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‘Homophobic’ Anglican priest who ‘hates gay people’ used his position to sexually abuse other men

Lily Wakefield November 27, 2019
Anglican priest Eric Dudley

Father Eric Dudley sexually harassed and abused young men. (St. Peter's Anglican Cathedral/ YouTube)

An Anglican priest, who founded a church based on his opposition to gay people and same-sex marriage, used his position to sexually abuse other men.

Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, or GRACE, was called in by St Peter’s Anglican Church in Tallahassee, Florida, to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by Eric Dudley. 

Dudley left his position as rector of St John’s Episcopal Church in 2005 after the church hired an openly gay priest. He announced his resignation by saying that he could not stand the “deeply unrepentant heresies” in the church, and that he would be starting one of his own.

He started St Peter’s Anglican Church based on his opposition to homosexuality and took around half of St John’s congregation with him. When allegations began to surface last year of sexual misconduct he was forced to leave his position.

He previously described the legalisation of same-sex marriage as “a tragic event in the life of America — yet another unraveling of the Christian fabric of our country, another step in the direction of secular Europe”.

The GRACE investigation found, however, that Dudley had frequently sexually harassed and abused aspiring priests and other men in the congregation as leader of St Peter’s.

The men he targeted were mostly new to the area, with little or no support network and with “various financial challenges”. Dudley would begin by positioning himself as a mentor figure, taking them to lunch and eventually making their meetings regular. He would then shower them with money and gifts, and eventually would invite them for one-to-one counselling sessions.

The Anglican priest would then begin inappropriately touching and kissing his victims. The report states: “If the respective person expressed any uneasiness with the touching, father Eric would either normalise the behaviour (such as by explaining that he was just an affectionate person or talking about men holding hands or kissing in other cultures) or reassure the victim that he was not sexually attracted to men.”

The priest took one victim on a trip to a conference and insisted they share a hotel room and eventually a bed. The victim would wake up with Eric rubbing his chest and back under his shirt, but he “continued to insist that it was not erotic and compared his feelings to wanting to cuddle with his son”.

The victim said: “Part of me is going like, ‘This is super strange.’ And another part is going, ‘This can’t be happening.’

“Eric is known as the guy who hates gay people. We’re the church that built our church based on anti-homosexuality.

“He kind of has a caricature out there, so no way this guy is coming on to me. I’m misreading him.”

On another occasion Dudley lay on top of a man, in the victim’s home, and said that he was becoming aroused.

The GRACE investigation interviewed 51 people and looked at evidence in the form of audio and video recordings of victim testimonies, emails, text messages and church documents.

The GRACE report also stated: “It is clear that as far back as 2011… certain members and leaders of St Peter’s had at least some knowledge of regarding clergy misconduct concerning father Eric… GRACE did not find evidence of St Peter’s taking substantive actions in response to father Eric’s reported misconduct until 2018.”

The report made many recommendations for new policies on sexual misconduct in the church. The church has said that it has adopted them and will also provide counselling and financial support to victims.

However, in a letter to the church’s congregation, bishop in residence Robert Duncan confirmed that a severance package had been given to Dudley “for the sake of his family” and urged members to “remember that we are all sinners who have fallen short of the Glory of God”.

The letter continued: “Remember with humility, how God walked with us during this difficult year and how He has cared for our church.

“We have been taught the lesson, again, that the church’s message of God’s transformational love is perfect; but neither the church’s members nor her messengers are without fault.

“An additional and final aspect of this humility might be to let the report speak for itself and to resist the sinful temptation to comment further on its meaning or to personally expand on its findings.”

 

More: Anglican priest, eric dudley, Florida, homophobic, sexual abuse, Tallahassee

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