The objectives of church discipline are to sustain the integrity of the church, to protect the innocent from harm, to protect the effectiveness of the witness of the church, to warn and correct the careless, to bring the guilty to salvation, to rehabilitate the guilty, to restore to effective service those who are rehabilitated, and to protect the reputation and resources of the church. Members of the church who do violence to the Covenant of Christian Character or the Covenant of Christian Conduct, or who willfully and continuously violate their membership vows, should be dealt with kindly yet faithfully, according to the grievousness of their offenses. Holiness of heart and life being the New Testament standard, the Church of the Nazarene insists upon a clean ministry and requires that those who bear its credentials as a member of the clergy be orthodox in doctrine and holy in life. Thus the purpose of the discipline is not punitive or retributive but is to accomplish these objectives. Determination of standing and continued relationship to the church is also a function of the disciplinary process.
A response is appropriate any time a person with authority to respond becomes aware of information that a prudent person would believe to be credible. In addition, a response is also appropriate when information which would cause a prudent person to believe that harm is likely to come to the church, to potential victims of misconduct, or to any other person as a result of misconduct by a person in a position of trust or authority within the Church.
When a person who does not have authority to respond for the church becomes aware of information which a prudent person would consider to be credible and which would cause a prudent person to believe that wrongful conduct by a person in a position of trust or authority may be occurring within the church, the person with the information shall make the representative of the church who has the authority to respond aware of the information.
The person who has authority to respond is determined by the position within the church of the individual or individuals who may be involved in misconduct as follows:
|Person Implicated||Person with Authority to Respond|
|Nonmember||Pastor of local church where the conduct in question takes place.|
|Layperson||Pastor of church where layperson is a member.|
|Member of the clergy||District superintendent (in conjunction with the District Advisory Board) where the person implicated is a member or the pastor of the local church where the person is on staff.|
|District superintendent||General superintendent in jurisdiction|
|Regional director||General superintendent in jurisdiction|
|Field strategy coordinator||General superintendent in jurisdiction|
|Not otherwise defined||General secretary|
The person with authority to respond should also in a timely manner notify respective persons in leadership at the district, field, regional, and/or global dimensions about the accusations. The person with authority to respond may enlist the help of others in any fact-finding or response.
If no accusation has been made, the purpose of an investigation shall be to determine whether or not action is needed to prevent harm or to reduce the impact of harm that has previously been done. In circumstances in which a prudent person would believe that no further action was needed to prevent harm or to reduce the impact of harm, no investigation will continue unless an accusation has been filed. Facts learned during an investigation may become the basis of an accusation.
Whenever a person authorized to respond learns facts which indicate that innocent parties have been harmed by the misconduct of a person in a position of trust or authority, action shall be taken to cause the church to respond appropriately. An appropriate response will seek to prevent any additional harm to victims of the misconduct, seek to respond to the needs of the victims, the accused, and others who suffer as a result of the misconduct. Particular concern should be shown for the needs of the spouse and family of the accused. The response will also seek to address the needs of the local church, the district and the general church concerning public relations, protection from liability and protection of the integrity of the church.
Those who respond for the church must understand that what they say and do may have consequences under civil law. The duty of the church to respond is based on Christian concern. No one has the authority to accept financial responsibility for a local church without action by the church board, or for a district without action by the District Advisory Board. One who is uncertain about what action is appropriate should consider seeking counsel from an appropriate professional.
In each local church, it is appropriate for the church board to fashion a response to any crisis which may arise; however, it may be necessary to respond before a board meeting can take place. It is wise for each local church to have an emergency response plan.
On each district the primary responsibility for responding to a crisis rests with the District Advisory Board; however, it may be necessary to respond before a meeting of the board can take place. It is wise for a district to adopt an emergency response plan. The plan may include the appointment by the District Advisory Board of a response team composed of people with special qualifications such as counselors, social workers, those trained in communications and those familiar with the applicable law.
Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation in the Church. Disagreement is a part of life, even in the church. However, when this disagreement becomes a conflict which divides congregants or disrupts the fellowship of the church, an informal process of discernment should precede any formal process of resolution. Whether informal or formal, the goal should be resolution and reconciliation.
Informal Process: When conflict arises in the church, a period of discernment and counsel should be sought with a desire to live at peace with all people. All parties involved are encouraged to submit the matter to the Lord in prayer, and in fact the entire process must be bathed in prayer. Individuals in conflict should approach one another in humility with the hope of reconciliation.