Filing A Complaint

If you are a victim of clergy misconduct of a sexual nature, you have the option of simply sharing a concern or filing a written complaint.

NOTE: In the United States most states required allegations of abuse against a minor to be reported immediately to state authorities. The United Methodist Church policy encourages immediate reporting to the civil authorities all allegations of abuse against a minor regardless of personal confidentiality issues. Each state has a different mandatory reporting process

Do you want to file a written complaint?

You may bring another person (not a lawyer) to accompany you to these meetings.

  1. First, contact the appropriate person within your annual conference for information or if you to file a complaint against the accused clergy person. This is usually the district superintendent who supervises the clergy of your local church. If another person has been assigned to this responsibility, your district superintendent’s office will have the contact information. If you do not receive help from this office, then you may contact the Bishop’s office.
  2. If you are filing a complaint against a bishop, you must submit the complaint to the president of the jurisdiction’s College of Bishops.  If the complaint concerns the president, you will submit the complaint to the secretary of the College of Bishops.
  3. If you need further information, or you are not receiving a response by your district superintendent or bishop, then you may call the annual conference Chair of the Commission on the Status and Role of Women. For further information on your rights and on the timelines appropriate for responding, please see My Rights on this website.
  4. If you need further information and you are not receiving a response by your annual conference Chair of the Commission on the Status and Role of Women, then you may contact the (inter)national office - General Commission on the Status and Role of Women. When you contact the General Commission regarding a clergy misconduct of a sexual nature concern, have the following ready for conversation:
    • Your name and relationship within the local church or annual conference;
    • A description of the situations/experiences (behaviors, statements, etc.) which you believe is clergy misconduct of a sexual nature;
    • A chronology of dates and location; and,
    • Whether you have a copy of the Sexual Ethics Policy of your annual conference, local church, or United Methodist-related institution.

What if I don’t want to sign a written statement - a complaint?

You may choose not to sign a written statement - a complaint - of the misconduct. The choice is yours. However, without a signed, written complaint, the annual conference, through the bishop’s office, may not be able to proceed. Unless the person voicing a concern is able and willing to supply written and verbal testimony regarding their experience of  harassment and/or abuse, the annual conference may not have enough evidence to follow up on the concern.

May I file a report on the misconduct?

If you have experienced clergy misconduct of a sexual nature, you need to contact the district superintendent of your area - by phone, letter, or in person. The contact information for district superintendents is available on many annual conference websites, in your local church office, and through the annual conference office.

Is it a complaint?

The Disciplinary process for complaints against clergy (ordained and licensed) is very specific:

  • Does the concern specifically involve a clergy person?
  • Is the concern about a clergy person’s performance?
  • Is the concern about a clergy person’s character?
  • Is the concern of a nature that may potentially be considered a violation of the sacred trust of ordination or clergy membership in the annual conference?
  • Is the person(s) presenting the concern able and/or willing to sign a written statement claiming misconduct or unsatisfactory performance of ministerial duties?

If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then your experience of misconduct could be considered for a complaint process.

What can I expect?  What happens to my complaint?

See My Rights for further information on your rights and the next steps of these processes. You will be asked whether you are willing to write and sign a statement sharing your concern/allegation. If you are willing to do this, your concern/allegation becomes a complaint. If you are unwilling to file a complaint at this time - a written, signed statement of your experience - then the next processes of review cannot take place.

The primary purpose of a review is “a just resolution of any violations of this sacred trust, in the hope that God’s work of justice, reconciliation and healing may be realized in the body of Christ. A just resolution is one that focuses on repairing any harm to people and communities, achieving real accountability by making things right in so far as possible and bringing healing to all the parties.” (The Book of Discipline 2016, ¶ 362.1) When we engage in these processes, the Church, through the bishop’s and district superintendent’s office, is intending to be about the protection of God's people and of the Gospel ministry.

Note: Some annual conference practices involve moving very quickly to a signed written statement from anyone bringing any kind of concern. Other annual conference practices seem to involve much more time with listening and hearing processes before action or response. It is hoped that a balance may be achieved. Consistent and clear practices serve to allow persons to experience the bishop’s office as “being the Church.” Thorough processes provide the bishop with enough information to make an informed and expedient decision about how to proceed.