What To Expect In a Title IV Procedure with Bishops as Respondents

The “General Education and Best Practices” topics concerning How to Make a Complaint, Intake Process and Intake Officers, and What to Expect in a Title IV Procedure often assume a model where a priest or deacon is the Respondent.

As the topic, What Constitutes and Offense details, the Title IV Canons hold all clerics to the same standards regardless of the clerical order (bishops, priests, and deacons.) However, Title IV Canons do call for a slightly different disciplinary process for bishops. This includes bishops diocesan, bishops suffragan, assisting bishops, and retired bishops.

The first difference is in the Intake Process. Anyone with knowledge of an apparent Offense committed by a bishop, may contact any cleric or a diocesan Intake Officer just as done for priests and deacons. The cleric or diocesan Intake Officer then contacts a church wide Intake Officer, who is appointed by the Presiding Bishop. The Complainant may also contact the church wide Intake Officer directly. The Chancellor of the Diocese of California, Christopher Hayes, has served on the Disciplinary Board for Bishops and explains why the complaint is referred to a church wide Intake Officer for matters involving bishops, and subsequently others from a Disciplinary Board for Bishops selected from throughout the church.

Christopher Hayes, Esq., Diocese of California Chancellor

The Chancellor of the Diocese of Newark, Diane Sammons, was the former chair of the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons and worked on the foundation of much of Title IV as adopted at the 2009 General Convention.  She says the Disciplinary Board for Bishops for the Title IV procedure concerning bishops parallels the diocesan model. The board also reflects a cross section of clerical and lay orders. 

Diane Sammons, Esq., Diocese of Newark Chancellor

Those who formulated Title IV for General Convention approval and brought forth subsequent resolutions for modifications saw that complaints against bishops were generated by the laity, priests, deacons, and other bishops. Therefore, the Disciplinary Board was canonically drawn up to reflect the orders of the church as a whole.  Chancellor Sammons says it’s part of a transparent effort to achieve fairness.

Diane Sammons, Esq., Diocese of Newark Chancellor

Christopher Hayes also says this modification for fairness throughout the clerical orders is a major departure from the past when just bishops often decided the fate of other bishops. He says Title IV has become inclusive and uniform for all clerics.

Christopher Hayes, Esq., Diocese of California Chancellor


The parallel disciplinary structure that mirrors the diocesan model for priests and deacons also includes the Presiding Bishop who serves on the Reference Panel just as his or her diocesan counterpart would serve.  Judith Andrews, who has been part of the Episcopal Church’s task force on safe church says it’s important that the Presiding Bishop is also a major part of the process when it comes to a Title IV procedure that has a bishop as a respondent. 

Judith Andrews, Esq., Diocese of Olympia Chancellor

The Rt. Rev. David Bailey has been a deacon, priest and bishop in his four decades as a cleric. He agrees that bishops were thought to have been treated differently in discipline matters than other clerics. Additionally, when Bishop Bailey was ordained in 1980, there wasn’t a uniform disciplinary system for bishops at a time there was also a wide range of disciplinary criteria for all clerics. He welcomed the Title IV Canons as they appeared in the 1990’s and their modifications since then. 

The Rt. Rev. David Bailey, Bishop of the Missionary District of Navajoland


Bishop Bailey also says the well-defined process for handling disciplinary issues involving bishops not only offers an understanding that the Complainant will be heard, but that bishops will also know where they are in the process or what is expected of them if they are on the Disciplinary Board. This will only add to the goals of fairness, reconciliation and amendment of life.

The Rt. Rev. David Bailey, Bishop of the Missionary District of Navajoland

Another area of misunderstanding and sometimes of previous abuse, or at least of perception of abuse, is that  a bishop might have an advantage by using his or her chancellor as a personal attorney in the process. Other clerics do not have a church resource such as diocesan paid legal assistance. Such an advantage would also have a “chilling effect” on those bringing complaints, as they might feel the bishop has a considerable legal benefit compared to other clerics or to the complainant. The topic concerning Chancellors in this General Education and Best Practices section of the website details that a chancellor is not to be a direct participant in any Title IV procedure, including one involving bishops. 

 

Chancellor Sammons reminds bishops and chancellors that they serve only the office of the bishop. There is a canonical difference between the office of the bishop and the specific bishop.

Diane Sammons, Esq., Diocese of Newark Chancellor

As further explained in the topic Chancellors, the limited role for chancellors is to advise the process, not the details of a Title IV procedure.  In the case of a bishop as a respondent, the usual role of a chancellor as an advisor to the office of the bishop would also be difficult due to conflicts of interest or the appearance of a conflict in separating the office from the individual. Christopher Hayes recognizes that is the time to yield to other lawyers or advisors in the church wide process.

Christopher Hayes, Esq., Diocese of California Chancellor


Bishop David Baily sums up the canons concerning bishops as respondents as doing the best to insure that Title IV procedures will maintain the same rights and dignity for a complainant and the process as they would for another case with another cleric.

The Rt. Rev. David Bailey, Bishop of the Missionary District of Navajoland

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