Sandwich, Massachusetts Episcopal priest suspended for plagiarism

One of the Ten Commandments is “thou shall not steal,” but an Episcopal priest has been suspended for allegedly lifting more than a dozen Sunday sermons verbatim from a book.

The Rev. John E. McGinn, 65, who has led the 300-plus families at St. John’s Episcopal Church since 1993, was placed on administrative leave amid allegations that he plagiarized sermons dating back to 2006, said the Rev. Mally Lloyd, canon to the ordinary for the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, a position equivalent to the bishop’s chief of staff.

As many as 15 sermons have been identified as direct copies, Lloyd said.

They were allegedly taken from a book called “Dynamic Preaching,” which can be accessed only with an online subscription.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, TEC Bishops, Theology

17 comments on “Sandwich, Massachusetts Episcopal priest suspended for plagiarism

  1. Ian+ says:

    “This is a serious breach of the pastoral relationship,” said the bishop. I wonder how sound the plagiarized sermons were, and how they compare with the PB’s sermon in Curacao last Sunday. Her preaching is certainly a breach of pastoral relationship with Christians to whom she preaches.

  2. MichaelA says:

    I understand, this is a prevalent problem – why, only this morning I heard a pastor plagiarising parts of the Bible in his sermon!

  3. paradoxymoron says:

    Funny that they apparently didn’t give him the chance to quietly resign before publicly suspending him. It’s as though they had an interest in making him wear the scarlet letter.

  4. Brian of Maryland says:

    If they were better than what he could write …

  5. Ralph says:

    “Members of the tiny, wood-shingled 1899 church…were notified of McGinn’s alleged plagiarism through a May 9 letter from Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. The letter announced that the rector had been removed from the pulpit.”

    I’m not sure this is a canonical violation, though it’s certainly dishonest. But, look who’s casting stones! Let’s not speak about his not-so-secret private life, but this bishop presided at the faux “marriage” of 2 women at the diocesan cathedral, a grave violation of canons and Biblical law.

    God will judge them both, as He will judge all of us. Somehow, I suspect that the zap for this bishop will have more amperage.

  6. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) says:

    It’s my understanding that, several years ago, McGinn+ took issue with Shaw for not ordaining a gifted seminarian to the priesthood–apparently a young man with a stellar work ethic as an evangelist who was running multiple(I believe) Alpha courses at St. John’s, not to mention other good works.

    The Alpha course is not usually content from the revisionist playbook.

    McGinn+ was at St. John’s for a long time and successfully oversaw a renovation and expansion there, if I remember correctly.

    I don’t agree with plagiarism and it is unethical and illegal but in this context I don’t believe it merits a smear job in the local rag, complete with petty, classless comments from the preceding rector.

    I wish Fr. McGinn a happy retirement. It may be that, at the moment, God is working out all things in His own way. I hope and pray for the right thing, whatever that is.

  7. Katherine says:

    If he used copyrighted materials without permission, then that is a legal violation. Copyrights aside, I have no problem with the preacher using ideas or materials from others, so long as they present orthodox teaching to the congregation. It does sound, based on Bookworm’s #6, more like a way to get rid of an orthodox rector to make way for — what?

  8. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) says:

    Even before me, telling points were made in #3 and #5, at the very least.

    Katherine, “to make way for–what?” Three guesses… 🙂

    By the same token, when a priest is warned about unsat behavior and then continues to do it, he may as well give his bishop his resignation or suspension on a platter.

    It was announced in DioMass churches yesterday that Shaw is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor; the pathology is pending.

  9. David Keller says:

    I am confused by this story. Are sermons actually copyrighted? And even if they are why would a legitimate Christian minister care if someone used a sermon? If it works for bringing people to theKingdom, so what? I am not nor will I ever be ordained, but I have done a lot of talks, teachings and Cursillo Rollos in my time. I would personally be honored for someone to “steal” one. I realize this guy was probably railroaded, but I just don’t understand why his offense is even an offense? As #2 said, do we really think Paul would be upset if we quoted him without citation. In fact, yesterday at church I said sometime about groaning under this earthly tent. Can I now be prosecuted?

  10. Cennydd13 says:

    Was this an act of revenge? It sure looks that way!

  11. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) says:

    “I realize this guy was probably railroaded, but I just don’t understand why his offense is even an offense?”

    You have answered your own question here. 🙂

    But, as I said above, if a priest is going to violate episcopal direction and do what he/she has been told not to do, thus placing his/her neck on the block, there is nearly no need for a railroad.

    I have no idea here whether or not we’re talking about the lifting of copyrighted material. I am also not saying that Fr. McGinn should/should not still be an active priest, my actual eyeroll is the need to do this complete with tabloidy mushroom cloud. Hence my quick, based on what I know, outline of some of the backstory.

    Mr. Keller, aren’t you also military in some shape, fashion, or form? You know it’s an old adage, even if dealing with Skippy the Most Ethical Junior Officer in the Fleet. “When an admiral wants to get rid of you, he/she will find a reason”… :-/

  12. David Keller says:

    Bookworm, You are right about that. Of course, sometimes it’s a good idea to get yourself transferred before the General does you in! Maybe Fr. McGinn should have moved somewhere else sooner. South Carolina is lovely and PEARUSA/ACNA is/are swell. Also, if Fr. McGinn was too busy to pen his own sermons, he probably should have been doing some serious vocational contemplation way before the Bish hammered him. I also just re-read the story and the sermons were from a subscription service, which appears to offer ready made sermons for use by clergy. The ace reporter for the Cape Cod Times could have taken the 5 seconds it took me to find Dymanic Sermons on line. From the looks of the website, I am guessing there are quite a few preachers guilty of using the resource, but it doesn’t look like McGinn stole anything.

  13. jhp says:

    I think this whole affair is sad and reflects poorly on all concerned. I recall another instance of this charge being made against a cathedral Dean who inconveniently lingered somewhat longer than his services were wanted. After he was ousted, a place was made for one of the leading lights of the Church, “a wise from the East.” Although I valued the preaching of the man who stepped in, I regretted the circumstances of his coming.

    The irony of this is very great. Anglicanism always had a book of prepared, state-sanctioned sermons which were ordered to be regularly read from pulpits in Early Modern England — the Elizabethan Book of Homilies. The 39 Articles suggested these homilies were a doctrinal standard. In principle, reading prepared homilies is not the worst wrong in the Episcopal Church crying out to heaven for justice. By far.

  14. driver8 says:

    Well, I don’t know any of the underlying issues though I would likely consider it, at the least, unprofessional of a former Rector to comment on a disciplinary complaint facing his successor.

    Nevertheless, the oddity in this case is not exactly plagiarism as such but that the preacher looks to have used verbatim stories of other’s experiences and seemingly claimed them as his own. It would be easy to rephrase them so that it was clear one was talking of another’s experiences – but if one looks at the sermons (they have been removed from the parish website but Wayback Machine is your friend) he didn’t always do that.

    In the Christmas Eve sermon I looked at there looked to be a general story perhaps drawn from the sermon services preachers can sometimes subscribe to and elements from the preacher’s own reflections and experience. However it also contained a powerful story of encountering a stroke victim and singing “Silent Night” to him that was recounted first person but was in fact drawn, I think, from the work of James W. Moore.

    My view is that one ought not to do that simply because involves one in lying. But the resolution is simple – just acknowledge the person from whom one learned the story. Quite how this has ended up as a disciplinary issue is perplexing – it seems trivially easy to resolve.

  15. driver8 says:

    I should say I looked at an Easter sermon and found the same thing – wrapped in his own reflections and general stories that I suspect come from a preaching service – a powerful first person tale, that was claimed to come from his own life but in fact seems to be from another person entirely.

    If you want to have a see what you think, look at:

    and then

    and then:

    As I say, it should be trivially easy to sort out. Why is has not been so is baffling.

  16. jhp says:

    Ah! Thanks driver8, that sheds important light on this … Truly bizarre and deeply disappointing that he should “enrich” his messages with the borrowed experiences of another. Strange, very strange …

  17. MichaelA says:

    He’s still not Mike Warnke…