Father Andrew Rayburn

Aliases:
  • Isaac Melton
  • Sterling Melton Peter Rayburn
  • Andrew Melton
DOB: Jul 21, 1938
Father Sterling Rayburn
Father Sterling Rayburn
Father Andrew Rayburn
Father Andrew Rayburn

Father Andrew Rayburn is a monk in the Orthodox Church of America (OCA), Diocese of the South (DOS). Rayburn lives at the Monastery of the Holy Archangel Michael in Cañones, New Mexico.

In 1983 Rayburn was convicted of four counts of sexual battery, one of them with a minor under the age of eleven and the others with minors over the age of eleven, one count of battery (also involving a minor), and five counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

In the late 1970s Rayburn, then called Father Sterling, was an Episcopal priest in Winter Haven, Florida. He left the Episcopal Church for the Anglican Catholic Church of North America in 1977. Rayburn started another parish in Winter Haven under the auspices of this Anglican Catholic group. He served there until the spring of 1979 when he moved to Miami and converted to Orthodoxy.

According to the Tampa Tribune, Rayburn worked at the OCA chancery office in Miami. He was arrested there in July of 1979. The Tribune also reported that the law enforcement affidavit which supported Rayburn’s arrest alleged that the former clergyman had performed oral sex on a child, coercing the boy into the act by using his authority as the child’s priest.

An eyewitness to Rayburn’s arrest reported that Archbishop Dmitri Royster was on the premises at the time.

Rayburn was diverted into a locked treatment program. Four years later, on July 21, 1983, he pleaded guilty to the oral copulation of a child under the age of eleven, and no contest to the other nine charges. Rayburn was placed on probation for ten years. He was released from supervision on January 28, 1988.

Following Rayburn’s release in 1983, he moved to New Jersey. He attended services at a parish of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America and lived in the parish’s rectory. Fr. Michael Graves who was the priest serving that parish, told Pokrov.org that Rayburn came to Graves’ parish with the full knowledge and permission of Metropolitan Philip Saliba.

Subsequently, Rayburn began attending an OCA parish in Flemington, New Jersey. In early 1984 Rayburn began a parish paper for St. Gregory Palamas Orthodox Church called DOXA.

Rayburn relocated to New Mexico in 1989. He purchased property in Cañones, planning to develop an Orthodox rehabilitation center. Rayburn had experience as an alcoholism counselor.

However, during a 1990 visit to Mt. Athos Rayburn decided that he should become a monk. At the suggestion of his spiritual father, Father George Sondergaard, he joined the OCA’s Monastery of the Glorious Ascension in Resaca, Georgia, and became Brother Isaac. When Rayburn was tonsured he began using the name “Father Andrew.”

In 1993 Rayburn founded St. Michael Skete on the Cañones property, under the auspices of Glorious Ascension. DOXA became a publication of the monastery and Rayburn published articles under the name of “Isaac Melton.”

In 1997, Glorious Ascension left the OCA for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. St. Michael Skete and Rayburn remained in the OCA.

In August of 1998 Rayburn and a novice, Brother Mark Vinson, were in a serious auto accident. Vinson was killed and Rayburn sustained head and facial injuries and a broken collarbone.

After Pokrov.org went online in June of 1999, we were told that Father Andrew, the superior of St. Michael Skete, was a convicted pedophile. By December of 2003 we had verified that this information was correct.

In the course of our research, Pokrov learned that although Rayburn was apparently not a clergyman in the OCA, he wore a pectoral cross (see picture on the right above). Moreover, one website on Orthodox monasteries advised for a number of years (perhaps erroneously) that St. Michael Skete had only one monastic, but that liturgy was served every Sunday.

However, even more disturbing was the evidence that Rayburn had been involved with youth:

• April 2000: SOYA [Syrian Orthodox Youth Organization] Salina Regional Retreat: “The Retreat leader is Fr. Andrew from St. Michael Skete in Cañones, New Mexico.”
• August 2001: SOYA Southwest Trekkers: “Visit Saint Michael’s Skete and learn to dip beeswax candles and meet Father Andrew, an OCA monk.”
• February, 2002: OCA St. George’s Annual Pre-Lenten Retreat: “Retreat Presenters, (L) Brother John and (R) Father Andrew of St. Michael’s Skete in New Mexico.”
• Planned for December, 2003: OCA Rocky Mountain Deanery Youth Retreat: “Retreat at St. Michael Skete in Canones, New Mexico.”

The official OCA policy on sexual misconduct states:

“No person who has been convicted or has plead guilty to any violation of law involving child sexual or physical abuse, and no person known to have a paraphilic diagnosis such as, but not limited to, pedophilia, exhibitionism, or voyeurism as defined by the American Psychiatric Association, shall be allowed to work with children or youth in any capacity.”

As Pokrov prepared to publish the information on Rayburn’s criminal record, we were contacted by Father John Bethancourt, an Antiochian priest in Santa Fe. Bethancourt told us that all of the local clergy were aware of Rayburn’s past, but conceded that the parents of the children who had participated in the first three events mentioned about had not been informed. The OCA Rocky Mountain Deanery Youth Retreat, planned for Christmas, 2003, at St. Michael Skete, was relocated after Pokrov expressed concern for the safety of the children who would be attending. Bethancourt, and later Rayburn himself, assured us that no children have been hurt by the monk at any of these events.

After our page on Rayburn was published, Pokrov wrote to Archbishop Dmitri Royster to question how this situation was allowed to develop. In response, the archbishop indicated that Rayburn was involved with more retreats and parish talks than the four discovered by Pokrov. He also confirmed that the local clergy had been notified of Rayburn’s record, as well as all the clergy in the Diocese of the South. Our correspondence can be found among the links on the right hand side of the page.

However, in contrast to Royster’s statement that Fr. Andrew was leading a “secluded monastic life,” the monastery completed a guest house in 2004. A public posting on the Yahoo Group “Orthodox News” by Matushka Elizabeth Perdomo, the wife of OCA priest Father Anthony Perdomo, advertised that the skete was selling 2005 calendars to help support itself. The priest’s wife wrote, “Purchase of this calendar will help the Fathers in their important work of prayer and hospitality as well. The monastery now has a fantastic retreat facility – very peaceful – and their newly completed chapel is a wonderful place to spend time in prayer.”

One of Rayburn’s young victims from Florida contacted Pokrov after we published the information on his conviction. According to this victim, the child who was under the age of eleven was only three years old. The victim also told us that one of the other victims committed suicide. Also, this victim told us that all of the victims were boys, with the exception of the child involved in the one count of battery.

On October 22, 2007, Rayburn was retired as the superior of St. Michael Skete. In early 2008, he was also removed as an officer of the St. Michael Skete corporation.

Rayburn continues to reside at the skete, which after 2009 was renamed the Monastery of the Holy Archangel Michael.

CASE DETAILS

Case Number 7901933/ 6 Counts

1. FS794.011: Sexual Battery of a child older than 11 and less than 18 years: Oral copulation of a child older than 11 but less than 18 years where perpetrator was in a position of custodial authority over the child. March 17, 1979.

2. FS827.04 (M1): Contributing to the delinquency of a minor: Providing alcoholic beverages and Cannabis to a minor. March 17, 1979.

3. FS794.011: Sexual Battery of a child older than 11 and less than 18 years: Oral copulation of a child older than 11 but less than 18 years where perpetrator was in a position of custodial authority over the child. January, 1978.

4. FS827.04 (M1): Contributing to the delinquency of a minor: Providing alcoholic beverages to a minor. January, 1978.

5. FS794.011: Sexual Battery of a child older than 11 and less than 18 years: Oral copulation of a child older than 11 but less than 18 years where perpetrator was in a position of custodial authority over the child. May, 1977.

6. FS827.04 (M1): Contributing to the delinquency of a minor: Providing alcoholic beverages to a minor. May, 1977.

Case Number 7902439/ 4 Counts

1. FS794.011: Sexual Battery of a child: Oral copulation of a child who was then and there 11 years of age or younger. Between May and September, 1978.

2. FS827.04 (M1): Contributing to the delinquency of a minor: Providing alcoholic beverages to a minor. Between May and September, 1978.

3. FS827.04 (M1): Contributing to the delinquency of a minor: Providing alcoholic beverages to a minor. December, 1978.

4. FS784.03 (M1): Sterling Rayburn did touch and strike another person against his will. December, 1978.

On July 21, 1983, Sterling Rayburn pled guilty to Count 1 of Case Number 7902439, oral copulation of a child 11 years of age or younger. He entered a plea of no contest to Counts 1-6 of Case Number 7901933 and Counts 2-4 of Case Number 7902439. Rayburn was placed on probation for ten years. The probation was scheduled to terminate on July 20, 1993.

Rayburn was released from supervision on January 28, 1988.