TCU Daily Skiff Friday, February 13, 2004
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Sprinkle cedes standing in church region
The petition of Brite’s director of field education was denied in the 48th Judicial District Court Thursday.

By Elizabeth Bassett

The Brite Divinity School administrator who accused the Christian Church’s Southwest Region of discrimination resigned his standing in the region Thursday, saying a church investigation into sexual misconduct allegations was not proceeding fairly.

The attorney for Stephen Sprinkle, Brite’s 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,” Sprinkle’s 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 Church’s 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 Sprinkle’s 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 Region’s 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. Sprinkle’s petition appears to have been filed in response to the investigation, Coble said.

Richard Griffin, Sprinkle’s 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 Sprinkle’s employment.

“There’s nothing about Dr. Sprinkle’s employment, that we know, that’s been changed by anything said,” Coble testified.

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 client’s 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 didn’t like Sprinkle and was conspiring with church members to damage Sprinkle’s career.

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 Sprinkle’s standing removed because he felt Sprinkle was unethical and tried to insinuate an apology for the misconduct during the interview, she testified.
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