Nearly every facet of Title IV affects a Bishop, and a Bishop affects nearly every facet. A Bishop bears the same canonical scrutiny and requirements as do other ordained clerics, as outlined in Title IV.3 and 4. Additionally, a bishop has canonical responsibilities in the disciplinary process as one of the three Reference Panel members, and he or she is given opportunities to offer unilateral outcomes to Title IV proceedings by writing a Pastoral Direction. The Bishop is also responsible for proper Pastoral Response to all parties in a Title IV proceeding and, if needed, to others affected by the proceedings. The Bishops is also involved in the discipline resulting from Title IV incidents of Abandonment.
Experts identify numerous areas in a Title IV proceeding where prudent best practices are needful in order to avoid further harm to participants, to maintain confidentiality and or privileged information when canonically required, and to assure the dissemination of accurate and appropriate communication among the church, the public, and in the media. Further best practices are needed for the conduct of a bishop’s staff during an active Title IV process, handling the clergy of the diocese, and delineating the canonical differences between a bishop’s functions as an individual and the office of the bishop as a diocesan entity.
As Bishop Koniecnzy details, it is not good to wait until something happens to prepare for disciplinary actions. The first task is to recognize the need to reach beyond the minimum pastoral requirements of the Canons. Bishops invariably discover there maybe dozens of people needing care beyond those directly involved in a Title IV procedure. Best practices also recommend that the bishop not be the one personally to provide the required pastoral care to a respondent cleric. Additionally, at the start of a process, the bishop must recognize there are boundary issues, conflicts of interest, and the need to pastor in an arms-length role to all sides of a procedure.
The Bishop of Oklahoma continues that it is also vital to inform parties to a Title IV procedure that immediately extending pastoral care to a Complainant is not meant to convey that a complaint is instantly judged to be true and that the Respondent’s behavior is a Title IV Offense. Likewise, an early Pastoral Response to a Respondent conversely does not convey that a complaint is false or a behavior is not a Title IV Offense. Those determinations are forthcoming only after investigation.
A Bishop is thus faced with facilitating Pastoral Response to perhaps dozens of entities affected by Title IV procedures, both inside and outside the church. That can be a daunting task and one that is unlike the one-on-one care that is more often part of a bishop’s vocation. Additionally, a bishop is used to providing the pastoral care for clerics in the diocese personally. Yet the canons call on the bishop to consider all sides of a disciplinary issue and not only the cleric’s. The Rev. Gay Jennings is a prominent cleric in church leadership who sees this difficulty.
The bishop has to consider more than conflicts of interest and facilitating care for people outside his or her normal sphere of responsibility. The Title IV Canons prohibit him or her from receiving much of the personalized advice normally given by Advisors such as chancellors. Boundaries are increasingly recognized and strengthened in newer versions of the Title IV Canons. Pauline Getz, Esq., is the chair of the joint standing commission that is responsible for the continued study of Title IV.
During a Title IV procedure, the demands on the bishop are not only professionally but emotionally trying. The diocese can become consumed by the proceedings. Public interest, press accounts, and rumors all contribute to sidetracking normal ministry and the work of the bishop’s diocesan staff. Of course, the wellbeing of all in the Title IV process and affected ministries are also of paramount concern. Other categories of this web discuss communication, affected congregations, abandonment, and other facets of Title IV proceedings. Time and time again, best practices emphasize the importance of understanding the demands before a Title IV proceeding comes forth.
Supplemental educational videos continue the discussions of best practices above. Executive Committee member Alexizendria Link discusses open-mindedness and The Rev. Canon Michael Hunn has practical advice about selecting experts for Pastoral Response teams.