All ministers and leaders within Churches of Christ in Victoria and Tasmania (CCVT) have a duty of care to provide a safe environment for all people (see the Code of Ethics article here). They are also obliged to comply with all Commonwealth and State legislation, and this includes the Acts that deal with issues of discrimination.
CCVT is committed to justice and to standing alongside those who have suffered abuse or been victimised in their dealings with any of its churches. As such CCVT has developed its ‘Procedure for Investigating Complaints Relating to Breaches of the Code of Ethics’.
Types of complaints
Breaches of the Code of Ethics may include:
- Sexual harassment or abuse – such as unwanted advances, touch or suggestions.
- Financial misconduct – including lack of accountability and coercion towards giving practices that remove freedom of choice.
- Spiritual abuse – involving manipulation and control that results in harm.
- Other types of abuse – such as bullying, emotional abuse or physical assault.
The Code of Ethics document outlines the conduct that is expected of those in ministry and leadership. Conduct relating to professional incompetence or personality clashes is generally not considered to breach the Code and is likely to be handled in a different manner from genuine breaches.
Lodgement of complaints
Complaints relating to breaches of the Code are initially handled by the Ministry Professional Standards Committee or MPSC. Once a complaint has been made, the MPSC will form an Assessment Team (AT) to investigate the complaint and report back to the committee. The AT’s function is to determine whether the complaint has any merit and if so, to recommend a detailed investigation if appropriate. An external professional investigator may be appointed if required. It is also likely that the person being investigated (the ‘Respondent’) may be stood down from their position while the investigation is ongoing. In cases where the conduct is found to have been illegal it needs to be reported to the relevant authorities.
Should the conduct outlined in the complaint be found not to breach the Code of Ethics, the MPSC may determine not to proceed with a formal investigation. In cases such as these, mediation may also be recommended to resolve the issues brought about by the complainant.
Actions following sustained complaints
Once a complaint is sustained the Executive Officer (EO) is notified. If the Respondent is dismissed, an interim minister may need to be appointed. Mediation and other measures may also be recommended.
CCVT also recognises that in many cases there may be secondary victims of serious misconduct – such as the victim’s family members, or the congregation as a whole. In such cases pastoral care of secondary victims may be recommended and arranged.
A PDF of the full Procedure for Investigating Complaints document can be downloaded from the CCVT website here.
Written by Tess OliverTags: ethics, health & safety