Ethical success or failure can make or break a pastor’s ministry. With a desire for pastors to make sound ethical decisions and to flourish, the National Association of Evangelicals developed the NAE Code of Ethics for Pastors designed to provide a consistent code of ethics that crosses denominational lines.
“Most pastors are highly ethical, but few have signed a written code of ethics,” said Leith Anderson, NAE President. “This is every pastor’s opportunity to know, commit and tell others about a personal and professional standard of biblical pastoral ethics. I invite every pastor and every church board to put this code of ethics on the agenda for an upcoming meeting. Discuss. Adopt. Live these standards.”
According to the March Evangelical Leaders Survey, 71 percent of evangelical leaders are not required to sign a formal code of ethics. Some evangelical leaders noted in the survey 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.
The Code of Ethics for Pastors was developed over 18 months through the work of a taskforce that included ethicists, pastors, editors and denominational leaders. The NAE Board of Directors reviewed the document several times throughout the drafting process and unanimously adopted the NAE Code of Ethics for Pastors on March 8, 2012.
Luder Whitlock, who chaired the document’s taskforce, said, “Thanks to the leadership of Leith Anderson, the board of the NAE has prepared a long overdue Code of Ethics for Pastors. This succinct statement provides guidance for pastors who desire to honor the Lord by their example as well as by what they confess and preach. We expect it will soon become indispensable as a reference for pastoral ethics.”
The Code of Ethics for Pastors includes five primary admonitions: pursue integrity, be trustworthy, seek purity, embrace accountability and facilitate fairness.
Several pastors have already signed the document, including Charles Blake, West Angeles Church of God in Christ; Joel Hunter, Northland, A Church Distributed; Bill Hybels, Willow Creek Community Church; Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church; Max Lucado, Oak Hills Church; John Ortberg, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church; Samuel Rodriguez, New Season Christian Worship Center; and Bryant Wright, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church.
The Code of Ethics for Pastors is available for download and to sign at NAECodeOfEthics.com. The NAE plans to commission a similar document on ethics for churches.