The General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2009 revised the canons known as Title IV to make clergy discipline first and foremost a process of discernment, mediation and pastoral response rather than one that is legalistic and judicial. The process now models those used in the medical, legal and social work professions. The revised canons went into effect on July 1, 2011.
PURPOSE OF DISCIPLINARY CANONS
Canon 1 of Title IV sets the theological context for the process: “By virtue of Baptism, all members of the Church are called to holiness of life and accountability to one another. The Church and each Diocese shall support their members in their life in Christ and seek to resolve conflicts by promoting healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life, and reconciliation among all involved or affected. This Title applies to Members of the Clergy, who have by their vows at ordination accepted additional responsibilities and accountabilities for doctrine, discipline, worship and obedience.”
AN OVERVIEW OF THE PROCESS
Before July 1, 2011, clergy disciplinary matters were brought to the bishop or the Standing Committee of the diocese. Effective July 1, 2011, under the revised canons, all matters are now reported to an Intake Officer. Matters might then be resolved through pastoral care, mediation, an agreement with the bishop, an investigation or any combination of these. An investigation may result in formal mediation, and, if necessary, a hearing.
The process now allows for resolution through whatever means will move those affected toward justice, restitution, amendment of life, repentance, healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. This can include a variety of interventions for all involved and, if necessary, the suspension or removal of the cleric from ordained ministry.
What are the Guiding Principles behind the new Title IV?
- Emphasize pastoral care for all
- Be less adversarial than the previous Title IV
- Reflect our theology as people of faith and promote repentance, forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, justice, restitution and amendment of life
- Allow for the story to be told early in the process
- Provide options and flexibility to resolve matters constructively
What Standards of Conduct for Clergy are Named in the New Title IV?
Every member of the clergy is expected to abide by the following Standards of Conduct and shall be accountable for any breach thereof.
Every Member of the Clergy shall:
- respect and preserve confidences of others
- conform to the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer
- abide by the promises and vows made when ordained
- safeguard the property and funds of the Church and community
- abide by the requirements of any applicable accord or order, pastoral direction, restriction on ministry or placement on administrative leave
- report to the Intake Officer all matters which may constitute an offense
Every Member of the Clergy shall refrain from
- any act of sexual misconduct
- holding and teaching publicly or privately, and advisedly, any doctrine contrary to that held by the Church
- engaging in any secular employment, calling or business without the consent of the Bishop
- being absent from the Diocese for more than two years without the consent of the Bishop
- any criminal act that reflects adversely on the member of the clergy's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a minister of the Church
- conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation
- habitual neglect of the exercise of the ministerial office without cause, or habitual neglect of public worship, and of the Holy Communion
- any conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy
- violating the Constitution or Canons of the Church or of any diocese
- failing to cooperate with any investigation or proceeding conducted under this Title
- intentionally and maliciously bringing a false accusation or providing false testimony in any investigation or proceeding under this Title
What is actionable?
To be actionable, the conduct complained of must be material and substantial or of clear and weighty importance to the ministry of the Church
To whom does one report?
Information regarding offenses is reported to the Intake Officer. The Intake Officer for the Diocese of Newark is the Rev. Canon Gregory A. Jacobs.
Contacting the Intake Officer:
Anyone may contact the diocesan intake officer to report concerns about the behavior of a member of the clergy (priests, deacons, bishops). This initiates a process to hold clergy accountable for their behavior.
The Rev. Canon Gregory A. Jacobs is the Intake Officer for the Diocese of Newark. Contact him by e-mail, phone or in person by appointment: firstname.lastname@example.org; 973-430-9915 (confidential voicemail).
What happens when a possible offense is reported?
The Intake Officer conducts an investigation and decides if the allegations would constitute an offense, if they were true. If the answer is “Yes”, the matter is then forwarded to the Reference Panel. A series of conversations then begins. An agreement may be reached during any stage of the conversations. The goal at every stage of conversation is to reach an accord, a written resolution which is negotiated and agreed among the parties. If an agreement is not reached at a particular stage, the matter proceeds to the next stage of conversation.
The stages of conversation are:
- A Reference Panel made up of the Intake Officer, Chancellor, Bishop and President of the Disciplinary Board
- A Conference Panel made up of one to three members of the Disciplinary Board
- A Hearing Panel made up of three different members of the Disciplinary Board
- The Provincial Court of Review
The Intake Officer will:
- Listen with respect
- Offer pastoral care and response
- Create a written report regarding the concern(s) presented
- Answer questions about the process
Please note: Effective July 1, 2011, members of the clergy are required to report to the Intake Officer anything that may constitute an offense and to cooperate with the clergy disciplinary process.
Thanks to the Dioceses of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia for providing resources used in the preparation of this Title IV process description.