Clergy Discipline Measure
The Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 ('CDM') provides processes for dealing efficiently and fairly with formal complaints of serious misconduct against members of the clergy. It applies to all deacons, priests and bishops in the Church of England, even if they are not in active ministry.
If you wish to complain about serious misconduct committed by a member of the clergy, please see below for more information.
If you have any general enquiries about the operation of the disciplinary procedures which are not answered on these pages, please contact the Legal Office.
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.
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.
- If it is a minor incident or instance of behaviour you consider inappropriate, you are encouraged to share your disappointment with the cleric concerned and resolve it together.
- If that is insufficient, you should speak to your area dean or archdeacon (your diocesan office will be able to tell you who this is). Someone on the bishop’s staff will then speak to the cleric concerned, so that the matter can be dealt with and rectified informally.
- 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 misconduct.
At whatever level you are concerned, please be assured that your complaint will be taken seriously.
Your complaint must be made in writing to the diocesan bishop.
If the misconduct about which you wish to complain took place more than a year ago, you must first seek permission to make your complaint. Please complete form 1c (Application for permission to make a complaint of misconduct out of time), and return it to the Legal Office at the address below.
The Legal Office, Church House, Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3AZ
The one year time limit for making a complaint does not apply where the misconduct in question is conduct of a sexual nature towards
- a child, or
- an adult if the President considers the adult was a vulnerable adult at the time of the conduct.
Your complaint must include:
- 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.
If you have difficulty with forms or making the complaint in writing, your diocesan office will provide a person to help you.
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.
Please note: It is the responsibility of the person complaining to justify the complaint and provide evidence in support.
At each stage of the process you will be advised of what is happening.
Once the bishop receives your complaint, he or she will pass it to the diocesan registrar. 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.
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, an independent senior judge. The bishop’s decision letter will tell you how to do this.
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:
- 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. Again, the bishop’s letter will tell you how to do this);
- 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);
- Refer the complaint to a conciliator in an attempt to obtain agreement between you and the cleric about how to resolve the matter;
- Impose a penalty with the agreement of the cleric;
- 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.
The legal officer for a diocese who gives legal advice to churches and clergy on matters relating to their work, preparing legal documents for the diocese and more.
A diagram showing how the disciplinary procedures work is provided below, as are various documents which may assist you.
If you have any questions, please use the form below.