Reference Panel

Referral Options

In considering the Intake Report, the Canons provide for the following referral options:

  • Take no action other than appropriate pastoral responses
  • Refer the matter to Conciliation
  • Refer the matter to the Investigator for further investigation and report back to the Reference Panel
  • Refer the matter to the Conference Panel
  • Referral to the Bishop for possible negotiation of an Agreement for Discipline

(Title IV.6.8)

If the referral is to Conciliation, investigation, or referral to the Bishop, the matter would be expected to be returned to the Reference Panel except when the Bishop is successful in obtaining an Agreement for Discipline. If the Conciliation Report does not report a successful resolution of the matter, the duty of the Reference Panel is to resume its referral responsibilities. The Report of the Investigator to the Reference Panel may influence the Reference Panel’s choice of referrals, and in this case is expected to supplement and amplify the Intake Report. (Title IV.6.8, Title IV.10)

It is not the role of the Reference Panel or the Investigator to evaluate or comment on the perceived truthfulness or credibility of the parties or witnesses interviewed, but to refer or dismiss the matter assuming the information received is true.

The Intake Officer should be prepared to advise the Bishop and the President of the Disciplinary Board as members of the Reference Panel on the available referral options and the resources available within the Diocese to manage each respective option. This includes, for instance, the availability of an appropriately trained Conciliator, the arrangements for an Investigator, and the availability of an appropriate pastoral response if the determination is to take no action other than such a response.
The Bishop should be familiar with the resources of the Diocese for each of the referral options available. The decision by the Reference Panel from among referral options requires a majority vote, after careful consideration of all options and their impact on all the parties involved. It is also useful for the Bishop to be well-versed in the costs and availability of the many options possible.
It is important that the Advisors for the Complainant and Respondent respectively understand the authorized Referral options, the procedures involved in each, and the effect of each option on an ultimate outcome of the case. For the Respondent’s Advisor, it is important to be able to explain the procedures of Conciliation to the Respondent, and, should the matter be referred to the Bishop for possible negotiation of an Agreement for Discipline, the process for this step.
Investigators should understand the context within which the Reference Panel receives and reviews the Investigator's Report and the responsibilities of the Reference Panel in making a referral decision. This allows the Investigator to understand that the Reference Panel is not an adjudication body, but is part of the Intake and Referral process.
A Conciliator should be aware of the role of the Reference Panel in making its determination to refer a matter for Conciliation and the choices available to the Reference Panel in making that determination. This includes the suggestion that the Reference Panel has a basis to believe that the Complainant and the Respondent may be amenable to considering a voluntary agreement through Conciliation to resolve the matter.
The President of the Disciplinary Board is a member of the Reference Panel and participates in any decision for Dismissal or further referral.
It is common that the Respondent first becomes aware of the Complaint when the Reference Panel makes a referral decision. The Canons require the Reference Panel to notify the Respondent if it determines to take no action other than a Pastoral Response. The Respondent is obviously notified if the Reference Panel refers the matter to Conciliation, since the Respondent will be a participant in the proceeding. The Respondent may not necessarily become aware of the Complaint if the referral is for further investigation. If the matter is referred to a Conference Panel, the Respondent will be notified and receive a copy of the Church Attorney’s Written Statement. Finally, if the referral is to the Bishop for possible negotiation of an Agreement of Discipline, the Respondent will be notified and will be invited to meet with the Bishop for that exploration.
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