Fayette County

Episcopal Diocese of Lexington wants a new bishop

Douglas Hahn in 2012.
Douglas Hahn in 2012. Mark Ashley

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington says it wants a new bishop.

The current bishop, the Very Rev. Douglas Hahn, has been suspended since March, after it was discovered that he had had a previous affair with a parishioner which he did not disclose during his interview process in Lexington.

The six-member standing committee said that in a unanimous vote Oct. 5, the committee agreed that “it desires the dissolution of the pastoral relationship between Bishop Hahn and the Diocese of Lexington,” according to a letter to parishioners.

Hahn, however, “has not accepted our decision; therefore, we are not in agreement,” the letter stated. The presiding bishop of the church has been notified of the situation as called for by church laws, according to the letter.

The committee said that it undertook a seven-week “listening process” this summer and concluded that “1. Bishop Hahn was dishonest throughout the episcopal search process. 2. As a priest, Bishop Hahn abused his position of power when he committed sexual misconduct with a parishioner in violation of the canons. 3. The emotional and spiritual effort necessary to attempt restoration of the relationship would continue to divert significantly diocesan focus and resources away from the mission and ministry to which we are called.”

In March, Hahn was suspended for a year by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry after admitting that he had had a sexual relationship with an adult female parishioner, and that he “intentionally withheld” that information while seeking to become Lexington’s bishop in 2012, according to the diocese.

Hahn sent a letter to the diocese asking for forgiveness and saying that the year-long suspension would be “a time of repentance, retreat and reflection.”

“At the appropriate time we will work on ways that I will be reintegrated into our common life and leadership,” Hahn wrote in March.

The Rt. Rev. Bruce Caldwell, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming, was chosen in May to lead the diocese during Hahn’s suspension.

The Standing Committee of the diocese said it spent seven weeks this summer gathering feedback from clergy and lay members of the diocese, hosting five “listening sessions” where about 175 people offered feedback about the situation. More than 100 people also offered written feedback.

The committee, which also met with Hahn, said that while most of the respondents had forgiven Hahn’s “sexual misconduct,” 80 percent said they still struggled with his “deception and do not believe the integrity of the relationship with the diocese can be restored.”

The committee said Hahn was asked “on several occasions” during the hiring process “if he had ever engaged in a sexual relationship with a parishioner. He failed to respond truthfully or to voluntarily remove himself from the nominating process.

“The most serious consequential effect for the majority of respondents is the violation of trust by our bishop,” the committee wrote.