A group of leaders from St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills recently asked the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct at diocesan headquarters that happened 25 years ago.
The diocese has responded by having a law firm conduct an investigation, led by lawyer Augusta Dowd.
The diocese is investigating allegations by former employee Tyrone Lucas, who now goes by the name Titus Battle.
Battle says a male administrator — who died in 1990 at age 56 after working for the diocese since 1971 — forced him to submit to sexual acts, threatening to withhold his pay as an office worker and revoke his college scholarship paid by the diocese.
Dowd engaged a former FBI agent and a former police chief to investigate the claims. The investigation “has been quite comprehensive and at this time is still ongoing,” Dowd said.
“Our investigation is approaching its final stages and the Diocese remains committed to an independent full blown investigation of Mr. Battle’s allegations,” she said.
She referred other questions to the national Episcopal Church offices. The national church deferred to Alabama.
Rob Morpeth, current finance and administration officer of the diocese, said the allegations have been made before, and answers have been pursued before by church officials — but the time has come to have professionals investigate.
“I think we decided even though it’s been looked into before we never went to the extra step of hiring an investigator,” he said.
No current employees involved
No current diocese employees were involved in the alleged misconduct, which took place over the course of several years in the late 1980s, Battle said. Episcopal Bishop Furman Stough, who died in 2004 and is not accused of any wrongdoing, met Battle, who was serving time for car theft at Draper Correctional Facility, through the Kairos prison ministry. Stough picked Battle up on the day he left prison, took him to Camp McDowell for the summer, gave him a scholarship to UAB in the fall and set him up with an apartment on campus and a job.
Battle’s job at the diocesan headquarters office in downtown Birmingham included printing newsletters, answering the telephone and janitorial duties.
To pick up his paycheck, he was told to see the chief financial officer for the diocese. The administrator began to turn the work relationship sexual, Battle alleges.
“He connected my livelihood to this,” Battle said. “He said, ‘You are black and just out of prison and no one will believe you.’ ”
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