The Episcopal Church has issued a request for comments on the Title IV clergy disciplinary process. An online form is available here, and the deadline for comments is November 15.
Among the topics on which the church’s Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution, and Canons (SCCC) seeks comment:
- The canonical role of church attorneys in resolving Title IV cases.
- The discretion given to certain individuals and bodies in resolving misconduct complaints before a disciplinary trial.
- The need to ensure churchwide consistency in the handling of such complaints.
- The “overwhelming number of people” involved in carrying out the current Title IV process.
- Similarities and differences in how the canons are applied to bishops and other clergy.
Anglican Watch has offered comments, which we include below in PDF.
Highlights of our concerns:
- A Title IV system that far too often doesn’t treat bishops as different, but instead is every bit as dysfunctional as it it is for priests and deacons.
- Lack of accountability for bishops and intake officers who ignore the requirements of Title IV or sandbag cases.
- A closed system, in which we see the same persons over and over again in Title IV cases, regardless of qualification.
- A needlessly complex hearing panel process. Specifically, why are attorneys required? And why all the legal stuff, like discovery and depositions? This should be a process in which any reasonably articulate person can participate.
- Lack of alternative path forward when a bishop simply ignores a Title IV complaint.
- Inadequate pastoral response in almost all cases.
- Failure of judicatories to see Title IV not primarily as a disciplinary process, but rather an opportunity to resolve problems before devastating harm results to the church.
- Todd Ousley’s continuing proximity to the Title IV process, despite a clear failure to understand or respect the process.
- A systemic inability to address domestic violence by clergy and behavior that is illegal, but doesn’t involve sex, drugs, children or money.
We encourage readers to submit comments, as we have only seen a handful of Title IV cases that were well handled. Indeed, in our experience the vast majority of cases cause more harm than benefit.
Here are our comments: