Archives For ethics

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A bill in the Illinois Senate that would have required pastors to take state-regulated classes in child protection raises important questions: Shouldn’t pastors do all they can to protect children, one colleague asked. Yes, obviously, but at what risk to religious communities’ First Amendment rights?

And, as important is this question: Why aren’t clergy engaging in stronger self-policing using a mechanism most already have in place, the ministerial code of ethics?

Sen. Melinda Bush of Lake County withdrew the bill last week, after objections from pastors on First Amendment grounds: If the state requires pastors to receive certification in this well-intended and altruistic concern, then what’s next? There aren’t many steps from this bill to government licensure of clergy and churches. “Won’t somebody please think of the children!” isn’t a sufficient argument to allow government regulation of pastoral work.

And, there’s a better way.

As a seminary student, I was required to write for myself a ministerial code of ethics. I studied a dozen examples and came up with a list of biblical and ethical ways for dealing with people, issues, and sticky situations.

A year or two later, I was the grader for that class, and I read scores of codes of ethics submitted by students. Most of these aspiring pastors took the assignment seriously, considering how they should handle counseling and confidentiality, reporting of abuse or neglect, the pastor’s relationship to the law and enforcement agencies. Some addressed euthanasia, and a few spoke to sexual identity and relationship issues just entering public discourse at the time.

Some of these students laid a good foundation for engaging and regulating their future work, so when hard questions arose, they already had biblical ways of processing the issues not based on emotion and reaction.

A good ministerial code of ethics guides pastors in their ministry to children and families in jeopardy. It requires that pastors stay up-to-date on the issues and the law. Through such personally adopted codes, pastors police themselves. They may join in voluntary association with other clergy in their enforcement.

Our Baptist polity—respecting the autonomy of the local church—doesn’t allow the denomination to enforce rules on pastors. Neither does the U. S. Constitution. That’s why we must take responsibility to govern ourselves.

For the sake of the children.

– Eric Reed

Code of Ethics

A bill pending in the Illinois senate that would require pastors to take state-regulated classes in child protection raises important questions: Shouldn’t pastors do all they can to protect children? That’s how one colleague phrased it. Yes, obviously, but at what risk to religious communities’ First Amendment rights?

And, as important is this question: Why aren’t clergy engaging in stronger self-policing using a mechanism most already have in place, the ministerial code of ethics?

Senate Bill 912 introduced by Melinda Bush of Lake County is surely purely motivated, but this means of child protection draws immediate objection based on First Amendment grounds: if the state requires pastors to receive certification in this well-intended and altruistic concern, then what’s next? There aren’t many steps from this bill to government licensure of clergy and churches. That’s why the Illinois Family Institute is urging Christians to notify state lawmakers of their objection based on religious liberty. “Won’t somebody please think of the children!” isn’t a sufficient argument to allow government regulation of pastoral work.

And, there’s a better way.

A good ministerial code of ethics guides pastors in their ministry to children and families in jeopardy.

As a seminary student, I was required to write for myself a ministerial code of ethics. I studied a dozen examples and came up with my own list of biblical and ethical ways for dealing with people, issues, and sticky situations.

A year or two later, I was the grader for that class, and I read scores of codes of ethics submitted by students. Most of these aspiring pastors took the assignment seriously, considering how they should handle counseling and confidentiality, reporting of abuse or neglect, the pastor’s relationship to the law and enforcement agencies. Some addressed euthanasia, and a few spoke to sexual identity and relationship issues just entering public discourse at the time.

Some of these students laid a good foundation for engaging and regulating their future work, so when hard questions arose, they already had in place biblical ways of processing the issues not based on emotion and reaction.

A good ministerial code of ethics guides pastors in their ministry to children and families in jeopardy. It requires that pastors stay up-to-date on the issues and the law. Through such personally adopted codes, pastors police themselves. They may join in voluntary association with other clergy in their enforcement.

Our Baptist polity—respecting the autonomy of the local church—doesn’t allow the denomination to enforce rules on pastors. Neither does the U. S. Constitution. That’s why we must take responsibility to govern ourselves.

For the sake of the children.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

Six Illinois volunteers, arriving in the Philippines this week, will help rebuild this school on Gibitngil Island.

Six Illinois volunteers, arriving in the Philippines this week, will help rebuild this school on Gibitngil Island. Photo is from the project’s Facebook page.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

A team of six Illinois Disaster Relief volunteers will travel to the Philippines this week to help rebuild after last fall’s Typhoon Haiyan.

The group, composed of “blue cap” leaders from around the state, is part of a multi-week, multi-crew project to rebuild a school on Gibitngil Island. The team is the first from Illinois to join the long-term relief effort in the Philippines coordinated by Baptist Global Response. Keep up with their project here.

Other news:

Forum to focus on biblical sexuality
“The Gospel and Human Sexuality” is the theme of a Nashville summit planned for pastors and leaders this spring. The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will host the April 21-23 meeting on marriage, family, purity, morality and culture.

“So many of the questions pastors grapple with today deal with situations that would not even have been possible a generation ago,” said ERLC President Russell Moore. “…We’ll talk about these questions, and how we can be faithful in ministry, Gospel-focused in engagement and Christ-shaped spiritual warriors in the ways we seek to wrestle with the principalities and powers of this age.” Read more at ERLC.com.

Blessed are the … athletic?
Just before the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics took over our TV screens, Americans weighed in on whether God rewards faithful athletes with health and success. Opinion is evenly split, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, with 48% saying yes and 47% disagreeing. But among white evangelicals, 62% believe God rewards faithful athletes. Read more at ChristianityToday.com.

Military’s religious climate questioned
The U.S. military has long been serious about protecting the religious freedom of its troops, said retired Gen. Doug Carver in submitted testimony before a House subcommittee last month. But Carver, who directs the North American Mission Board’s chaplaincy ministry, noted a climate within the military that could restrict religious liberty. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R.-Ohio) summarized the prevailing concern: “There is a fine line between accommodation and respecting all religions and restricting religious freedom and that’s the line we are walking on here.”

Subcommittee chairman Joe Wilson (R.-S.C.) called for another hearing on the issue in the next 60 days. Read more at BPNews.net.

Bible-themed movies coming soon
2014 may well be the “Year of the Bible,” says culture writer Jonathan Merritt. At the movies, at least. Merritt lists five movies that will have the Bible front and center in the country’s consciousness, beginning with this month’s “Son of God.” Biblical biopics “Noah” and “Mary, Mother of Christ” are due late this year, along with “Exodus.” And although “Heaven is for Real” (April) isn’t based on the Bible, Merritt includes it on his list because “it will likely riff on popular Bible themes such as heaven, Jesus, and salvation.” Read more at JonathanMerritt.com.

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources

THE BRIEFING | Posted by Meredith Flynn

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, shared his “broken heart” over the denomination’s loss of passion for people who don’t know Christ.

In an open letter at ThomRainer.com, the leader of the convention’s publishing arm asked, “Where is the passion in most of our churches to reach the lost? Where is the passion among our leaders, both in our churches and in our denomination?

“Jesus told those at the church at Ephesus that they had sound doctrine, that they hated evil (Revelation 2:1-7). But He also told them they had lost their first love. When we truly love Jesus with all of our hearts, we can’t help but tell others about Him. We can’t help but share the good news.”

Rainer’s letter echoed the theme of a resolution passed by messengers to the November 2013 annual meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association. The resolution on repentance and evangelism encouraged Illinois Baptists to repent of failure to share the Gospel regularly and faithfully, and to commit to do so.

As for Rainer’s letter, “I have no proposal. I have no new programs for now. I simply have a burden,” he wrote. And, he added, renewal must start with him. And with pastors.

“Evangelism must be as natural to me as breathing,” Rainer blogged.

“Pastors, will you join me in this plea? Will you be an evangelistic example for the churches God has called you to serve? Laypersons, will you pray for evangelistic hearts in your own lives? I must make that prayer a part of my life every day.

“Have we lost our first love? Is that love reflected in how we share the gospel of Christ every day?

“May God break me until I am all His, telling others about His Son every day.”

Read the full text of Rainer’s letter at ThomRainer.com.

New podcast answers ethical questions
The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission launched a new podcast series this week to address ethical and cultural questions submitted by listeners. Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, hosted the first episode January 13. The inaugural “Questions and Ethics” podcast focused on the question: When should you ask your potential spouse about their sexual history and how much should you know?

“‘Questions & Ethics’ allows us to answer the more difficult moral and ethical questions of our day in a short, accessible format,” said Dan Darling, ERLC’s vice president for communications, in a written release. “This podcast allows Dr. Moore to answer a variety of questions people are asking or should be asking.'” Read more at BPNews.net and listen to the first episode of “Questions and Ethics” at ERLC.com.

Hobby Lobby gets its day in court
The U.S. Supreme Court has set a date for oral arguments in a case pitting craft retailer Hobby Lobby against the Department of Health and Human Services. The Christian Post reports the high court will hear from Hobby Lobby on March 25, as the craft retailer argues business owners should be able to exercise religious freedom by objecting to the abortion/contraceptive mandate in President Obama’s healthcare reform package. Hobby Lobby has been one of the businesses at the center of the dispute over the mandate, which requires employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health care plans.

“This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution,” Hobby Lobby founder David Green said in a written release in November. “Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”

Read more at ChristianPost.com.

Pastors praying today for spiritual awakening

A group of Baptist pastors and leaders are meeting this week in Atlanta to pray together for revival and spiritual awakening. This is the second prayer meeting called by Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd. The gathering “is time for us to pray in an extraordinary way, to seek the God of heaven to revive His church and awaken our nation,” Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, told Baptist Press.

The meeting raises a question, says Illinois Baptist editor Eric Reed: What can believers do to bring spiritual awakening to a nation lulled to disinterest by its tolerance of sin? Read his feature story on the next great awakening in the current issue of the IB, and read more about the prayer meeting at BPNews.net.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Families looking for a break from the holiday hustle and bustle might escape to movie theaters for two faith-themed films, one out now and the other set for a Christmas Day release.

“The Life of Pi,” [PG] is about a shipwrecked Indian boy left with only one friend – a similarly shipwrecked tiger. Critic Phil Boatwright calls it “the most visually stunning film of the year,” and also commends the film’s director, Ang Lee, for making a movie that deals with faith. The movie “doesn’t promote one religion over another,” Boatwright said. “It does, however, what so few films do: It suggests that we become aware of spiritual matters and rely on our faith when the conundrums of the day overwhelm.”

Overwhelming circumstances are also the subject of another, perhaps more clearly Christian, story set for cinemas on Christmas Day. The highly anticipated movie musical “Les Miserables” has A-list stars and a trailer that’s already gotten serious buzz. And the story is a classic redemptive tale: Jean Valjean steals a loaf of bread to feed his family, spends several heart-hardening years in prison, gets out, and spends the rest of his life trying to live up to the kindness shown him by a forgiving minister.

“Les Miserables” is rated PG-13 for grown-up themes and some language, and is likely unsuitable for younger kids. But for adults who choose to see it, the themes of forgiveness, generosity and sacrifice will likely spark many conversations this Christmas season.

Your turn: What movies are you excited to see this Christmas?

Other news:

Economy could make adoption harder for some
From Baptist Press | With Congress embroiled in debate over the so-called fiscal cliff, many in the adoption community are concerned the adoption tax credit set to expire at year’s end could be forgotten, even though immediate action is needed. The tax credit that provided last year a maximum of $13,360 to each adoptive family has helped countless low- and middle-income families afford the costly endeavor. Read more.

How honest is your job?
From Gallup.com | Nurses have the highest ethical standards of any profession, according to Americans surveyed in Gallup’s annual study on the honesty and ethics of various vocations. 85% percent of those surveyed ranked nurses as “high” or “very high” on the ethics scale. “Clergy” ranked 8th on the list, with 52%; journalists were ranked highly by 24% of respondents; and car salespeople were last on the list, with 8%. Full list.