When a Clergyperson Leaves a Congregation


Diocesan Policy

Upon resignation or retirement, clergy persons shall not for any reason attend the church at which they last served, visit former parishioners in a pastoral way or administer the Sacrament in any setting, conduct any funerals, weddings, baptisms, or worship services of any kind or teach or preach, or seek or offer church-related advice in any setting or involve parishioners and their families without contacting the rector directly and seeking direct permission to do so.

It is the current rector’s canonical right and pastoral responsibility to administer the sacraments and to officiate at weddings, funerals, and baptisms as well as to make calls in homes or hospitals, or to teach and preach in any setting.

In addition, departing clergy shall have neither formal nor informal pastoral contact with the parishioners of that church for at least five (5) years following his/her departure.

In the event a parishioner wishes an exception made to this policy, the parishioner must ask the current rector’s permission before contacting the former rector. If the current rector or priest-in-charge of the church agrees to make an exception to this rule, he or she may do so.

Explanation for clergy and parishioners…

The Diocese of Pennsylvania, for many years, has had an unwritten policy about appropriate behavior for clergy and congregations when a priest leaves a church either to retire or to accept another call. It has become apparent that the policy needs to be put in written form and published broadly to clarify expectations for all. The purpose of this policy is to establish clear boundaries which both honor the successor priest’s role in a congregation and recognize the reality that relationships which have been established between the former priest and members of his/her congregation must adapt to the changes for the benefit of all and for the good order of the Church.

(Bishop, May 2016)