BEVERLY — The curate of St. John's Episcopal Church is on administrative leave following "alleged violations of clergy 'standards of conduct,'" according to church officials.
The Rev. Stephen Scarff allegedly drank alcoholic beverages before transporting young church members during a mission trip, according to a letter to the church community dated July 12 and signed by the Rev. Stephanie Bradbury, rector elect; Senior Warden Steve MacKinnon; and Junior Warden Jeannie McIntyre.
The letter follows a complaint the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts received July 10, according to a prepared statement from the diocese.
"In keeping with the Episcopal Church’s clergy disciplinary process, Bishop Alan Gates placed the Rev. Mr. Scarff on immediate administrative leave, a standard precautionary response, while the facts of the situation are being determined," the statement said.
While it is unknown how long the investigation will take, Tracy Sukraw, the diocese's director of communications, said the goal is to "respond promptly."
Scarff was ordained as a priest in May 2015 at St. John's, according to online church records.
When reached for comment, Bradbury deferred to the diocese.
Anyone can make a complaint, Sukraw said in an email. The process falls under the Episcopal Church's canonical disciplinary process.
"When a complaint is received, it is promptly referred to an intake officer, who makes a preliminary investigation and report," she said in an email. "Depending on those preliminary findings, the complaint might warrant additional investigation and action, or it might be dismissed. Administrative leave is a precautionary measure."
Additionally, she said, the church has guidelines when working with youth, called "safe church training." Clergy must undergo the training, and it is suggested for others who deal with youth, including leaders and teachers.
"While it is inappropriate to comment further while the investigation is underway, it is important to emphasize that this situation, as with any allegation of misconduct, is being treated with seriousness and care for all who are involved," the statement said, "and that the Diocese of Massachusetts is committed to making our congregations safe through transparency, diligence and due process."
To address the congregation's questions and concerns, Gates was available at the church after its July 17 service.
"I appreciate the difficulty associated with receiving this communication, but trust that you will see that all appropriate and necessary measures are being taken to ensure the safety of the whole community," the letter to the church community said.
Arianna MacNeill can be reached at 978-338-2527 or at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SN_AMacNeill.