The Reboot Series - Part 15 of 20; May 2010
This document contains information about the Family International's updated disciplinary policies and procedures, outlining the offenses that warrant discipline and how they will be handled. As you will see, considerable changes have been made to our former procedures.
Before outlining the procedural information and details below, we would like to explain some of the factors that have been crucial to the design of our disciplinary procedures.
It was important that the disciplinary system we were establishing would:
Support self-determination and personal responsibility, while taking into account the variety of households and living environments of TFI members.
As explained in "Blueprint for the Future," we are changing the model of TFI so that we operate primarily on a system of principles (TFI's guiding principles) rather than on a complex system of rules, regulations, and standardized expectations and requirements for lifestyle and spiritual matters.
As you know, there will no longer be practical or spiritual life requirements, or enforcement of a particular standard for matters such as where or how members will live, who they live with, whether or not they will take on employment, how they will engage in the mission, etc. These are matters of personal choice and personal responsibility.
As you read through this document, you will note that when it comes to the disciplinary processes, the first steps of the procedure will be attended to by the members who are involved, prior to the case going to the facilitators (or the regional shepherds in the interim).
The structure of the future will call for less involvement on the part of the facilitators (or the regional shepherds in the interim) in the disciplinary process. This is an automatic result of the changes in the model of our organization and the elimination of the many requirements we had in times past which mandated much more involvement from leadership to regulate and monitor, and to administer consequences if the requirements were not upheld. Mediating disagreements or disunity between members, or giving counsel regarding members' spiritual standard, households or living environment will not be leadership's focus or responsibility.
As was explained in "Structure and Services," "If the future facilitators are to have the time they need to focus on assisting the Family in mission activities, works, and growth, then we need to develop their portfolios accordingly. If they are also responsible to mediate or settle disputes, then they will not have sufficient time to devote to assisting members in furthering the mission.
"Additionally, we feel that members' taking personal action to amicably resolve any issues or problems they may encounter among themselves is an important aspect of personal responsibility. Therefore, mediating problems and resolving disputes will not be part of the facilitators' portfolios." ("Structure and Services").
Uphold and preserve our child protection policies, and our strong commitment to our zero-tolerance stance concerning the abusive mistreatment of children.
As is stated in "A Safe Haven for Our Children," we have not changed our position on child protection: "This zero-tolerance policy continues to stand, not only as our policy, but as our deeply held religious conviction." As members of a community of faith, each of us continues to have a moral responsibility to uphold the well-being of children and their protection from harm. Any member who cares for or interacts with children is responsible to uphold the needs of the children and their safety.
While we, as an organization, have a strong policy in place to safeguard children from abuse, providing a safe environment for children ultimately happens at home, and the primary responsibility to protect their children and to provide a safe environment for them rests with the parents. "Parents are responsible to provide their children with a suitable environment to grow up in, and to protect their children from all forms of abuse or neglect, whether physical, sexual, or emotional."
The Family International condemns any form of mistreatment of children, and we do not condone or tolerate it in our membership. Leadership will continue to uphold this policy by withdrawing the membership of anyone who is found guilty of the violation of our child protection policies.
Allow for alignment with local laws and societal norms.
Because we are an international community of faith, with members operating in many countries, it's important that our organization's policies are ones that uphold TFI's beliefs, values, and purpose, and yet correspond with the fact that members are subject to the laws of the land in which they live.
In the past, because TFI had developed its own culture and society, a wide range of matters was handled internally, according to our in-house policies. This was true both for matters that directly related to our faith and communal lifestyle requirements, as well as for infractions that required discipline or excommunication from our fellowship.
Our revised policies and procedures are designed to align with local laws and members' civic responsibilities. Society is set up with civil and criminal law systems that take care of legal matters and infractions that fall within their jurisdiction; it is equipped to handle such issues, and members can seek assistance from society's judicial system as needed.
Since the laws of the land vary greatly from country to country, it's not possible for us to establish internal judicial procedures that would, in all cases, align with the laws of every country in which members live. Therefore, TFI will no longer provide an internal judicial system for matters that society's laws and judicial systems already provide for.
TFI as an organization will, however, have disciplinary policies and procedures that are specific to upholding TFI's membership responsibilities and guiding principles. Matters that relate directly to our faith, beliefs, values, and mission—matters pertaining to the organization and preserving the good name of TFI—will continue to be handled by and within the organization.
Concerning reporting offenses to TFI leadership
We no longer have a clause in our disciplinary policies that requires members to report membership offenses to leadership. This, however, does not indicate that it is no longer important or necessary to take action when a member has knowledge of an offense or has evidence that a member is violating his/her membership responsibilities. Members should act according to their conscience and personal convictions if they become aware that someone has committed an offense that violates TFI membership responsibilities.
In the case of an excommunicable offense, if a member believes that a crime (warranting excommunication) has been committed, there are steps that they can take to raise the matter of excommunication. In the case of a crime, they may also have a responsibility to take the matter to the authorities, depending on the nature of the offense. Members are subject to the laws of the land, including laws that require that people who have knowledge of a serious crime report the matter to the appropriate local authorities, which is the case in many countries. The facilitators (or the regional shepherds in the interim) are also subject to the laws of the land in their capacity of administering TFI's disciplinary system. (For more on these points, see "Lifestyle.")
On the whole, the revised disciplinary policies and procedures outlined below involve a more self-regulating approach to behavior and conduct. Members have the responsibility to manage their lives and households and conduct in a Christian, ethical manner, in accordance with the laws of the land, and their personal faith and conscience.
We pray that these changes to our disciplinary procedures will serve us well in our new structure and focus on membership accountability.
Please note that in this interim period, until the new facilitator structure begins (February 2011), the regional shepherds will be responsible for the duties outlined in this document that fall to the member care facilitator and the counselor to the facilitator.
(The counselor to the member care facilitator is a portfolio held by another member of the national/area facilitation council [NFC/AFC] in addition to their facilitator responsibilities. Their job will be to serve as a counselor to the member care facilitator and offer recommendations regarding revocation of membership and excommunication cases. The national/area facilitation council will determine together which of them will hold this portfolio. The person holding this portfolio will be referred to as the counselor throughout the rest of this document.)
TFI's Disciplinary Policies and Procedures
As stated above, TFI will retain policies that directly relate to our faith and membership responsibilities, as well as disciplinary procedures should members contravene these policies or membership responsibilities. The two forms of discipline TFI will maintain are:
- Revocation of membership
- A member of the Family International may have his or her membership revoked for persistently contravening the responsibilities of Family membership, or for conduct or activities damaging to the Family International or its mission, or toward TFI member works or communities. (Charter, Chapter II: Membership, Article 10.)
- A member of the Family International will be permanently excommunicated from Family membership for sexually or physically abusive mistreatment of a child, committing an egregious* crime or life-threatening violent act, or for activities that foster schism with the intent of undermining or damaging the Family International. *(Egregious: extremely and conspicuously bad.) (Charter, Chapter II: Membership, Article 11.)
The remainder of this document will outline the policies and procedures that relate to these two forms of discipline.
1. Revocation of membership
Revocation of membership is defined as loss of TFI membership and services, as well as loss of access to TFI members-only websites. Revocation of membership is not permanent. Individuals who have their membership revoked may reapply for membership at a later date, once they have rectified the cause for their revocation of membership. If their application is approved, they will be eligible for reinstatement.
Revocation of membership is a procedure that is designed to be handled primarily between the members who are immediately involved. This procedure is based on the scriptural admonition Jesus gave to the early disciples, to "go to your brother" when he has trespassed against you.
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church.
The procedure for enacting revocation of membership is built on the premise that TFI members will adopt a mature, conscientious approach in addressing issues of concern that arise with other members. The goal is that TFI members will communicate honestly, in a spirit of love, without prejudice, when a brother or sister has "trespassed" against another member or the church.—Meaning when a member has contravened the responsibilities of Family membership or when that person's conduct or activities are damaging to the Family International or its mission, or to TFI member works or communities. (For more on membership responsibilities please see the Charter, Chapter II, Membership, Article 4.)
As long as a member is upholding their membership responsibilities and their conduct isn't damaging to TFI member works or communities, they will not be in jeopardy of their membership being revoked. Revocation of membership is not a disciplinary measure for cases of personal disagreements, misunderstandings, disunity between members and/or homes, or minor misconduct and behavioral issues on the part of TFI members.
This isn't to say that such disagreements or problems between members won't occur, or that there won't be minor misconduct issues. In such cases, however, it will be the responsibility of the individuals concerned to sort out such issues between themselves to the best of their ability. Issues of this nature do not fall under the revocation of membership procedure.
The revocation of membership procedure can only be initiated for: persistent contravention of the responsibilities of Family membership, or for conduct or activities damaging to the Family International or its mission, or toward TFI member works or communities.
If a member has committed any of the aforementioned offenses, a TFI member can initiate the procedure for revocation of membership by enacting the following steps.
Revocation of membership: Procedures
Preliminary step: It is important to note that before step 1 of this procedure is initiated, it will be expected and understood that the person initiating the procedure will have already communicated with the member whose actions are in question, to bring the issues of concern to their attention.
Step 1 of the procedure cannot be the first time the member in question is hearing about the issue. Sufficient communication (which in most cases would probably mean repeated communication) between the parties regarding the problem is expected to have occurred before the revocation of membership procedure is initiated.
It would also be expected that a reasonable amount of time, taking into consideration the circumstances, has been allowed for the member whose actions are in question to make changes in order to rectify the issue. If, after sufficient time and communications have transpired, the member persists in actions that warrant revocation of membership, then the member concerned would initiate step 1.
- Step 1
- To initiate the revocation of membership procedure, member A (the concerned member) should approach member B (the member whose actions are in question) to explain the matter in question and state that he/she is initiating the procedure.
- There should be a clear understanding between both parties that the first step in the process has begun. The communication methods are up to the members to determine—whether face-to-face discussion, phone, email, etc. (Note: However the communication is conducted, it's important that there is a way of verifying that this communication [step 1 of the procedure] took place. The member care facilitator will request this verification in the event that step 3 of the procedure is reached.)
- Step 2
- In a case where the matter isn't resolved, and member B continues to disregard the matter and/or persists in his/her damaging conduct, member A should again approach member B about the issue, but this time with the participation of two additional members. These additional members need to be personally aware of the matter. They cannot be participants based on secondhand knowledge of the issue.
- Member A and the two additional members need to again communicate with the member in question about his/her conduct, with the goal being to resolve the issue.
- During their communications, it needs to be clear to all involved (including member B) that these communications or visits, have initiated step 2 of the revocation of membership procedure, and that if a resolution is not reached in a reasonable amount of time, step 3 of the procedure will be initiated. (Reminder: Having some form of verification that these communications [step 2 of the procedure] took place is necessary and will need to be sent to the member care facilitator in the event that step 3 of the procedure is reached.)
- Step 3
- If after a reasonable period of time, the member in question continues to persist in their misconduct, an official form recommending revocation of membership can be filled out and signed by member A and the two additional members, and submitted to the member care facilitator, along with the verifications of their communication during steps 1 and 2. (See "Recommendation for Revocation of Membership" procedure form, in the Addendum of the Charter's "Handbook of Procedures for the Family International.")
- The member care facilitator will send a copy of this official recommendation to the member in question (member B), along with any of the communication records, as needed. The member in question will then have up to 30 days in which to communicate with the member care facilitator in response to the allegations. Member B can also solicit recommendations from others in his/her defense.
- (Note: The member who is being recommended for revocation of membership [member B] will receive a copy of the official recommendation form, and the initiators will receive a copy of member B's response. This is an important part of the process. It allows for transparency in the procedure; it provides a safeguard for honest reporting, and it provides a clearly stated case for the member in question, giving that person the opportunity to respond.)
- Step 4
- Once the member care facilitator has received member B's response, he/she will take all the information into consideration and make a final decision accordingly.
- If further information is needed from any party(ies), the member care facilitator can request it.
- a) If the member care facilitator determines that the case does not warrant revocation of membership, the case will be officially closed. A brief official explanation of the decision will be written by the member care facilitator to all parties involved.
- b) If the member care facilitator determines that the case does warrant revocation of membership, he must communicate with the counselor, passing on the official recommendation form, the person's response, and any other pertinent information, so that the counselor is briefed on the matter.
If, after reviewing the case, the counselor concurs that the case warrants revocation of membership, then the decision to revoke the person's membership is final. An official explanation of the decision will be written by the member care facilitator to all parties involved.
If the counselor does not agree that the case warrants revocation of membership, then the case will be closed and revocation of membership will not occur. An official explanation of the decision will be written by the member care facilitator to all parties involved.
* A few procedural details
Until a decision has been reached, there is room for further communications and additional information to be presented. However, once a decision has been reached, the decision is final and the case will be closed. In order for a closed case to be reopened, new information that could possibly overturn the decision would need to be presented to the member care facilitator.
It is the responsibility of those involved to provide the member care facilitator with the necessary information and communications. The member care facilitator is not obligated to investigate the matter. If the member care facilitator does not feel that he/she has sufficient information, he/she can request additional information and verifications from the parties involved. If sufficient information cannot be provided, the case will not move forward.
In the event that there aren't enough TFI members in a particular area to conduct step 2 of the revocation of membership procedure, the person(s) initiating the procedure should still enact step 2 either alone or with a second party, but should inform the member care facilitator of their extenuating circumstances when they submit the recommendation for revocation of membership procedure form.
A member cannot initiate the revocation of membership procedure twice based on the same set of facts. If someone wishes to bring the same case against the same person a second time, the procedure must be followed again, beginning from the preliminary step, and new information must be provided to the member care facilitator in order for the case to be accepted for review.
There may be rare instances when the member care facilitator or counselor will be in the position of needing to recuse* him- or herself from adjudicating a case. *(Recuse: to disqualify oneself as judge in a particular case; to remove oneself from participation to avoid a conflict of interest.)
Such cases would be if he/she:
- Is personally involved with or related to the member whose actions are in question. Relatives would include parents, brothers or sisters, brothers- or sisters-in-law, their spouse, significant other, children or grandchildren.
- Has been directly affected by the actions of the person whose offenses are being adjudicated (i.e., affected by their damaging conduct or contravention of the membership responsibilities, etc.)
- Is the only member aware of the situation, or the only person able to initiate step 1 of the procedure.
- Deems him- or herself biased due to having a direct personal interest in the case—for example, emotionally, financially, etc.
In a case where the member care facilitator or counselor is the only TFI member in the position of initiating step 1, or facilitating step 2 and step 3 of the revocation of membership procedure, as a conscientious TFI member, they can initiate or participate in the procedure. In order to avoid a conflict of interest, however, they must withdraw from carrying out the role of member care facilitator or counselor in that specific case; they can only be involved in the procedure as other TFI members would be.
(Note: This standard also applies to member care facilitators and counselors regarding excommunication matters. For example, if it is alleged that a member care facilitator or counselor's close relative has committed an egregious crime, the member care facilitator would need to recuse him- or herself from adjudicating the case. However, if the offender is tried and convicted in a court of law, or confesses to the offense, the member care facilitator or counselor could officiate the excommunication.)
In all the preceding scenarios, when a member care facilitator recuses him- or herself, the counselor to the member care facilitator would preside over the case in their stead. A third member of the NFC/AFC would act as a counselor in that instance.
In the event that a counselor to the member care facilitator recuses him- or herself, another member of the NFC/AFC would act as a counselor in the matter in his/her stead.
* Reinstatement of membership
The reinstatement procedure for someone who has lost his/her membership will also be initiated at the ground level.
To apply for reinstatement, the individual would need to solicit two reference letters from those who know him/her personally, who could vouch for his/her change/repentance from whatever conduct initially caused the person to lose his/her membership.
Those writing the reference letters need to be aware of the reasons for the person's loss of membership. They would also need to state their relationship to the person requesting reinstatement—friend, colleague, spouse, etc. (Note: The strongest reference and recommendation for reinstatement would, of course, come from the parties who originally initiated that person's revocation of membership, but this would not be required.)
These recommendation letters should be submitted, along with the official reinstatement request, to the member care facilitator. (Note: The reinstatement request needs to be made directly by the person who has lost his/her membership.)
The member care facilitator would then have up to 30 days to review the request and recommendations, inquire further, if necessary, and then either approve or deny the application. (In most cases, with the proper recommendations in place, we anticipate that the member care facilitator would not need to undertake further inquiries, unless the facilitator is aware of an important factor that would disqualify the person from being reinstated.)
At this point, a process similar to step 4 of the revocation of membership procedure will ensue:
a) If the member care facilitator approves the application, the applicant will be notified and reinstated immediately.
b) If the member care facilitator does not agree that the case warrants reinstatement, he must communicate with the counselor to the member care facilitator, passing on the application, letters of recommendation and any other pertinent information, so that the counselor is briefed on the matter.
If, after reviewing the case, the counselor concurs that the application should not be approved, then the decision is final. An official explanation of the decision will be written by the member care facilitator to the applicant.
If the counselor does not concur with the application being denied, then the application will be approved. The applicant will be notified and immediately reinstated.
In the event that a reinstatement application is denied, the individual will be able to reapply for membership at a later date. While there is no set minimum time limit before such a reapplication can be made, the member care facilitator may set a specific date for reapplication, if he/she deems it necessary to do so.
The timing of a person's reinstatement will depend on whether and when they want to reapply for membership, and whether and when their conduct has been rectified. When the person has corrected the problem and has received the necessary recommendations from others, that person can then apply for reinstatement.
There is no set time frame for how long a person's membership might be revoked. The focus is not on the length of time a person's membership is revoked, but on rectifying the behavior that led to the discipline.
Excommunication will only be applied to three serious offenses, two of which can be prosecuted by law (the exception being schism, which is an internal matter). Because of the serious nature of the offenses warranting excommunication, all excommunications will be permanent. In the past, there have been some forms of excommunication for lesser infractions where the individual could be eligible for reinstatement at a later specified date. This will no longer be the case.
Following is the outline of offenses that TFI deems excommunicable.
- 1. Sexually or physically abusive mistreatment of a child
- The Family International has a zero-tolerance policy in regard to the abusive mistreatment of a child. Any member deemed guilty of sexually or physically abusive mistreatment of a child will be excommunicated.
- 2. Committing an egregious crime or life-threatening violent act
- For lesser offenses, a member may be subject to revocation of membership. (Note: As TFI members are subject to the laws of the land, what constitutes an "egregious crime" will be defined by local laws.)
- Minors under 18 years of age who commit sexually or physically abusive mistreatment of a child, or an egregious crime or life-threatening violent act will be permanently ineligible for Family membership or participation in Family International community activities or TFI member works.
- 3. Activities that foster schism within the Family, with the intent of undermining or damaging the Family International
- Schism in this context only refers to extreme and rare cases when someone is actively engaged in fostering schism, with the intent to divide the church, to undermine and damage TFI. Schism is defined as: a separation, an alienation causing divisions among Christians, who ought to be united (1 Corinthians 12:25); the offense of causing or seeking to cause such a division; the offense of attempting to produce such a breach; the division of a group into mutually antagonistic factions.
- This does not refer to expressing doubts and skepticism; the exploration of new thought, ideologies, and philosophies; or to questioning or debating doctrine. (More details on this in the upcoming series addressing the Word.)
Excommunication would only be applied in rare cases when someone's schismatic activities are causing damage to TFI in their country or worldwide. For lesser offenses, a member may be subject to revocation of membership.
* Establishing guilt
An important change in our excommunication procedures, which is a departure from our previous system, is regarding investigation and the establishment of guilt.
Previously, TFI's disciplinary system included a complex investigative process. From the time a report was lodged to the time the final decision was made, significant time and effort was spent in requesting and reviewing numerous reports, communicating with the parties concerned, counseling, verifying facts, dates, times, places, people's involvement, etc.
These matters were formerly the responsibility of Family leadership to arbitrate and judge, within our society. TFI leadership, as well as members, generally had to work through our internal judicial system in order to establish guilt in order for an individual to be excommunicated or disciplined.
Now that TFI is adopting a principle-based model, and is not responsible for members' personal life choices and actions, or for members' households or environments, the former system is no longer applicable.
In society, it's not generally expected that a religious organization undertake investigation and establishment of guilt on behalf of their members, if the organization itself was not directly involved in some way. That's not generally considered the responsibility of the organization; it is the responsibility of the individual. Individuals also have recourse to seek assistance from society's legal systems.
TFI will not be providing a judicial system in which the facilitators will take on the role of investigating allegations and attempting to determine guilt. While TFI will excommunicate members who are found guilty of an excommunicable offense, with our new procedures, how that guilt is established will now follow a very different process, with much of the responsibility being shifted to the individual members involved.
It will now be up to the individual(s) to provide the member care facilitator with substantiated evidence of an offense in order to initiate the excommunication procedure. "Substantiated evidence" could include a confession from the offender, reliable eyewitness accounts, physical evidence, or conviction in a court of law, etc.
In order to initiate the excommunication procedure, those making the case for the excommunication must be able to present proof of a crime warranting excommunication. Only after conclusive evidence has been submitted will the member care facilitator be able to process the case for excommunication.
In the case where the evidence provided is insufficient, the member care facilitator will request further information. The procedure will only move forward if those filing the report are able to provide substantiated evidence that would warrant excommunication. Facilitators will not be tasked with the responsibility to investigate and find evidence on behalf of those involved.
However, this does not preclude members taking a matter to authorities or court, if they believe that to be the appropriate course of action. If a member believes that an egregious crime has occurred, he/she is ultimately responsible to take the action that he/she deems necessary in the situation, which may include reporting the matter to the authorities. (In such a case, this could lead to an official investigation and the matter being handled by the authorities.)
In all cases where substantiated evidence is provided, the member care facilitator will process the excommunication in accordance with TFI's disciplinary procedures.
We understand that there will likely be some situations where reports aren't able to be substantiated. Or there may be situations where there might be unsubstantiated rumors or opinions from various sources that allege that an individual is guilty of an egregious crime. In such instances, it is within the jurisdiction of the member care facilitator to make inquiries.
In general, however, the member care facilitator is not required to make inquiries or investigate on behalf of the party(ies) involved. The onus is on the party(ies) involved to produce the evidence that is needed, and/or, if they choose, to seek legal counsel or to pursue legal action.
* Prosecution by law
Members have the right to take legal action or to have a crime investigated by the authorities according to and by the law enforcement and/or judicial system of their country of residence. This option is available to all citizens in society when a crime has been committed against them.
In the case that an offending member is taken to court for committing an offense that TFI considers excommunicable, if the offender is found guilty by law, TFI will automatically excommunicate them, based on the conviction.
Regardless of whether the alleged offender is excommunicated from TFI membership or not, it will be up to those involved to determine whether they will prosecute. (In some cases, when citizens have firsthand knowledge of a crime, they may be required by law to report it to the authorities.)
In the case where the victim chooses not to pursue legal action against the offender in a court of law, then the victim (or the parents, when the victim is a minor) would be responsible to provide some other form of evidence to the member care facilitator that substantiates their claim—a confession from the perpetrator, reliable eyewitness accounts, physical evidence, etc.
Regarding leadership's responsibility in the event that they become aware of a crime that has been committed: "Family leadership are subject to the laws of the land in their position of overseeing the Family's disciplinary system. If they are made aware of criminal actions committed by a member of the Family, they may be subject to laws that require them to report a matter to the authorities. Of course, the legal expectations vary vastly from country to country, so it will be the personal responsibility of the leadership involved to be observant of applicable laws." ("Lifestyle").
* Determining excommunication
When the evidence brought against an offender is conclusive, the member care facilitator and the counselor will issue an official recommendation for excommunication to the administrative counselor* assigned to adjudication, who would review the details of the report in counsel with another administrative counselor, as needed. *(See "Governance of the Family International," Chapter 3, Article 2.6b.)
Once these parties are apprised of the reports and details, and are in agreement with the recommendation, then the excommunication will be officiated (that is, the offending member will be excommunicated) and the case closed. However, if at this stage it's concluded that there is insufficient evidence, the excommunication will not move forward and the case will be closed.
In either instance, the case will not be reopened for further consideration, unless new evidence that would overturn the decision can be provided.
Terms of Excommunication
Within TFI, excommunication is defined as permanent loss of TFI membership and TFI services, including loss of access to TFI members-only sites; disallowance from participation in TFI community events, gatherings, TFI member works, or from distributing TFI/Aurora products.
- Access to TFI publications
TFI will no longer disallow excommunicated individuals access to Family publications. TFI as an organization will not make publications available to excommunicated individuals via access to members-only sites or by any other means. However, there aren't limitations on excommunicated individuals receiving publications via other sources—such as from spouses, friends, or relatives who are members.
- Access to TFI/Aurora products
In order to preserve the integrity of TFI product distribution and TFI representation, and considering that excommunication will only occur for very serious offenses, excommunicated individuals will not be allowed to distribute TFI/Aurora products.
Excommunicated individuals cannot attend TFI community events, fellowships, or gatherings, nor can they be involved in TFI member works.
TFI as an organization will not be associated with excommunicated individuals. However, this stipulation will not apply to TFI members' personal interactions with an excommunicated individual. TFI members can choose to have contact with an excommunicated person on a private level. This is the decision of the parties involved.
In the past, when someone was excommunicated, in many cases, the person was prohibited from having ongoing interaction with Family homes. Because TFI members lived communally for the most part, TFI was responsible to provide a measure of protection from those who could potentially pose a risk to members or children. In many cases, this resulted in the excommunicated individual being cut off from friends or loved ones who were Family members.
Since TFI is no longer requiring any of its members to live communally, and all matters pertaining to an individual's living environment, household, and lifestyle are the responsibility of individual members, this prohibition will not continue to be applied to members in regard to those who are excommunicated. Hence the distinction made in the fellowship terms: The excommunicated individual will be disassociated from TFI as an organization, and disallowed from participating in TFI community events, fellowships, gatherings, and TFI member works; however, TFI members can choose to have contact with an excommunicated person on a private level.
TFI members are not under obligation to stay in touch or interact with excommunicated individuals. It's important to bear in mind that excommunication will only occur in the case where a person has committed an egregious crime, has sexually or physically abusively mistreated a child, or is making a concerted effort to harm TFI. But again, whether or not TFI members have contact with an excommunicated individual, and to what degree, is a personal decision to be made at the discretion of those involved.
Safeguarding TFI members and communities
- Being informed of someone's excommunication
In order for an excommunication to be effective, the member care facilitator will inform TFI members when someone in their country or area has been excommunicated. In some cases, the member care facilitator might also need to inform TFI members in neighboring countries, if there is a lot of movement between countries in an area. This would be left to the discretion of the member care facilitator. This is to provide members with the awareness that the excommunicated person is not eligible to attend TFI community events, fellowships, gatherings, or be involved in TFI member works.
Providing this information will also enable individuals and parents to make an informed decision on the degree of interaction they will have, if any, with that person on a private level. As mentioned, it will be up to TFI members to decide whether they will have interaction with an excommunicated person and under what circumstances.
In the case of minors who are deemed permanently ineligible for Family membership and participation in TFI events and works due to committing an excommunicable offense, the member care facilitator will inform TFI members in the country on a need to know basis.
Those who have been excommunicated will be listed in a classified document (an international dossier) which all member care facilitators would have access to. (Anyone applying for a TFI member account online will be screened through this list of excommunicated persons.)
Should it come to the attention of a member care facilitator that an excommunicated individual has moved to their country, or to a country in their area, they will inform TFI members in that country of the individual's excommunication. When TFI members are informed of someone who has been excommunicated in their country or area, the details of the excommunicated individual's offense will not be made public, but the information that a person has been excommunicated will be made known. (Note: It's probable that in many cases, the member care facilitator will not be aware of an excommunicated person's location. However, the member care facilitator will provide this information should they gain knowledge of an excommunicated person's arrival in the country/area.)
Even though the international dossier listing excommunicated individuals is only directly available to the member care facilitators, TFI members will be able to ask the member care facilitator of their country/area at any time whether a specific person is listed in the dossier.
Members are free to confidentially inquire of the member care facilitator about any individual that they have concerns about, as it's a member's right to inquire whether someone has been excommunicated and to be informed accordingly.
- When a prospective member has committed an offense (that TFI would deem warrants excommunication) prior to knowing TFI
When it comes to prospective members wanting to join TFI, if it is brought to light that the person has been convicted of child abuse, that person will not be eligible for membership. TFI will not accept new members who have been found guilty of abusive mistreatment of a child.
Although the crime may have occurred before the prospective member's interaction with TFI, upholding the responsibility to protect children of members from risk is the priority; therefore that person would not be eligible for TFI membership.
If a person has committed some other type of crime, has served his/her sentence, and wishes to become a TFI member, if those ministering to the person have no cause for concern, then that person could be eligible for membership.
However, TFI reserves the right to deny membership when the nature of an individual's comportment would pose a risk to members, as per the following clause:
The Family International reserves the right to deny membership to an individual whose activities may be incompatible with Family membership, or who has been deemed ineligible to be a member of the Family International (Charter, Chapter II: Membership, Article 3).
While TFI reserves the right to deny membership on such grounds, TFI, as an organization, does not take responsibility for vetting prospective incoming members.
Ultimately, TFI members are responsible for the safety of their children, their households, and collectively, their TFI community. It's up to each member to exercise wisdom and discretion when considering whether to bring someone into their circle of friendship, fellowship, mission work, home, community, or to invite them to join TFI membership.
For the Charter procedures referred to in this document, please see the Charter's "Handbook of Procedures for the Family International."
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