Religion

St. John’s Episcopal: Minister’s offenses did not involve criminal wrongdoing

A stained glass window towers over the altar at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
A stained glass window towers over the altar at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Observer File Photo

St. John’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte still won’t reveal the reason its chief minister had to resign, but the church did say Sunday that the Rev. Paul Winton did nothing criminal.

In an email sent to members of St. John’s, the church said that Winton’s offenses “did not involve in any way – from start to finish – any criminal or financial wrongdoing or any other wrongdoing against any other person or child.”

The email came from Matt Williams, whose title is senior assistant to the rector for family ministry. He confirmed to the Observer that he sent it at the instruction of the church’s vestry, or lay leadership group.

Winton, the rector at St. John’s since 2010, agreed to resign from his post after a diocesan panel concluded that he engaged in “conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.”

One member of that panel was Bishop Anne Hodges-Copple, who heads the Raleigh-based Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. She was in Charlotte last Thursday night to speak in person about Winton’s case to the congregation at St. John’s – the second largest Episcopal church in Charlotte.

She followed up with a Friday letter to the church’s 2,000-plus members. In it, she wrote that she received allegations against Winton last December, after which he went on a leave of absence.

Those offenses have now cost Winton his job, but the panel also found that he could remain a priest in the diocese and in the Episcopal Church.

In her letter, the bishop would not shed any light on what Winton did. “The nature and details of those offenses are confidential,” she wrote.

Her vagueness prompted concern and questions from the congregation about “the specifics” in the case, as Williams put it in his email.

Here is his full Sunday email in response to those questions:

“Hello,

“I have been asked to relay the following message from the Vestry at St. John’s in response to some of the questions they have received about Father Paul’s resignation as Rector. Thank you.

“Parents of the St. John’s Family:

“As you may have learned recently, Father Paul Winton has resigned as the rector of St. John’s. We have received some questions about the specifics regarding this resignation. The Canons of The Episcopal Church require that any and all church conduct proceedings remain confidential for the sake of fairness and healing. However, we can say that the issues concerning Fr. Paul did not involve in any way – from start to finish – any criminal or financial wrongdoing or any wrongdoing against any other person or child.

“The Vestry of St. John’s

“God’s Peace to you and yours, and to the entire St. John’s family.”

Last Friday, Winton left this phone message for the Observer about his case:

“Under agreement with the diocese, I’m not allowed to speak on this matter. … I do wish the parish and the diocese well and look forward to finding other ways to serve the church in the future.”

Bishop Hodges-Copple said in her letter last Friday that the next step for the church is for the vestry to hire an interim rector, while also beginning a search for Winton’s successor.

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