PROTOCOL FOR DEALING WITH SEXUAL MISCONDUCT BY CHURCH WORKERS IN THE ANGLICAN CHURCH DIOCESE OF SYDNEY

Issued by the Archbishop of Sydney - June 1996

Introduction

Standards to be observed by Church Workers

The Anglican Church of Australia in the Diocese of Sydney requires that its church workers observe certain standards of conduct and although these standards of conduct have not been explicitly stated in any legislation of the Church, it is commonly accepted that -

(a) a church worker must not take advantage of his or her position to gain a sexual favour from any other person. In this regard, church workers must display sensitivity to those to whom they minister and special sensitivity to all persons in a vulnerable state, such as the bereaved, the separated or divorced, the lonely, minors and other youth; and

(b) a church worker must not harass sexually a subordinate, an employee, a parishioner or any other person.

The Church hopes that the education of church workers will minimise the number of persons aggrieved by the conduct of church workers.

These standards are additional to any conduct prohibited by or obligations imposed by law.

Why is this Protocol necessary?

The Church recognises that from time to time, there may be cases where persons will consider themselves aggrieved by sexual misconduct of a church worker. This Protocol is to assist the Church to confront the problem by setting down procedures for the making of complaints about sexual misconduct of a church worker and dealing with those complaints.

Some conduct may require no more than that the church worker recognise that he or she has caused an offence and give an apology. For instance, a church worker who greets a parishioner with a kiss may not realise the unintended emotional impact of such conduct on the parishioner. It is hoped that such cases can be dealt with directly between the persons concerned and that it would not be necessary for this Protocol to apply.

However direct conversation may not always be sufficient, appropriate or possible to resolve a case of sexual misconduct. This Protocol seeks to ensure that in such a case -

(a) a person who is aggrieved by sexual misconduct by a church worker is encouraged to make a complaint;

(b) a complaint is communicated in an appropriate way;

(c) a complaint is expeditiously investigated;

(d) the investigation is fair both to the person aggrieved and to the church worker concerned;

(e) the person aggrieved is informed about the outcome of a complaint; and

(f) the person aggrieved and the church worker are treated appropriately and with respect.

What is "sexual misconduct"?

For the purposes of this Protocol sexual misconduct means -

(a) any form of unwanted sexual behaviour, whether by acts or words, including sexual harassment;

(b) any form of sexual behaviour involving a minor;

(c) under some circumstances, sexual behaviour which appears to be consensual, if that behaviour takes place in the context of a pastoral relationship or a church worker's activities of a non-pastoral nature.

The reason that unwanted sexual behaviour is sexual misconduct should not require further explanation. However some explanation may be required about why consensual sexual behaviour may be sexual misconduct.

A pastoral relationship is one where a church worker is explicitly or implicitly the "minister". The pastoral relationship is a special aspect of church ministry and is characterised by an inequality of power between the parties. Any sexual behaviour by a church worker with a person with whom the church worker is in a pastoral relationship is generally unacceptable because in a pastoral relationship the factors of power, trust and dependency limit the possibility of the other person involved freely giving consent to the sexual behaviour. Sexual behaviour, whether or not consensual, the context of a church worker's activities (for example, involving a church warden) is for similar reasons regarded as generally unacceptable.

Who is a "church worker"?

For the purposes of this Protocol a church worker is -

(a) any person who "ministers" in the Diocese (that is, who performs pastoral duties in the Diocese) at the time the complaint is made whether the person is lay or ordained or holds the Archbishop's licence or authority or otherwise;

(b) any person who was ministering in the Diocese at the time the alleged sexual misconduct occurred; and

(c) any person holding or who has held a position recognised in a parish or the Diocese, whether that person is lay, or ordained or holds or has held the Archbishop's licence or authority or otherwise, at the time the complaint is made or the alleged sexual misconduct occurred.

Making a Complaint

What should a person do if sexual misconduct by a church worker occurs?

The Archbishop has appointed a number of contact persons and if a person wishes to report the sexual misconduct of a church worker that person should contact one of the contact persons either by letter or telephone. Details of the names, addresses and telephone numbers of contact persons are regularly published in the Southern Cross newspaper and may also be obtained by telephoning 9264 7106 for a recorded message.

If a person (including a church worker) suspects, or becomes aware of, sexual misconduct by a church worker, that person should encourage the person aggrieved to contact one of the contact persons. If the person aggrieved is unwilling to make contact, that other person should contact a contact person.

Complaints of sexual misconduct involving minors

Where the contact person is provided with reasonable evidence of a complaint of sexual misconduct by a church worker involving a minor, the contact person will report the substance of the allegation to the police and other government agencies as required to do so by applicable law.

What is the role of the contact person?

The contact person shall listen to the person aggrieved without blame or bias, and provide information about the availability of support services, the right to seek legal advice and the possible need for the person aggrieved and the contact person to report the matter to appropriate authorities.

If the person aggrieved wishes the complaint to be dealt with in accordance with this Protocol the contact person will record the complaint in writing and require the record to be signed by the person aggrieved (if a signed written complaint has not been provided) providing as many details as possible, including -

(a) the name, contact address and telephone number of the persons aggrieved;

(b) the identity of the person reporting the matter to the contact person and his or her contact address and telephone number;

(c) the identity of the church worker;

(d) the date, time and nature of the alleged misconduct.

It must be realised that if these details are not provided or the person aggrieved is unwilling to co-operate with any investigation of the complaint (as to which, see the matter under the heading "Dealing with the Complaint") then it will be more difficult for the complaint to be dealt with.

Confidentiality

The discussion with the contact person will be confidential, as will the written complaint, except that -

(a) a copy of the written complaint will be provided to the Archbishop and the contact person will report to the Archbishop on any relevant matters;

(b) a copy of the written complaint and the contact person's report may be provided to the Archbishop's confidential advisers;

(c) the written complaint and the contact person's report will be disclosed if required by law;

(d) if the written complaint is required by law to be notified to certain authorities (for example because it discloses serious criminal behaviour or involves a minor) the notification will be given in accordance with the law; and

(e) for the matter to be properly investigated and appropriate action taken, the rules of natural justice may require that a copy of the written complaint be given to the relevant church worker.

If the Archbishop considers that the substance of the complaint should be given to the church worker the persons aggrieved will be given the opportunity of either consenting to this occurring, consenting to a copy of the complaint being put to the church worker in an appropriately edited form, or alternatively, withdrawing the complaint. If the persons aggrieved do not consent to this, the matter might not be dealt with under this Protocol.

Legal Proceedings

It is the right of persons aggrieved to not only seek legal advice but to commence legal proceedings on the basis of such advice. If a person aggrieved elects to commence legal proceedings then the Church may cease to deal further with the complaint under this Protocol.

 

Dealing with the Complaint

What then?

Upon receipt of a report from a contact person the Archbishop will determine how the complaint is to be dealt with, including the scope of any investigation which may be required. To assist the Archbishop in determining how a complaint is dealt with the Archbishop may take advice from advisors including persons with expertise in dealing with sexual misconduct matters and persons with expertise in the law.

The way a complaint is dealt with will depend on a number of factors including -

(a) the nature of the alleged sexual misconduct;

(b) the confidentiality required by the persons aggrieved;

(c) whether the church worker is licensed or employed in the Diocese or is no longer working in the Diocese; and

(d) other relevant information.

Mediation

With the agreement of all persons concerned, mediation may be thew most appropriate way of dealing with a complaint. The Church will not assume liability for the costs of the mediation unless special arrangements are made.

Other interests

The making of an allegation of sexual misconduct against a church worker may affect others besides the person aggrieved and the church worker. For example, if the church worker holds a parish appointment the making of an allegation against that worker may have a significant effect on the life of the parish or specific persons within it. In addition to the action contemplated elsewhere in this Protocol, consideration will be given to the needs of the parish and the needs of specific persons within the parish.

Outcome

What will be the outcome?

The outcome of a complaint will depend on the circumstances but it could include one or more of the following - (a) if appropriate, the complaint will be reported to the police or other authorities in accordance with applicable law;

(b) a written response may be provided to the person aggrieved;

(c) a written apology from the church worker may be provided;

(d) the person aggrieved may be directed to further resources for help;

(e) the church worker may be referred to counselling;

(f) if the church worker is an employee, the church worker may be warned, suspended or have his or her employment terminated;

(g) if the church worker is a member of the clergy, formal disciplinary proceedings may be commenced against him or her under the ordinances of the Church;

(h) if the church worker is a lay person and holds a licence or authority from the Archbishop, that licence or authority may be revoked;

(i) no further action may be taken in respect of the complaint;

(j) other persons affected by the making of the complaint may be referred to further counselling or other resources for help.

The person aggrieved will be advised about the outcome of the complaint.

Church Disciplinary Procedures

The ordinances of the Church specify the procedures for the commencement of formal disciplinary proceedings against a church worker who is a member of the clergy and the conduct of those proceedings. In brief, those procedures provide for the laying of an ecclesiastical charge against a member of the clergy and, if the charge is not admitted, the investigation of the charge by a Board of Enquiry. If the Board of Enquiry finds that a prima facie case exists against the member of the clergy, the matter is then referred to the Diocesan Tribunal for a full hearing and determination. If the tribunal finds the member of the clergy guilty of the charge, the Tribunal may recommend one or more of the following sentences as the Tribunal thinks just in the circumstances: admonition, suspension or expulsion from office; deprivation of rights and emoluments of office; deposition from Holy Orders. The Archbishop is required to give effect to the recommended sentence although he has the power to mitigate the sentence, suspend the sentence or both mitigate and suspend the sentence.

Other matters

This Protocol may be reproduced in whole, but not in part, without the permission of the Archbishop.

It is intended that this Protocol be reviewed periodically and in the light of the review, a revised form of the Protocol may be issued.

 

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