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Bill to reform church discipline

The General Synod Office has released a video introduction to help Anglicans understand a set of changes to this Church’s Ministry Standards canons that will come before the one-day virtual General Synod Te Hīnota Whānui this July.

Julanne Clarke-Morris  |  27 Jun 2020  |

A newly released video sets out the principles and details of a Bill to reform Title D that will be presented to the one-day virtual General Synod Te Hīnota Whānui on 25 July 2020.

The Bill proposes a range of reforms to Title D Canons I-VII on Ministry Standards designed to ensure the Church’s laws governing standards and disciplinary procedures are fit for purpose in 2020. 

The Bill is due to go before the Synod/ Hīnota in July with changes that were added after feedback on a first draft which travelled around Hui Amorangi and Diocesan Synods for their review and response last year.

The General Synod Te Hīnota Whānui order paper committee is asking Synod members and the wider church to watch the 32-minute presentation introduced by Archbishop Philip Richardson and presented by Chancellor of the Diocese of Christchurch, Jeremy Johnson and Chancellor of the Diocese of Auckland and Legal Adviser to the Primates, Bruce Gray QC.

The video introduction sets out why the General Synod Te Hinota Whānui asked the Bill working group to draft Title D reforms at this time. These include:

:: there has been no comprehensive review of our disciplinary canon for over ten years

:: there has been a rise in the number of complaints

:: the need to remove the burden of managing complaints from bishops and archbishops

:: the need to demonstrate that the Church is moving to improve on those areas of our disciplinary processes that need work (particularly in light of the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry)

The changes proposed for Title D are centred on a new provincial Ministry Standards Commission that will support bishops with triage and handling of complaints made against any clergy or lay people that hold a license to minister in the church.

The proposed Commission will employ a legal registrar whose task will be to help bishops to assess complaints and either return them with guidelines on action (for unsatisfactory conduct) or forward the serious complaints to a Tribunal (in the case of misconduct such as financial misdealings, or physical or sexual abuse).

The Bill will establish a Ministry Standards Commission structure to support the three-Tikanga Church in order to,

- guarantee a consistent approach to disciplinary procedure and redress processes across the province

- provide greater legal clarity for tribunals and bishops, including clear standards of proof

- set clear thresholds for assessing unstatisfactory conduct versus misconduct

- retain bishops’ ability to select flexible and pastoral solutions for lower level conduct breaches

- enable confidence in the Church’s redress processes in the wider community

In the introductory video, Archbishop Philip and the drafters of the reform Bill request that Synod members offer their questions or suggestions on the Bill in advance of the one-day synod on 25 July. Others wishing to add to the conversation can send their contributions to their elected Hui Amorangi or Diocesan members of the General Synod Te Hīnota Whānui.

The video introduction outlining the proposed reforms to Title D is available on Youtube here.

Bill 1 on Title D is available for view on the General Synod section of the Church’s main website here.