Clergy Discipline

The disciplinary process

A high standard of integrity and service is expected of our clergy.  Mostly that standard is met, but occasionally individual clergy can fall short of what is expected.  When this occurs there are different ways to respond. At whatever level you are concerned, please be assured that your complaint will be taken seriously.

Minor instances of inappropriate behaviour

If you are concerned about a minor incident or instances of behaviour which you consider inappropriate, you are encouraged to share your disappointment with the cleric concerned and resolve it together.

Area Dean / Archdeacon

If the attempts at communicating with the cleric have not proved fruitful, you should speak to your Area Dean or Archdeacon. The diocesan office will be able to tell you who this is.  A representative of the bishop will then speak to the cleric concerned, so that the matter can be dealt with informally.

More serious misconduct

Only if the problem is more serious and may amount to misconduct which justifies disciplinary action will the provisions of the Clergy Discipline Measure (‘CDM’) be required.  The CDM provides a procedure for handling such complaints of serious misconduct.

CDM - a legal process

It is important to realise that lodging a CDM complaint is the start of a legal process. An investigation will take place into the alleged misconduct. If the matter is referred to a tribunal it is likely that you will have to give evidence in person at a hearing. 

More information

You can find information about the Clergy Discipline Rules and Appeal Rules, the availability of ecclesiastical legal aid, the Code of Practice and other guidance, as well as to details of practice directions issued by the President of Tribunals using the left hand navigation.

How to make a complaint of serious misconduct under the CDM

For complaints of serious misconduct within the last 12 months, please use Form 1A which may be found here . For serious misconduct which took place more than 12 months ago there is a separate process which requires you to seek permission from the President of Tribunals for the complaint to proceed. This process is described further down on this page.

Please include the following information in Form 1A:

  • Your personal details (name and contact details.  You may request that your contact details be kept from the person you are complaining about, but they will be informed of your name);
  • A clear statement of what your complaint is;
  • Details about the complaint (when and where it occurred, what happened etc.)
  • Evidence to support your complaint (letters, statements from other people etc.)
  • A declaration that what you have stated is the truth.

You should send the completed Form 1A by post or email to the Diocesan Bishop of the cleric concerned.

If you have difficulty with forms or making the complaint in writing, your diocesan office will provide a person to help you.

    Who can make a complaint of serious miscounduct?

    Step 1 CDM

    A formal complaint under the CDM can only be made by someone with a ‘proper interest’.  Those who have a proper interest include:

    • Any person (church member or not) who witnessed the behaviour which has led to the complaint;
    • A churchwarden from the relevant parish;
    • A person appointed by the PCC of the relevant parish to make the complaint;
    • The archdeacon.

    It is the responsibility of the person making the complaint of serious misconduct to justify the complaint and provide evidence in support.

    Serious misconduct which occurred more than 12 months ago

    If your complaint relates to misconduct which occurred more than 12 months ago, you must first seek permission from the President of Tribunals to make your complaint. This is to ensure that prejudice is not caused to the cleric as a result of the delay in making the complaint. Please complete form Form 1C.

    What cases are exempt from requiring an application for permission to bring a complaint out of time?

    • Misconduct of a sexual nature towards a child
    • Where, in the opinion of the President, the complainant was vulnerable at the time of the alleged misconduct. Evidence of vulnerability will need to be provided. 

    What does the bishop do upon receipt of the complaint?

    Once the bishop receives your complaint, he or she will pass it to the diocesan registrar (the bishop's legal adviser).  The registrar will examine your complaint and the evidence you have provided, and advise the bishop:

    • Whether you have a ‘proper interest’ to make the complaint (see above); and
    • Whether your complaint is about behaviour which would be a disciplinary matter if found to be true.

    The registrar will contact you if anything in your complaint needs clarifying.

    On receiving the registrar’s report, the bishop will decide whether to deal with your complaint formally, or to dismiss it.

      Bishop dismisses the complaint

      CDM Dismissal

      If the bishop decides to dismiss your complaint, and you believe that their decision to do so was wrong, you may ask for their decision to be reviewed by the President of Tribunals.

      You must complete Form 4 explaining why you believe the bishop was wrong to dismiss your complaint

      Form 4 should be accompanied the following attachments:

      • the original complaint and evidence
      • the preliminary scrutiny report prepared by the Diocesan Registrar
      • the letter from the bishop dismissing your complaint. 

      Bishop deals with complaint formally under the CDM

      CDM 2B

      If the bishop decides to deal with your complaint formally, he or she will invite the cleric concerned to submit a written answer to the complaint.  Once this has been received, the bishop will follow one of five courses of action:

      1. Take no further action (if you believe that the bishop was wrong to make this decision, you may refer the matter to the President of Tribunals, who will decide whether to uphold or overturn the bishop’s decision. You must complete Form 5 stating why you believe the bishop was wrong to take no further action regarding your complaint. Your application must also be accompanied by (a) the original complaint and evidence (b) the preliminary scrutiny report prepared by the Diocesan Registrar (c) the Respondent's answer; and (d) the letter from the bishop informing you of this decision.
      2. Defer the complaint conditionally (this means that a record of the complaint will be kept on the cleric’s file for a period of up to five years.  If another complaint is made in that time, the two will be dealt with together)
                                                                                                                      
      3. Refer the complaint to a conciliator in an attempt to obtain agreement between you and the cleric about how to resolve the matter.
                                           
      4. Impose a penalty with the agreement of the cleric
                                               
      5. Require that the complaint be formally investigated by the Designated Officer, a senior lawyer employed by the Church House Legal Office.  If, following the Designated Officer’s report, the complaint is sent to a bishop’s disciplinary tribunal, you will be required to attend and give evidence. The tribunal can impose the same penalties as a bishop if the complaint is proved.

      Determining whether a matter should be heard by a Disciplinary Tribunal

      CDM Step 3

      Covid 19 - Direction from the President of Tribunals

      **Covid-19**

      Pursuant to Rule 101(d) of the Clergy Discipline Rules, until further notice, the President of Tribunals directs that documents may be delivered or sent by means of email or PDF/Word document attached to an email. Extensions to time limits will be considered on an individual basis