October 10th, 2011
I am writing today to address an ongoing campaign intent on damaging the work of the Apostolic Johannite Church, the people who serve it, and the people who make it their spiritual home.
In the past, we have counted on intelligent conversation, common sense and basic human decency to carry the day against unwarranted attacks, slander, libel, patterns of demonization, thinly veiled implications of guilt by association and downright willful mischaracterization of our Church and its work.
Normally we don’t respond to statements resulting from either predictable mocking, Internet bravado or agendas cloaked in presumed anonymity- and up until recently, this has been characteristic of what passes for legitimate criticism when it comes to most individuals, groups or organizations that have a presence on the web. It has certainly been true of what we have seen with regard to the small portion of our own work that coincides with the Internet
Recently however, these behaviours have translated into actions which go beyond the boundaries of even immature behaviour and cross over into the realms of defamation and criminal harassment.
I opened this letter with reference to damage because some people have taken it upon themselves to wage a campaign of lies and misinformation about the Apostolic Johannite Church and have attempted to have the Conclave of the Apostolic Johannite Church disrupted and cancelled.
The means by which these attempts were made included:
1. Contacting our venue, a Roman Catholic Retreat Centre, in order to directly appeal to them to cancel our arrangements for holding Conclave at their Center using a series of baseless accusations, outright lies and implied threat of harm.
2. Our outside speakers were sent communications with an identical series of baseless accusations, outright lies and implied threat of harm.
3. Enlisting others using the same allegations in order to exert pressure on both our hosts and the local Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in order to have the event venue cancel.
4. Directly contacting the local Ordinary in an effort to have the local Hierarchy exert pressure on the Retreat Centre to cancel our arrangement.
It should be noted that the timing of the communication in relation to the event was most certainly to see that Conclave could not be rescheduled on short notice should their efforts have been successful.
Conclave is an event of no small significance to the Apostolic Johannite Church. During Conclave, we host presentations, workshops and lectures by notable speakers, clergy and laity towards the education and increased communion of our Church. This is also the time of year that we direct towards the ordination of new Deacons and Priests, as well as planning for future events, discussing parish projects (charity work, education, networking).
This year’s Conclave was notable not only for the significant speakers present, but also because it also hosted the wedding of His Grace, the Primate of the United States, and included family and friends from beyond the Church.
These events, combined with a significant financial investment, would have made the intended ramifications of these attacks quite significant. Therefore, we are changing our policy in regard to these sorts of action
Now, as to the content of these baseless accusations, outright lies and implied threat of harm I mention, they are as follows:
- Alleged Satanism: Alleging that the Apostolic Johannite Church is a Satanic organization
- Alleged cover up of pedophilia: Allegations that the Apostolic Johannite Church engaged in a campaign to remove information from the internet regarding the association of Reginald Freeman, one time Bishop of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Hermetica, and convicted sex offender, with this organization.
- Alleged threats of violence against individuals: In a plea to ensure that not only would the event be cancelled, but that we would not be told of the reasons why, or the people involved, allegations were made that we (the Apostolic Johannite Church) have issued or caused to be issued, threats of violence against individuals connected to these accusations.
While on the ground at at the Retreat, I met with the administrator, and he agreed to turn over related materials. For verification, I have linked to a scan of some of the text (I have also included screenshots of other material in the same file, for brevity’s sake).
It should be noted that during my stay at the Retreat, communications were again sent in order to disrupt Conclave while we were on the ground.
It should also be noted that preceding this incident, a series of threats were levelled directly from one of these individuals to myself, for which a record has been made and preserved, with copies distributed to council members.
These threats indicated that this individual and his associates would begin a campaign to “expose” the Apostolic Johannite Church if I did not comply with demands to silence clerics and members of the Apostolic Johannite Church with regard to internet arguments on history and theology. This individual alleged that a campaign of lies, harassment and the like were waged by members of this Church. All these debates are well known and in the public eye, and easily found by looking at blogs, forums and various social networks. Have a look for yourself.
The Apostolic Johannite Church has a well established history during my Patriarchate of not responding to ridiculous internet ‘flame wars’. Neither do we censor our members or our clergy for what they believe, or what they say.
When a cleric attempts to represent his or her own position as that of the Apostolic Johannite Church or attempts to carry out a personal agenda using the name and authority of the Apostolic Johannite Church or their position within it, we will discipline him or her as needed.
With regard to addressing the allegations listed above:
1. Alleged Satanism: Some time prior to establishing the Church, our founder had examined the “Left Hand Path” as a part of his spiritual journey and practice through membership in the “Temple of Set”. Feeling that this path did not provide an opportunity for genuine spiritual growth and drawn by a growing interest in Gnostic Christianity, he made a firm break with that period of his life. He had no involvement with that path or organization by the time he founded the church, nor did any of the beliefs, values or rituals of the associated path or organization form the basis of the Apostolic Johannite Church.
The Apostolic Johannite Church has never been, is not now, nor will ever be Satanic, nor for that matter is it associated with any organizations of a left-hand path or Satanic character. Nor are our clergy involved in any Satanic rituals.
2. Alleged cover up of pedophilia: This absurd statement alleges that the Apostolic Johannite Church participated in or caused a supposed removal of information from the internet regarding convicted sex offender Reginald Freeman, formerly of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Hermetica.
The EGCH and the AJC began working together beginning in 2002 under an arrangement signed by my predecessor, The Most Rev. James Foster, in Ecclesia Iohannes III. This was also signed and agreed to by the then board of directors of the EGCH- Kenneth J. Canterbury, Anthony Angelo and Reginald Freeman.
Freeman was a bishop in the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Hermetica and participated in my consecration- years before any criminal acts were committed. Prior to these charges, there were no known allegations or criminal issues.
When he was charged- the bishops in his own church immediately suspended him- they even went so far as to suspend their own ministries until the trial had concluded.
I was not privy to the proceedings of the EGCH beyond basic notification of his status. I was only made aware of the situation as a result of serving as President of the North American College of Gnostic Bishops, and not in my capacity as Patriarch of the Apostolic Johannite Church.
Upon notification, Reginald Freeman was automatically removed from membership/delegate status with the NACGB. This is documented and copies of communications covering this action have been preserved and appended to this letter.
Status as a delegate to the NACGB (In the case of jurisdictions, Bishops are not members, churches are) is determined by good standing and delegation by the member jurisdiction themselves. Reginald Freeman’s participation as a representative of the EGCH ceased upon notification to the College automatically. The NACGB cannot comment on the internal affairs (be they disputes, polity, or structural changes) without the permission of the jurisdiction itself. It exercises no oversight save that which is given to it by the jurisdiction through submitting of items for mediation or publication. The Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Hermetica did not submit for mediation or publication as documented below.
After almost two years Reginald Freeman was convicted of criminal predatory sexual assault. Upon his conviction he was expelled from the EGCH. Notice was sent to our church by the remaining leadership of the EGCH, which was promptly forward to each existing community of the AJC as well as our seminarians.
I personally communicated with every AJC leader to talk to them about the situation, giving them a free hand to communicate whatever they needed to, to their own communities and to ask any questions they had freely.
Nothing was covered up with regard to Reginald Freeman’s past association with either the College or the Apostolic Johannite Church through the partnership with the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Hermetica.
As a result of the difficulty of their situation, the EGCH chose to dissolve- and upon notification of the same- the EGCH listing with the NACGB as a current and active jurisdiction, which they were no longer, was removed. Every NACGB member church was made aware of the situation.
Historical links to the EGCH on the NACGB site remain- on the conferences and events page, for example. My own former blog (now years out of date) which has Freeman commenting on it from times prior, remains. My documentation of ordination that is provided to our seminarians has Freeman clearly listed.
It bears mentioning that my response was quicker, more thorough, and stricter than that of our mainstream counterparts, especially considering he was not a cleric in the Apostolic Johannite Church. Every step that could have been taken with the limited information and involvement that we were given, was taken.
(It should be noted, for those who seem to think that Freeman’s participation in my consecration years prior, or my predecessor’s participation for that matter, were affected by either the future actions of the former, or the past actions of the latter, that the Bishops of the Church have also received consecration from completely separate streams in addition to my predecessor and Reginald Freeman. That being said, neither the future actions of the former, nor the past actions of the latter have any bearing on the efficacy or validity of the ordination.)
The Apostolic Johannite Church takes the protection of its people extremely seriously. Convicted sex offenders are explicitly barred from holding leadership positions within the Apostolic Johannite Church, and we screen seminarians and clergy through local, national and international background checks, including criminal record checks and sex offender listings.
In addition to this, the AJC also maintains very strict policies ensuring, where possible, that no individuals are placed at risk through the participation of laity that are known to the community to have committed sexual or violent offences. Should the latter seek the ministry of our Church or clergy, this is done in an environment apart from those at risk.
Now that I have both outlined and provided evidence regarding attacks on the Apostolic Johannite Church, there remains only one more thing to address in this letter.
Having met with the Apostolic Council (also the AJC’s corporate Board of Directors) as well as select members of the clergy and laity of the Apostolic Johannite Church, as well as clerics of other Churches, we have chosen to undertake some definitive steps.
- We have retained the services of a computer forensics and security expert as a part of analyzing the material we have.
- We are at present consulting with members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Colorado has state laws against Criminal Defamation)
- We are at present consulting the Anti-Defamation League
At present, we have not yet determined if we will pursue this civilly or criminally. We want this to stop and are determined to do whatever is needed, within the bounds of the law, to ensure that it does. We are confident based on appropriate legal consultation that we have ample support and cause to purse this in either or both civil or criminal courts when we choose to do so.
As such, let this serve as the only warning or statement the Church intends to issue on this matter, or our response to it.
Should you have questions or concerns, you are welcome to direct them to my assistant- Father Lance Hoddinott via [email protected] I remain
Yours before the Sacred Flame,
+ The Most Reverend Shaun McCann, Ep.Gn.,
Patriarch of the Apostolic Johannite Church
Chief Executive Officer and President
Correspondence regarding notification of Reginald Freeman’s Status
We regret to inform you that +Reginald Freeman has been suspended from active service in the EGCH pending an internal and civil criminal investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct regarding a minor. At this time, we have conflicting facts regarding the actual nature of the crime and are not able to state a clear and decisive position. Based upon information gathered during the pending criminal investigation, and our own internal tribunal, the ecclesiastical status of Bishop Freeman shall be determined.
The EGCH’s policy is to not discuss ongoing internal investigations, however, we will make you aware of any developments in the civil investigation and proceedings.
Please pray for our brother and all who have been victimized due to this crime, physically, spiritually and emotionally and for the well being and future of the EGCH.
Most Rev. +Kenneth Canterbury, Ep. Gn.
Most Rev. +Anthony Angelo, Ep. Gn.
Most Esteemed Brethren-
Thank you very much for your information- the policy set by all should be followed by all and the Sovereign Triad has exemplified a commitment to the ethical standards and conduct laid out by the Ethics Committee of the North American College of Gnostic Bishops.
As appropriate to the situation and in reflection of Bishop Freeman’s current status- he has, in accordance with the constitution been removed from membership in the NACGB until such a time whereby the Sovereign Triad of the EGCH sees fit to reinstate him. This act is automatic upon change in status within one’s member jurisdiction.
It is my sincere hope that this matter be resolved to the health of the whole, and the welfare of all people affected by this situation, and my prayers are with the both of you as you carry out this hard task as well as with our brother and all parties so affected.
Sincerely and Fraternally,
+ Shaun McCann, Ep.Gn.
PDF version of this letter – this includes text of allegations and screen captures.