Resolved, the House of __________ concurring, That The 79th General Convention recommends that the Presiding Bishop, drawing on the research of the Commission on Leadership and Impairment, establish a team of advisors of consultants to serve as a resource on alcoholism and other forms of addiction in order to provide a rapid response to issues of questionable impairment, to provide clergy or other concerned individuals with confidential advice, and to assist with monitoring, recovery and re-entry into ministry.
The above recommendation was included in the report of the Commission on Leadership and Impairment (“Commission”) (page 19), which was formed by resolution of the House of Bishops on March 17, 2015. The resolution “requested that the Presiding Bishop appoint, in consultation of the House of Deputies, an independent commission to explore the canonical, environmental, behavioral, and procedural dimensions of matters involving the serious impairment of individuals serving as leaders in the Church, with special attention to issues of addiction and substance abuse.”
The Commission issued its report in March, 2017, which offered the following definition of impairment: “The inability to exercise ministry with reasonable skills and safety by virtue of physical or mental illness, inebriation, or excessive use of drugs, narcotics, alcohol, chemicals, or other substances.” (Report, p. 2).
The Commission stated that “[u]nnamed and unaddressed impairment of leaders causes damage with and beyond the body of Christ. The Commission has discovered that in many instances, church polity has impeded the ability of the Church to intervene, assess and treat impaired people and care for the injured community.” (Report, p. 4).
The Commission’s recommendations focused on two broad categories:
Preventive measures, that include creating educational and training programs to increase knowledge about impairment, and also implementing policies, practices, and procedures to screen and evaluate the church’s leaders throughout their vocational life, promoting early detection and quality control along with confidentiality.
Effective responses, that include cultivating knowledge, resources, and practices that support the effective recognition of impairment in leaders along with appropriate inquiry, intervention, and referral for evaluation and treatment, and also providing support for impaired leaders via re-entry, re-licensing, ongoing monitoring, and accountability. (Report, pp 14-15).
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