TEC Standing Commission Requests Input on Clergy Disciplinary Process

The Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution, and Canons welcomes churchwide input as it continues to review and revise Title IV disciplinary canons related to clergy. Feedback and recommendations can be submitted via this online form by Nov. 15.

The commission met in person Oct. 9-11 at the Maritime Training Center in Linthicum Heights, Maryland. In addition to the invitation for input and legislative proposals, the commission released the following statement:

The commission’s work and discussions focused primarily on invitations from the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies to address significant concerns across The Episcopal Church about reported problems with disciplinary proceedings in which a bishop is the respondent, as well as additional issues with clergy disciplinary proceedings.

The issues we face arise in part because of the language and structure of Title IV. They arise as well from the manner in which the church implements these canons, the tension between transparency to build trust and confidentiality to protect participants, and the culture of the wider church.

As a standing commission, our role is to recommend appropriate changes to our structures and procedures so that our disciplinary rules work well in practice to protect people from misconduct; resolve complaints fairly, promptly, and efficiently; and screen out meritless claims.

Our review of and action on specific suggested changes has been assisted by input received from many voices across the wider church. In view of the substance of these comments and the significance of the issues before us, we know that our work will require multiple meetings, given the rigorous review we accord to suggested canonical changes. Our work must assure that changes made are consistent with the rest of Title IV.

The issues now being considered as areas of revisions to the canons include but are not limited to:

      • The role, qualifications, and accountability of church attorneys.
      • The degree of discretion vested in various individuals and bodies involved in the pretrial resolution of misconduct complaints.
      • Better ways of assuring churchwide consistency in the understanding and application of disciplinary processes. This may include, for example, improved training and/or the consolidation of disciplinary structures.
      • The overwhelming number of people needed to make effective the disciplinary structures presently envisaged by the canons.
      • Similarities and differences between the disciplinary processes for bishops and other clergy, and steps toward consistent application of disciplinary standards across all orders of ordained ministry.

There is more work to be done to propose detailed canonical changes for consideration by the General Convention. The commission is grateful for the many thoughtful comments and detailed suggestions it has received for changes to the Title IV disciplinary canons, in addition to many proposed amendments from last year’s General Convention