Clergy Disciplinary Process (Title IV)
Clergy have by their ordination vows accepted additional responsibilities and accountabilities for doctrine, discipline, worship and obedience. This process of accountability, as set out in Title IV of the Constitution and Canons for the Government of The Episcopal Church ("Title IV"), seeks to promote justice, restitution, amendment of life, repentance, healing, forgiveness and reconciliation among all involved or affected by clergy misconduct.
Before July 1, 2011, clergy disciplinary matters were brought to the bishop or the Standing Committee. Since July 1, 2011 (under the revised Title IV canons), all matters are to be reported to an Intake Officer (contact information below) who will create a written report. Following that, the matter could be resolved by pastoral care, mediation, an agreement with the bishop, an investigation, or any combination of these.
If it moves to an investigation, some of those matters could go to a more formal mediation and if necessary, a hearing. The resolution of the matter could be anything that will move those affected to justice, restitution, amendment of life, repentance, healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. This could include suspension or removal from ordained ministry.
The clergy disciplinary process is similar to that used in other professions, such as doctors and lawyers.
For more information:
Clergy Standards of Conduct
- maintain confidentiality,
- safeguard property and funds of the church,
- conform to the canons of The Episcopal Church and the rubrics of The Book of Common Prayer,
- abide by ordination vows,
- obtain consent of the bishop before engaging in secular employment, and
- obtain consent of the bishop to be absent from the diocese for more than two years.
Clergy should not engage in any conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy, including, but not limited to:
- engaging in sexual misconduct (includes sexual behavior with: a member of the congregation, employee, volunteer, person in high school, person under 18 years of age, person legally incompetent, someone with whom the clergy has ever had a pastoral relationship);
- holding or teaching any doctrine contrary to that held by The Episcopal Church,
- committing criminal acts,
- engaging in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation,
- habitually neglecting public worship, Holy Communion, and
- engaging in any conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.
"Conduct Unbecoming" by a Member of the Clergy shall mean any disorder or neglect that prejudices the reputation, good order and discipline of the Church, or any conduct of a nature to bring material discredit upon the Church or the Holy Orders conferred by the Church.
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 behaviors. The Intake Officer for the Diocese of Atlanta is the Reverend Canon Alicia Schuster Weltner. Contact her by phone, email, or in person by appointment: 404-601-5349; firstname.lastname@example.org. Her office is at the Diocesan Offices at the Cathedral of St. Philip, 2744 Peachtree Road, NW, Atlanta 30305. You will receive a timely response if you leave a message.
What can you expect from the Intake Officer?
- You will be listened to with respect.
- You will be offered pastoral care and response.
- The Intake Officer will create a written report regarding your concerns.
- The Intake Officer will answer your questions about the process.
NOTE: Under Title IV, all clergy are required to report to the Intake Officer anything that may constitute an offense and to cooperate with the clergy disciplinary process.
Materials on this page are adapted, with permission, from the pages on Clergy Discipline of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. Questions about this material, or Title IV in general, may be addressed to Canon Weltner.