Pastoral Letter from the Bishop to the People of Western Massachusetts
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.
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.”
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 will be reported to an intake officer (find contact information below). 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.
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.
Contact her by e-mail, phone or in person by appointment (email@example.com or (508) 561-0197). Those who leave a confidential message will get a timely response.
The intake officer will:
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.
Many thanks to the Diocese of Connecticut and the Diocese of Massachusetts for sharing their materials and language.