An Episcopalian priest who was working as a kindergarten teacher was arrested for allegedly possessing child pornography and resigned from his position in the Holyoke Public Schools, officials announced Thursday.
Gregory Lisby, 40, of Worcester was arrested Thursday night in Northborough and charged Friday with one count of possession of child pornography.
He was detained after appearing in federal court in Boston Friday afternoon, according to a spokeswoman for US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling’s office, and is scheduled to be back in court for a hearing on Sept. 23
Bishop Douglas J. Fisher said in a statement the FBI raided Lisby’s home Wednesday night and seized his computer.
“Lisby is married to the Rev. Timothy Burger, rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Worcester, and lives in the rectory,” Fisher added. “Although Lisby is now in federal custody, out of an abundance of caution, I will be placing him under a pastoral directive that forbids his contact with any Episcopal church.”
Lisby resigned from his job as a kindergarten teacher at the Morgan School in Holyoke early Thursday morning, school officials said in a statement.
“Mr. Lisby’s resignation came as the Holyoke Public School district learned that the FBI was investigating him in connection with allegations relating to possession of child pornography,” the statement, released Thursday, said. “This is troubling news, and we understand that this will prompt many questions from the community. As this is an ongoing investigation, we do not have any additional information to share at this time.”
Lisby also served as rector of All Saints Church in Worcester from 2015 to 2018 and was suspended from the position last year “for an inappropriate relationship with an adult that did not involve sexual contact,” Fisher said in the statement.
And Little Sprouts’s early education and child care center in Natick said in a statement Friday that Lisby had worked there from January until May 10, when he left saying he was taking a job as a kindergarten teacher.
Little Sprouts officials are starting an internal investigation of Lisby’s tenure there, according to the statement. Lisby went through a full background check before starting his job there, the statement said.
The FBI investigation into Lisby began after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a tip from Microsoft on Dec. 17, 2018, that a digital file containing child pornography had been uploaded to its OneDrive service through an account linked to Lisby, according to an affidavit for a search warrant filed in US District Court in Worcester.
On Aug. 27, Microsoft provided the contents of the account in response to a federal search warrant, and investigators identified approximately 180 images and 15 videos that appear to depict child pornography, the affidavit said.
The digital files included images of boys between the ages of 8 and 15 engaging in sex acts, according to the affidavit.
Investigators traced the IP address to 919 Pleasant St. Worcester. Lisby was listed as living there with his husband, the rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which is next door.
Fisher, the bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Western Massachusetts, said that when he suspended Lisby last year, he did not find any evidence that he was a danger to children.
Fisher said he has since launched an investigation under the clergy disciplinary canons of the Episcopal Church.
“I have no reason to believe that children in our diocese have been victimized in this situation,” Fisher said in the statement. “Yet, I know that children whose images appear in pornography are heinously abused and violated by the adults who produce and consume it. This reality breaks my heart. Please join me in praying first for the children who are victims of child pornographers and for an end to the horrific abuse perpetuated by this industry.”
Lisby had been working at the Morgan School in Holyoke since August and also worked as a teaching assistant in a school summer program, school officials said.
Holyoke school officials said all employees are fingerprinted and undergo background checks, and Lisby “passed the background checks at his time of hire.”
A classroom paraprofessional will teach Lisby’s class until a permanent teacher is found, school officials said.
“We will be working closely to support our students, families and staff in the coming days,” Holyoke school officials said in the statement. “District officials and Morgan staff will be in regular communication with students and families who may have worked with Mr. Lisby.”
School officials urged anyone who has questions about the investigation or information to share to call the US attorney’s office Project Safe Childhood hot line at 617-748-3274.