Ministry Ethics, Ethics for Church Leaders
Part of LifeandLeadership.com ministry resources on Ministry Ethics and Pastoral Theology: Ministry Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Strengthening and Renewing Call to Christian Ministry, and Congregational Trauma and Ministerial Misconduct
In the classical traditions of pastoral work, ethics has always been important. From the standpoint of ethical theory, most literature has approached the subject through the rubric of “virtue ethics,” focused on the character of the minister. This continues in the current resources, but there is also a resurgence of interest in ministerial ethics due to rapid changes in our society and the number of moral failures in the ministry.
There are several recent books that are helpful in this respect. A few of the best are listed below.
- Joseph E. Bush, Gentle Shepherding: Pastoral Ethics and Leadership – Like most materials on this subject, the author focuses on character or virtue ethics, emphasizing the person of the minister. Bush offers a unique multi-faceted “missional” exploration of ministerial ethics that will help ministers as they guide their congregations into effective witness in their communities. Very substantive.
- Joe E. Trull and James E. Carter, Ministerial Ethics: Moral Formation for Church Leaders. Second Edition – The standard text on ministerial ethics, now in its second edition since the first in 1993. It addresses questions such as: What ethical standards are required of a minister? What does confidentiality mean, and is it always expected? How is pastoral authority abused? When is preaching plagiarized? Is there a code of ethics that all ministers should follow?
- A Minister’s Code of Ethics: A Higher Level of Commitment and Conduct – Web resources produced by Enrichment Journal.
- Barbara J. Blodgett, Lives Entrusted: An Ethic of Trust for Ministry – A refreshing and challenging look at how ministers and their churches build or break trust with each other.
- Richard M. Gula, Just Ministry: Professional Ethics for Pastoral Ministers – Very strong on the idea of standardized and explicit codes of conduct.
- James F. Keenan, S.J. and Joseph Kotva, Jr., Practice What You Preach: Virtues, Ethics, and Power in the Lives of Pastoral Ministers and Their Congregations — Reflects on how pastoral character is both reflected and formed as one faces various issues.
- Michael R. Milco, Ethical Dilemmas in Church Leadership: Case Studies in Biblical Decision Making – Offers theological and philosophical foundations for ethics and a Decision-Making Tower as a tool to unravel issues that may not seem clear-cut. Greatest strength of this volume is the case studies as useful for one’s own reflection.
- Randolph K. Sanders, Christian Counseling Ethics: A Handbook for Therapists, Pastors and Counselors – Not addressed exclusively to ministers, yet addresses the frequent ethical dilemmas all helping professionals experience in counseling, but with a strong sensitivity to scripture.
- William H. Willimon, Calling and Character: Virtues of the Ordained Life — As the author says, “This book is concerned not with a method of ethical deliberation for pastors, not with the solution of various ethical quandaries of clergy, but rather with the basic question, What ought clergy be? And then by implication, What ought clergy to do? It is the character of clergy that is our main concern.”
Related Ministry Resources
See these Ministry Resources on Pastoral Theology and Ethics:
- Congregational Trauma, Ministerial Misconduct
- Ethics for Church Leaders
- Minister Self-Care
- Ministry Burnout, Preventing and Overcoming
- Ministry Support Systems
- Pastoral Theology for Christian Ministry
- Strengthening and Renewing the Call to Christian Ministry
- Theology of Mission and Ministry
See Resources on Over 100 Areas of Christian Ministry: