Part of our covenant declares that we will “affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” However, problems arise when we equate this principle with accepting disruptive, dangerous, or bullying behavior. We can affirm the inherent worth and dignity of a person without condoning or permitting destructive behavior.

“Healthy churches tend to have low tolerance for inappropriate behavior, while unhealthy churches tolerate all kinds of outrageous things, including words and actions that would not be tolerated anywhere else.” (Susan Nienaber)

There is a range of destructive behavior displayed in congregations, including spreading negativity throughout the congregation, withholding money as a way of pressuring the organization into giving them their way, name-calling, verbal attacks, bullying, and more.

While openness to a wide variety of individuals is one of the prime values held by our congregation and expressed in our denomination’s purposes and principles, we affirm the belief that our congregation must maintain a secure atmosphere where such openness can exist. When any person’s physical and/or emotional well-being is threatened, when the communal work of the church, its staff and/or its volunteers is needlessly over-burdened, or when the church’s democratically determined decisions are continually interfered with, the source of this threat must be addressed firmly and promptly, even if this ultimately requires the expulsion of the offending person or persons.

When the disruptive behavior of an individual during church activities, including participation in online events or forums, leads  members to voice their concerns about one or more of the following:

  1. Perceived threats to the physical or emotional safety of any adult or child;
  2. Perceived threats to church property;
  3. The disruption of church activities;
  4. Diminishment of the appeal of the church and its activities to its potential and existing members and staff.
  5. Actions that are inconsistent with our core values and commitments (e.g. our status as a Welcoming Congregation).

The following shall be the policy of the First Parish in Concord in dealing with these issues:

  1. If an immediate response is required, this will be undertaken by the Minister(s), if available, and/or the leader of the group involved. This may include asking the offending person or persons to leave, or suspending the meeting or activity until such a time as it can safely be resumed. If further assistance is required the Police Department may be called. Anytime any of these actions are undertaken without the Minister(s) being present, the Minister(s) must be notified. A follow-up letter detailing what steps must be taken before returning to the activities involved will be sent by the Minister(s) to the offending party or parties.
  2. Situations not requiring immediate response will be referred to an ad hoc committee appointed by the Standing Committee (SC). The committee will respond in terms of their own judgment, observing the following:
    1. The committee will respond to problems as they arise. There will be no attempt to define “acceptable” behavior in advance.
    2. Persons identified as disruptive will be dealt with as individuals; stereotypes will be avoided.
    3. The committee will collect all necessary information and report to the Standing Committee with recommendations.
    4. To aid in evaluating the problem, the following points will be considered:
      • DANGER – Is the individual the source of a threat or perceived threat (either physical or psychological) to persons or property?
      • DISRUPTON – How much interference with church functions is going on? For example, does the individual abide by church policy and accept the decisions of the church at the collective congregation meetings?
      • OFFENSIVENESS – Does the behavior affect prospective or existing members, volunteers, staff, and committee members so that they avoid attending church services or activities? What is the effect on the work environment of our professional staff? 
    5. To determine the necessary response, the following points will be considered:
      • CAUSES – Why is the disruption occurring?
      • AWARENESS – Is the disruptive person aware of the disruption they are causing and able to manage the behavior themselves if they choose to?
      • HISTORY – What is the frequency and degree of disruption caused in the past?
      • INTERVENTION – What have First Parish ministers, staff, or group leaders done to counsel or intervene directly with the person to insure that they understand the effect on others and the requirement for change in their behavior? 
    6. The committee will decide on the necessary response on a case-by-case basis. However, the following three levels of response are recommended:
      • LEVEL ONE – The committee shall inform the Minister(s) of the problem and either the Minister(s) or a member of the Standing Committee shall meet with the offending individual to communicate the concern.
      • LEVEL TWO -The offending individual is excluded from the church and/or specific church activities for a limited period of time, with reasons and the conditions of return made clear in writing.
      • LEVEL THREE – The offending individual is permanently excluded from the church premises and all church activities and online forums. Before this is carried out, the committee will consult with the Standing Committee and the Minister(s). If it is decided that expulsion will take place, a letter will be sent by the Minister(s) explaining the expulsion and the individual’s rights and possible recourse.
    7. Any action taken under item f (above) may be appealed to the Standing Committee and/or the Minister(s).

First Parish in Concord strives to be an inclusive community, affirming our differences in beliefs, opinions and life experiences. However, concern for the safety and wellbeing of the congregation and staff as a whole must be given priority over the privileges and inclusion of the individual. To the degree the disruptive behavior compromises the health of this congregation, our actions as people of faith must reflect this emphasis on security.

Document History

Adopted by Standing Committee May 22, 2006

Updated by Standing Committee October 11, 2022