February 13, 2004
cedes standing in church region
petition of Brites director of field education was
denied in the 48th Judicial District Court Thursday.
Brite Divinity School administrator who accused the Christian
Churchs Southwest Region of discrimination resigned
his standing in the region Thursday, saying a church investigation
into sexual misconduct allegations was not proceeding
The attorney for Stephen Sprinkle, Brites director
for field education, made the announcement during a hearing
for his petition requesting depositions of church members
in the 48th Judicial District Court. Judge David Evans
denied the petition to investigate whether defaming claims
were made against Sprinkle and whether there was a conspiracy
to interfere with his employment at Brite.
Because of clear indications that I will not be
able to have a fair and just hearing before the Committee,
I have taken the only option I have remaining to me,
Sprinkle said in the letter to the Regional Committee
on the Ministry.
I do not renounce my ordination in any way,
Sprinkles letter says. Bryan Feille, Brite associate
dean of student affairs, said a minister who no longer
has standing is no longer authorized by the Region to
serve in the ministry.
It was unclear Thursday if or how the resignation would
affect his position as director of field education at
Brite. Numerous efforts to contact Brite president Newell
Williams were unsuccessful.
The letter also says that Sprinkle learned the Churchs
two-person investigating team recommended the proceedings
against him be dropped. The Regional leadership ignored
this recommendation, though, according to the letter.
Church officials have declined to comment on the findings
of the investigating team.
Sprinkle had been the subject of investigations by Brite
and the Southwest Region of the Church on allegations
of sexual misconduct. Brite officials have said they are
not currently investigating Sprinkle.
Sprinkle said he was barred in January from serving on
a committee interviewing ordination candidates because
he is gay.
Because of Sprinkles resignation, the church investigation
of sexual misconduct will probably be halted, Ed Coble,
attorney for the Christian Church, said in court. Sprinkle
was subject to the Regions policies and procedures
of investigation because he was a minister with standing
in the Region, he testified.
Coble told Evans the petition could not get information
about the Regional investigation because it is a church
matter. Sprinkles petition appears to have been
filed in response to the investigation, Coble said.
Richard Griffin, Sprinkles attorney, said the depositions
could have turned up information that is not chuch-related.
If depositions could be taken, he said in court, he could
obtain any information not church-related.
I believe we have a very strong First Amendment
issue, Evans said.
Coble said in court he did not see any evidence of a conspiracy
against Sprinkles employment.
Theres nothing about Dr. Sprinkles employment,
that we know, thats been changed by anything said,
Coble testified that as far as he knew, Sprinkle was still
employed by Brite.
Brite attorney Rory Divin attended the hearing but did
not participate. Evans asked him if Sprinkle is still
employed by Brite, and Divin confirmed from the audience.
My clients employment at Brite is not as secure
as it once was, Griffin testified.
That seems speculative, Evans told Griffin.
Two witnesses were called forward by Griffin and testified.
Griffin said in court that the testimonies were to prove
the person who filed charges against Sprinkle was making
a personal attack because he didnt like Sprinkle
and was conspiring with church members to damage Sprinkles
Heather Patriacca, a Brite student, said in her sworn
testimony that the student who accused Sprinkle of sexual
misconduct told her he was unhappy with his ordination
interview session in September, when Sprinkle was a part
of the interviewing committee. The accuser told her he
was approached by people in the regional church regarding
his session but did not specify who approached, she testified.
Tammy Wynn, also a Brite student, said in her testimony
she was contacted because she was present at the event
where the alleged sexual misconduct took place. The accuser
told her he wanted Sprinkles standing removed because
he felt Sprinkle was unethical and tried to insinuate
an apology for the misconduct during the interview, she