All Saints priest says he is unaware of any alleged abuse by Lisby in Worcester
By Brad Petrishen
Telegram & Gazette
February 23, 2020
|All Saints Church in Worcester|
The top priest at All Saints Episcopal Church said Sunday that he has not heard any allegation that former rector Gregory Lisby abused anyone in Worcester.
Lisby, a rector at the Irving Street church from about 2015 to 2018, was accused by his diocese Friday of abusing a teenager at an undisclosed location sometime after he became a priest in 2007.
The Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts made the revelation in a letter to congregants ahead of Lisby’s guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Worcester to one count of possession of child pornography.
It is not clear whether Lisby, who was a kindergarten teacher in Holyoke at the time of his September 2019 arrest, has been investigated by police in connection with the diocese’s allegation.
The diocese – which said it received “devastating credible evidence” against Lisby after his arrest – has declined to release further details or say whether police are involved, citing the alleged victim’s privacy.
According to the Providence Journal, Lisby worked for the Episcopal diocese in Rhode Island from 2005 to 2010. He then served Christ Church in Ridgewood, New Jersey, from 2010 to 2015, the bishop there wrote, before coming to All Saints in Worcester.
The bishop in Newark, New Jersey, Carlye J. Hughes, posted an online missive Friday in which she said there is no “indication of this behavior” in New Jersey “at this time.”
The diocese of Rhode Island does not appear to have posted anything online regarding Lisby since Friday, nor have two Rhode Island churches where he worked.
The Providence Journal reported in September that a Rhode Island bishop had not found any complaints about Lisby in records there following his arrest.
The Rev. Bernard Poppe, the top priest at All Saints, said after a service Sunday that he is not aware of allegations of physical abuse in Worcester.
The diocese has said Lisby was suspended from All Saints in 2018 because of an “inappropriate relationship with an adult that did not involve sexual contact.”
Poppe, who said he came to All Saints after Lisby left, said Lisby has not been physically working at the church since about October 2017.
Poppe said he mentioned Friday’s news to congregants at the beginning of Sunday’s service, telling them he did not have much else to share other than what appeared in the diocese letter.
Poppe said that after Lisby’s arrest five months ago, he asked congregants to share any relevant information about Lisby with the church or fellow members.
He said he has not heard any allegations regarding Lisby’s conduct in Worcester since that time. He did acknowledge that sometimes people step forward after an initial allegation has been made; Bishop Douglas J. Fisher, in his letter to congregants Friday, asked anyone with relevant information to contact him at 413-417-2401.
Poppe said he and church members are deeply saddened by Friday’s news. He asked a reporter not to speak with members of the congregation gathered for coffee after the service, citing the upsetting nature of the topic.
Before Lisby pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography Friday, a federal prosecutor detailed a litany of disturbing images and files depicting child sexual abuse she said were found on Lisby’s cloud storage following a tip from Microsoft.
The FBI found about 180 images and 15 videos, she said, on the same account in which a teacher licensure document was found in which Lisby discussed his enthusiasm for teaching kindergartners.
Holyoke administrators Saturday said an initial investigation last year did not uncover any evidence of concerning interactions between Lisby and students.
Lisby is married to the Rev. Timothy Burger of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at 921 Pleasant St. The devices onto which Lisby allegedly downloaded the child pornography were found in Lisby’s room at the rectory next door, where the couple lived with their two adopted daughters.
Nobody answered the doorbell at the Tatnuck area home Sunday afternoon. A Bernie Sanders pamphlet was jammed into the doorway.
The diocese said Friday that Burger is “in no way implicated in any of these charges” and has filed for divorce from Lisby.