While the Rev. Judith Schellhammer is spending time with her family, members of the Resolution Review Committee are continuing the work of bringing you information about the resolutions presented during the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. This week’s focus is on resolution D074, which amended a portion of TEC’s disciplinary canon:
D074: Amend Canon IV.6.4
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention amend Canon IV.6.4 as follows:
Sec. 4. Upon receipt of such information, the Intake Officer may make such preliminary investigation undertake such initial inquiry as he or she deems necessary, and shall incorporate the information into a written intake report, including as much specificity as possible. The Intake Officer shall provide copies of the intake report to the other members of the Reference Panel and to the Church Attorney.
And be it further
Resolved, That the descriptive caption adjacent to Canon IV.6.4 shall be amended as follows:
Investigation. Initial Inquiry.
D074 is one of a host of resolutions adopted by both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops of the 79th General Convention. It contains important information for dioceses, diocesan committees and congregations, but does not require specific action.
The 79th General Convention was also held during the height of an international conversation called #metoo, an explosive public unraveling of stories of persons being sexually harassed and or abused. It is a sad truth that the Church universal has been silent and complicit in the silencing of accusers to the spiritual and physical detriment of those persons abused. The Episcopal Church (TEC) has not stood in exception. This reality was formally acknowledged during the Convention. The Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies led the assembly in prayers of confession and repentance. Several committees put forth resolutions to help our branch of the Church move in the direction of speaking truth and claiming healing. One such committee is The Committee on Safeguarding and Title IV.
Title IV is the section of the Canons of The Episcopal Church that pertains to the discipline of which clergy in this church solemnly engage to conform. In recent years, Title IV has undergone major re-working in light of allegations of clergy misconduct. The Rev. Kate Atkinson of The Diocese of New Hampshire is a member of The Committee on Safeguarding and Title IV. She is listed as the proposer of the Resolution D074. Here’s the explanation offered as rationale for the amendment:
Canon IV.2 (Of Terminology Used in this Title) defines an Investigator as a person having (a) sufficient knowledge, skill, experience and training to conduct investigations under this Title and (b) familiarity with the provisions and objectives of this Title.
Canon IV.11.2 describes the role of the Investigator as follows: “Upon referral of an intake report, the Investigator shall investigate all facts pertinent to the factual claims of the intake report. The Investigator shall use appropriate investigative means, with due consideration to pastoral sensitivities, and shall complete the investigation as expeditiously as possible.”
It is clear that the Investigator’s role in the Title IV process is very different from that of the Intake Officer – who is merely conducting enough of an inquiry to ensure that the appropriate information is contained in the Intake Report. The Investigator is a person qualified to undertake a professional investigation.
Changing the language in Canon IV.6.4 will ensure that there is no misunderstanding of the scope of the Intake Officer’s responsibility.
If a Complainant reports an alleged offense, it is important for us all to know what happens next. If I am understanding correctly, the intention of Resolution D074 is to amend the canon so the first steps after an allegation are clear. The Complainant speaks with the Intake Officer, who makes an initial inquiry to the end of making the resultant report as comprehensive as possible. This report is then handed over to the Investigator so they may do the work they are canonically charged to carry out.
Title IV can be complex, and to the end of educating clergy, laypeople, committees, congregations, and diocesan staffs, TEC has launched a website to give orientation and overview of the canons pertaining to Ecclesiastical Discipline. The Dean of the Cathedral, The Very Rev. Scott Hunter, is the Intake Officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan.
Related to Title IV, Safe Church policies were also an important subject discussed at the 79th General Convention. Our diocese has an updated policy guide available on the diocesan website which you can find here.
The Liturgy of Listening was one of the first corporate moments of worship at the 79th General Convention. It was a powerful moment in offering our brokenness to God in worship.
I offer two prayers in response to Resolution D074:
Holy and Just God, behold your Church in all of its potential to be standard bearers for your Kingdom. Look on us with compassion and righteousness as you see the ways we have perpetrated and been complicit in the action of those who have brought harm to your children. Lord Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Advocate, help us to walk in repentance. May the Holy Spirit lead us into all the ways of being that are grounded in the Truth that you are. Stir up courage in those who have been hurt so they may make their report to the appropriate persons. Grant your Church the humility to listen to their stories with open hearts and embolden us with love to hold ourselves accountable and to work toward reconciliation. Amen.
Gracious Father, we pray for thy holy catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior. Amen. (bcp, p. 816)
The Rev. Anthony Estes, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council