The Rev. Fr. Paul S. Winton, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, the second largest Episcopal church in Charlotte, North Carolina, has resigned from his post after he was found to have engaged in "conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy."
A report from the Charlotte Observer said Winton was judged by a diocesan panel, and Bishop Anne E. Hodges-Copple of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina in Raleigh sent a letter to the church's more than 2,000 members informing them of his exit. The letter did not share specifics on Winton's "unbecoming" offenses which Hodges-Copple said were "confidential."
Church leaders explained to members in an e-mail on Sunday, however, that Winton's conduct "did not involve in any way – from start to finish – any criminal or financial wrongdoing or any other wrongdoing against any other person or child."
In her letter to members, Hodges-Copple said the process to remove Winton was "difficult and long ... as well as a careful, prayerful and judicious one."
She said Winton had been on a leave of absence from the church since last December, after allegations about his conduct were made.
She explained that Winton "agrees to continue to do the work he has been doing since December to work on his health and well-being. ... He is dearly loved and valued. He has made tremendous progress and I am hopeful this progress will continue."
Hodges-Copple further noted that the church hopes the removed rector "will return to active ministry at some point in the future."
Responding to a call from the Observer, Winton noted that "under agreement with the diocese, I'm not allowed to speak on this matter ... I do wish the parish and the diocese well and look forward to finding other ways to serve the church in the future."
Winton had served at St. John's for about seven years prior to his removal. He noted in a now deleted bio on the church's website that it was his third call and he hoped it would be his final one.
"I delight in ministry in a thriving parish and love change in almost all its forms. I have fun developing big visions for the parish and then working through and with others to see them become reality — which accounts for much of the vibrancy of the parish. I love to preach and teach, but delight in all aspects of service as a parish priest. My favorite part of ministry is developing clergy as they begin their ministry, so they can serve the larger Church as effective leaders. It is a special privilege possible for larger parishes," he wrote.
Although he was single when he arrived at the parish, he added that "I am now married to Ms. Dana Handy Hay, and in addition to a grown son, I now have the joy of sharing in the life of Dana's daughter as well."
Winton is the second high-profile Episcopalian leader to make recent headlines. Heather Cook, former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland who was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2015 for the death of a 41-year-old father in a drunken hit-and-run incident, was denied a request for early parole last Tuesday by the Maryland Parole Commission.