Vero Beach Minister Who Had Adulterous Affair Is Defrocked

By George Conger
July 2, 2009

VERO BEACH — A prominent Vero Beach minister has been defrocked after an investigation concluded he had engaged in “conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy” for having carried on an adulterous affair for two decades.

On June 29, the congregation of Christ Church in Vero Beach was informed their former minister, the Rev. D. Lorne Coyle, had been deposed by Bishop John Guernsey and no longer had the “right to exercise the office of priest and the authority” of a minister.

On Feb 1, Coyle stunned members of the independent congregation, which meets in the former Indian River County Tax Assessor’s Office in Majestic Plaza off U.S. 1 in Vero Beach, by saying he was resigning as their senior minister and admitted to having committed adultery.

In 2007, Coyle, who had been the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Vero Beach for 15 years, led the majority of its members out of the Diocese of Central Florida in protest to the national Episcopal Church’s departure from traditional moral teachings. Coyle’s abrupt resignation on morals charges rocked the conservative congregation, causing some to speculate it would collapse.

However, the Rev. Bob Stull, Christ Church’s interim rector, said Thursday, “despite the sadness and concern” the church was “carrying on” and had not been sunk by the affair.

We are “weathering the storm”, Stull said, crediting the “lay leaders of the parish” for holding the congregation together. “It’s not just the leadership of the clergy, but the people” who have allowed Christ Church to continue to prosper, he said.

Christ Church is one of 700 founding congregations of 100,000 former Episcopalians in the United States and Canada that last month formed the Anglican Church in North America.

In his June 29 letter to the congregation, Guernsey said Coyle “engaged in an adulterous relationship, which began very early in his ordained ministry and continued for many years.” In 1991, the affair was discovered and the bishop of Rhode Island disciplined Coyle, but allowed him to remain a priest.

However, Guernsey writes Coyle “resumed the adulterous relationship” after moving to Vero Beach, finally ending the affair in 2000.

Because he already had been pardoned for one offense, “this repeated offense was particularly serious,” Guernsey said, and had led to his permanent removal from the ministry.

Guernsey said Thursday he was saddened by the affair, but declined otherwise to comment, stating his letter to the congregation would be his final word on the matter.

Coyle expressed his “remorse for the many people” he had hurt by his actions in a statement released jointly with his wife, Jane, after he was deposed on June 29. He conceded as he had already been “disciplined by the Church and given a new start, my misconduct was therefore particularly grievous.”

While “I privately repented of this sin, I kept it hidden from my wife, my bishop” and his congregation, and offered his apologies for betraying their trust.


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