Title IV is the Episcopal Church’s process that handles complaints about clergy misconduct. You may read about the process, terms and permutations in the 44-page document. To summarize, the Diocese of San Diego has an intake officer who hears the initial complaint, a reference panel, composed of the intake officer, the bishop and the president of the disciplinary board, and a disciplinary board composed of members elected by the annual Diocesan Convention (gathering of church delegates). The board includes clergy members and laity. It reports to a provincial court of review. Intake officers, chancellors and bishops may not be members of the disciplinary board.
- Complainant sets the process in motion by contacting the intake officer with allegation of misconduct.
- The intake officer investigates, writes a report and sends this to the reference panel and to the chancellor.
- A Title IV advisor is designated to support, assist, consult with, and advise a complainant or respondent.
- After the initial investigation, the intake officer may conclude that the matter does not involve a Title IV offense, and recommend that the issue be closed, with the bishop’s consent, and the complainant is notified by mail. In this scenario, the complainant has the right to appeal to the disciplinary board.
- The intake officer may conclude that the allegation constitutes a Title IV offense, and a more complete investigation by the reference panel begins. After that investigation, the reference panel decides the appropriate disposition of the complaint.
- The reference panel meets and decides to: a) take no action, b)provide conciliation, c) investigate further, 3) reach an agreement with the bishop regarding disciplinary actions, or 4) send the matter to the conference panel.
- At this time a conference panel and a hearing panel are assembled. The hearing panel consists of at least three people, both clergy and the laity. Obviously confidentiality is expanded at this time to include the members of the conference panel.
- The purpose of the conference panel is to see if there is a resolution that is pastorally appropriate before sending the matter to a plenary before the hearing panel. The conference committee meets with the complainant and the respondent and mediates a solution, if possible. If not, then the conference committee can recommend that the matter be sent to the hearing panel for an evidentiary hearing.
- The bishop issues a pastoral direction to the offending clergy person. This direction is made in writing and very seriously directs the clergy person in matters of doctrine, discipline, worship, manner of life and/or behavior.
- The bishop places restrictions on the clergy person’s exercise of ministry or places the clergy person on administrative leave. This is usually employed when the bishop is concerned for the good order, welfare or safety of the church or any person in the community. These restrictions are communicated in writing and according to specific guidelines laid out in church law (canons).
What Happens Next
- The bishop may disclose such information concerning the pastoral direction, restriction of ministry or administrative leave, as the bishop deems pastorally appropriate or necessary.
- The clergy person may request a review of the restriction of ministry or administrative leave in writing by the disciplinary board. Reviews are conducted within 15 days of receipt. If a restriction on ministry or administrative leave has been reviewed once, a second request may be made only if there has been a substantial change of circumstances from the time of the first request, or if the bishop has made a modification to the initial restriction.
- The panel may elect to dissolve or affirm the restriction or administrative leave, in writing, and the decision is binding.
- The bishop may provide a pastoral response that embodies care, respect, and concern for the affected people and communities. The response promotes healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice and amendment of life among all involved or affected.
- The bishop may provide pastoral care to all people affected by the incident: the complainant, the complainant’s family, the respondent, the respondent’s family, injured people, injured people’s families, witnesses, community members and the disciplinary board.
- The bishop may designate a person to be responsible for the pastoral response.
Important Points to Remember
- The process has multiple decision points, each within multi-person panels composed of clergy and lay members.
- No decision is in the hands of a single member.
- A Title IV advisor ensures that no one goes through the process alone.
- The whole process usually takes months, not days or weeks; this is to ensure thorough investigations and careful handling of all reports.
- During the intake process and the reference panel phase, strict confidentiality is maintained. Please be aware that once the issue moves to the conference panel, the respondent and others will know about the allegations as a matter of due process.
If you believe you have experienced misconduct, please report to the intake officers.