Since January 2021, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has begun operating a new one-stop process for overseeing ministry standards in this Church, as well as for receiving and handling complaints against any person who holds a position of responsibility in the Church.
The Church’s new streamlined approach has already enabled 45 people to register their concerns with the Anglican Church’s independent body for handling complaints, which responds to those complaints using a single, clear and consistent process.
The ministry standards for office holders in the Anglican Church in these islands are set out in detail in Title D, Canon I, and cover the exemplary conduct expected of leaders and ministers in all forms of Anglican ministry – with children, youth and adults, including in worship leadership, pastoral counselling, chaplaincy, education, teaching, social service, ministry formation and more.
In the nine months since the new statue on ministry standards came into force on 25 January this year, it has already dramatically changed the jurisdiction of bishops. Prior to this year, each bishop oversaw complaints in their own areas following locally developed processes.
Today, it is compulsory for every diocese and pīhopatanga to inform the Ministry Standards Commission of complaints that concern the behaviour of individuals at any level of church ministry.
That means if someone lodges a complaint at a bishop’s office, writes a letter to a vestry or to a church with a complaint against a specific priest or office holder, that complaint must come to the Registrar of the Ministry Standards Commission.
The current Registrar is Hon Dr John Priestley QC, a retired High Court judge, who prior to serving on the bench specialised in Family Court matters in his more than 40-year long career as a lawyer, including 27 years as a Queen’s Counsel.
As Ministry Standards Commission Registrar, John Priestley operates the sorting desk for all complaints related to ministry standards.
“My job is to drill down into the complaint and get into the guts of what it’s about –and then communicate that to the Church.” says Dr Priestley.
The registrar’s assessment determines whether each complaint:
a) constitutes unsatisfactory conduct, which requires the relevant bishop to take action
b) constitutes a case of misconduct – at which a tribunal is established to hear the case
c) does not reach the threshold for unsatisfactory conduct or misconduct, or
d) falls outside the Commission’s jurisdiction – where the complaint has already been dealt with, is more than 3 years old (except in cases of sexual misconduct) or unrelated to ministry standards
When the Registrar determines a case of unsatisfactory conduct, the licensing bishop can require the respondent (the person complained about) to participate in:
(a) a process of reconciliation led by the principles of the relevant Tikanga
(b) a full investigation into the complaint, following inquiry principles, after which the licensing bishop (or the Archbishop) may admonish the respondent and/or
(c) require the respondent to undertake further training or counselling to prevent the unsatisfactory conduct recurring
If the Registrar identifies a case of misconduct, (which includes serious breaches such as financial misdemeanours or physical or sexual abuse) the Ministry Standards Commission establishes a tribunal to hear the case.
The Commission will then appoint and pay a Church Lawyer to prosecute the complaint at the tribunal. The Ministry Standards Commission is obliged to advise people to also take their complaints regarding criminal offences to the Police or other agencies. Tribunals that hear cases of misconduct follow the procedures set out in the canon on maintenance of ministry standards in Title D, Canon III. Evidence of misconduct can result in a priest or lay minister being admonished, suspended without pay, removed from office or permanently barred from ministry in the Church.
Who are our Ministry Standards Commission?
The Ministry Standards Commission incorporates both legal and mental health experts that help the Church maintain a robust churchwide approach to setting and monitoring ministry standards. The Commission members are experts in professional ethics, human behaviour and the law and must include members who can understand and work well across Māori, Pākehā and Pasifika tikanga.
Currently the Ministry Standards Commission comprises five members:
Chair of the Ministry Standards Commission: Matanuku Mahuika (Ngati Porou, Ngati Raukawa) who is a senior lawyer and founding partner of the Wellington-based law firm Kahui Legal and has been in corporate and private practise since 1991.
Matanuku advises on a wide range of corporate, commercial, Treaty of Waitangi, Maori Land and Public Law issues. Formerly in corporate governance for Sealord Group and Aotearoa Fisheries, he is currently Chair of the Ngāti Porou Holding Company and the Eastland Group.
Mele Taliai, who is a lawyer based in Friendship Chambers Manukau, Auckland. She has worked in Manukau since 1999 and has provided legal clinics at the Māngere Citizens’ Advice Bureau and on Radio 531 PI. She is a member of the St John’s College Trust Board and the Anglican Church’s Judiciary Committee. She has served on the National Ethics Committee for Health and Disability and as a Trustee of Ta Pasefika Primary Health Organisation until 2010.
Kate Muirhead, who is a litigation principal at Meredith Connell Legal in Auckland. She is an experienced civil litigator, specialising in advising public and private sector clients on complex legal issues and acting in challenging disputes. Kate regularly appears in the Tenancy Tribunal, District Court, High Court, and Court of Appeal (as sole and junior counsel) on a range of civil matters, including contract, tort, equity, property and residential tenancy disputes. Kate is also a Crown prosecutor who appears on a range of criminal matters, including jury trials.
Dr Kiri Tamihere-Waititi, (Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi, Whakatōhea) who is a former clinical psychologist who now practices and promotes holistic community health models informed by mātauranga Māori. She is currently the head of Whānau Ora services at Te Rūnanga o Te Whānau, in Te Whānau ā Apanui, Ōpōtiki, in the Bay of Plenty. She is also leading the development of a Whānau Ora practitioner competency model for the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency.
Dianne Cameron, who is a clinical psychologist who qualified at the University of Canterbury with an MA (Hons) (1977) and Diploma in Clinical Psychology (1978). She has been in private practice in the Waikato since 1979, apart from 11 years in Auckland from 2004-2015. Between 1981-2014, Dianne’s work included providing specialist reports for the Family Court, mediation and advice on contact patterns for children whose parents were separated and therapy for clients with a range of mental health and life challenges. She currently works with therapeutic clients impacted by trauma, particularly sexual abuse. As a professional supervisor, Diane’s oversight includes working with psychologists, lawyers and priests. She has provided psychological assessments for ordination candidates in the Anglican Dioceses of Waikato and Auckland since 1991. She has chaired professional conduct committees for the Psychologist Board and is currently on its Conduct, Competence and Fitness Committee.
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Ministry Standards Commission Registrar
The Ministry Standards Commission Registrar is Hon Dr John Priestley QC, a retired High Court judge, who specialised in Family Court matters during his more than 40-year career as a lawyer. He was appointed a QC in 1994 and a judge in 2000. John Priestley is also a former Chair of the New Zealand Law Society Family Law section and served for 12 years on the General Trust Board of the Diocese of Auckland. He has served as a Chair of the Vaughan Park Governance Board and now chairs the Purewa Cemetery Trust Board. He is a parishioner at St Aidan’s Anglican Church in Remuera and is married to Rev Anne Priestley, a retired classics lecturer, early childhood educator and Anglican priest.
Making a complaint to the Ministry Standards Commission
To make a complaint related to an office bearer in the Anglican Church you can put it in writing and send it to the Registrar at the address below. Office bearers include priests, deacons, bishops, licensed lay ministers, trustees, wardens and vestry members.
If you prefer, you can ask another person to write the complaint for you.
Please send complaints to:
Ministry Standards Registrar
c/- P O Box 87188,
Auckland 1742, or email them to: