Ethical Standards for Ministry Professionals

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The Preamble

Laity and clergy who engage in the professional activities of prayer, counseling, biblical interpretation, spiritual advice, consultation, and advocacy have carried out these services for centuries, believing that compassionate service is an expression of the God’s love. Characterized by an appreciation for all people as God’s children and for their diverse cultures, belief, and experiences, the work of ministry professionals includes a commitment to ethical behavior. Although an ethical code is not a legal document, these guiding principles establish the expectations of professional conduct in this congregation.

Ethical Standards

The following ethical standards are relevant to the work of clergy, lay paid staff, and volunteers serving as ministry professionals within the congregation. These standards address the ministry professional’s responsibility to members and constituents of the congregation, the ministry professional’s obligation to maintaining professional competence, including continuing education and self-care, and the ministry professional’s ethical responsibilities toward the congregation, colleagues, and the community.

A. The purpose of the Ministry professionals’ contacts with members and constituents of congregations is to promote spiritual, mental, and interpersonal health.

B. Ministry professionals treat all people with respect, acceptance, and dignity, and they avoid saying or doing anything that would harm the individuals they serve.

C. Ministry professionals discuss with individuals and groups they serve the purpose, goals, and nature of the helping relationships, including limitations of the proposed relationship.

D. Ministry professionals inform the congregation and individuals within the congregation of their education, training, and areas of competency in the helping relationship. They inform individuals with whom they are entering a counseling relationship of their background, training, and competency. They know the limit and scope of their professional knowledge and offer services only within their knowledge and skill base.

E. Ministry professionals obtain regular training to increase their skills and to keep their education current, especially in the areas of professional ethics and abuse prevention.

F. Ministry professionals protect individuals they serve by maintaining records and conversations in a confidential manner. They respect each individual’s right to privacy and confidentiality except when such confidentiality would cause harm to the client or others, when denominational policies state otherwise, or under stated conditions such as those covered by local, state, or federal laws. Professionals inform those they serve of the limitations of confidentiality before establishing the helping relationship.

G. Ministry professionals are aware that in their relationships with members and constituents of the congregation, power and status are unequal. They acknowledge that they have power over others as they serve as spiritual guides and mentors.

H. Ministry professionals recognize that dual or multiple relationships increase the risk of harm to those who are served, including the possibility of exploitation and sexualized relationships. Ministry professionals seek consultation as necessary to examine areas in which they may be compromised in their ability to provide services, for example, when dual or multiple relationships exist within the helping relationship.

I. If for any reason ministry professional’s level of functioning is impaired due to declining emotional or spiritual well-being, they will seek consultation. The ministry professional, along with the consultant, will determine the level to which competency is impaired and may redirect or limit the current workload until full functioning is restored. This may include the referral of parishioners to other helping professionals.

J. Ministry professionals do not engage in sexual relationships with members or constituents of their congregations or other organizations they directly serve. They do not engage in counseling relationships with people with whom they have previously had sexual relationships. They do not have sexual relationships with persons whom they have previously counseled. It is the ministry professional’s responsibility to establish that no harm would result from establishing a personal relationship in the years after any form of professional relationship has ended.

K. Ministry professionals adhere to denominational and congregational policies regarding sexual abuse and harassment and all local, state, and federal guidelines regarding the reporting of neglect and abuse.

L. Ministry professionals seek consultation and supervision when assisting individuals with mental health issues. They refer members and constituents of the congregation to therapists and other professionals when the individual’s issues are beyond the ministry professional’s level of education, training, or competency.

M. Ministry professionals do not engage in sexual harassment of any kind with members of their congregations, colleagues, ministry candidates, or others whom they supervise.

N. Ministry professionals respond to unethical behavior of colleagues by talking directly with the colleague and, if no resolution occurs, may report the colleague to a ministerial supervisor, bishop, or ordination committee.

O. Ministry professionals are aware of the public nature of their profession and their responsibility to uphold the integrity of the faith community in which they serve with the highest possible ethical standards. They use their education and professional standing to improve the community and society in which they work and live.

P. Ministry professionals uphold ethical standards, comply with professional requirements, and agree to take responsibility for their behaviors. They do not engage in conduct that compromises their professional responsibilities or reduces the public’s trust in the profession.