Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Canon puts abuse survivors first

The General Synod Te Hīnota Whānui meeting in Hastings has amended its Ministry Standards canon to heighten the needs of abuse survivors as the first principle of Church law dealing with complaints.

Taonga News  |  05 Jun 2024  |

The Anglican Church has made a series of changes to its canon on Ministry Standards, which shifts a focus on abuse survivors’ needs into the topmost priority of the Church law when responding to complaints.

A new clause, “Survivor focus” has been added as the first principle of Title D, Canon III on ‘Maintenance of Ministry Standards,’ which sets out the Anglican Church’s process for responding if an ordained or lay person licensed in the Anglican Church is reported for perpetrating abuse, or failing to demonstrate exemplary standards of conduct.

Once fully updated, the revised canon will require all parties involved in the church complaints response process to attend to the needs of survivors first, particularly taking care that survivors do not suffer further traumatic impact through the process of their complaint. 

Synod delegate Ed Duggan (Diocese of Nelson), stood in support of the canon placing survivors first, speaking as a former sensitive claims counsellor for Aotearoa New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) for a number of years. 

“My experience of my clients was that it is very hard on survivors to go to court, or to make a complaint.” 

Ed told Synod that evidential interviews are very hard on abuse survivors too, especially if defence lawyers are questioning them.

“There’s a huge power imbalance between the person making the complaint and the responder.”

“We need to look after both parties, but it’s good if we look after the survivor first.”

Putting survivors first featured strongly as the driver for most of the fourteen updates to Title D Canons II and III that Te Hīnota passed this May, which were brought forward in response to advice from the independent Ministry Standards Commission, survivors’ legal advisers and bishops.

Bishop Ross Bay, who moved Bill 5 to amend Title D, explained that this year’s updates to the canon were the second round of changes since the new statute was established in 2020, and aimed to:

– Improve efficiency and timeliness of processes for survivors;
– Create more Tikanga-appropriate access to complaint processes;
– Improve the efficiency of the appointment of Tribunal members and
– Overcome delays caused by technical process issues not material to the outcome of a complaint.

New clauses in Title D Canon III that improve the speed and efficiency of Tribunals and other complaints processes went through easily, while Te Hīnota held a lengthy conversation on the importance of tikanga-appropriate models for making complaints, which led to additional changes from the floor joining this year’s updates to Title D.

Summing up, Archbishop Don Tamihere indicated that while this Synod’s tikanga-expertise updates to the canon had passed, they were unlikely to be the last word on how the Hāhi looks to provide tikanga-led processes for survivors seeking a response through Title D.

“I think we'd all agree that Title D is not, nor ever could have been perfect. It's an evolving framework. And certainly a lot of work needs to be done in the cultural dimension.”

The revised Title D will be available to view on the Ministry Standards Commission website soon.


If you or someone you know wants to make a complaint about the conduct of a licensed clergyperson, lay leader or office holder in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, you can find out how to do so through the Anglican Church's Ministry Standards Commission website here.