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.
The Anglican Diocese of Newcastle recognises that from time to time there may be a grievance or conflict between two or more members of the Diocese.
The Diocese has established a process to assist those members of the church move towards reconciliation with one another at the earliest opportunity and finds ways to resolve their dispute or find ways of sustainably living with an ongoing disagreement.
The process provides for the involvement of other Christian leaders including the Bishop when the conflict cannot be resolved. Where the Bishop is required to make a formal determination, that decision is final.
The protocol builds on the principles in the Code of Good Behaviour called Being Together where every member of the church undertakes to accept responsibility for their part in a conflict and to play 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 possible into the conflict.
It has been approved by the Diocesan Council and forms part of the Parish Safety Policy. The website will lead you through the process. A print version of the process can be found here
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 with deep disagreement. So, 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’ [John 17:21]
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. Romans 5:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20
- Reconciliation with others in the church is a prelude to genuine worship – Matthew 5:23-24
- Jesus describes a process for addressing conflict and restoring relationships in the church – Matthew 18:15-22
- Groups in the early church came together to talk about their differences, to seek the Spirit’s leading as they worked for consensus – Acts 6:1-6; Acts 15:1-3
- The church needs each person’s gifts and perspectives; no one has a corner on truth – 1 Corinthians 12-14
- 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” – Colossians 3:12-17
- We are to grow in unity and maturity by speaking the truth in love – Ephesians 4:1-16
- God calls us to act and speak with respect for each other despite differences of culture or conviction – Romans 14:1-7; James 1:19; John 7:51; Ephesians 4:25-32; Matthew 7:1-5; 1 Peter 3: 8, 16
- God’s people do not seek the absence of conflict but the presence of shalom, a peace based on justice. Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8; Isaiah 58; Matthew 23:23-24; Luke 4:18-191
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.
This protocol assumes the members involved in the dispute are aged eighteen years or older and not classified by law as a vulnerable person.
Pathways to resolving a grievance
The Diocese 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:
- the nature of the conflict situation and/ or grievance
- the positions/ roles of the parties involved
- 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 seeking independent advice at any time, should they choose to do so.
A grievance has potential to escalate, causing significant relational wounds. For this reason, the person who is managing the grievance is responsible not only to communicate clearly with involved parties, but also to provide 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 to assist 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 undertaking their roles in relation to ensure that the time taken to undertake this process does not contribute unreasonably to 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 agreement around resolution and, where possible and appropriate, reconciliation.
Grievances are best resolved as early as possible with the people experiencing working together to find resolution and restored relationship.
In church life sometimes it is helpful to ask the Parish Priest/Chaplain to help resolve a grievance, if the Parish Priest/Chaplain is involved then her/his Assistant Bishop or Archdeacon can provide support
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 help identify the issues and find a resolution process
Finally, some grievances can only be resolved with a decision. In this Diocese, the Bishop will make a decision after receiving external advice
Policy Updated – 10 May 2021