Bullying is a misuse of power and anyone who enters into a ministry activity has the right to feel safe and be free from bullying.
The national Anglican code of conduct – Faithfulness in Service 2023 – says this about bullying:
Bullying is usually defined as a pattern of behaviour, so an isolated incident is not generally considered to be bullying. However, disciplinary action may be needed in these instances and some incidents have the potential to escalate into bullying, so inappropriate behaviour should be dealt with.
Bullying behaviours can be
- direct – for example, abusive comments or intimidatory behaviour.
- indirect – for example, deliberate exclusion from activities.
- in-person – for example, face to face in a private or public setting.
- via electronic means – this is referred to as cyberbullying (see below for more information).
Leaders must be aware of the signs of bullying and deal with any inappropriate or bullying behaviour by leaders or ministry participants. Refer to Faithfulness in Service 2023 (key terms) for indicators and behaviours associated with bullying (see Chapter 6 to identify cultures and environments which encourage bullying).
For information on how to report bullying by a church worker, refer to Taking Bullying and Other Misconduct Seriously.
Cyberbullying is using or sending cruel and intimidating messages via email, text or other electronic means including social media sites. Its impact can be significant due to the potentially large audience and the fact that comments can be made anonymously.
To manage cyberbullying an individual can choose to block or unfriend the sender; talk to a trusted person and send them a copy of the message to keep a record of it; report the incident to police (if the messages are threatening and intimidating) and the website provider, especially if there have been messages to harm themselves.
Reports of cyberbullying of children (under 18yrs) and adult cyber abuse can be made to the eSafety Commission. For more information or to make a report, go to the eSafety website.
Under NSW Work Health and Safety laws, churches have a legal obligation to deal with any workplace bullying.
Systems must be in place to manage the risk of workplace bullying (including on-site and off-site parish activities) to ensure the health and safety of all workers – including paid staff and volunteers.
Refer to Module 5 – Bullying and Violence, in the Sydney Diocese’s Parish Risk Management Program for more information.
Are there behaviours that are not bullying?
Bullying does not include lawful conduct of clergy or church workers carried out in a reasonable manner, such as:
- disagreeing with or criticising someone’s belief or opinions or actions in an honest and respectful way;
- giving information about inappropriate behaviour in an objective way to the person or persons concerned and to any other person with a proper reason for having that information;
- setting reasonable performance goals, standards or deadlines;
- giving information about unsatisfactory performance in an honest and constructive way;
- taking legitimate disciplinary action.
Faithfulness in Service 2023 (Key terms)
For more detailed information regarding bullying, refer to Faithfulness in Service 2023.