Four clergy from The Diocese of Newark have submitted a resolution to Diocesan Convention, asking the bishop to convene a Task Force to develop a policy to address the bullying, harassment and abuse of clergy by lay persons.
Resolved, that this 140th Annual Convention of Episcopal Diocese of Newark call upon the Bishop to appoint a Task Force to develop a policy to address the bullying, harassment and abuse of clergy by lay persons, and report its findings to the 141st Annual Convention.
Harassment and bullying are forms of abuse. Abuse is ‘a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons’. (Promoting a Safe Church)
A person who is bullied may suffer emotionally, psychologically, physically, socially and spiritually. It is not well understood that the impact of bullying can be life long and affect the person, their relationships and their capacity for ministry. Effects of bullying on ministry can include: loss of coping skills; disillusionment; inability to concentrate; loss of motivation; decreased productivity and competence; bad decision-making and poor judgment; loss of faith or crisis of vocation; difficulty trusting others; diminished employability; and premature desire to cease employment. Bullying also leads to repetitional damage for the wider church, and the individual congregation as well as for the clergy person.
Bullying, harassment, and abuse do not necessarily happen face-to-face; they may be inflicted by written communications, email or phone or conducted through third parties. Some of the most damaging behaviors include spreading malicious rumors to third parties.
The Church is required by God to foster relationships of the utmost integrity, truthfulness and trustworthiness. Yet bullying, harassment, and abuse of clergy are well documented. We believe it is of vital importance that the Diocese of Newark send a clear message that these behaviors directed toward clergy will not be tolerated.
All complaints of bullying, harassment and abuse should be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated. Currently there is no disciplinary canon governing laypersons. While the Title IV Disciplinary Canons address in detail policies and procedures for bullying, harassment and abuse by clergy, there is no policy or procedure to address complaints of the bullying, harassment and abuse of clergy.
Complete resolution is here.
The Church of England has addressed this in its Dignity at Work materials. These materials recommend training and intervention approaches for both clergy and laity who feel they have been bullied. As they note:
It is worth bearing in mind that seeking legal remedy can be a protracted, costly and painful process, and it is not designed to address the underlying issues. Working to develop a culture that makes it less likely that bullying will take place, and acting swiftly to nip it in the bud if it does, will help to reduce the need for legal action.
What is your diocese doing to support clergy and laity who are bullied and confronting those who are bullies?