A New Era in Ethics -- Finally

The UU Ministers Association voted today to pass new language for a year of study. This language would change our code of professional ethics from language that basically outlawed specific actions to a much simpler and straight-forward "19 words."  The new language reads:

"I will not engage in sexual contact, sexualized behavior, or a sexual relationship with any person I serve professionally."

Previously, the guidelines forbade sexual relationships with people one counsels, interns, married congregants, staff, minors, and, if married, anyone one serves professionally except one's partner.

The new language passed by a majority this year and must pass by two-thirds next year.  (This, incidentally, means it is harder to change the UUMA code of conduct than it is to change the state of Michigan's constitution--which is certainly more a problem for Michigan.)

I voted for this, although I was torn, as I have known colleagues who have met their spouse in their congregations, and have pursued those relationships is in ways that were non-exploitative.  Universalist fore-father John Murray met Judith Sargent Murray as a member of his congregation.  But times have changed.  And while we know there are significant differences between ministers and counselors, we now hold ourselves accountable in ways much more similar to other professions.

This also was controversial with some (but not all) of our gay members, who argue that for a gay minister in a small town, this is a much bigger burden, as all eligible single gay people might be in their congregation. The answer is simple but sad. Ministry involves sacrifice, and it is lonely, and for some of us more than others. There are expectations on ministers that affect us all, and yet for some that is especially difficult. We can sympathize, but it does not change the ethics of the situation.


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