A series of reflections on the Code of Ethics presented in letter form addressed to congregational members of American Baptist Churches in the USA by Rev. Joe Kutter. Additional commentary provided by Rev. Patti Duckworth. This the first letter of six.
Behavior You Can Expect From Your Pastoral Leader
By Dr. Joe Kutter
Dear American Baptists:
I am writing primarily to those among us who are not ordained, to the “Lay Folk” who sustain our churches and our ministries. But I want to talk about “The Ordained,” those frequently called “Ministers.” I want to talk about your pastor and the others who serve Christ and you through the agencies of the church.
Ministers, you are more than welcome to read these short letters because I will be talking about you, and you may want to improve or correct the things that I say. Please feel free. (firstname.lastname@example.org) Actually, as you may know, I’ll be talking about us since I am a member of the cohort of the ordained.
About what will we be talking? I want to introduce you, the Lay Folks, to a short document called, “The Covenant and Code of Ethics for Ministerial Leaders of American Baptist Churches.” (With that title, it should be a best seller!)
Now some lay person is asking, “Why? Isn’t that a boring paper for ministers? What does it have to do with me? The short answer is, “Yes, it is for ministers, and it has everything to do with you!” It describes the behavior that you can expect from your pastoral leader as she or he relates to you, to your church, and to your community. It describes the standards to which we aspire. It describes your minister at his or her very best.
(Spoiler Alert: You may be surprised to learn that our ethical standards are a bit at variance from what you may expect.)
This is a “Code of Ethics,” not a statement of faith. We will talk more about behavior and less about belief, though the two are intimately connected. We will talk about ethics rather than theology.
Why write this series? I have served Christ and Church as an ordained minister since 1971, 39 years as a pastor and four years as the Executive Director of the American Baptist Ministers Council. I am proud of my colleagues in ministry. I am proud of the standards to which we aspire. When one of us slips up, the rumor mills run wild. In some cases, the headlines scream in deafening decibels, and they probably should. In recent decades, a number of tragic scandals have caused immeasurable harm to thousands of people, and the reputation of all clergy persons has been stained. Too many of you wonder if the ordained among us can be trusted.
My first response is this. The overwhelming majority of our ordained colleagues are women and men of irreproachable integrity. They seek to do the right things in the right ways at the right times.
It is true, we have been disappointed from time to time to learn of a leader who violated our trust and the standards of behavior to which we hold ourselves accountable. That tragic reality acknowledged, most of our ordained leaders engage ministry with honor and integrity, and I want you to know the basic standards that form the foundation of our ethical lives.
So, with the next letter, I’ll begin to walk you through our code of ethics. I want you to share my pride and trust in our ordained leaders.