Code of Ethics for Clergy & Other Church Professionals
THE PURPOSE OF THESE GUIDELINES
These ethical guidelines for ministerial conduct serve two purposes: as a guide to what is expected professionally of clergy and other church professionals in CCFCC. They are also to inform the laity what they can expect from clergy and other church professionals (hereafter referred to as “ministers”).
These guidelines do not presume to speak to all areas of ministers’ lives. They are minimum expectations and the minister must also be guided by Scripture, personal conscience, Christian tradition and peer approval. They assume basic honesty and integrity of conduct. Expectations of ministers and styles of behavior change. The ethical behavior of ministers is a topic which should be regularly considered, discussed, and mutually agreed upon by the ordained members of CCFCC. This code, however, does articulate certain customs and practices which have been largely accepted within the profession of ministry. They are subject to regular review.
These principles are not designed to be a basis for analysis of the civil liability of those persons guided by them.
A. SOME FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES
In all professional matters, ministers are to maintain practices that give glory to Christ; advance the goals of the Church; and nurture, challenge and protect the welfare of church members, parishioners, clients and the public.
Ministers are to act in such a manner as to uphold and enhance the honor, integrity, morality and dignity of the profession.
Ministers are to limit their ministries to those positions and responsibilities for which they are qualified.
Ministers will conduct all professional matters in a manner which assures confidentiality and avoids conflicts of interest.
Ministers will seek to maintain professional competency throughout their careers.
In personal as well as professional relationships ministers are to demonstrate honest and sincere motives evidencing respect, honesty and fairness; uphold the peace, unity and purity of the church; and share faith, hope and love with all people.
B. MINISTERS AS PERSONS
MINISTERS BEAR UNIQUE EXPECTATIONS. In considering the ethics particular to ordained ministry, it is well to remember that ministers are expected to live in the same manner of faithfulness, forgiveness and obedience as are all members of Christ’s church. While all who follow Christ are subject to the same human weaknesses, nevertheless, those who are called as ordained servants are set apart with particular expectations.
People expect high standards of ministers. To deny or ignore this is unrealistic and irresponsible. Ministers will show sensible regard for the moral, social and religious standards of the Christian community and the community at large, realizing that any violation on their part may be damaging to their congregants, to colleagues in ministry, to their professions and to the body of Jesus Christ.
MINISTERS AND FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE. Though the CCFCC has attempted to keep its ecclesiastical direction to a minimum, and recognizes the variety inherent in respect for individual conscience, ministers are still subject to the discipline of the church. Violations of this code may be cause for disciplinary procedures.
Standards for ministerial conduct grow out of a vision of the Christian life and a sense of calling to a particular service. Like other Christians, ministers experience sin, grace, alienation and forgiveness. Along with other Christians, they are expected by the Christian community to witness to the renewal of humanity in Christ by demonstrating in their daily lives love, compassion, and respect for other persons; strict celibacy, or fidelity in marriage; responsibility in parenthood and other family obligations; joy in service; and integrity and trustworthiness in all their dealings with others.
THE PASTORAL CARE OF MINISTERS. Ministers also need pastoral care. They should take the initiative in establishing relationships with other ministers to provide support in difficult times, caring concern, encouragement for Christian growth, and sharing in both successes and failures.
MINISTERS AND FEES, HONORARIA AND DISCOUNTS. Ministers should ordinarily not require or solicit fees for pastoral services to families or individuals within the congregation. Such services include performing baptisms, marriages, funerals and counseling. In those cases in which an unsolicited gift is given ministers may use their own best judgment as to what to do with the gift. All ministers stand ready to render services to individuals and communities in crisis without regard to financial remuneration.
While fees for the use of the church facilities are set by the session, honoraria or fees for the minister’s services to non-members can be set by the minister in consultation with the session. The minister must be aware of and responsible to civil authorities regarding the possible tax consequences of receipt of honoraria, gifts, etc.
PARTICIPATION IN NON-PARISH ACTIVITIES. Though ministers are expected to participate in denominational, ecumenical and other activities beyond the particular church, it is wise for the minister to discuss the time involved in such activities with their congregation or board of directors. If any honoraria are received for duties outside the particular church (such as speaking, lecturing or teaching), and these duties are carried on during time which would otherwise be understood as available to the congregation, a common understanding between the minister and the congregation should be established as to the disposition of such honoraria. Conversation between ministers and their sessions should arrive at mutual concurrence as to expectations regarding the minister’s work time and free time.
C. MINISTERS, THE CCFCC AND THE CHURCH
THE MINISTER AND COLLEAGUES. Whenever a colleague’s conduct is believed to be harmful to any individual or group, including that person himself or herself, the concerned person should speak directly to that colleague or consult the denominational executive or the chairperson of the Committee on Ordination and Ministry. Anyone registering a concern with regard to the behavior of a colleague will be encouraged to make her or his own identity known.
THE MINISTER AND THE NON-MEMBER. Ministers are sometimes called upon to officiate at weddings and funerals for persons who are not members of the congregation. It is appropriate in such situations to ascertain to what particular church these persons belong and to suggest that they procure the services of their own minister.
THE MINISTER AND OTHER CHURCHES. Ordinarily ministers should not knowingly call upon members of another church in the community to administer pastoral care unless the initiative and interest shown by such a person requires it as a courtesy. If such a visitation occurs, it is a helpful courtesy to, after obtaining the parishioner’s permission, inform the colleague to whose church the person belongs regarding visitation. Marriages, funerals and baptisms are not to be accepted by ministers unless an invitation has been extended by the minister of the church involved.
THE MINISTER AND THE MULTIPLE STAFF. When the minister serves as head of staff in a congregation and bears the responsibility which this implies, the spirit within the staff should be that of a shared ministry where all bring their particular gifts to the work of ministry. To this end, everyone should be understanding of the mistakes of colleagues and seek to give support and help when needed. Care should be taken to avoid inappropriate criticism, negative suggestions and innuendo. It is not appropriate to attempt to seek to ally other church members and/or co-workers in disagreements.
The principles of ethical, healthy staff relationships apply equally to professional, paraprofessional, support staff (secretarial and custodial employees) and volunteers. All staff members are given equal respect without regard to sex, race, ethnic origin, disability, or marital status.
“TEACHERS, CHAPLAINS, AND OTHERS”. All ministers who serve in non-congregational settings are expected to be active in the life of a particular congregation while respecting the position of installed ministers regarding all ministerial functions within the community. Counselors should also refer to their own code of ethics.
D. ETHICAL ISSUES OF PARTICULAR CONCERN
MINISTERS AND CONFIDENTIALITY. Ministers shall not disclose confidences to anyone except when:
required to do so by law [Most provinces will not require this].
disclosure is consented to by the person communicating confidences, which consent is normally given in writing.
disclosure is necessary to prevent the person from harming himself or herself or others. Harmful behavior is that which is a violation of law or poses a threat to the physical well-being of the self or others.
disclosure is necessary to defend a minister against claims made by a person who asserts that particular communications related to the claim were made in confidence.
MINISTERS AND SPECIAL PRIVILEGES. Ministers, as servants of the Servant of God, need to be sensitive to the danger of any use of the authority of the pastoral office for personal benefit. Boundaries should be set, in consultation between the minister, the congregation and the CCFCC Committee on Ministry and ordination to determine how much and in what manner a minister may promote among the members of the congregation any of the minister’s private business endeavors, tours or products. The same consultation should occur concerning the minister’s private use of church resources, business machines, secretarial time, etc.
BUSINESS AND FINANCE. The minister’s integrity in personal business and financial dealings is also an ethical concern. Ministers are expected to conduct their financial affairs with the utmost integrity. Many ministers manage discretionary funds on behalf of the congregation. It is suggested that wherever possible the minister identify someone in the congregation to audit the use of this money. This suggestion is made to protect the minister both from the temptation to use the funds unwisely and from rumors in the congregation about his/her misuse of the funds.
Ministers are not to solicit clergy discounts for merchandise or services rendered them.
THE MINISTER AND THE CIVIL LAW. The minister shall him/herself obey the civil law and insist leaders and members of his/her congregation do likewise. This includes, but is not limited to, matters related to taxes, copyrights, insurance, marriages, and the keeping of records.
There may be times when the minister affirms the necessity of civil disobedience for moral reasons. Whether this is done alone or in conjunction with others (including officers and members of the congregation), it shall be done openly and with a willingness to accept the consequences of the law. However, in such cases no moral justification for violence against another person or property is acceptable.
PREACHING AND WRITING. The minister’s public preaching, teaching and writing shall always be her or his own work with appropriate academic acknowledgment. In sermons this includes the exegetical work, the organization and the words of the sermon, and the use of examples and illustrations.
LANGUAGE AND BEHAVIOR. The minister shall recognize her or his unique position in the eyes of the congregation. It is a position of trust. This position shall not be abused through misuse of ministerial authority. In visits, counseling sessions, or other contacts with members of the congregation, the minister shall maintain strict decorum. Ministers shall not treat persons arbitrarily based on their gender, race, nationality, age, physical, emotional or mental condition, sexual orientation, or economic condition.
Ministers shall avoid discriminatory or harassing treatment of any person or group. Ministerial language shall not include slurs or other verbal conduct relating to gender, race, etc., which has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Sexual harassment shall not take place. This includes but is not limited to verbal or non-verbal behavior such as sexist remarks, demeaning statements relating to gender, pressure for sexual activity and threats of punishment or promises of rewards for sexual behavior.
Sexual abuse of or misconduct with a congregational member shall be understood as strictly forbidden. The professional has the responsibility to set the boundaries and to maintain them.
Due to the issues of power and trust involved, it is recommended that single pastors or professional church workers not date members of their congregations.
These provisions shall include ministers of presbytery who are involved as teachers, counselors, or supervisors in programs which train for special work in ministry, e.g., Clinical Pastoral Education or Spiritual Development.
As professionals, ministers are aware of the variation in spiritual and psychological dynamics at work in a person. Where the minister himself or herself feels compulsions to behavior which is either criminal or unethical he or she will seek immediate help from an appropriate counselor. This standard shall apply to those caught in substance, drug, or alcohol abuse or addiction. If therapy or counseling seems to be unfruitful the minister shall lay aside the office of ministry.
THE MINISTER AND RUMOURS. The minister may find her/himself the subject of rumors in the congregation or community. Response to these shall be carefully considered. No action including verbal response shall be taken without consultation with the Congregation or an appropriate committee of a higher governing body. The goal of whatever action taken shall be to end such rumors; hostile action toward the bearer of such rumors endangers the life of the congregation as well as the spiritual or emotional health of the perpetrator. It is not acceptable.
E. CIRCULATION OF ETHICAL STANDARDS
CCFCC will circulate this code of ethics among its member churches and minister members. Each minister shall submit a signed statement certifying he/she has read the code of ethics, is aware of the standards of the denomination and will make a sincere, good faith effort to abide with both the spirit and the letter of this code of ethics.
F. VIOLATIONS AND SANCTIONS
The CCFCC considers that fidelity to these standards enhances the peace, unity, and purity of the church. Violations of these standards may be viewed as a breaking of ordination vows and subject to disciplinary processes by the Council of Bishops.
G. CANDIDATES AND INQUIRERS
The Committee on Ministry and Ordination shall circulate these standards to its inquirers and candidates for the ministry. It shall make clear that these standards apply also to those under its supervision.
H. CONCLUSION AND RATIONALE
Central to the vocation of Minister of Word and Sacrament is leadership of the people of God in a peculiarly Christian lifestyle which has at its core the embodiment of Jesus’ words in John 15:12. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
These ethical standards are an attempt, not at setting legalistic limitations but rather guiding us all in showing the kind of love for each other that Christ has shown. So may all be encouraged to live in such a manner as to promote the health and growth of the Church, and give glory to God in Jesus Christ.
Revised May, 19th, 2003