Commission proposes range of changes to Title IV canons after concerns over bishop discipline

By David Paulsen
Posted Mar 4, 2024

[Episcopal News Service] An Episcopal Church standing commission tasked with considering reforms to the church’s Title IV disciplinary canons has issued a report for the 81st General Convention proposing seven resolutions outlining a range of potential canonical changes affecting the disciplinary process.

The proposals are included in the Blue Book report filed by the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons, which is now posted to the General Convention website. If enacted, the canonical changes would expand the range of outcomes for the disciplinary process, limit the role of intake officers, increase checks on the authority of church attorneys, adjust how investigators are appointed, enable suspension of bishops like those of priest suspensions and update the language describing the outcome in cases that end in a “pastoral response.”

The full text of the proposed resolutions can be found on pages 14-33 here.

The standing commission regularly reviews Title IV for possible changes. Its latest report notes that its work took on greater “scope and urgency” last year after Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris separately urged action in response to growing calls for renewed scrutiny of Title IV related to several cases involving bishops.

Much of that churchwide reaction followed Ayala Harris’ decision to publicly identify herself as the complainant in one of those cases against a bishop, alleging sexual harassment, saying a church attorney had decided to end her case with no disciplinary action. The bishop, later revealed by others to be retired Oklahoma Bishop Ed Konieczny, has denied any misconduct.

Last month, Curry announced he had requested and authorized the launch of a new page on The Episcopal Church’s website compiling information on pending and concluded cases against bishops while also making it easier for the public to file complaints and navigate the church’s inquiry process.

The standing commission’s Blue Book report contains recommendations that will be considered by the 81st General Convention when it convenes June 23-28 in Louisville, Kentucky. The commission said it is still compiling the churchwide feedback it received last fall regarding the Title IV canons and plans to submit a supplementary Blue Book report containing additional recommendations.

“We also know that many of the issues we address, including Title IV, take more time and energy to solve than is available between General Conventions, so we will continue working on these matters in preparation for further consideration at the 82nd General Convention,” the standing commission said.

Its recommendations so far include the creation of a “restorative covenant” as one possible resolution of a disciplinary complaint against clergy. The goal is to “expand the opportunity for resolutions that promote ‘healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life and reconciliation,’” in the spirit of the Title IV canons, the commission said.

Another proposed recommendation would specify that individuals providing pastoral care should not serve as intake officers receiving Title IV complaints.

The commission also proposes changes related to the role of church attorneys in Title IV proceedings. This would specify when the attorney would oversee an investigation, and it would give other disciplinary bodies new powers to overrule the attorney’s decision-making in a case, including when the attorney ends a case with no disciplinary action.

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at