Complaints Procedures

 

·        If your complaint/concern is a general one about the way things are done in your parish, please raise it with your Vicar or one of the parish Wardens.

 

·        If your complaint/concern is about another parishioner, please see the summary procedure set out in the diagram entitled ‘Procedure for complaints against parishioners’.  

 

·        If your complaint/concern relates to the conduct of someone licensed by the Bishop to carry out ministry (such as a vicar or assistant priest) or someone who holds office in the church (such as a vestry member), then please see the summary procedure set out in the diagram entitled ‘Procedure for complaints against ministers and office holders’.  The term ‘Title D’ is explained further below, as are these complaint procedures.

 

·        If you are unsure what to do or who to contact, then please feel free to ring Merv or Lorraine on Ph. 0274 8671 561 or 06 377 4709.  They will listen to your concerns and help you with next steps.

 

Rules of the Anglican Church

The complaints procedures for misconduct by licenced ministers and office holders are governed by the rules of the wider Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. These rules are commonly known as ‘Title D’. 

Changes to these wider rules will come into effect later this year.  Until then, any complaint received will be dealt with according to the procedures outlined below.  This information will be updated when new rules come into effect.

 

What behaviour can I expect?

The Diocese of Nelson has adopted its own Code of Ethics which sets out the behaviour it expects from those who serve in the Diocese, paid or unpaid.  For a copy of this Code, please see Code of Ethics.  Examples of behaviour to expect under the Code of Ethics are set out under Code of Ethics: some explanatory examples.

Many of the expectations set out in the Code of Ethics are the same as, or similar to, the standards expected of licenced ministers and office holders under Title D and are helpful in understanding these standards.  However, it is the Title D standards themselves and the Title D description of ‘misconduct’ that is relevant to decisions made under the complaints procedure that applies to licenced ministers and office holders.  For information about these standards and complaints procedure, please see Title D.

Until examples of what constitutes misconduct are built up and publicly available following proposed changes to Title D, the best assistance we can give to help you understand what behaviour to expect from licenced ministers and office holders are the actual words used to describe misconduct in Title D and the examples referred to in Code of Ethics: some explanatory examples.

 

Who do I complain to?

This has been addressed briefly above. 

Current church rules give authority to the Bishop to decide how complaints against licenced ministers and office holders will be handled and what the outcome will be.  However, to help people feel more comfortable making a complaint, the Diocese of Nelson has engaged a man and woman from outside the Diocese, with experience in hearing complaints, to be the initial point of contact for anyone with concerns about ministry.  Their names are Merv and Lorraine Jones and they can be contacted on Ph. 0274 8671 561 or 06 377 4709.  Merv is a retired clergyman and Lorraine, his wife, has a background in counselling. They will listen to your concerns, make sure you have the support you need and pass on complaints about misconduct to the Bishop.  Sometimes they may also advise you to make a complaint to the Police or another agency.

You can expect to receive a letter acknowledging receipt of your complaint within 7 days of your complaint being referred to the Bishop. 

 

What happens after I make a complaint?

As with all complaints procedures, certain basic legal rules of fairness apply.  This means the Bishop must advise the person being complained about of the complaint and give them an opportunity to respond to it.  This request will also happen within 7 days of the Bishop receiving a complaint. 

How long it takes to receive this information and make a decision on the best way forward will depend on the circumstances.  For example, whether it is easy to locate the person complained about and whether special factors influence how quickly they can respond will all influence the timing of a decision on what to do next.   Usually this decision will be made within about a month of the Bishop asking for a response.

The Bishop has a number of options for dealing with a complaint.  In some circumstances no further action may be needed. Or it may be that the matter can be resolved informally between those involved.  A further option is for the Bishop to refer the matter to mediation, to see if it can be resolved with outside help.  However, if the complaint involves a serious matter of misconduct, the Bishop will refer it to a church disciplinary tribunal.  The job of the tribunal is to inquire into the matter and make findings about the facts.  It may also recommend particular outcomes to the Bishop.

 

What happens at a mediation?

In some cases the Bishop may ask an experienced mediator to help mediate a complaint.  The purpose of the mediation is to try and reconcile the parties by achieving an agreed settlement of the complaint.  You can have a support person with you at the mediation.

If an agreed resolution is achieved, the parties will be asked to sign a record of the terms of settlement, which will be final and binding.

If a mediation fails to achieve an agreed resolution, the Bishop may decide to take no further action, or may decide at that point to refer the matter to a disciplinary tribunal.

What happens at a disciplinary tribunal?

A disciplinary tribunal is made up of three or more people, including a clergy person, a lay person and an experienced lawyer.  They will carefully listen to what everyone has to say and will consider all the evidence.  At the end of this process the tribunal will make a finding on the facts about whether there has been misconduct.  It may also recommend to the Bishop what it considers an appropriate outcome. 

You can have a support person with you at a tribunal hearing.  You may also choose to be represented by someone else, including a lawyer.

The tribunal sets its own procedures and is more informal than a court but is governed by legal rules to make sure its proceedings are fair.  This means that the process can often be much longer than expected, as enough time has to be given throughout for all parties to be heard and to respond to each other.  There may also be practical difficulties to overcome, such as arranging for everyone to meet together at suitable time.  Because of these considerations it is not unusual for it to take six months or longer from the setting up of a tribunal until all the evidence is heard, although the Diocese will do its best to help keep things moving as quickly as possible.

 

What happens after the tribunal makes its findings?

When the tribunal has finished its task, it sends a copy of its report to the parties and to the Bishop.  The Bishop then decides on the outcome from the available options:

·        No further action

·        Admonition (reprimand)

·        Suspension (from office or ministry)

·        Deprivation (of office or ministry)

·        Deposition (taking away a person’s ordination rights)

The Bishop then lets the parties know in writing about the outcome decided on.

 

Can I appeal?

If you are dissatisfied with the findings of the tribunal or the outcome decided by the Bishop, you can appeal to a wider church Appeal Tribunal.  An appeal must be made within 28 days of the Bishop’s decision on outcome.  The Appeal Tribunal is currently made up of five members – the three Archbishops of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, plus one lay member and one clergy member from the Church’s Judicial Committee.  The Appeal Tribunal may confirm, modify or reverse the findings of the earlier tribunal or decision of the Bishop on outcome.   The Appeal Tribunal can set its own procedures but must follow the legal rules governing fairness.

 

This description of the complaints procedure for complaints against licenced ministers and office holders is a summary only.  For full information about the complaints process, see Title D.