Walking the talk: ethics in practice – Wayne Matheson

In the second article in this two-part series, Assembly Executive Secretary, Wayne Matheson presents some ethical scenarios for discussion and outlines the key elements of the Church’s Code of Ethics.

Our Code of Ethics applies to all representing or working for the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, including ministers, employees and volunteers.

So what does it say?

  1. The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand as a part of the church of Jesus Christ, is committed to conducting itself in accordance with the Gospel so that all people are treated with honesty, transparency, dignity, and respect.
  2. People representing or working for the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (“the Church”) are required to abide by this Code of Ethics. This includes ministers, employees, and volunteers.
  3. This Code is to be read in the context of, and along with, the Book of Order and the Church’s Conditions of Service Manual. It reflects the standards of conduct expected because of the special relationships of pastoral care and ministry in which the Church is engaged. It is supported by subordinate documents that address particular areas of practice within the church.

4.1 Demonstrate high ethical standards of behaviour at all times.
This recognises obligations of truthfulness and confidentiality towards people the Church deals with, together with an acknowledgement that it is unacceptable to subject people to exploitation, harassment, or abuse, whether financial, sexual, physical, psychological, spiritual, cultural or otherwise in any discriminatory way, nor to take advantage of any vulnerability of others. All dealings with others will be characterised by compassion and natural justice.

4.2 Demonstrate appropriate levels of competence commensurate with the role and task undertaken. This recognises obligations of using appropriate supervision; regular opportunities for spiritual growth; stewardship of time and talents; personal upskilling and recreation; awareness of strengths and limitations; collegiality and respect for others within the Church; recognition and respect for boundaries; and the need to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of those with whom the Church interacts is protected and enhanced.

Here are a few scenarios that you can use in your setting; discuss the scenario; look at the Code; note what parts apply; how might the situation been either avoided or handled differently?

  1. A minister – in the course of their pastoral care takes an elderly parishioner shopping. A family member approaches you as an elder saying there are a number of strange items on their parent’s credit card statement on the day the minister has taken their parent out.
  2. An adult volunteer at youth group is always offering to take teenagers home and is the only adult in the vehicle. A parent asks if the church has a transport policy that covers these situations.
  3. The minister – when asked – says they neither have time for, nor see any value in, supervision and as money in the parish is a concern, have opted to save money by not having supervision.
  4. A volunteer who undertakes the computer upgrades for the church advises you they have found inappropriate images on the church office computer.
  5. A member of the congregation comes to you and advises when they were a member of the youth group – over 20 years ago – they were sexually interfered with by the then-leader. That person is still a member of the congregation and is currently a member of the church council.

You can use these scenarios at church council meetings; at a retreat; staff meeting; in various ministry settings in the local church; with other ministers as you meet; and the list goes on.

And why not make the most the Ethic and Risk Management Workshop that is offered to each presbytery – bring as many elders and volunteers as can come! Learn and train together! Talk with your presbytery about the best time/s to enable the widest possible audience. Ask your presbytery about workshop dates in your area.

One thought on “Walking the talk: ethics in practice – Wayne Matheson

  1. Great information Wayne ! Are the answers to these scenarios in the code of ethics or available online? Because it would be great to see the best practice solutions to these scenarios so people around the council or leadership table can compare their responses to the best practice model. Or is it a case of applying principles and there are a range of best practice responses?
    Just clarifying because otherwise our council might come up with an answer we think is right but is not actually best practice!


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