THE House of Bishops will be asked next month whether the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) should be replaced or amended. Alternative details have not been released, but they are expected to comprise a two-tier system that deals separately with more and less serious complaints. Bishops would be relieved of the responsibility of making judgments on disciplinary matters.
The CDM has been widely criticised, including by the Archbishop of Canterbury, as being fundamentally “unfit for purpose” and harmful to both the clergy and complainants (News, 14 February). The House of Bishops was due to discuss alternative proposals this week, but the discussion has been postponed to early next month due to time constraints, the Church Times understands.
If the Bishops agree to reforms, as seems likely, the process of replacing or amending the CDM will need the approval of the General Synod, and may take up to two years to complete.
On Tuesday, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous, indicated the Bishops’ mood to MPs in the House of Commons: “The operation of the Clergy Discipline Measure is currently being reviewed, and it is hoped that less serious complaints can be referred initially to mediation or alternative dispute resolution. This would allow complaints to be dealt with more expediently and effectively.”
Peter Gibson MP asked what steps the Church Commissioners were taking to review the CDM processes “particularly where such discipline arises out of a spurious or malicious allegation”.
Mr Selous replied that, under the new proposals, bishops would be free to offer pastoral support to clerics under complaint.
“Our hope is that the proposals under consideration, which I have just outlined, will mitigate the possible detriment to respondents from complaints which may be unfounded, and freeing bishops from their direct judicial involvement in disciplinary matters will enable them to offer the pastoral support that my honourable friend refers to more easily.
“And we are also exploring how to supplement ecclesiastical legal aid to support those responding to complaints.”