Handling serious accusations
Congregational life inevitably includes conflicts and disagreements. These can arise from a broad range of factors, including (though certainly not limited to) personality, life situation, power, position, and theology.
Many conflicts can be addressed informally, through face-to-face dialogue or by bringing in a trusted third party to assist in the process of listening and reconciliation. CMC is particularly blessed with members gifted in such areas as counseling and conflict transformation who can provide advice or direction.
In situations where there is a credible accusation of serious misconduct, a more formal process may be necessary. The by-laws of CMC identify distinct leadership roles for Church Council (Council) and Pastoral Team (PT). In the case of a serious accusation brought against a member or regular attender of CMC, the following policy shall guide the work of congregational leaders. While not comprehensive, the following procedures are intended to care for all members of the community and begin a process of reconciliation within the body of Christ.
1a. When a member of the Pastoral Team (PT) becomes aware of an accusation, the Lead Pastor must be informed.
1b. When a member of Church Council (Council) becomes aware of an accusation, the Chair of Council must be informed.
1c. In the case of an accusation against a member of the PT or Council, the overseer must be informed.
2. In light of the distinct leadership roles for Council and PT (see CMC Bylaws), the Lead Pastor or Council Chair shall determine whether the accusation is most appropriately handled by Council or by PT. In some cases it may be warranted for representatives from both leadership groups to be involved, but ideally either Council or PT will remain responsible. Clarity about which leadership body and which leaders are responsible for the process is important for all persons involved.
3. As soon as is reasonably possible, the person making the accusation and the person accused shall have separate opportunities to share their stories completely with the appropriate leadership of either PT or Council. There shall be no less than two and no more than three members of Council and/or Pastoral Team present to hear these stories. Council or PT shall inform both parties that, if desired, they may bring a support person of their choosing to this meeting. Council or PT leaders who are hearing these stories shall maintain confidentiality.
4. Based on their careful listening, either PT or Council will identify next steps, which may include, but not be limited to: additional conversations with the parties, inviting parties to express their expectations for a process of reconciliation, seeking counsel from the overseer, or seeking corroboration.
5. Within a reasonable amount of time, PT or Council will clarify a process toward reconciliation which may include, but not be limited to: projecting a timeline, developing accountability structures, clarifying boundaries for behavior and/or including outside resources persons (counselor, attorney, mediator, etc.).
Adopted by Church Council, August 2013