Making a complaint
Step 1: Who to contact about a complaint
The Church is divided into geographical areas, known as Presbyteries.
There are 43 of these in Scotland, plus Presbyteries for England, Jerusalem and the rest of the world. Each Presbytery has its own Presbytery Clerk. That person can support and advise anyone thinking of making a complaint regarding a minister, deacon or officer bearer of the Church. Find the Presbytery Clerk for your local area. To cover the situation where the complaint is against the Presbytery Clerk, this list will incorporate alternative contacts within each Presbytery.
You can email or telephone the Presbytery Clerk. Please always make initial contact with Presbytery Clerk in this way before following the more formal steps noted below.
If the person you want to complain about is the Presbytery Clerk, then please note that at the link above setting out contact details for each Presbytery Clerk, duplicate contacts are given in each case. In these circumstances you should contact the alternative person named for that Presbytery, who will be another Church official.
The Church hopes that wherever possible, initial discussion with the Presbytery Clerk (or other appropriate Church official) may well have been enough to allay your concerns or to establish that the matter does not require further investigation.
Step 2: Progressing a complaint – formal notification
If the matter is to be taken further, then the Presbytery Clerk must have some details from you in order for a complaint to be properly investigated. This means that you need to write to the Clerk, either in a letter or an email, setting out:
- who you are, plus your contact details,
- whether you are a Church member, or office bearer,
- exactly what the nature of your complaint is,
- exactly which persons - ministers, deacons or office bearers - you are complaining about, and
- specific details of the circumstances (including, where possible, names of individuals, places, dates etc)
The Presbytery Clerk can assist you with this. Upon receipt of your written complaint, the Presbytery Clerk will acknowledge this in writing within 7 days. All information which you supply in connection with your complaint will be treated sensitively. So far as is possible while still enabling your complaint to be properly dealt with, the information which you give will be treated confidentially.
Step 3: Dealing with a complaint
On receipt of your written complaint, the Presbytery Clerk will send it to the Convener of the Presbytery's Complaints Committee. A meeting of that Committee will then be called to consider the complaint.
Following the meeting of the Complaints Committee, one member of the Committee will contact you to discuss your complaint and if appropriate, to arrange to meet with you.
The Complaints Committee will also forward a copy of the complaint to the respondent (the subject of the complaint).
The Committee may similarly meet with the respondent. The Committee shall make such enquiries as it considers appropriate and may hold more than one meeting separately with you, the complainer, and with the respondent. If it considers this to be appropriate and both parties consent, the Committee may facilitate a mediated meeting between you and the respondent.
On any occasion where the Committee meets with you, you are entitled to have present two other persons; where there is more than one meeting, these will ideally always be the same two persons.
On any occasion when the Committee meets with the respondent, the respondent shall be entitled to have present his or her pastoral adviser and one other person; again where there is more than one meeting, these will ideally always be the same two persons.
Summary notes will be kept of all meetings throughout the process.
The Committee will endeavour to provide you with an initial response on your complaint within a period of 20 working days from when it first considered the complaint.
Step 4: The outcome
Upon completion of its enquiries, the Committee will hope to have achieved one of the following possible outcomes (although this list is not exhaustive):
- You as complainer are satisfied that the matters raised in the complaint have been resolved;
- You as complainer and the respondent have reached a mutual agreement that the matter need go no further;
- You as complainer and the respondent agree that the matter may be referred to mediation;
- The Committee will make a recommendation to Presbytery that the respondent be given an instruction or advice as to his or her future conduct,
- The complaint has been dropped or dismissed, or
- The complaint having been dealt with, the matter is, despite no agreement having been reached, nonetheless concluded
The Procedure outlined above is subject to a right of procedural review. Further information about this will be given to you if it applies