New church discipline regulations offer help to deal with unwelcome behaviour

New church discipline regulations offer help to deal with unwelcome behaviour

The purpose of pastoral discipline is to help every member of the church to grow to be a mature and Christ-filled disciple within the fellowship of a strong and vigorous congregation (Ian Tanner)

At its most recent meeting, the Assembly of the UCA made changes to section 5.2 of the Regulations (‘Pastoral Care of Members’) in an effort to curb unwelcome behaviours. While the changes went into force on 1 January 2014, they were published only recently – so now they are available for use.

Changes include:

  1. Previously the Church Council had to form an opinion that a member ‘appears to disregard the privileges and obligations of membership or to disregard the discipline of the church’, but it is now possible to make a formal complaint about a member to the Church Council. [5.2.1(a)(ii)]
  2. If the person in this situation holds the office of Church Councillor, they may be requested to resign from that position and ‘to cease all responsibilities associated with that position’ pending a decision about their membership [5.2.1(c)]
  3. A new section about Elders and Church Councillor behaviour:

If in the opinion of the Church Council there are concerns about the behaviour of an Elder or Church Councillor whether in person or through cyber bullying (with reference to paragraph 1.6 of the Manual for Meetings) the Church Council may refer the matter to the Presbytery Pastoral Relations Committee to determine if the Elder or Church Councillor shall be removed from office. The decision of the Presbytery Pastoral Relations Committee shall be final. [3.3.3(d)]

  1. An amendment to the Manual for Meetings so that the definition of assertion skills now includes the underlined parts:

Assertion skills: refer to verbal and non-verbal behaviour enabling us to maintain respect, satisfy our own needs and defend our rights and point of view without becoming dominating, manipulative, abusive, aggressive, intimidating, bullying, or controlling of others. This includes whether verbally or in any written form including cyber bullying (section 1.6)

Updated Regulations can now be accessed on https://assembly.uca.org.au/regulations

Discussing the Code of Ethics with your congregation or agency

The Queensland Synod has produced a resource to help Ministers and other leaders discuss the Code of Ethics and Ministry Practice with their church council, congregation or agency. It is freely available on: https://ucaqld.com.au/administration/governance/resources/

The Code of Ethics can be found on the UCA Assembly website at https://assembly.uca.org.au/regulations

Jane Fry, Associate Secretary of the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT

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1 thought on “New church discipline regulations offer help to deal with unwelcome behaviour”

  1. I am confused as to why the Presbytery needs to be involved in a congregational discipline matter. Surely the congregation’s church Council has sufficient authority to carry out this task. what have I missed in the regulations? I understand Presbytery’s role is in guiding congregations, not individual members. Open as always to correction.

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