Diocese of London informal process for following up complaints

1 Introduction

1.1 Under existing ecclesiastical law, the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) sets out very clear processes though which the most serious disciplinary issues will be followed up. The procedures for dealing with a complaint under the formal CDM process are set out in the Clergy Discipline Commission’s Code of Practice which is agreed by both the Archbishop’s Council and the General Synod and can be accessed through the the Church of England website.

1.2 From time to time `complaints’ or issues of concern about individual members of clergy are brought to the attention of the Bishop or to members of senior staff. These issues may not result in, or warrant, any sort of formal CDM-based process, it is however important that each is followed up appropriately within fair, open and informal due process, with pastoral sensitivity, and in which all parties are afforded the opportunity to share or report their concerns, along with the right to be accompanied, and the right of reply.

1.3 Where-ever possible, the Diocese is committed to using the following informal preliminary process where appropriate. It ensures that time is set aside to gain a clearer picture of all the issues raised, that individuals have opportunities to put their views, that where it is possible reconciliation is achieved, and that support and advice can be given. Decisions about any further actions are made only when there is clarity of objective information/evidence. When appropriate, the formal CDM process will be followed in line with the above Code of Practice.

1.4 The guidelines below set out how senior staff will follow up issues or complaints brought to their attention through an informal 6 step clear process of investigation and follow up. They will then judge when an issue or complaint received should be progressed through the formal CDM route with the involvement of the Diocesan Registrar where this is appropriate; or whether there are other informal actions that could be taken to resolve the concerns, with the guidance and advice of other senior staff, staff from the Ministries team or Human Resources as appropriate.

1.5 Whilst this works best as a 6-step process, this is an informal process that may be used flexibly according to the nature of the complaint.

1.6 It should be noted, that when a complaint is considered sufficiently serious, the complainant may choose to move directly to the formal CDM process.

2 A process for following up issues, concerns and complaints received informally

2.1 The six -step process is based both on the current pre-formal proposed capability procedure within the Terms of Service/Common Tenure arrangements, and also on good practice guidelines which focus on the responsibility of organisations to work more creatively to bring about informal resolution to a situation.

2.2 What is important in this, and any process, however informal, is that it should be:

• based on fair and reasonable processes;
• clarity of decision making;
• managed within a clear time frame to ensure that any subsequent formal complaint cannot be deemed out of time;
• tracked carefully;
• properly documented.

2.3 It should also be remembered that any informal process may at a later date move into a formal process. Documentary evidence of this informal process or any decisions or actions taken should therefore be retained to use as part of any later process that may be required. This may include informal notes, paperwork, records etc.

3 Guiding principles

3.1 In considering any concerns or complaints, we will ensure that we respect the individuals involved and their individual circumstances. Whether a formal or informal process is best suited to resolution of the concerns, we will offer practical and pastoral care for those involved and their family where required.

3.2 Where those individuals are part of any process, we will ensure that:
• They fully understand all aspects of the processes available to us and them, and the possible outcomes; and that they have the opportunity to explore these in confidence at every stage.
• They are aware of the range of pastoral and practical support available.
• They are made aware of timescales and next steps as informal processes are created and worked through and that these are managed consistently, and as quickly and fairly as possible.
• They are aware of theirs and others’ roles and responsibilities, and of their right to be accompanied at any meeting if they so wish.

3.3 When things go awry with relationships both personally and in local communities, the Diocese’s priority will always be to do what it can to bring people together in order to help restore relationships.

3.4 We will plan to do this with the individuals concerned in safe, creative and thoughtful ways which ensure respect, fair process, the right to be heard, and the right of reply. (We will of course only do this in ways which are appropriate to the individual set of circumstances, and in line with the wishes of the individuals concerned).

3.5 Confident that clergy are determined to live out the commitments and promises they made at ordination, the Diocese has three key expectations on those who find themselves in situations of conflict:
• That they will do all that they can to bring about a local resolution.
• That where bringing about local reconciliation is a struggle, (for whatever reason), where additional assistance, advice, and support may be helpful, that they actively seek this from colleagues, national bodies, and the diocese.
• Where the Diocese has become involved because of the nature of the difficulties, that clergy will fully co-operate with the Diocese in its responsibility to seek and facilitate all opportunities for reconciliation (eg through mediation).

Dealing with complaints

4 A complaint will normally be passed to, or received by, an Archdeacon. Whilst steps one and two would normally be conducted by an Archdeacon, consideration could also be given to using the skills of an Area Dean or an appropriate member of Senior Staff to undertake these steps, and to report back to the Archdeacon for a decision at Step Three based on what has been identified from the preliminary enquiries.

May 2021
Appendix 1 – Overview of the process and steps

A `complaint’ or issue is raised with/passed by the Bishop to an Archdeacon

Step One
An informal 1:1 meeting with the complainant
Identifying and exploring problems and concerns (this will always include a face-to-face meeting but may also include initial telephone discussions

Step Two
An informal 1:1 meeting with the ordained minister
Meeting the priest and sharing/exploring the concerns/issues raised.
Where appropriate the opportunity of bringing together the clergy member and individual to see if an informal way forward/reconciliation is possible at this stage

Step Three
Making a decision
Deciding what are the appropriate ways forward
Ask: does it potentially raise an issue of serious misconduct?
Identifying whether this is a serious issue which would require a formal process under CDM and if so, move straight to CDM process
If the decision is that it is not a potentially CDM matter – consider what intervention and pastoral support should be in place for an informal process/resolution to be achieved –
Ask: will the individuals involved be prepared to do this?
Explore: what informal options are open/available to them?

Step Four
Communicating with both parties
Setting out clear desired ways forward, expectations and accountabilities – putting in place supportive interventions
Keep: File notes, any correspondence with the individuals, evidence of arrangements for mediation and other options

Step Five
Working for resolution
Providing support as the individuals work to resolve the situation
Be clear about the role/responsibilities of the individuals themselves – what they are agreeing to, the role/responsibilities of the Archdeacon and who are the others that need to be involved? Ministries staff, mediation and other support, HR etc

Step Six
Final steps
Reviewing progress, what has been achieved, summarising what has occurred, any agreements about future working/pastoral relationship, communicating with all parties, making file notes, informing the Bishop.
Be clear that the situation is complete and is either considered resolved OR move back to step three.