Grievance Protocol

The Grievance Protocol describes the process to be followed when there is a grievance or conflict between two or more members of the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle.

It has been approved by the Diocesan Council and forms part of the Parish Safety Policy.

Newcastle Anglican recognises that from time to time there may be a grievance or conflict between members of the Diocese.

Our purpose is to enable the people of our community to flourish with a focus on extending our outreach, time, passion, and energy towards supporting the needs of our community.

The Diocese has established a process to assist those members of the church move toward reconciliation with one another at the earliest opportunity and help them find ways to resolve their disputes or live sustainably with ongoing disagreements.

The process provides for the involvement of other Christian leaders including the Bishop when the conflict cannot be resolved. That decision is final when the Bishop is required to make a formal determination.

“ Jesus told us to love one another as he loves us. As Christians we know our life together is strengthened when our behaviour is consistent with our faith. However, our experience of being together can be difficult, particularly when there are differences. So it is important to be clear about how we will behave towards each other.”

About Grievances

The protocol builds on the principles in the Code of Good Behaviour, Being Together where every member of the church accepts responsibility for their part in a conflict and plays their part in resolving a conflict.

A grievance may be categorised as a

  • conflict and/or misunderstanding
  • theological disagreement
  • complaint about poor performance.

An alleged crime and/or significant professional misconduct and/or breaches of the Standards in Faithfulness in Service which result in a person experiencing harm are NOT grievances under this protocol. 

Those behaviours if admitted to or proven would lead to the Bishop or other authority taking formal disciplinary or protective measures under the Professional Standards Ordinance 2012 or the Clergy Discipline Ordinance 1966. Any grievance of these kinds should be reported to the Director of Professional Standards.

Where possible, grievances should be resolved with the least escalation possible, which has the maximum opportunity for restoring relationships and draws the least number of people into the conflict.

Theological Framework

Many people carry with them a presumption that there will be no disputes within a church community, yet the Christian scriptures are filled with stories of deep disagreement. Rather than a presumption of no conflict, we are called to recognise that it takes a lifetime of grace to discover and live the way of unity found in Jesus’ prayer, ‘that they may all be one’

There are some very significant biblical principles for agreeing and disagreeing in love which should characterise our common life–

  • Reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel–Through Christ, we are reconciled to God, who gives us the ministry of reconciliation.
  • Reconciliation with others in the church is a prelude to genuine worship.
  • Jesus describes a process for addressing conflict and restoring relationships in the church.
  • Groups in the early church came together to talk about their differences, to seek the Spirit’s leading as they worked for consensus.
  • The church needs each person’s gifts and perspectives; no one has a corner on truth.
  • God’s chosen ones are to bear with one another, to forgive each other and to clothe themselves “with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
  • We are to grow in unity and maturity by speaking the truth in love.
  • God calls us to act and speak with respect for each other despite differences in culture or conviction.
  • God’s people do not seek the absence of conflict but the presence of shalom, a peace based on justice.

Scope of The Grievance Protocol

The protocol applies to all members and church workers (ordained and non-ordained, paid and voluntary, licensed and unlicensed) who are associated with the ministry of the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Newcastle.

It does not involve grievances with the Diocesan Bishop which must be in the form of a complaint and which are handled by the Episcopal Standards Commission.

This protocol assumes the members involved in the dispute are aged eighteen years or older and are not classified by law as a vulnerable person.

Pathways To Resolving a Grievance

Newcastle Anglican commits to a case-by-case approach to the resolution of substantive issues in a grievance and, where possible, the appropriate restoration of relationships between all parties.

The pathway employed will depend upon

  1. the nature of the conflict situation and/ or grievance
  2. the positions/ roles of the parties involved
  3. the skills and/or capacity of the local church leader to address the situation. 

The pathway employed does not prevent the parties to the grievance from seeking independent advice at any time, should they choose to do so.

A grievance has the potential to escalate, causing significant relational wounds. For this reason, the person who is managing the grievance is responsible for communicating clearly with the involved parties and providing appropriate communication to all persons affected directly by the dispute.

Members not directly involved in the resolution of a dispute are advised not to discuss the matter except with the person who is managing the grievance.

In the case of a significant conflict, the Bishop may arrange for independent support to be available to the parish assisting those indirectly impacted persons to heal relationships and prevent ongoing division and mistrust within the parish.

All parties to a grievance/complaint and all involved in seeking the resolution of the grievance/complaint must act as expeditiously as possible in their roles to ensure that the time taken to undertake this process does not contribute unreasonably to the escalation of the conflict and possible harm to those involved.

The process allows for an escalation of a grievance if it remains unresolved.

The final stage involves an agreement to be bound by the decision of the Bishop who may with the advice of an independent arbiter, make a final and binding determination. 

The process envisages that everyone will take the earliest opportunity to reach an agreement around resolution and, where possible and appropriate, a reconciliation.

FAQs: Steps In Resolving The Process

Grievances are best resolved as early as possible with the people experiencing conflict working together to find a resolution and restore their relationship.

Can the people involved resolve the grievance?

In the first instance, where conflict arises between people and they feel able to express their concern safely, they can go to one another and express their concern with a view to resolving their differences directly.

If this step does not work or is inappropriate, it is helpful to ask the Parish Priest or Chaplain to help resolve a grievance. If the Parish Priest or Chaplain is involved in the conflict then their Assistant Bishop or Archdeacon can provide support.

Can the grievance be resolved with local assistance?

In most cases, the leader to guide the resolution of the conflict will be the Parish Priest or Chaplain. However, a suitably skilled person may fulfil this role with the agreement of the Parish Priest or Chaplain (or with the agreement of the Bishop if there is no incumbent, or if the incumbent is a stakeholder in the conflict).

If a matter remains unresolved then a more formal process may be needed. In this Diocese, the Bishop starts the process by appointing a person to help identify the issues and find a resolution process.

Learn more about resolving a grievance with local assistance.

Does the Bishop need to be asked to set up a grievance resolution process?

Some grievances or complaints may be referred to the Bishop to seek Diocesan intervention and resolution. It can be referred to by the incumbent, an assisting person, the relevant Assistant Bishop (or the Archdeacon of Newcastle) or any party to the conflict.

Finally, some grievances can only be resolved with a decision. In this Diocese, the Bishop will make a decision after receiving external advice.

Learn about the Diocesan resolution of the grievance.

Will the Bishop refer the grievance for external advice in order to make a binding and final decision?

When the Bishop determines that the grievance or complaint should be resolved by arbitration then the Bishop will appoint an arbiter. 

The following steps will be taken when an arbiter is appointed:

  • The parties to a grievance must indicate in writing their agreement to abide by the final decision of the Bishop made on the recommendation of the arbiter.
  • All parties to the conflict are then to assist the arbiter to understand the grievance/complaint in such a manner as the arbiter determines. Depending on the type of conflict and issues involved, this step may take several meetings and some time to work through.
  • The arbiter will advise the Bishop of her/his decision.
  • The Bishop may accept or refer the decision of the arbiter back to the arbiter for further consideration.
  • Once the Bishop has accepted the arbiter’s decision it will be communicated to all parties and regarded as final. The Bishop shall authorise the implementation of the arbiter’s determination.

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