Oakwood Episcopal priest denies nepotism, cronyism, domestic abuse allegations

Daniel McClain of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is to appear before a hearing panel, almost two years after he was put on leave due to previous allegations

Credit: Milt Ritter / Pixabay.com

Credit: Milt Ritter / Pixabay.com

An Oakwood clergyman who has faced previous allegations of domestic abuse will go before a hearing panel within the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio as part of a disciplinary process.

Allegations of domestic abuse were made against Daniel W. McClain of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Oakwood in May 2022 by his then-wife in a complaint sent to the diocese.

He was placed on paid administrative leave at that time before eventually returning to his role at St. Paul’s. Earlier this week, the diocese posted another complaint involving an investigation of McClain’s alleged behavior as the rector-elect of St. Paul’s, saying the disciplinary matter would advance to a hearing panel within the Episcopal Church.

The complaint includes allegations of nepotism, cronyism, retaliation against other church members who did not go along with McClain’s decisions, and a lack of adherence to COVID-19 protocols made against McClain, along with reiterations of claims involving his now ex-wife.

McClain this week denied all of the allegations being made against him in this complaint, he told the Dayton Daily News, saying he was not abusive in his marriage.

“I have always taken care of my family to the best of my ability, and I have always done everything in my power to be a good father to my children. I took care of Ms. McClain to the best of my ability,” McClain said.

McClain has never faced any criminal charges in Montgomery County courts, court records show.

The disciplinary “process is always to promote healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life, and reconciliation,” said Rt. Rev. Bavi Edna (Nedi) Rivera, assisting bishop at the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio.

“As this matter unfolds, I ask that you join me in praying for everyone involved, and especially for the people of St. Paul’s, Oakwood, where the Rev. Dr. McClain is rector-elect, and for the McClain family,” Rivera said in a letter to church members.

The domestic situation involving McClain was detailed in the complaint written by Steven J. Ellcessor, church attorney for the Diocese of Southern Ohio, who outlined the offenses alleged against McClain.

All of those offenses were already reviewed by a church Reference Panel, which investigated and voted to refer the matter to the Hearing Panel, the complaint says.

McClain’s then-wife made allegations of domestic abuse to the diocese in 2022, which she later recanted in January 2023 during a period of attempted reconciliation with McClain, the complaint says. She later said McClain had pressured her into saying the allegations were false, and now alleges the domestic abuse did occur.

The abuse allegations are not what’s at issue, though, Ellcessor said. It is her allegation that McClain manipulated her into writing those emails by falsely claiming to be interested in reconciliation is what the church says is relevant.

Said McClain: “There is a reason the church attorney is not prosecuting domestic abuse, and that is because I have not been abusive.”

McClain denies other allegations made against him in the complaint.

“I disagree with the allegations of cronyism, and retaliation, and lack of adherence to COVID-19 protocols. They are simply not true. I do not think I am perfect, but I do not deserve the accusations that are being made about me,” McClain said.

In addition to alleged complaints of McClain’s “manipulative” behavior and “acts of petty vindictiveness,” the diocese’s complaint against McClain also says church finances have suffered under his leadership.

Prior to McClain’s arrival, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church recorded a “plate and pledge income” of approximately $506,000 in 2019.

That income steadily decreased after McClain was called to be priest-in-charge at St. Paul’s in September 2020, coming from previous postings in Williamsburg, Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland. In 2022, the plate and pledge income was recorded as approximately $458,000. In 2023, the income was projected to be $291,000, with a deficit of $215,662.

“While we did project a budget deficit in 2023, the figures reflected in the complaint are higher than our 2023 deficit,” McClain said. The deficit report on St. Paul’s website is approximately $158,200.

McClain said other churches are not immune to the same financial concerns that they are facing.

“A lot of Episcopal parishes are working with budget changes at present, and St. Paul’s is not the only parish that has had to dip into its reserve funds or endowments,” McClain said.

The complaint alleges McClain used parish funds for personal expenses and performed an exorcism on the St. Paul’s church building in 2023 without permission. It says he hired his then-wife to a church position without posting it, “contrary to advice ... that hiring his wife to be a paid staff member would be improper,” and then lied about the process later. The complaint says McClain’s divorce proceedings are still ongoing, but that he admitted to the investigator that he is engaged in an affair with another woman, saying it did not begin until reconciliation efforts with his wife terminated.

“A consistent theme in many of the interviews conducted by the Investigator was the characterization of Respondent (McClain) as manipulative, vindictive, and intransigent, and determined to get his own way in whatever way was required,” the complaint reads. “A number of those interviewed expressed fear of Respondent generally and particularly feared retaliation.”

The president of the hearing panel and the church attorney, Ellcessor, will determine the timeline of disciplinary process. Rivera said that “Title IV matters often take a good deal of time to adjudicate.”

Other church leaders did not respond to requests for comment. McClain could potentially be removed from his role at St. Paul’s as a result of these proceedings.

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