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.
Formal Process: If this process fails, the individuals may decide to embark upon the formal process of reconciliation. The matter should be arbitrated with a representative group of mature and unbiased individuals in the church. If fault is determined, this group may recommend appropriate action as described in paragraph 604.
Resolution of Disciplinary Matters by Agreement. The disciplinary process described in this Manual is intended to provide an appropriate process for resolving allegations of misconduct when the allegations are contested by the accused. In many situations, it is appropriate to resolve disciplinary matters by agreement. Efforts to resolve disciplinary matters by agreement are encouraged and should be pursued whenever practical.
Any matter which is within the jurisdiction of a Local Board of Discipline may be resolved by a written agreement between the person accused and the pastor if approved by the church board and the district superintendent. The terms of such an agreement shall have the same effect as an action by a Local Board of Discipline.
Any matter which is within the jurisdiction of a District Board of Discipline may be resolved by a written agreement between the person accused and the district superintendent if the agreement is approved by the District Advisory Board and the general superintendent in jurisdiction. The terms of such an agreement shall have the same effect as an action by a District Board of Discipline.