Thursday, July 9, 2009

Reconciliation, Accountability, and Vulnerability

One of the freedoms of not being assigned to a committee is the ability to attend any committee hearing and track legislation that one considers interesting and/or important.

I have chosen to attend the meetings of the Canons Committee. It is considering one of the major items to come before this General Convention, a proposed revision of the Church's clergy misconduct procedures (Title IV of the Canons). The current form, passed in 1994, was based upon the Armed Forces' Uniform Code of Military Justice. One of the major concerns with this system is that it is too inflexible and overly adversarial.

The Task Force which constructed this revision sought to develop a proposal that was theologically grounded in and consistent with our understanding of reconciliation.

Much of the testimony at both of yesterday's open hearings and discussion amongst members of the Canons Committee focused on balancing the objectives for truth-telling, reconciliation, and protection for both victims and clergy (especially those who are wrongly accused). Therefore, the committee is wrestling with such questions as: what is fair, what level of proof does it take to declare that a clergy person has committed misconduct, what rights does an accused clergy person have, can hearsay testimony be considered as evidence of misconduct, and what checks and balances are put into the system to ensure no one individual has too much authority. Later today the committee will begin to consider how the proposed draft should be amended.

While it can be a bit dry, this proposed revision will be critical for victims of misconduct, clergy accused of misconduct, and congregations where sexual, financial, or other misconduct takes place. Whereas an unhealthy process creates new or deeper wounds, a healthy process can be a means that invites and enables real healing and reconciliation to take place.

Faithfully yours,
Alan James

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