On November 6, 2020, Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe sent the following letter to the clergy and parish wardens of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York, members of the Diocesan Board and Standing Committee, the diocesan staff, our diocesan Intake Officers, our Chancellors, and our diocesan Pastoral Care Team.
November 6, 2020
To the Clergy, Parish Wardens, and People
of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York
I am writing to inform you that the Diocese of Central New York and St. James’ Episcopal Church in Skaneateles have been named in a lawsuit related to allegations of sexual abuse of minors by the Rev. Edward Putnam while he was rector of St. James’ Church between 1986 and 1993. On October 16, 2020, I shared that a lawsuit involving Putnam had been filed against the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Newark; the two suits are not related.
The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York takes clergy misconduct and sexual abuse very seriously. We are working continually to ensure the safety of all people in our congregations and diocesan programs. In 2007, the Diocese conducted an investigation of Putnam that led to his admission of inappropriate conduct with minors during his tenure as rector of St. James’. As a result of that investigation, my predecessor Bishop Adams suspended Putnam’s ministry for twenty years. He was not permitted to serve as a minister of the Church in any capacity, and the investigation and its results are a matter of public record. Putnam died in 2016 while suspended from ministry.
The news of this lawsuit offers an opportunity for all in our Diocese to renew our commitment to Safe Church practices and to the safety and dignity of those entrusted to our care. Our diocesan Safe Church policies are available at cnyepiscopal.org/safechurch. Clergy, church employees, and volunteers with youth and vulnerable adults are required to maintain an up-to-date Safe Church certification, and we cooperate fully with civil authorities in all investigations related to criminal sexual misconduct.
If you or anyone you know is aware of any violation of our Safe Church policies, be assured that the Diocese is here to support you and to promptly investigate and respond to clergy misconduct complaints. I encourage you to contact any of our three diocesan Intake Officers.
We also have a Pastoral Care Team of professional clinicians available to provide counseling and pastoral care to victims of sexual abuse and misconduct in our parishes or diocesan programs at no cost. Any of our three Intake Officers can make a referral to this team.
In this Diocese, we are unwavering in our commitment to “A World Healed by Love,” and each of us has a part to play in realizing this vision. Please join me in praying for justice and healing for anyone whose life has been affected by sexual abuse, exploitation, or harassment within the Church, and for parish and diocesan leaders and volunteers who uphold our Safe Church policies for the well-being and safety of all people.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. DeDe Duncan-Probe
Bishop of Central New York
Cc: The Diocesan Board and Standing Committee, the diocesan staff, Intake Officers, Chancellors, Pastoral Care Team members