THE creation of a twin-track approach is at the core of the proposed new Clergy Conduct Measure, the group working on a replacement for the Clergy Discipline Measure has reported.
The Clergy Conduct Measure Implementation Group, chaired by the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, produced an update on its progress for this month’s General Synod sessions. Initial proposals were debated by the Synod in July (News, 16 July).
Under the proposed twin-track approach, bishops would designate allegations as either “complaints” — which would be dealt with more informally and lead to pastoral outcomes — or more serious “misconduct”, which would proceed down a formal tribunal track, including the final sanction of deposition from Holy Orders.
Although members voted to take note of the report outlining how a new Clergy Conduct Measure would operate, there was significant disagreement, and a subsequent motion supporting a third track for less serious misconduct was passed.
In the update, Dr Inge reported that the group had begun work in late summer, and had their first in-person meeting at Lambeth Palace on 1 October. Members of the group include the chief of staff to the Archbishop of York, the Ven. Mark Steadman, clergy and lay members of the Synod, senior ecclesiastical legal figures, and representatives from clergy trade unions. Other specialists have also been consulted by the group, Dr Inge said.
The track system, which would differentiate between more and less serious types of misconduct, is one of eight areas that the group has identified for consideration. The others are definitions of important terms, including “misconduct” and “grievance”; the procedures for allocating cases to which track; when an allegation should be referred to a tribunal; limitation periods; potential penalties; legal aid; and the interface between safeguarding and disciplinary procedures.
“The group has made substantial progress on a number of the above issues, and its work will continue in the intervening period before the next meeting, which is to take place on 24 November,” Dr Inge concluded.
Early next year, the group intends to consult the House of Bishops, the National Safeguarding Steering Group, the Church Commissioners, and the Archbishops’ Council, as well as holding a panel discussion for Synod members at their February session.
Detailed legislative proposals should be ready for first discussion at next year’s July Synod, Dr Inge said.