Published on 22 February 2012
Please note that this is a general introduction which seeks to avoid technical terms. This is in no way a substitute for Section O itself or the Guidelines drawn up by Mission Council’s Ministerial Incapacity Procedure and Disciplinary Process Advisory Group (MIND).
- The Process applies to Ministers of Word and Sacrament and to Church Related Community Workers. In this document “minister” is used to cover both groups.
- Ours is not an offence based Process but is concerned with alleged breaches of Ordination and Commissioning vows.
- The Process usually starts when a Synod Moderator (SM) becomes aware of apparently serious allegations about a minister. The SM appoints a Mandated Group (MG) of three people from a Synod Panel which will be led and chaired by a member of a trained Joint Panel (JP) who may come from another Synod, but need not do so. It is important that the members the MG have no connection with minister or pastorate.
- The JP leader of the MG will train the colleagues appointed to the MG which will investigate the allegations, interviewing relevant parties and taking such other action as is necessary to establish whether there is a reason to take the allegations seriously. If there is such reason the MG is then responsible for preparing and presenting the case against the minister to an Assembly Commission (AC) of five people from an Assembly appointed panel. Those on the AC must also have no connection with minister or pastorate.
- If there is Police/Crown Prosecution Service involvement the Church’s Disciplinary Process is suspended until such matters are concluded.
- In presenting its case to the AC the MG may call witnesses who can be cross-examined by the Minister (who may be accompanied by a friend or Union representative and who can choose to be legally represented at his/her own expense). The Minister may then speak on her/his own behalf (and be cross-examined) and call witnesses who may be cross-examined.
- As noted the Process is not offence based requiring a criminal standard of proof (“beyond reasonable doubt”) but one which requires a civil standard of proof (“on the balance of probabilities”).
- If the AC agrees that the MG has established its case that there has been a breach of ministerial discipline it can determine that a minister should be deleted from the Roll, or it may decide that a written warning is sufficient.
- If a minister disputes such a finding s/he may appeal and if the AC dismisses a case, the MG can appeal.
A Word version of this General Introduction to the Ministerial Disciplinary Process is available.