Ministerial Restoration Policy

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A. Preamble

2000. "This revised draft of the General Board restoration policy was written in response to General Board directives and in consultation with district superintendents as well as other like-minded denominations. The overall aim was to draft a policy with clear and basic principles and procedures to guide experienced church leaders in the use of their judgment regarding the particular applications of the restoration policy. The intention is to present standard guidelines and expectations while allowing for some flexibility in how they are applied in the myriad of contexts and situations that emerge. Because there are multiple categories of credentialing, this document uses the title “minister” rather than “pastor” as an all-inclusive term to cover all credentialed individuals going through restoration.

In addition, leadership dealing with a crisis or restoration process may still have to consult the Discipline for particular guidelines until the Discipline, upon acceptance of this policy, is revised to reflect this policy."

B. Rationale

2002. The purpose of the Restoration Policy is to provide The Wesleyan Church and its leadership with a concise and practical guide for responding to moral, personal or professional crisis situations that may call for a minister to take leave of their ministry. Regardless of the reasons for the crisis, the response should be based on the following biblical and philosophical foundations and principles.

C. Biblical Basis for Restoration

2004. God’s design and purpose for all people is to be saved from sin, transformed into the image of Christ, filled with the love of God, and to live a life of holy love on behalf of others

(Matt. 22:36-40; Luke 19:1-9; John 1:12; Rom. 3:23f; 5:19-21; 8:1ff; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 2:8-10; 4:22-5:18; Gal. 5:13-14; 1 Thes. 4:3-8; 3:8; 1 John 3:16ff).
Wesleyans celebrate the optimism of God’s grace to transform humanity, while at the same time recognizing that it is still possible for a Christian to sin. In addition, it is surely God’s desire for ministers to carry out their leadership responsibilities with due diligence according to the grace given by God.

This is true for ministers as well as Christians in general. When ministers do fall, whether through sin or other reasons, they nevertheless continue to remain the object of God’s redemptive love and desire for spiritual restoration and interpersonal reconciliation. There are several examples of restoration of ministers in the New Testament, including Peter who denied Christ in the hour of His greatest need, yet was restored personally by Jesus (Luke 22:32; John 21:15-22), and the other ten apostles (excluding Judas).

Sin, is always to be taken seriously because of its inherently destructive nature towards God’s will for individuals, relationships, institutions, systems, society, and the created order. Likewise, extreme leadership negligence, emotional burnout, and other life experiences also take their toll. Even still, God’s grace is greater than our sin and shortcomings. All people, including ministers, have an advocate in the person of Jesus (1 John 2:1-2). Since the Church is the body and presence of Christ in the world (1 Cor. 21:27; Eph. 1:22-23), including when addressing disciplinary matters (Luke 18:15-20), the process of investigation, spiritual restoration, and restoration of credentials (when applicable) is to be carried out in the same spirit of compassion and grace that Jesus himself manifested.

The New Testament is clear that believers are to deal firmly yet compassionately with the offender in order, if possible, to bring about a restoration to grace and fellowship (1 Cor. 5:1-5, 9-13; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; Titus 3:10-11). In fact, Paul admonishes those who are spiritual to restore gently and with humility those caught in a sin (Gal. 6:1-2). Being self-aware of one’s own redemption from sin helps temper one’s disposition and response toward others who sin (Lk.18:9-14; Gal. 1:1-2; 1 Tim. 1:15), remembering that Jesus came to take away our guilt and sin, not to condemn. It is the responsibility of the church to lead those who express remorse for theirs into the freedom and restoration provided by the Gospel of Christ.

D. Theology and Philosophy of Ministerial Restoration

2006. Based on the teaching of scripture, reason, tradition, and experience, The Wesleyan Church holds a high view of the power, extent, and depth of the love of God toward those who have sinned or failed in other ways. Restoration relates to the reestablishment of one’s relationship with God, self, and others. Restoration also relates to the credentialed ministry when a minister has voluntarily withdrawn from ministry, or has been removed by reason of guilt, judicial process, disciplinary action, or other reasons. The call to ministry is confirmed and sanctioned by the Church (Discipline 3003). Consequently, the Church has established guidelines and principles for how ministers conduct themselves in life and ministry. Those guidelines and principles apply to the lifespan of the minister, from initial credentialing through retired service. The following core biblical principles orient and moor all aspects of the restoration process:

2008. Biblical Principles

1. Respectful. All people are infused with intrinsic worth and dignity apart from anything they do (good or bad) since they have been created freely by God as a direct expression of His love. Therefore, all aspects of the restoration process will respect the intrinsic dignity of all concerned, including the offending minister, victims, and congregants. This calls for utmost respect in maintaining high standards of confidentiality on a “need to know” basis regarding all aspects of the restoration process and contents of any proceedings.
2. Redemptive. The moral and spiritual responsibility of the church in the world is to extend God’s call of grace, hope, holiness, and love in Christ to all people. Therefore, all aspects of the restoration process, including any disciplinary action, are ultimately designed to draw all people involved (offenders and those negatively affected) back into the fold of God and fellowship of believers when possible. Spiritual leaders leading the restoration process will need to reflect deeply on their own motives to ensure they are prompted solely by the love and holiness of Christ. In addition, every effort must be made to provide for the healing of marriages, family relationships, and congregations.
3. Righteous. The responsibility of the Church must include justice for those negatively affected as well as the offenders. The spouse and other family members of an offender, and the welfare of the congregation will become major concerns of the restoring body. The Church must be sensitive and responsive to the spiritual, psychological and economic needs of all who have been adversely affected by the offender’s actions. It is important that the reality of their pain and the wrongfulness of the abuse be acknowledged.
4. Restorative. The primary objective of restoration is to help offenders and those negatively affected experience healing, interpersonal forgiveness and reconciliation, and to assist offenders in restoring their spiritual relationship with God. The church will be prepared to offer the spiritual, psychological, and mediation resources necessary for assisting in restoration. When possible and appropriate, due consideration will be given to the restoration of ministry credentials for those who have been removed. The restorative process is to be understood as developmental in nature, assisting in the moral and spiritual growth and maturity of the offending minister over time. Therefore, the process must not be rushed nor should expectations for the restoration of credentials be raised prematurely.

E. Advisory Response Teams for Care and Restoration

2010. To assist the process and support of restoration, district superintendents (DS) should consider engaging a regional Advisory Response Team for care & restoration (ART). The purpose of an ART is to provide support, guidance, and wisdom for the district superintendent and appointed committees in implementing the processes for care and restoration. This includes accountability plans and appropriate strategies of the restoration process to completion. Engaging an ART can help ensure just and equitable responses to minister crises across the denomination. ARTs will be selected from a pool of qualified individuals and be comprised of a licensed counselor, denominational leader or appointed representative, and an experienced pastor. The ARTs will be established regionally in order to provide geographical proximity to the various districts. Establishing regional ARTs will increase the probability of timely responses and meaningful cultural connection in a time of crisis. All ARTs will receive training for assisting districts and implementing the restoration policy of The Wesleyan Church.

F. Preliminary Considerations Prior to Restoration

2012. Prior to the implementation of any formal restoration agreement, the following conditions will need to be met:

1. Judicial proceedings or investigation into the nature and scope of the offense should be complete before restoration begins.
2. There are certain offenses that if committed by ministers render them ineligible for restoration. These offenses include: ministers who have been restored previously and have failed again, sexual misconduct with a minor, incest, or repeated acts of sexual immorality (such as adultery, fornication, homosexual acts).
3. The district should review with the minister specific questions from the ordination process in an effort to gain a clear understanding of the depth of issues experienced by the minister.
4. The restoration team should receive a full, written report from the district superintendent before determining steps for restoration.The report should detail the nature and scope of the offense and under what category the offense falls (e.g. suspension, removal).
5. The minister should be informed that there is a difference between being restored spiritually or personally, and having credentials restored for future ministry.
6. The minister needs to qualify for restoration of credentials whether they were surrendered voluntarily or for disciplinary reasons.
7. Consideration for restoration to ministry is not automatic, but also dependent upon the attitude and disposition of the minister. A repentant and contrite heart should be manifested, a willingness to make restitution if necessary, as well as a willingness to submit to the authority of the district and the prescribed steps of restoration.
8. Depending on the nature and seriousness of the offense, a period of time should elapse before the start of any restoration process for initial healing and for making wise decisions about future direction. For serious offenses that bring direct harm to others, such as adultery or violent acts, there should be a longer period of time. For offenses that are less egregious, a shorter period of time should be considered. The timeframe will be determined by the restoration committee.
9. If the minister had previously withdrawn voluntarily and now desires to be reinstated, the district should determine if the minister originally withdrew under accusation or discipline; this might determine the nature of the restoration process.

G. Overview of Care and Response to a Minister Crisis

2014. Once the initial investigation has determined the nature and level of the offense and that the offense does not disqualify the minister from applying to have his/her credentials restored, and the minister has repented of the sin and displays a sincere and contrite heart and has expressed a desire to be restored, the official restoration process may begin. The following is a broad overview of responses that should be applied to all levels of restoration. They are listed in chronological order. Advisory Response Teams can be helpful in guiding the process.

1. Ensure that all parties read the entire restoration policy.
2. To ensure confidentiality, all parties should sign a non-disclosure statement that limits the sharing of information to a need-to-know basis.
3. Review the report from the district regarding the nature and level of the offense.
4. Identify individuals who need care and restoration including the offender and those who may have been negatively affected.
5. Ensure the safety and well-being of all parties.
6. Determine the appropriate level of care/restoration response in relation to the level and nature of the offense.
7. Both the minister and the district should sign a restoration covenant stating that they will commit themselves to the entire process and highest good of all concerned.
8. It is highly recommended that all offenders, regardless of the level of offense, meet with a licensed psychologist (preferred) or mental health counselor to determine the extent of the issues being experienced. The minister should sign a release of information document allowing for appropriate individuals to review counselor reports and recommendations. A written report of the psychologist’s assessment is to be forwarded to the DS and the head of the appointed restoration team.
9. Work closely and communicate consistently with appointed District representatives and/or committees.
10. Regular reports will be submitted to whomever the General Superintendent deems appropriate to monitor progress and ensure accuracy in procedures and actions being prescribed.

H. Guidelines for Care and Restoration Responses

2016. The following guidelines for restoration are to follow from the directives and conclusions of the Judiciary regarding the possibility of restoration. Every situation requiring care and restoration is unique. Specific actions and timelines of restoration will vary according to the nature and extent of the offense and the ongoing response of the individual. The following broad guidelines are directed toward the five levels of offense: Admonition & rebuke, suspension, removal, and dismissal.

2018. Levels of Response.

1. Admonition & Rebuke. Depending on the nature of the offense, the district should give serious consideration to engaging a licensed psychologist, or mental health counselor if a licensed psychologist is not available, for a personal assessment. An early report could be invaluable in establishing a benchmark in case of future repetition of behavior. A written assessment should be sent to the DS.
a. The restoration team should consider assigning a mature pastor/mentor to meet regularly with the minister as a spiritual friend to walk with during the restoration process.
b. The minister should write an extended reflection focused on the motivation and thought process behind the behavior. This reflection should be shared with the mentoring pastor as a basis of discussion and prayer.
c. Assigned readings from Scripture and other works should be provided followed by written reflection by the minister. These readings and reflections should be shared with the mentoring pastor.
d. The mentoring pastor will provide a written report to the DS. Similarly, a verbal report may be given to the DS with notes recorded.
e. Depending on the offense, reconciliation with others may be necessary. If so, the minister will be required to seek personal reconciliation with those offended by his/her actions. This may take time and should be a natural outcome of the mentoring restoration process; recovery/restoration should continue until intrinsic, heartfelt reconciliation is sought. The mentoring pastor or appointed representative should record these efforts.
f. The minister should provide demonstrable evidence of cooperation with the process, genuine repentance, and heartfelt change with regard to the presenting behavior. This should not be forced, but be a natural outcome of the restoration process.
g. Upon written recommendation from the mentoring pastor and the approval of the DS, the minister will be deemed to have completed the restoration process.
2. Suspension. Ministers who have committed offenses that are considered more serious in nature, are intentional, or ignore previous warnings, may be required to surrender their credentials to the District for a period. The time frame involved will normally be a minimum of 12 months. The suggested guidelines listed for Admonition & Rebuke are required here with the addition of the following:
a. An initial assessment must be conducted by a licensed psychologist or mental health counselor if a licensed psychologist is not available. A written report of the assessment is forwarded to the restoration team. Strategies for restoration must take the psychologist’s report into consideration.
b. A series of counseling sessions should be arranged. The pastor must allow for the release of information to the appropriate person representing the committee.
c. A pastoral friend/mentor should be identified to accompany the minister along the path to restoration.
d. Specific and relevant spiritual disciplines should be identified, cultivated, and journaled. The journal of experiences will form the basis of discussion with the pastoral friend.
e. Identify those affected by the minister’s behavior and guide him/her in determining appropriate restitution.
f. The minister should provide demonstrable evidence of cooperation with the process, genuine repentance, and heartfelt change with regard to the presenting behavior. This should not be forced, but be a natural outcome of the restoration process.
g. Upon written positive reports or recommendations from the counselor(s), the mentoring pastor, and the restoration team, and upon final approval of the DS and DBA, the minister will be deemed to have completed the restoration process.
3. Removal of Credentials. When credentials are removed, the restoration process should begin only after a period of time has passed, allowing for initial healing, perspective, and time to assess the minister’s readiness to enter a formal restoration process. The actual restoration process may be longer for these ministers to allow for full recovery, healing, reconciliation and the re-building of trust. In addition to the steps taken with suspension above, the following are additional guidelines for clergy who have had credentials removed:
a. The time frame for restoration after serious offenses should be a minimum of three years. Engaging an ART is highly encouraged to provide wisdom and guidance for helping to determine best approaches and timeframes.
b. An assessment must be conducted by a licensed psychologist that includes in-depth consultation and an initial report to the chair of the restoration team.
c. The restoration team should work with the offending minister to arrange for a series of counseling sessions with a licensed counselor. Release of information should be signed by the minister for review by appropriate individuals.
d. Reports from the counselor must be consulted to help inform steps for care and restoration.
e. It is vital for the health and well-being of the minister that a pastor be identified and assigned by the restoration team, who can serve as a spiritual friend and mentor throughout this process.
f. Assist in leading the minister to a response of reconciliation and restitution with all others who were affected by the minister’s behavior.
g. Assist in relocating the minister and family to an alternative location if necessary.
h. Assist the minister and family in finding a new church for worship and recovery. A “recovery church” would be most beneficial with trained individuals assisting the restoration and, where appropriate, re-entry into ministry.
i. When it is needful and possible, assist the minister in making recommendations for employment.
j. As stated above, genuine demonstration of efforts of reconciliation, heartfelt repentance, and change of behavior are necessary for consideration of finalizing the restoration process, including restoration of credentials and/or re-entry into vocational ministry.
k. Upon written positive reports or recommendations from the counselor(s), and the mentoring pastor, the restoration team will provide a final report to the DBMD.
l. Upon reviewing the final report from the restoration team, the DBMD may then recommend to the DBA the restoration of credentials. If immorality or crime were involved, restoration of credentials may be accomplished only with the additional approval of the General Board (Discipline, 5245).

I. Restoration Reports and Recommendations

2020. Restoration teams must submit the following reports and recommendations for care and restoration to the district. The district must send progress reports and recommendations to the General Superintendent (Discipline, 5239). ARTs can provide guidance for this process.

1. Written summaries of the completed steps of restoration, including whether or not established benchmarks have been met. Written summaries must be submitted by the minister to the restoration team. The restoration team must submit regular reports of progress to the district superintendent.
2. Recommendations for the care of those negatively affected, including when necessary personal safety and counseling.
3. Recommendations for care of offenders and families including when necessary counseling, and potential need for relocation. Economic needs should also be considered where appropriate.
4. Recommendations for personal spiritual restoration, reconciliation with others, restitution if necessary, and steps of accountability. The type of accountability required and the time frames involved must be considered carefully to ensure they are in accord with the nature and severity of the offense.
5. Recommendations regarding the potential for restoration of credentials. The process for restoration of credentials should include time frames in accordance with the nature and severity of the offense.

J. Ongoing Guidance and Support with an Advisory Response Team

2022. Ongoing Guidance and Support with an Advisory Response Team. Once the recommendations for restoration and accountability are established and approved, an ART can provide ongoing guidance for the district and appointed restoration teams for the effective completion of the restoration process.

1. The district and the offender will sign an accountability agreement for reporting progress through to completion.
2. The ART can offer assistance in ensuring timely submission of reports to both the district and the denomination when required.
3. The ART can offer guidance for the restoration of ministry credentials. Provision for restoration of ministry credentials are set forth in Discipline 5230-5251 (ordained, commissioned, and licensed ministers) and 5212:1-5 (special worker).
4. The ART may also offer guidance for ways of restoring the minister to active service.