ECCLESIASTICAL DISCIPLINE

 

In 2009, General Convention adopted a totally new Title IV dealing with Ecclesiastical Discipline of Clergy in the Episcopal Church.  The new Title IV took effect on July 1, 2011.  The new Title IV includes several new offenses for which a Member of the Clergy may be subject to discipline which had never previously been included in the Canons of the Episcopal Church.  In addition to the Offenses under the old Title IV, a Member of the Clergy may now face disciplinary proceedings for (a) "attempting to violate, directly or through the acts of another person, the Constitution or Canons of the Church or of any Diocese;" (b) failing to cooperate with any Title IV investigation or proceeding; (c) bringing a false accusation or providing false testimony or false evidence in any Title IV investigation or proceeding: and (d) failing to report all matters "which may constitute an Offense" under Canons IV. 3 or IV.4.  


 "In all proceedings under this Title whenever a Respondent ... is required or permitted to appear or to participate or to be heard or to be present, they shall have the right to be accompanied by and to be represented by counsel of their choice. "        Canon IV.19.12.  


The new Title IV also creates entirely new disciplinary structures and multiple phases, and it contains provisions which give broad new powers to Bishops and materially modify the rights of Episcopal Clergy.

The Ecclesiastical Court has been replaced by a Disciplinary Board.  Complaints no longer have to be in writing and under oath. There is no elected Diocesan Review Board to review complaints and decide whether to issue a Presentment. There is no Presentment.  Instead, a "Statement of Offenses" is prepared by the Church Attorney.  Under Title IV as amended, it is now possible for a A Member of the Clergy to be brought to trial before a three-member "court" known as a "Hearing Panel" based solely upon the decision of the Bishop.

Information concerning Offenses in any form may be submitted in any manner to an "Intake Officer" who is usually appointed by the Bishop. The Intake Officer may make a preliminary investigation and write an "intake report" which is then provided to a Reference Panel, which consists of the Intake Officer, the Bishop, and the President of the Disciplinary Board. The President of the Board selects, from the other members of the Disciplinary Board, a Conference Panel and a Hearing Panel and designates a president of each panel. A Conference Panel may consist of only one person. A Hearing Panel may consist of as few as three persons, consisting of both lay and clergy members.


The Bishop may, without prior notice or hearing, (a) place restrictions upon the exercise of the ministry of such Member of the Clergy or (b) place such Member of the Clergy on "Administrative Leave", the equivalent of "Inhibition" under the former Title IV.   Canon IV.7.3. 


The Reference Panel may refer the matter for investigation by an Investigator appointed by the Bishop. Upon receipt of the report of the Investigator, the Reference Panel may refer the matter to the Conference Panel. Upon referral to the Conference Panel, the President of the Disciplinary Board sends the intake report, the Investigator’s reports and any other materials collected by the Disciplinary Board to the Church Attorney. The Church Attorney then drafts a written statement describing each alleged Offense, and forwards the statement, together with the materials received from the President of the Disciplinary Board, to the Conference Panel. Thereafter the Conference Panel sends a copy of the Church Attorney’s statement to the member of the Clergy (the Respondent) and other interested parties, and gives notice of when and where the Respondent is required to appear before the Conference Panel.

Proceedings before the Conference are "informal" and no record is made of its proceedings. The Conference Panel will attempt to resolve the matter by agreement. If that is not successful, the matter may be referred for Conciliation before a Conciliator appointed by the Bishop or directly to the Hearing Panel.

After referral to the Hearing Panel, the Church Attorney may file a revised Statement of the Offense. The Respondent, the Church Attorney and the Complainant are then given Notice by the Hearing Panel which describes the nature and purpose of the proceeding and includes the Statement of the Offense. Within thirty days after the mailing of the Notice, the Respondent must file a written response to the Statement with the Hearing Panel.

After completion of discovery, the matter will be tried before the Hearing Panel. All testimony shall be given under oath or solemn affirmation, and witnesses will be subject to cross-examination. Hearsay evidence may be admitted at the hearing. After the conclusion of the hearing, the Hearing Panel may dismiss the matter or enter an Order setting forth a recommended resolution of the matter and a proposed sentence. The Bishop will then decide whether to follow the terms of the Order and pronounce sentence as recommended by the Hearing Panel and notify the Respondent and the Church attorney of the intended Sentence.


If found to have violated any provision of Canon IV.3 or Canon IV.4, a Member of the clergy may be sentenced to (a) admonition, in which the conduct of such Member of the Clergy is publicly and formally censured or reprimanded, or (b) suspension, in which such Member of the Clergy is required to refrain temporarily from the exercise of the gifts of ministry conferred by ordination, or (c) deposition, in which such Member of the Clergy is permanently deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority conferred at ordination.          Canon IV.2.


The procedures under Title IV are complex, and the potential consequences are serious.  All Episcopal Clergy have the right to be represented at every stage of Title IV proceedings.    No Member of the Clergy should ever face a proceeding under Title IV without adequate, experienced and knowledgeable representation.  We at CANONLAWYER.ORG are available to represent you if you are faced with possible discipline under Title IV.

If you are now or believe you may be the subject of a complaint, an investigation or a proceeding under Title IV contact us immediately for a free consultation.

 

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