops has drawn particular scrutiny this year over concerns that top church leaders are not being held to equal standards of accountability and transparency. Ayala Harris ignited much of the recent discussion by making her case public in an Aug. 30 letter. Others have raised similar concerns. Curry responded by agreeing that Title IV merited further attention so the 81st General Convention could consider potential reforms in June 2024.

Last week, Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons concluded an in-person meeting by issuing a call to the church for input on the Title IV canons as it prepares to draft recommendations and possible resolutions.

Chandler has served as bishop of Wyoming since February 2021. A native of West Africa, he previously served as rector of the Anglican Church in Qatar and also is known for his work as an art curator. He was founder of CARAVAN, an international nonprofit affiliated with The Episcopal Church that uses art to bring people together. This year, Chandler helped create a touring art exhibition, “Grounded,” that features the works of 15 Native American Artists. He had been scheduled to speak on Oct. 16 in Charleston, South Carolina, about his book on Kahlil Gibran, but that event was canceled by the organizer three days earlier without explanation.

Chandler declined to comment for this story when reached by email.

Gray-Reeves’ decision to place Chandler on leave “is part of The Episcopal Church’s initial response to the allegations,” the Rev. Megan Nickles, chair of the Diocese of Wyoming Standing Committee, said in her letter. “As the process unfolds out of the bounds of our diocese, we have the opportunity to support one another here in the high desert and pray for reconciliation and repair.”

Nickles’ letter was shared to Facebook on Oct. 16 by St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Cheyenne in a post that has since been removed. Episcopal News Service left a phone message for Nickles seeking further comment and to confirm whether the diocese planned to release her letter more widely.

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