Disciplinary Boards

The Disciplinary Board is the pool of clerics and laypersons that make up the Reference, Conference, and Hearing Panels. The President of the Disciplinary Board is elected from the board within two months after the board is selected. The various panels and procedures involving the Disciplinary Board are described in the canons (Title IV.5). Also, a step-by-step guide to assist with Title IV processes is available on the Title IV Structure and Procedures section of this website.

The Board must have at least seven members, of which a majority of at least one must be clerics. The Rt. Rev. Michael Buerkel Hunn conducted training sessions for Disciplinary Boards for years during his service to the Diocese of North Carolina. He says it is vitally important that the board be large enough to supply members for the canonically required panels. These members should not have any conflicts of interest with the Respondent or the Complainant.  

Bishop Hunn also facilitated a diocesan training program about conflicts of interest in North Carolina during the time he was Canon to the Ordinary in that diocese.

The Rt. Rev. Michael Buerkel Hunn, Bishop of the diocese of Rio Grande

Small dioceses may often have difficulty finding enough qualified people to serve on a Disciplinary Board. This is compounded by the challenge to fill all the roles required by a Title IV process, including Church Attorney, Advisors, pastoral caregivers, and Investigators from among the same limited personnel resources.  The canons allow, and best practices suggest, that if a diocese cannot fill the positions with enough qualified persons willing to commit their time and talents, the diocese may enter into agreements with neighboring dioceses to share Disciplinary Board members and other officers.  These agreements should be made before a Title IV proceeding is underway.  Also, some positions, such as Advisors and pastoral care providers, might be undertaken by members of faith communities outside of The Episcopal Church, such as Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregations. Only Episcopalians (canonically defined as members of a diocese) can be on the Disciplinary Board, but non-members can serve in most other Title IV roles.

The Rt. Rev. Michael Buerkel Hunn, Bishop of the diocese of Rio Grande 

The Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley was bishop of a small diocese, Eastern Michigan. He found that sharing resources with a neighboring diocese resulted in a successful joint venture.  

The Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, Bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development of the Presiding Bishop’s Office

The Rev. Dr. Molly James, Dean of Formation for the Diocese of Connecticut, also recommends expanding the pool of qualified persons for the Disciplinary Board and other Title IV positions to include younger clerics. Often dioceses tend to select people based on their longtime service. However, Dr. James sees the benefits of having a newly ordained cleric serve on a Disciplinary Board, both for the cleric and for the diocese.

The Rev. Dr. Molly James, Dean of Formation for the Diocese of Connecticut

Best practices support taking care to select a Disciplinary Board that is well versed in the cultures and languages of a diocese. The Rev. Canon Anthony Guillen, Director of Ethnic Ministries for The Episcopal Church, says board members should be trained to understand the diversity of an expanding church.

The Rev. Canon Anthony Guillen, Director of Ethnic Ministries for The Episcopal Church

By being elected to serve on the Disciplinary Board, members are asked to gain greater skills and knowledge than they might have had at the start of their terms. They will need to understand clerics, the church, and people in greater depth. The Rev. Canon Mary June Nestler has observed and participated in disciplinary procedures in large and small dioceses.

The Rev. Canon Mary June Nestler, Course Director, St. George's College, Jerusalem

The Canons spell out the role of the Disciplinary Board (Disciplinary Board Canons). Experienced diocesan administrators also say that the board sets the mood and the tone of the proceedings. 

Pauline Getz, who was the long-time chair of the Standing Commission that is responsible for the ongoing study of the Title IV Canons, says the President of the Disciplinary Board has a vital role in appointing the right participants for a proceeding. He or she has the burden of keeping the Title IV process moving forward. It is also necessary to make sure the process is steeped in its theological foundation.

Pauline Getz, Esq., Former Chair, Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution & Canons of The Episcopal Church

The Rt. Rev. Michael Buerkel Hunn says setting the tone includes basic things, such as how the room is set up where a Title IV process is taking place.

The Rt. Rev. Michael Buerkel Hunn, Bishop of the diocese of Rio Grande 

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