TCU Daily Skiff Thursday, February 05, 2004
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Sexual misconduct claims directed at prof, records state
In affidavits filed in the 48th Judicial District Court, Christian Church officials accused Stephen Sprinkle of trying to impede an investigation into sexual misconduct claims made against him.


By Elizabeth Bassett
Staff Reporter


A Brite administrator who says he was barred by Disciples of Christ officials from interviewing prospective ministers because of his homosexuality has also been the subject of a church investigation of alleged sexual misconduct, according to court records obtained by the TCU Daily Skiff.

Stephen Sprinkle, Brite Divinity School’s director of field education, came under investigation by the Christian Church’s Southwest Region for alleged sexual misconduct after a complaint was made by a Brite Divinity student, according to documents filed in the 48th Judicial District Court by Christian Church officials.
Those documents were filed Nov. 12, 2003, in response to Sprinkle’s Oct. 16 petition seeking depositions regarding “potential claims of defamation by others, conspiracy to defame, interference with contract, and conspiracy to interfere with contract.” According to Sprinkle’s petition, depositions are being sought to investigate cause for a possible lawsuit. A hearing in the 48th District Court is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Sprinkle has alleged he was barred by Ben Hubert, the Southwest Region’s chairman of the Committee on the Ministry, from participating in interviews of prospective ministers on the grounds that he was “polarizing students.”

Hubert is among the four church members who filed an answer to the petition. They contend in their legal responses that Sprinkle’s petition was filed the day after they interviewed him in connection with the sexual misconduct allegation and that the petition is intended “to intimidate the Regional Church and to mute or silence expressions of criticism.” Besides Hubert, the respondents include Donald Manworren, Robert Stewart and Herbert Lynskey, a minister who serves as the Regional Church’s Sexual Misconduct Policy Coordinator.

The status of the committee’s investigation is unclear. Bryan Feille, the Brite associate dean of student affairs and the second Brite representative to the Committee on the Ministry, said that because of confidentiality concerns, the Region will not release information regarding investigations unless the committee removes the minister from good standing. When asked the status of the investigation, Feille said he did not know.

Numerous phone calls and messages to the respondents have not been returned.
Sprinkle referred all questions to his attorney, Richard Griffen, who declined to comment.

If Sprinkle’s petition for depositions is granted, the committee’s “specific goal of discovering and dealing with instances of clergy sexual misconduct will be made enormously more difficult,” church members said.

The Southwest Region adheres to a Clergy Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedure for response in the event of alleged misconduct. The policy says the members of the Regional Committee on the Ministry shall serve as members of a disciplinary hearing. Representatives from Brite, as well as all other ex-officio members, do not participate in the hearings, according to the policy.

If a minister is found guilty of sexual misconduct, he or she can have their ministerial standing suspended or terminated, the policy states.

 
 
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