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Continuing Education Coursework


It is critical that the code of ethics each Priest indicates that he or she follows not simply be created and placed upon a shelf, but rather that it is revisited often and revised when necessary. Additionally, notions of the lay-clergy relationship and confidentiality are vitally important to the trust our congregants have in us, as well as the relationships we have with each individual.

  1. Explain your view of the clergy-lay relationship, and the importance of ethics regarding this relationship. Are there specific things that should not be done?

    My original essay on the "Lay-Clergy Relationship" was heavily informed by an article by Rev. Liberty, entitled "Why It's Not An Affair." The article remains an interesting read, and I still subscribe to much of it. While I don't think that people can't have sex (and for that sex to be good, healthy, and fun) as priests with congregants (where else are many of us to find such adventures?), it is a rather vital that we understand what our relationship really is with the people who look to us as leaders and as people who understand what it means to have a strong relationship with both one another and the Kindreds.

    I also spoke at length of the interaction of "power over" and "power with" in that article, and I have come to realize that very often, we (as Priests) tend to exercise the "power over" dynamic very easily: we are more conservative than we were before we received our stole, and we build structures to keep others out of the Priesthood. I've had to work with some individuals working toward becoming a Priest to help them to feel like they are more deserving of the stole than they thought, having been told by members (unnamed, always, by the student) that they are "too young," or "haven't been in ADF long enough," or "should get more experience." Our ethics should help us to be more than that to them.

    I do believe that we should be held to a higher standard of activity: we must always assume positive intention, even when we feel it is not in our best interest; we must keep confidence of those who trust us, even when it is easier to blurt it out around the fire; we must hold our tongues and prevent ourselves from spreading rumours, even when we know the truth behind the rumor; we must listen actively and counsel only within our skillset, even though it's easy to offer advice from our own point of view; we must not have sex with people who are vulnerable to us, as tempting as it often is.

    I don't think that any of us will (or should) be perfect on these things. Lines blur between friendship and lust, or between listener and counselor. They will continue to blend as long as we hold these positions. But if we recognize where we are, and know that our membership trusts us to do the right thing all the time, it will help us not to betray that trust.

    I end my essay on this as I ended my last essay, as I think the words are still quite true: As priests, we have access to an astounding array of tools that could be exploited for terrible things: trust, authority, and respect. Even though we do not ask for these things and there is no theological reason for them to be granted to us, we have them. It is our job to value our members and never exploit the faith they have in as ADF Priests. We can only do good for our members if we ensure that their faith is well-placed.

  2. Discuss your view of confidential privilege as it relates to your practice as an ADF Priest. What affect does it have on lay-clergy communications?

    "Confidential priviledge" most often applies to journalists protecting their sources, where they are allowed to protect the identity of a source, or "marital-communications" where one spouse is not required to testify against the other spouse. When applied to a priesthood, we tend to think of the "seal of confession" in Catholicism, where the priest may not reveal anything said in a formal confession. This sort of privilege is called "priest-penitent privilage."

    There is a sticking point where this confidential privilege might not extend in the state of Ohio, though: if ADF promoted confidential counseling as one aspect of our priesthood, we would not be bound by the sacramental "confession" issue above. We could, instead, retain confidentiality under the "confidential communication" portion, but we would need to make this part of the "professional character" of our clergy. Right now, "confidential communications" are not something that is part of our "professional character," but that does not mean that outside of a court of law, things should ever pass our lips that someone has said to us in confidence.

    The idea that we should follow is that our personal ethical standards should not allow us to fall back on gossip, hurtful words, or the expressing of truth-as-relayed-to-us in a manner that breaches the understanding of confidential privilege that our lay-folk have. Much of my opinion on this has remained unchanged since my previous answer.

  3. Revisit the code of ethics you examined in the last version of this course (or the code you submitted in Ethics 1 if this is your first time taking Continuing Education in Ethics). How have your opinions changed, and why have they? Re-submit an updated version of your code of ethics as part of your answer.

    My original Code of Ethics from the CTP

    In many ways, the ideas behind the Code of Ethics stemmed from the idea that there is a certain order to the world: one that is right and beautiful in the way it appears to us, and one that requires a certain amount of responsibility to maintain and uphold. I began with 6 points, most of which I find still useful, but I add to the idea of fairness a new value: kindness.

    I chose to add this because a few months ago, at Wellspring, I had a Grove member say to me, quite directly, that I was simply one of the kindest people she knew. I had never been told that before, not in so direct a manner at least, and it caused me to think differently about the emphasis I place on how I interact with others in the world. I began to ask the question, "I know this is a fair thing, but is it also kind? Does my action go out of its way to make life better for someone?" And that is a new question for me in many ways: while I was not unkind before, it is a more conscious sort of kindness.

    I also added a sentence to the Rta portion about truth, for that has become very important to me as a result of becoming a Senior Priest in ADF: I work very, very hard to speak only the truth, a part of understanding and working with the Gods of Order.

    The new/added portions of the code, below, are in italics.

    Re-submitted Principles

    1. Rta - Understand what is right in the cosmos, through ritual with others and individual work. This also involves understanding the rhythms of nature and the place of the self within those rhythms, as well as how the self affects those rhythms. That which is right is also true: ensure that truth is what is on your lips to keep the universe artful.
    2. Modern Understanding of Ancient Ways - Knowledge and adaptation of the ways of our Ancestors, and working to ensure that those ways are translated properly into the modern world. Rather than seeking to follow the paths of our Grandmothers and Grandfathers blindly, we seek to understand them, take the paths that are right for us as modern people, and then forge our own paths when our paths can be better traveled in new ways.
    3. Continuing Education - Continuing development, seeking and responding to criticism. I will train others in the paths that I have traveled and marked while seeking to broaden them for myself at the same time. I will not complain about revisiting or re-working things I have already completed, with the attitude that I can always learn more from repeating even the most basic of tasks.
    4. Fairness and Kindness - I will seek to ensure that others are not unfairly damaged by my work and will treat all people as fellow humans first. I will also seek to temper my idea of fair work with the notion of kindness: it is not enough to simply be fair; you must also be kind and compassionate when dealing with humans and all other things in the Cosmos.
    5. Independence - I will be self-reliant and avoid conflicts of interest, understand that others have power over me and be vigilant for the signs of abuse of that power. I will work to get places on my own, not via favored treatment of any sort.
    6. Responsibility - I will accept responsibility for my actions, and disclose anything that might cause problems or even danger to others in my actions. I will be realistic in any claims made, and seek the input of others when it is needed. I will minimize harm to others in any way possible, and maintain responsibility to the people who trust that their discourses with me are secret and given in confidence.
  4. Provide an illustrative example of how you used your code of ethics to resolve a situation where there was a danger of responding to that situation in an unethical way.

    In my dayjob, I work a lot with people building and creating contracts, explaining why contracts are built in a certain way, and finding ways to negotiate better terms for my employer. The process of doing this creates opportunities for subterfuge, leverage, and dishonesty left and right, and some people get through this job and achieve meaningful things by "putting one over on the other guy."

    What I have found, though, is that while the opportunity to do such things is often quite tempting, it is also not the best way to go about it. Those who provide short-term (but huge value) "wins" for their employer are often rewarded immediately, but over time the process of "screwing the vendor" comes back to bite the institution.

    In a particular contract negotiation with a particular vendor, I had an interesting opportunity to drive the costs to my employer down dramatically, but in doing so I knew that I would provide no margin for the vendor. Part of this was holding over a past mistake in pricing (they had moved a decimal one place over in our favor), and part of it was a deeper knowledge of usage trends than the vendor had. I had an opportunity to partner with the vendor, or to get the best price for ourselves and pay far less.

    When I considered the course of action to take, I was able to look at the process from a place of both fairness and Rta: there are ways that the world works, so that things move in artful harmony, and while you can often win in a very temporary way, being fair will enhance the beauty of the world you live in. Knowing, too, that the way of the Rta, as practiced by our ancestors, is one of reciprocity, I took responsibility and did the right thing: after all, it does us no good to drive the price deeper than the vendor can bear. I need that vendor to stay healthy and to continue to partner with us.

    It can seem like a trite example, one where the obvious answer seems to be to give up some advantages to retain a stable, long-term, mutually beneficial relationship, but it is surprising to me how many people think about "my numbers" and "my bonus" and "where I can go next on this success, damn the consequences to the business I'm currently employed at."

    In the end, I chose to build my relationships, not my reputation. And in the two years since, it has paid amazing dividends.

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