Reporting Misconduct in The Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church has a longstanding commitment to addressing misconduct. Title IV of The Episcopal Church’s Canons, or governing rules, sets out standards of conduct for all ordained people in the church and provides a process for addressing allegations of misconduct.

Prevention: Safe Church, Safe Communities Training

Safe Church, Safe Communities training is available through Praesidium Academy. Learn more here

How to Report Misconduct

Misconduct by priests and deacons: These complaints are addressed at the diocesan level. Complaints against priests or deacons may be directed to the intake officer of the diocese where the misconduct occurred or where the priest or deacon is canonically resident. Find the relevant Episcopal diocese here.

Misconduct by bishops: The Rev. Barbara Kempf serves as intake officer for complaints against bishops. She is the primary contact for receiving allegations of misconduct by bishops and serves as a member of the Title IV reference panel for bishops and case manager for misconduct cases. Contact Barbara Kempf

Process for Title IV matters involving bishops

Click the titles below for more information.

Report misconduct by a bishop to the intake officer for bishops, the Rev. Barbara Kempf.  (Canon IV.6.6.)

Intake officer acknowledges receipt of report and conducts an initial inquiry in the matter, which may include talking to reporting party or others for any additional information (Canon IV.6.4). The intake officer will ask reporting party whether they would like to be identified as a “complainant” in the matter (Canon IV.2).

Deciding to be a complainant provides certain rights in the process, such as to be notified and consulted about certain things, and includes agreement that, a bit later in the process, the complainant’s identity will be disclosed to the bishop alleged to have committed misconduct (Canon IV.6.4-10).

Once the initial inquiry is complete, the intake officer determines whether to recommend dismissal of the matter or to send the matter on to the reference panel (Canon IV.6.5-7).

In reaching this decision, the intake officer considers the following questions:

  • If the allegations are true, is there an offense? (Canon IV.6.5). (The offenses are described in Canons IV.3 and IV.4.)
  • Would the alleged offense be material and substantial or of clear and weighty importance to the ministry of the church? (Canon IV.3.3).

If the intake officer recommends dismissal of the matter and the presiding bishop does not object, the intake officer notifies complainant of that decision and the reasons for it; the bishop alleged to have committed misconduct is also notified (Canon IV.6.5).

Complainant has 30 days to appeal the dismissal to the president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, and an advisor is assigned to help complainant with the appeal (Canon IV.6.5).  

If the president of the disciplinary board disagrees with the decision to dismiss, the matter is referred to the reference panel (see below) (Canon IV.6.6).

If the president of the disciplinary board agrees with the decision to dismiss, the matter is concluded (Canon IV.6.6).

If the intake officer sends the matter to the reference panel, the bishop alleged to have committed misconduct is notified. The notice will state the nature of the alleged offense and identify any complainants (Canon IV.6.7).

The reference panel receives a confidential intake report summarizing the initial inquiry (Canon IV.6.7). The church attorney receives the report as well (Canon IV.6.7).

The reference panel reviews the intake report and decides what should happen next (Canon IV.6.8).

The members of the reference panel are the presiding bishop, the president of the disciplinary board for bishops, and the intake officer for bishops (Canon IV.2 “Reference Panel” and Canon IV.17.2.c).  The reference panel is not a fact-finding body; it does not decide who is telling the truth when facts are in dispute.  

The church attorney is appointed by the disciplinary board for bishops and represents the interests of the church in the matter (Canon IV.2 “Church Attorney” and Canon IV.17.d).

The reference panel may choose the following next steps for a matter:

  • Decide that the matter needs no further process under Title IV and the matter is concluded with appropriate pastoral response (Canon IV.6.8(a)).
  • Send the matter to a skilled conciliator to seek a resolution among the complainant, respondent, and other affected parties (Canon IV.6.8(b) and Canon IV.10)).
  • Send the matter to an investigator, who produces an investigative report for the reference panel (Canon IV.6.8(c) and Canon IV.11)).
  • Send the matter to a conference panel made up of members of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops to conduct an informal hearing and determine whether to produce a recommended order resolving the matter, dismiss the matter, refer the matter to conciliation, or send it to a hearing panel (Canon IV.6.8(d) and Canon IV.12). 
  • Ask the presiding bishop to seek an accord, or agreement for discipline, with the bishop alleged to have committed misconduct (Canon IV.6.8(e) and Canon IV.9). 

If the reference panel sends the matter to an investigator, after receiving the investigative report, the reference panel may then choose any of the options listed above for next steps, or, in addition, may refer to a hearing panel made up of members of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops to conduct a formal hearing and produce a binding decision resolving the matter (Canon IV.11.3(e) and Canon IV.13). An appeal may be taken from that decision to the court of review for bishops (Canon IV.17.8).

A church attorney appointed by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops will represent the church if a matter goes to a conference panel and the hearing panel.

While a Title IV matter against a bishop is pending, the presiding bishop may take temporary action to address the situation by restricting part of the subject bishop’s ministry, placing the bishop on administrative leave, or issuing a pastoral direction to the bishop (Canon IV.7).

The presiding bishop, with input from the intake officer and president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, will assess pastoral needs arising in each matter and will attempt to address them as appropriate (Canon IV.8).

Title IV provides a process by which the church determines who shall serve as members of its clergy (Canon IV.19.1).  

At its best, the Title IV process enables resolution of conflict by promoting healing, repentance, forgiveness, restitution, justice, amendment of life, and reconciliation (Canon IV.1).

Latest Posts

The Rev. Barbara Kempf

Title IV Intake Officer for Bishops

Click here