Codes of ethics are used across professional spectrums — from journalists and educators to web analysts and dental hygienists — to guide ethical decision-making. Many companies and organizations require their employees to sign or abide by such standards. According to the March Evangelical Leaders Survey, 71 percent of evangelical leaders are not required to sign a formal code of ethics.
“For many churches and Christian organizations, there are unspoken rules, or guidelines, for ethical behavior,” said Leith Anderson, NAE President. “The problem with unspoken rules is that no one has agreed to a standard. That yields many missed expectations.”
Some evangelical leaders noted that ethical expectations are implicit in doctrinal statements and other organizational commitments that they sign, but the documents include issues outside ethics and don’t expound thoroughly on issues of ethics.
A few others said that while their organization has a code of ethics, staff are not required to sign, but rather are asked to abide by the standards.
Bill Lenz, Senior Pastor of Christ the Rock Community Church, said, “We are active in discussing and holding each other accountable, but it is not formal. I think it should be, and we are working towards having a written code of ethics that all our ordained pastors would sign.”
Ron Hamilton, of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, praised his denomination’s code of ethics saying that it has led to “a way of life for our pastors that seeks to honor Jesus Christ in all we do.”
Anderson added, “A myriad of ethical dilemmas comes across a pastor’s life each week. While ministers are guided by Scripture, a condensed professional standard provides a very effective tool in keeping to the straight and narrow.”
The NAE commissioned a group of pastors, denominational leaders and ethicists to create a document that could be used for such purposes. The document will be released later this year.
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.