A draft Code of Practice provided for
illustrative purposes only. The final Code of Practice will be
produced by the Clergy Discipline Commission and approved by the
B.1. Clergy Discipline Commission [s.3]
B.1.1. Membership shall be determined by
the Appointments Committee of the Church of England.
B.1.2. The purpose of the CDC is to have
a watching brief over the exercise of discipline. Consequently
B.1.2.1. seek to learn from experience,
and disseminate best practice;
B.1.2.2. develop a case law base of guidance
on misconduct and on penalties appropriate to misconduct, so as
to encourage consistency throughout the dioceses of the Church
of England; and
B.1.2.3. provide an advisory service to
bishops and Registrars, both in matters of law, and in matters
of procedure and good practice.
B.2. The Bishop's Disciplinary Tribunal [s.2.]
B.2.1. Each diocese will have its own tribunal,
for the purpose of adjudicating in contested disciplinary cases,
or where serious disciplinary offences are alleged.
B.2.2. The Registrar of Tribunals, probably
in consultation with the Diocesan Secretary shall be responsible
for the practical arrangements (venue, facilities, etc.) when
a tribunal hearing is required.
B.2.3. The Registrar of Tribunals shall
be responsible for clerking the tribunal hearing.
B.2.4. The members of the tribunal will
be allocated from the provincial lists, after consultation with
the diocesan bishop [s.21(2)].
B.2.5. It is envisaged that, whilst a tribunal
hearing will follow the requirements of the Rule Committee as
to procedure, etc., the trappings of a court of law will be modified
(no wigs or gowns, etc.), and the hearing will be in appropriate
church property, in a location convenient to the parties involved.
It is important that the feeling of criminal proceedings is avoided,
and that the tribunal is seen to be what it really isa
B.3. Disciplinary Offences [s.8.]
Discipline is relevant in three areas:
professional conduct as a person
in Holy Orders;
B.3.1. Professional Conduct
Certain expectations are required of clergy,
though these vary with the nature of the particular responsibility
for which the cleric is authorised. They are covered by the Oath
of Obedience (Canon C.14).
B.3.1.1. There are several sources from
which these requirements come.
(a) the Canons of the Church of England;
(b) Measures of the General Synod (and associated
Codes of Practice);
(c) Legal Opinionsby the Legal Advisory
(d) by decisions of Chancellors in faculty
(e) by decisions of the Judicial Committee
of the Privy Council;
(f) various codes of good practice issued
by dioceses; and
(g) Ecclesiastical Fees Measurecurrent
requirements and advice given.
B.3.1.2. Professional conduct includes:
(a) Public worship and occasional offices
conducted according to the authorised forms and in a seemly, reverent
and pastoral manner.
(b) Preaching and teaching of the Gospel
and Christian faith in order to bring people to, and build them
up in, Christian discipleship.
(c) Pastoral care of people, not least of
those in vulnerable situations who can easily be abused unless
proper provision is made available.
(d) Good administration, which is an aspect
of pastoral care, and is essential to the proper running of parishes
(e) Leadership in the Church to guard and
shape its mission. This will involve collaboration with others,
due respect for those in authority, and partnership in appropriate
levels of synodical government.
B.3.2. Personal Conduct
Canon C26.2. is quite clear that the WHOLE lifestyle
of the minister is relevant to his vocation. There is no distinction
between public behaviour in office and private conduct. The two
form a seamless whole. 1 Tim.3:1-13 is a good starting point.
Clergy are expected to be good and wholesome examples of Christian
Canon C.13 (the Oath of Allegiance) emphasises
the requirement to remain a law-abiding citizen within the secular
state. Sections 30-34 of the Measure allow for discipline where
secular law has been broken.
B.4. Overview of the new disciplinary procedure
B.4.1. When a complaint is made, it is important
that it is handled sensitively, thoroughly, and without undue
B.4.2. When complaint is made by word of
mouth, no attention can be given until it is reduced to a written
B.4.3. Literary or educational prowess is
not a pre-requisite for making complaint.
However, there are many people for whom the
need to reduce their concern to writing or to complete official
forms is a major obstacle to expressing their complaint. Diocesan
authorities need to be alert to this, and make provision for those
who will need assistance. Rural Deans and Lay Chairs of Deanery
Synods might be one source of help.
Such complainants need to have their concerns
and evidence in support transcribed, as far as possible using
their own phraseology and vocabulary. Transcription is to achieve
a communicable written copy, not to translate or paraphrase the
On occasions it might also be appropriate for
such a complainant to bring a friend when attending for interview
with the bishop or his representative.
B.4.4. Equally, anonymous written complaints
should be disregarded.
B.4.5. The four-week period (s.11) is to
create an effective sieve. Regrettably, clergy are particularly
vulnerable to being the focus of dissatisfaction, because of their
public accessibility. So, rather than a policy of making the laying
of complaints unduly difficult, with consequential implications
of defensiveness and protection, the Measure allows for alleged
complaints to be voiced, and then to be subjected to a rigorous
B.4.5.1. First, a complainant must record
his/her complaint in writing, and identify him/herself.
B.4.5.2. Second, a complainant must provide
the evidence to justify the complaint.
B.4.5.3. Third, a complainant needs to be
aware that, as a matter of natural justice, both the substance
of the complaint and the identity of the complainant will usually
be shared with the cleric against whom they have complained.
B.4.5.4. Then, the bishop will ensure that
the complaint is examined and evaluated. If it is found to be
frivolous or malicious it will be discounted.
B.4.5.5. A decision will be taken as to
(a) the complainant is qualified to complain
under s.10 of the Measure;
(b) the complaint, if upheld, would constitute
misconduct under s.8 of the Measure; and
(i) though technically an offence, the
alleged misconduct would be so minor that no action is taken [s.12(1)(a)];
(ii) though technically an offence, the
alleged misconduct is such that a warning (to be kept on the record)
would be a sufficient response [s.12(1)(b)]; and
(iii) the laying of a complaint is the
presenting action that reflects an underlying deterioration or
breakdown of relationship. In such cases the bishop would offer
conciliation [s.12(1)(c)] with the possibility that if the underlying
problems are properly addressed, the complainant may no longer
wish to request disciplinary proceedings.
B.4.5.6. By the conclusion of the four week
initial consideration period, only more serious complaints should
remain to be addressed. With the agreement of the cleric concerned
(if he admits the validity of the complaint) the matter can be
dealt with by the consent procedure [s.12(1)(d)]. Alternatively,
the adjudication process is available [s.12(1)(e)]. Adjudication
is necessary where the cleric denies the complaint, in very serious
cases, or where conciliation or consent provisions fail.
B.5. Suspension during proceedings [s.36
Suspension is sometimes desirable whilst a complaint
is being investigated. Alternatively, it may be necessary for
the protection of the cleric against whom complaint has been made.
Wherever possible it is preferable that the
bishop and cleric can reach a mutual agreement for the cleric
to withdraw. The bishop should only resort to this power when
he believes that a withdrawal is essential and where such a mutual
agreement proves impossible to achieve, or where the bishop does
not have confidence that the cleric will honour a voluntary agreement.
Regrettable as suspensions are, when they take
place it is essential to ensure that the very act of suspending
does not, of itself, prejudice the investigation of the complaint.
It will often be the case that an accused cleric will respond
negatively to a suggestion of suspension, on the basis that this
presumes or implies guilt or culpability.
B.6. Courses available beyond the initial
four week period
B.6.1. No further Action [s.12(1)(a) and
In this one instance, the complainant may appeal
against the bishop's decision, on the grounds that the complaint
has been unfairly treated, or is of greater seriousness than the
bishop has allowed for.
Under s.13(2) the bishop must notify his decision.
As this is an exercise of permitted discretion,
the complainant will need to demonstrate that the bishop has acted
B.6.2. Warning [s.12(1)(b) and 14].
This is particularly valuable when the misconduct
is of a minor nature and, possibly, a one-off or out of character.
The recorded information acts as an indication that the behaviour
is unacceptable. It also allows evidence of a growing habit to
be documented. So, whereas one incident is regrettable, a consistent
pattern might be taken more seriously.
B.6.3. Conciliation [s.12(1)(c) and 15].
The appointment of the Conciliator is vital
to any progress that can be achieved. Such persons will need proven
experience in conciliation procedures. They will also need to
have the confidence of both complainant and cleric.
Persons able to fulfil this task may well be
found within the diocese. But this will not always be so, and
on occasions, a neutral from outside the diocese may be more appropriate.
So, for these instances, the CDC will compile and maintain a register
of persons who might be available to serve as conciliators.
B.6.4. Penalty by consent [s.12(1)(d) and
B.6.4.1. The admission of culpability by
a cleric must not be forced. Although the bishop perceives the
complaint to be straightforward and legitimate, this is an insufficient
reason for bringing pressure to bear upon a cleric in a weak or
B.6.4.2. Equally important with the issue
of admitted guilt, are the circumstances surrounding the admitted
misconduct. There may be extenuating circumstances that should
be explored and evaluated.
B.6.4.3. In determining a penalty, the bishop
will have access to the CDC who will offer guidance as to the
range of penalties that might be appropriate.
Seeking such advice would encourage consistency
between dioceses. All penalties listed in s.24(1) of the Measure
may be applied, as appropriate.
B.6.4.4. Under the existing informal and
ad hoc system in current use (outside the official procedure)
resignation is the most popular result when misconduct is admitted.
It may sometimes be an appropriate outcome, but is in too wide
(a) in serious cases of misconduct something
more than a simple resignation is required; and
(b) in minor cases of misconduct resignation
may be an inappropriate and harsh response.
It is understandable that bishops may push for,
or clergy may offer, to resign as a simple response to a misconduct
situation. Thus far it has also been an effective way of avoiding
more appropriate disciplinary procedures. But in future, such
resignations, reached by the procedures allowed for in the Measure,
will be recorded on the Archbishops' List as "resignations
for disciplinary reasons."
B.6.4.5. As the offer of resignation, or
the suggestion that it be used, often occurs quite suddenly during
an interview, it is essential that time for proper reflection,
as well as consultation with others, occurs. The cleric would
need at least to discuss this with a spouse (where married) and
consider the future. A bishop would need to evaluate whether resignation
is a "soft option," when in fact it may be too weak
or too strong a response to the admitted misconduct.
B.7. Provincial Panels [s.21]
B.7.1. The legally qualified chairperson
[s.22(1)(a)] is to be selected for their experience in handling
the sort of cases that may fall to be heard by a tribunal. They
should also be such persons as will work collaboratively with
the other panel members appointed to a hearing.
It is possible, if the Archbishops so determine,
for one or more persons to be appointed to both provincial panels.
B.7.2. The clerical and lay nominees result
from consultations by the bishop with the members of his Bishop's
Council. The provision in s.21(3) permits the Archbishops to balance
the two panels in their province, if they believe there to be
an imbalance amongst nominees (eg on the basis of gender, age
B.8. Proceedings in Secular Courts [s.30-34]
B.8.1. Offences incurring a prison sentence
or a suspended prison sentence received anywhere in the world
by a court properly constituted under the laws of that country
are included within s.30(1) and s.31(1).
B.8.2. s.33 and s34 mean that the bishop
must be informed of:
(a) conviction for offences not involving
imprisonment (suspended or actual); and
(b) divorce or separation orders.
Past experience has shown that secular courts
cannot be relied upon to supply records of relevant proceedings.
So the responsibility is placed upon the cleric. Disclosure does
not mean that disciplinary proceedings will be initiated. But
it does ensure an appropriate openness, allowing disciplinary
implications to be tested if this is relevant, and for pastoral
care and support to be offered where necessary.
B.9. Archbishops' List [s.38]
B.9.1. The present List has been in existence
in one form or another since 1908. Bringing the List within the
Measure is a significant step forward. It ensures that what should
be on the record is properly collated and managed in a clearly
B.9.2. Under the Measure there will be a
publicly known List. The procedures by which a name is placed
on the List, or removed from it, will be transparent.
Any cleric who is sufficiently concerned will
be able to seek information as to whether or not his/her name
is recorded. And those on the List will have clearly defined rights
to ask for review of their inclusion on the List.
B.9.3. Contemporary secular employment legislation
is concerned to outlaw "black lists". However, when
a cleric is under discipline, or where [s.38(1)(e)] there are
known problems in the performance of a given cleric's ministerial
duties, it is not unreasonable that bishops should be alert to
such information when making appointments. Few people will accept
that the bishop was ignorant of significant information when offering
preferment. But without a List, carefully regulated with adequate
rights of representation by affected clerics, ignorance would
B.9.4. It is not envisaged that the List
should be distributed any more widely than in the past. Whilst
its existence and regulation would be in the public area, the
List itself should remain under limited confidentiality.
B.10. Wider Consultation
When considering alleged misconduct, the bishop
needs to be mindful of the wider implications of the situation.
The needs of the cleric's spouse (or former spouse) and family,
church officers, and parish are all important. They will need
to be consulted. Pastoral care and support may need to be provided
for them (and also for the cleric against whom a complaint has
been made) throughout the inquiry and beyond.
Rehabilitation is an important feature of Christian
discipline. But when encouraging a return to ministry, the bishop
needs to be aware of those who were damaged, or who may remain
aggrieved, as a result of the previous misconduct. Such persons
must be allowed to offer comment (in confidence) to the bishop,
and their representations need to be included in the full consideration
given by the bishop to the circumstances before he makes a decision.
The cleric's family and former spouse (if a divorce is involved)
should be advised, by the bishop himself or his representative,
of such actions as the bishop decides to take.