Clergy Disciplinary Process
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.
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 accountability for doctrine, discipline, worship and obedience.”
Please note: At General Convention in 2018, Resolution D034 was passed by both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. This amendment to our disciplinary canon (Canon IV) suspends the statute of limitations for acts of abuse or exploitation that have been committed by members of the clergy. Previous to this resolution, acts alleged to have been committed by clergy over ten years ago would be outside the time limit for Title IV proceedings. From January 1, 2019 until December 21, 2021, this limitation has been lifted. For any act alleged to have been committed against children (defined as anyone under the age of 21), there is no statute of limitations. If you have an experience to share of a clergy person violating standards of conduct, we are prepared to listen and respond. Scroll down for contact information for Title IV Intake Officers.
An overview of the process
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.
The Title IV canons are available here. An outline of Title IV standards of conduct for clergy, also courtesy of the Diocese of Connecticut, is available here .
Clergy standards of conduct:
Members of the clergy should:
• 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
• Obtain consent of the bishop to be absent from the diocese for more than two years
Members of the clergy should not:
• Engage 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)
• Hold or teach any doctrine contrary to that held by the Episcopal Church
• Commit criminal acts
• Engage in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation
• Habitually neglect public worship, Holy Communion
• Engage in any conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy
Please note: Members of the clergy are required to report to an intake officer anything that may constitute an offense and to cooperate with the clergy disciplinary process.
Diocesan Intake Officers:
If you have a concern about the behavior of a clergy person (priest, deacon or bishop) you may reach out to either of the two Diocesan Intake Officers by phone or email. They will respond sensitively and provide information about Title IV process.
The Intake Officers will:
Listen with respect
Offer pastoral care and response
Create a written report regarding the concern(s) presented
Answer questions about the process
The Rev. Caroline Hines
Office Phone: (603) 323-8515 or Mobile phone: 603-553-9254
The Rev. Caroline Hines was ordained to the priesthood in 2000, and served as Associate Rector of Christ Church, Exeter, NH for nine years. She then served at six parishes as Interim Rector in Maine, Ohio and New Hampshire, before being called as Rector of St. Andrew’s in the Valley, Tamworth, NH. Prior to attending seminary she worked for 20 years as a Master’s level child and youth psychologist for a community mental health center and county school system in Western North Carolina.
Canon Tina Pickering
Office Phone: 603-224-1914 or Mobile Phone: 603-365-0170
Tina Pickering serves as Canon for Ministry Development at the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire. She also serves as Safe Church Officer for the Diocese. She is a member of St. Andrew's Church in Hopkinton, NH and has served as Warden there. She has worked as Director of Alumni Relations at St. Paul's School, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Bar Foundation, and Director of Development at the Emmanuel Gospel Center. She has a Master of Arts in Religion from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Joint Title IV Disciplinary Board
The Dioceses of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have a Joint Title IV Disciplinary Board. The President of the Board is the Rev. Kate Atkinson, Rector, St. Paul's Church in Concord, NH.
Many thanks to the Diocese of Connecticut and Massachusetts for sharing their materials and resources.