The Church of the Nazarene recognizes its responsibility to extend the hope and healing of God’s redeeming and renewing grace to any of its own ministers who, by surrender of credential, voluntary or otherwise, have been relieved of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of being a member of the clergy due to conduct unbecoming a minister. The church also acknowledges its obligation to invite into the embrace of God’s loving care the spouse and family, congregation, and community of the minister. For this reason, the process leading toward restoring the minister to good standing is to be conducted in two distinct steps:
- Recovery. Without regard for the severity of the minister’s misconduct, the likelihood of his or her eventual return to ministerial service, or his or her initial receptivity to grace and offers of help extended, the recovery of the minister’s well-being (spiritually and otherwise) and that of his or her spouse and family is to be diligently, prayerfully, and faithfully pursued by the district in accordance with paragraphs 540.1–540.7. Such recovery is to be the singular aim of this step.
- Reinstatement. Restoration to good standing of the minister and recommendation for the return of his or her credential is to be considered in a process separate from and subsequent to efforts seeking the recovery of the health and well-being of the minister and his or her spouse and family. (540.6–540.12)
Appointment of a Recovery Team. When clergy misconduct becomes evident, a timely response of appropriate and compassionate intervention is critical for the sake of the minister and his or her spouse and family, the congregation, and the community. Since such developments are rarely anticipated, advance selection and preparation of qualified persons, both clergy and laity, to facilitate recovery is an important element of the district response plan. These persons are to be appointed by the district superintendent in consultation with the District Advisory Board. When situations of clergy misconduct arise, these persons, acting as a recovery team, are to be deployed by the district superintendent as immediately as possible and in accordance with the district plan. A recovery team so deployed should be comprised of no less than three persons. (211.20, 225.5, 540)
Duties of a Recovery Team. A recovery team is responsible for facilitating the recovery of the health and well-being of the minister and of the minister’s spouse and family. It has neither the responsibility nor the authority to determine whether the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of being a member of the clergy should be reinstated to the minister. Insofar as the situation permits, the duties of a recovery team include:
- extending care to the minister’s spouse and family as well as to the minister;
- providing clarity to the minister and spouse on the process and purpose of recovery;
- coordinating the combined efforts of the minister, the district, and any congregation involved in developing a plan to address financial, housing, medical, emotional, spiritual, and other needs that typically arise with urgency in situations where misconduct has become evident;
- implementing the district-approved plan, including reporting regularly on its own efforts and on the status of the progress of the minister and his or her spouse and family in the recovery of health and well-being;
- communicating to the minister and his or her spouse, to the district superintendent, and to the appropriate district board when it judges its work is nearing completion or has progressed as far as can be expected;
- submitting to the District Ministerial Credentials Board or District Board of Ministry or appointed committee responsible for considering reinstatement, upon application by the minister for reinstatement of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of being a member of the clergy, its recommendation as to whether consideration for restoration of the minister to good standing is appropriate. (540.8)
In the event the minister under discipline is or becomes unresponsive to the recovery process, diligent effort should be given to furthering the recovery of the minister’s spouse and family while actively seeking to engage or re-engage the minister in recovery. Upon review of the recovery efforts and with due regard for the well-being of the minister’s spouse and family, the district superintendent may suspend, conclude, or otherwise redirect its recovery efforts.
In the event a district does not appoint a recovery team or the recovery team appointed fails to undertake its responsibilities within 180 days from the date the minister was placed under discipline, the minister under discipline may petition the Board of General Superintendents to transfer to another district the responsibility of facilitating efforts toward his or her recovery and of acting upon his or her subsequent application, if any, for restoration to good standing and reinstatement to the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of being a member of the clergy. This option is also available to the minister in question should a district fail to respond to his or her application for restoration to good standing. (540–540.2, 540.4–540.12)
A member of the clergy who is not in good standing shall not hold any position of trust or authority in the church or in its worship, such as: preach, lead worship, teach a Sunday School class, lead a Bible study or small group. The minister may only serve in these roles or be given a ministerial role upon the favorable recommendation of the district-appointed recovery team assigned to the minister and the consent of the District Advisory Board, the District Ministerial Credentials Board or District Board of Ministry, the district superintendent, and the general superintendent in jurisdiction. A favorable recommendation indicates a determination that the individual and his or her spouse and family have made sufficient progress in the recovery process to warrant once again allowing the individual to be of service in a position of trust or authority. Approval to serve in a position of trust or authority may be granted with or without restrictions and may be withdrawn by the district superintendent in consultation with the recovery team. (606.1–606.2, 606.5, 606.11–606.12)
Upon application by a minister under discipline for restoration to good standing as provided in paragraph 540.6, the recovery team may recommend to the district superintendent and the appropriate district board or appointed committee that the application be considered in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 540.8; or, that the minister continue in the recovery process for an additional and specified length of time before reapplying.
In the event the recovery team has concluded its efforts and the minister under discipline does not apply for restoration to good standing, the minister shall remain under discipline unless action is taken 1) to expel the minister from the membership and ministry of the Church of the Nazarene; or 2) to grant approval to the minister to resign his or her credential and become a lay member of the church. In situations of the resignation of credential by a minister who has been under discipline where there is evidence of substantial and sustained recovery, care should be given to appropriately recognize and celebrate such progress. (539.5, 540.10)
Application for Restoration to Good Standing. A minister having been relieved of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of being a member of the clergy may apply for restoration to good standing and the return of his or her credential subject to the eligibility requirements of paragraph 540.7. Such application must be submitted to the district superintendent at least six months prior to the next scheduled meeting of the district assembly and must comply with the district-approved plan. The district superintendent shall acknowledge receipt of the application within 30 days.
A minister may apply for restoration to good standing and the return of his or her credential provided the recovery team assigned to the minister favorably supports such application and can attest that the minister has participated actively and consistently for at least two years in a recovery process under its supervision. A minister who, in his or her judgment, has endeavored to participate actively and consistently for at least four years in such a recovery process may apply for restoration to good standing with or without the favorable support of the application by the recovery team.
When a minister under discipline has pursued participation in recovery from the outset, the minimum time required before applying for restoration to good standing shall commence with the earlier of the first official meeting of the minister with the recovery team or 60 days after the date a recovery team was initially assigned to the minister. In cases where a minister postponed or interrupted his or her participation in the recovery process, the district superintendent in consultation with the recovery team shall determine whether the minimum time required before applying for restoration to good standing has been satisfied. (538, 540.3)
Response to an Application for Restoration to Good Standing. The District Ministerial Credentials Board or District Board of Ministry, or a committee of the same appointed by the district superintendent, shall consider any application for restoration to good standing received by the district superintendent, and:
- verify that the application is valid, having met all conditions for submission;
- request and evaluate the recommendation of the recovery team;
- interview the minister seeking restoration to good standing and any other persons it deems appropriate to interview;
- determine whether to recommend the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of being a member of the clergy be reinstated to the minister and his or her credential returned.
When an application has been submitted at least 180 days in advance of the next scheduled district assembly, consideration of the application shall be completed and recommendation made to the district superintendent prior to that district assembly. A recommendation to reinstate the rights, privileges and responsibilities of a member of the clergy to a minister whose credential is surrendered due to sexual misconduct shall require a two-thirds approval of the District Advisory Board. The recommendation is to be submitted to the Board of General Superintendents within one year of the date of the minister’s most recent application for restoration to good standing. Exceptions to any time frames specified in this paragraph must have the prior written approval of the general superintendent in jurisdiction. (540.2, 540.3, 540.6, 540.7, 540.12)
An individual guilty of sexual misconduct involving minors should not be restored to good standing as a member of the clergy or permitted to hold any ministerial credential, serve in any position of responsibility for or ministry with minors, or be elected or appointed to any leadership role in the local church. A minor is defined as any human being under the age of 18, unless the age of majority is attained later under a state’s or country’s own domestic legislation. (129.30, 600, 606.1–606.2, 606.5, 606.11–606.12, 916)