Essay: Ethics and the Church in Today's Culture

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Ethics and Church in Today's Culture

ethics and the church in today's culture: a pastoral perspective

Ethics involves applying universally valued principles such as honesty, fairness, objectivity and compassion to one's behavior. The church is an institution that is perceived as having a high level of integrity and responsibility. The people in its service, including pastors are also highly regarded in the community and carry a great religious and spiritual responsibility in their shoulders. It is imperative that they demonstrate ethical conduct to inspire their community members, more so in an environment where religious intolerance and bigotry are becoming important social problems.

Ethical Conduct and Professionalism of the Pastor

Pastors and ministers of the church bear a very responsible duty towards the welfare of the people in their community. They are under an ethical duty to make sure that they remain healthy and capable of performing their role effectively. They should avoid any such acts that might put their life in danger. Along with physical health, pastors have an ethical duty to take care of their emotional health. Pastors have to perform a role of greater responsibility than other people in society. This greater responsibility may become a cause of stress among the pastors. Therefore, pastors need to be careful about their emotional and mental health as well. They need to avoid taking such stress or anxiety that might prevent them from exercising their role according to the standards set by the Church. The pastors are also ethically bound to take all precautionary measures to guard themselves against disease and to visit a doctor for regular checkups. Pastors should also take part in healthy activities so that they remain physically and mentally fit. They should take care of their diet and their body to avoid any problems in discharging their duties.

Since pastors are required to lead the spiritual life of their community, they are ethically bound to devote time to prayer, study and reflection. In the words of Arnold (1982, p. 86), "to guide persons in their response to God in their lives"

is a major function of the pastor. They need to invest in their own education so that they can guide the people in their community by offering them appropriate counseling and advice. The people depend on the advice of the pastor. Therefore, the pastors have an ethical duty to be well-versed in the Scripture and other religious matters so that they can give the best advice to their community. They should also regularly attend seminars, lectures and conferences to share their learning with other pastors and to learn from them in turn. They should apply their learning to their duty as a preacher and as a counselor so that the community may also benefit from what they have learned.

Pastoral conduct should also follow ethical principles in the professional environment. It is natural for there to be differences in the opinions of several pastors. However, pastors need to differ with one another respectfully and dispassionately because these differences are based on specialized knowledge in an area where ordinary people cannot make judgments. They will rely on what their pastors say. If pastors do not cooperate with one another and emphasize on differences instead of points held in common, it will serve to divide the community and endanger co-existence. Pastors have an ethical duty to cooperate with one another and offer appropriate advice and counsel. Pastors are advised not to view each other as competitors to make progress in their careers. Irrespective of experience, all pastors need to treat one another with respect and their arguments as valid and worthy of consideration. Whether in public or in private, pastors should refrain from speaking poorly of one another. At times, a pastor may be succeeded by another in the church. In such cases, the outgoing pastor should respect the jurisdiction of the succeeding pastor and should avoid interfering in his or her work. The former partner should only participate in the services of the church he or she has formerly served, only if he or she is invited to do so by the new pastor. Similarly, the new pastor should behave ethically and respectfully towards the former pastor upon such visits. Every new pastor should treat former and retired pastors with respect that is professionally due to them. When recommending any pastor to a position in the church, pastors should give honest and unbiased assessments and opinions.

Ethics in Family Life

Pastors are entitled to lead a balanced and healthy life in addition to performing their religious duties. Pastors are ethically bound to devote the necessary time to their personal needs and to the needs of their family. They should not ignore family members and the duties they have towards them. They should strive towards achieving a balance between their service to the church, the community and their duties towards their family. They should spend time caring for family members who are sick or those who need their attention. They should consider the financial, emotional and physical needs of their family members and should discharge them fairly. They should also be sensitive to the needs of their spouse as a marital partner and should not ignore those needs. The spouse also has a role in the Church as an assistant to the pastor and they should also discharge their duties towards them as assistant to the pastor. Pastors should also be sensitive towards the needs of their children and should not neglect their education and moral development. When doing so, they should take care not to put undue influence over them with regard to their goals in life. They should not discriminate among their children on the basis of gender and should treat all children fairly.

The Pastor as a Role Model

Pastors are a role model to people in their community and even people outside the community. As stated by Johnson (2000, p. 146), "Being a role model to other is more than a perquisite of church office. It is required of all those who would follow the scriptural and constitutional guidelines for the conduct of ministry."

Therefore, the pastors are under an obligation to display the highest level of ethical and moral behavior in their dealings with people. They should avoid accepting any personal favors that might cause them to compromise on their duties as a pastor. They should treat people within their community and even people from other religions with fairness and equality. They should not discriminate among people because it goes against the ideals of Christianity. Especially in today's culture, there is a great need for creating understanding and tolerance among various religions of the world. Pastors have an ethical duty in this context to strive for peaceful relations with all religions. While performing their duties as a pastor, they should be accurate in referencing the works and ideas of other pastors and ministers. They should avoid plagiarism and should identify the originator of a work or an idea when quoting them.

While performing their religious duties, pastors are under an ethical duty to act as servant-minister of the church and to follow the example of Christ in their personal conduct and their religious role as spiritual leader of their community. In addition to their preacher role, pastors also have an administrative role to play in the running of the church. They have to manage the finances and other resources of the church. They should perform these duties ethically making sure that accountability is maintained at all times. When pastors have authority over distribution of some resources, they are ethically bound to avoid practicing discrimination among the likely recipients. They should make such distribution fairly and objectively. Pastors being responsible for the moral and spiritual development of the community have an ethical responsibility to engage in a thorough study of their topic. They should prepare a sermon that is well-researched and based on the Scripture so that it bears credibility among the community members and provides guidance and enlightenment to them. They should also make sure that all references are authentic and that quotations from Scripture have been interpreted in the right context. In addition to their preaching role, pastors also perform the function of counseling. Pastors are ethically bound to maintain strict confidentiality of the information that is disclosed to them. In the words of Bush (2006, p. 106), "A duty of pastoral confidentiality is commonly held by many -- clergy and laity alike -- to be generally applicable in pastoral relationships and nearly absolute in its moral stringency."

However, an ethical dilemma may be created if withholding the information from authorities could endanger the life of a person. Therefore, the pastor is under an ethical duty to share information with authorities that he or she is legally bound to and that which could prevent a person from losing his or her life.

The ethical duties of pastors are not limited to their interaction with professional peers. They are also required to fulfill… [END OF PREVIEW]

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