The Wesleyan Methodist Church of Aotearoa - New Zealand is committed to providing safe environments for work, worship, and study that are free from harassment, bullying, and violence.


The church is called to be the family of God, a home where all are welcome and safe from harm.

It is also a human community. As such it is susceptible to the same broken destructive relationships and abuses of power that we see in society.

Harassment, bullying and violence are never acceptable and can happen to anyone.

WMCANZ is committed to providing safe environments for worship, work and study that are free from harassment, bullying, and violence.

The church will not tolerate any behaviour by any person—including but not limited to its members, supporters, volunteers, elected leaders, lay employees and ministry personnel— that constitutes harassment, bullying or is violent or threatens violence.  


What is harassment?

Harassment occurs when a person is subjected to behaviour by another person or group of people that is:

unreasonable behaviour; and

unwelcome or offensive to the recipient; and

that either by its nature or through repetition, has a detrimental effect on the recipient’s health and safety, employment, job performance or job satisfaction.

Forms of Harassment include:


Sexual Harassment

Direct or indirect use of language, visual material or physical sexual behaviour that is unwelcome or offensive.

Racial Harassment

Any use of language, visual material or conduct that expresses hostility against, or brings into contempt or ridicule, another person by reason of their colour, race, ethnic or national origins and is hurtful and offensive.

What is bullying?

Bullying is a form of harassment and is behaviour directed towards a person or group of people by another person, or group of people, that is:

  • repeated
  • unreasonable
  • creates a risk to health and safety

Bullying behaviour can range from obvious verbal or physical assaults to subtle psychological abuse.

However, it is not bullying for Church Leaders to take reasonable steps to direct and control the operational requirements of the Church, including (but not limited to):

  • issuing lawful instruction and termination of employment,
  • one off or occasional instances of forgetfulness, rudeness or tactlessness.

Understanding Bullying & Harassment




Number of acts:

Possibly just one.

Generally, more than one act.


Can be unintentional due to different views held.

Is almost always deliberate.

Who does it:

All levels, against all levels.

Usually the manager against employees.


Usually, sex, race, disability, or other characteristics listed in law.

Can be anyone for any reason.

What is Violence?

Acts of violence towards a person can be verbal (abuse, threats, shouting, swearing) or physical (stalking, throwing objects, hitting, damage to property). Workplace violence is illegal, can be referred to the Police, and charges can be laid under criminal law.

In cases where serious harm occurs in a workplace an employer has the legal requirement to notify Workplace New Zealand and/or Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).


What is Vilification?

Vilification occurs when a person, by a public act, incites hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of a person or a group of persons, whether or not on the basis of discrimination.

Disciplinary Action

All church employees, volunteers and church attendees are entitled to object to harassment, bullying or violence and complain if it occurs.

All members of WMCANZ, including ministers, ministry leaders, support staff, and congregation members are encouraged to report incidences of harassment, bullying or violence.

Our National SAFE Church Oversight Team are appointed to support the management of complaints within WMCANZ. All local churches have a SAFE Church Officer who is appointed by WMCANZ and trained in managing the complaint process.

If a complaint is raised it will be treated seriously and investigated as fairly and promptly.  The complainant will also be provided with the support they need while the process is resolved.

The complainant, witnesses and the person accused of acting inappropriately are entitled to seek advice and support at any time.

It is important to know that the Church may not be able to take formal action against alleged workplace harassment, bullying or violence unless it can be provided with the details of who the complainant is and the behaviour(s) complained of.


Any allegation of harassment or bullying that are found to be malicious may be treated as a disciplinary matter or managed in line with the guidelines in the Constitution.

Where a complaint of harassment or bullying, violence or vilification is upheld, the specific action taken will be determined by the National SAFE Church Oversight Team. This decision will be in consultation with the complaint officer leading the investigation, and the Church Leader for the offender.  Where termination of an employee, or ministry personnel, is recommended, the National SAFE Church Oversight Team must approve the action and the termination will proceed in line the person’s Employment Agreement or Terms of Call.

Disciplinary action may include:

  • Notation on file, warning and reprimand;
  • Transfer or demotion of the employee;
  • Termination of employment.

Other actions may include:

  • Apology from the offender;
  • Closer supervision of conduct;
  • Attending a Counselling group;
  • Written assurance from the Church regarding steps to be taken to rectify the situation.
  • Payment of medical or counselling fees.

Dealing with harassment and bullying


Informal Options

Self help

If you are subjected to harassment or bullying you are encouraged to take direct action if you feel comfortable, by making it clear to the offender that the unwanted behaviour is unwelcome, unacceptable and offensive.

Informal Intervention

If you feel that self-help is appropriate but wish to have someone intervene without making a formal complaint, then you should contact your Local SAFE Church Officer.

Formal Options

You may make a formal complaint of harassment, bullying or violence in any of the following circumstances:

  • If the conduct continues after you have made a direct approach to the alleged harasser or bully;
  • If there is any discriminatory behaviour towards you;
  • Where you consider the conduct too serious to approach the person;
  • Where you prefer the formal option.

The Church believes it to be essential that all serious incidents of harassment and bullying be investigated.

If you decide to make a formal complaint, the National SAFE Church Officer and National SAFE Church Oversight Team will be informed and; will appoint a trained impartial investigator to investigate the allegation; and will take appropriate action following the investigation.

If the investigator decides a full investigation is necessary, the complainant will be advised that this will be made promptly, confidentially and impartially (although it will also be discussed with the National SAFE Church Oversight Team).  The alleged offender will also be advised about the exact nature of the complaint against him or her in writing.