Safeguarding and Abuse

Abuse – Complaints: Resolution Process

Making a Complaint

If you wish to make a complaint about an office bearer in the Anglican Church (for example, a priest, deacon, bishop, licenced lay minister, trustee, etc) we encourage you to put it in writing and send it directly to the independent Registrar.

Ministry Standards Registrar
c/- P O Box 87188,
Auckland 1742

Church Canons concerning complaints

In January 2021, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia introduced a new set of canons (rules) that describe the standards expected of office bearers in the church along with the complaints process that makes such office bearers accountable. You can read these rules in full here: Title D Canons (scroll down once you get there).

The third Canon (Canon III of the Maintenance of Ministry Standards) describes the way that complaints are received, assessed, determined and made public. All complaints are sent to the Registrar who will determine what happens next. No complaints are to be vetted by any diocesan office bearer. That means that any representative of the church who receives a complaint, is obliged to forward that complaint directly to the Registrar.

What follows below is not intended as a detailed evaluation or description of the canonical process but is instead a simple summary. To understand the process in full you will need to take advice and/or read the Canons in full.

Ministry Standards Registrar & process

The Ministry Standards Registrar is appointed by the Ministry Standards Commission. This Registrar must be enrolled as a barrister or solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand and have at least 7 years’ experience. The current Registrar is retired judge, Justice John Priestley.

The Registrar is responsible for completing the initial assessment of each complaint received. The Registrar will then decide whether the complaint should be dismissed or referred as either unsatisfactory conduct or misconduct.

Unsatisfactory Conduct

a failure to observe Standards Required of Ministers which does not amount to misconduct”

Any complaint that is determined “unsatisfactory” will be referred back to the relevant licensing Bishop. (If the complaint concerns a bishop then the Registrar refers to the appropriate archbishop.) The bishop then has the following courses of conduct available:

(a) a process of reconciliation carried out in accordance with the principles of the relevant Tikanga;

(b) a full investigation into the complaint, following inquiry principles, after which the Licensing Bishop or, in the case of a Bishop, the Archbishop may admonish the respondent; and/or

(c) requiring the respondent to undertake further training or counselling.


any intentional, significant or continuing departure from the Standards of Ministry set out in Canon I”

Any complaint that the Registrar considers to cross the threshold defined above will be described as ‘misconduct’ and referred for further investigation and a tribunal hearing. The complainant is not expected to prosecute his or her own case. Instead, the church appoints an advocate to prosecute on behalf of the complainant. This advocate must be a barrister or solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand and must have at least 7 years’ experience. Likewise, respondents (the persons against whom the allegations are made) are not expected to defend themselves.

A tribunal will determine whether there is misconduct or not and make appropriate recommendations. Where there is no evidence of misconduct the complaint will be dismissed. If there is evidence of misconduct, then one of four recommendations will be made in the following order of seriousness:

  1. Admonition
  2. Suspension
  3. Deprivation of Office
  4. Deposition

The chart below describes the process in broad terms. To understand the process in full, please refer to Title D, Canon III.

Useful Links

Title D of Standards: These are the rules of the Anglican Church in NZ-Aotearoa and Polynesia that set out how complaints are dealt with


Diocese of Dunedin Guidelines

The Diocese of Dunedin operates a system where all people (lay and ordained) who carry our ministry in the name of the church must hold a license from the Bishop. The issuing of a license includes police vetting and evidence that a person has participated in regular training events (Boundary Workshops) that include a safeguarding component. Please contact our Diocesan Ministry Educator for more information.

Feel free to contact the Diocesan Office for advice on what you need to do: Telephone (03) 488 0821 or email


Reach out for some help. Talk with someone you trust, see a doctor or counsellor, or call 1737 to speak to a trained counsellor, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

 Royal Commission on Abuse in Care

The Commission’s Website says: 

“The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care is looking into what happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults in care     between 1950 and 1999.”

The focus of the Commission is on ‘Abuse in Care’ with reference to:

  1. State-run institutions
  2. Faith-based institutions

The extent of (2) includes our care of children, young people and vulnerable adults in our churches, schools, orphanages, elder care homes, and other ministries governed and managed by Anglican based Social Services (including residential care homes for the elderly) and Anglican Family Care.

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, including the Diocese of Dunedin, is committed to engaging with the Commission and its work, and will do everything it can to assist the Commission fulfilling its purposes.  The Diocese of Dunedin is encouraging submissions to be made to the Commission by survivors of abuse in its care. Contact details for communicating with the Commission are:

Phone: 10 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday (NZT) 0800 222 727 [Calling from Australia? 1800 875 745]


Mail: Royal Commission of Inquiry, PO Box 10071
The Terrace, Wellington 6143

See also Royal Commission on Abuse in Care: 

Current Commission hearings are now being broadcast via this link:  

Bishop Steven Benford writes:

If this raises issues that affect you directly, I am happy to meet with you. Please contact me through the Diocesan office: 

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