Leadership: The National Association of Evangelicals Issues Code of Ethics for Pastors

The National Association of Evangelicals has issued a code of ethics for pastors. It deals with integrity, trustworthiness, purity, accountability, and fairness.

Read the code. Do you agree with the principles? What’s missing? Should a minister sign?

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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11 Responses to Leadership: The National Association of Evangelicals Issues Code of Ethics for Pastors

  1. John says:

    I do not know of any Christians, progressive or conservative, who would disagree with the code. But to have people sign it has the air of desperation, not guidance. The demand for its pastors to sign, in my view, shows an association that is in a panic because the human weaknesses of it ministers are coming to light much easier in this time of instant, world wide communication. I have believed for some time now that one of the realities that conservatives and evangelicals have the most difficulty in coming to terms with is the imperfection of each one of us.

    That is not to throw the door open to “anything goes”. It is to point out that it is becoming increasingly difficult for weak human beings, I’m speaking of us all, to stand in pulpits and in front of Bible classes and bring down God’s wrath on those of “the world” for doing those things that so many Christians do themselves, only finding it more difficult to hide. There was a time when most small towns, as well as the churches in them, were a world to themselves, and whether it was a minister, elders or members engaging in sexual pursuites, or the local politicians (church members) using their power for personal gain, most operated within a code of silence. As odd as it seems, the expectation for perfection created the “need” to turn a blind eye to such.

    Now we are living in a time when many in pulpits or authority who sound so convincing of their purity are being found out. Members have been thrown into shock when a well known, beloved minister, one who rakes the world over the coals for its sexual ease, is caught in his own sexual misconduct. And there have been numerous times, which I think was brought out on this blog, when churches that wanted to start a day care center, had their computers examined and found to have porn sites visited by church staff.

    The irony is these are usually Christians who show very little mercy, who see other people’s sins as destroying our nation, yet have no qualms in crying, “But, I’m only a human being with a weakness who believes in God’s forgiveness”. In their shallowness, they have no problem seeing themselves different from those of the world who do the same things.

    Again, the answer is not throwing the door open to “anything goes”. The answer is becoming a humble people, people who are humbled by coming face to face with themselves as we are being made to do. Those who make an impact will be those whose humiliation shapes them into a mercyful, tender people, a people who have no fear in showing more mercy to others than they have reserved for themselves, a people who have no fear in reminding those outside its walls that they too are children of God and are not alone in battling personal demons.

    Keep in mind, anyone can sign a code, and many who have their secret lives will have no problem signing it. And why would they if they have had not problem preaching it?

  2. I wouldn’t object to signing a code of ethics (most professions do require this for those in their discipline). I think the absence of a code of ethics in a free church tradition like the Churches of Christ is problematic.

    Just curious, does anyone know if pastors in churches with hierarchies and governing bodies (e.g. Episcopal, RCA, PCA, etc.) have to sign one?

    Another thought: should the question also be put to elders?

    Another thought and question: this code of ethics being supported by the NAE seems problematic. Do they have enforcement authority? And if so, how does that work? Also, it seems a bit ambiguous at points. I realize this likely by necessity, but when one compare the NAE code to, say, the code for the ACA–the lack of specificity becomes evident:


  3. aBasnar says:

    The first letter to Timothy can also be received as a “Code of Ethics”.


  4. Alabama John says:

    A Pastor must be:
    Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

  5. Norton says:

    I was related by marriage to a man who had his license to preach for a certain denomination revoked because he divorced and remarried. He kept preaching but simply changed denominations and later went independent. A code of ethics might help the public image of a denomination or association if violaters of the code were promptly dismissed, but it would do little about the problem of pastors becoming violaters. As far as helping the public image of conservative Christianity is concerned, a nationwide association of all conservative denominations and independents with a code of ethics would be needed. We won’t see that in the near future.

  6. Grizz says:


    The code at NAE is fine. ALL Ministry leaders should at least be aware of such a code … whether or not we make them sign it, there should be commitment to the principles and particulars before we even consider people to lead a ministry … whether we take a top-down, side-by-side, or bottom-up approach to leadership. For me, a commitment to second-mile ethics would probably serve as well or better. After all, we are following Jesus, not the NAE. So let’s let Jesus be the ethical model, shall we?

    To imagine such a code is more stringent than being aware of and both following and teaching (in that order) ethical behavior as Christians worthy of the name is sad. Christianity is the ethics of the Servant of God in Christ. Who among us is exempt from such a commitment? And who in the congregation is above or below making such a commitment?

    The real question is are you an adherent or a fan … or are you an unreservedly devoted follower of the Master we know from the gospels? And that goes for every so-called follower of Jesus … not just the few … and not even beginning with just the few. Jesus did not hold back on telling those who wanted to follow Him what would be required. And we should do no less … beginning, each one of us, with ourselves. Here’s the real test: if we are living it, then we can begin to consider requiring it. But we had also better be aware and ready to deal with it when others balk at the thought of actually joining us in living it. Shall we pretend to be judges of Jesus’ servants? Is this a leash we put on another servant of God? Who is to be the One holding the leash?

    Who among us can pretend to be committed to such a lax standard as these ethical statements we author? We are called to a second-mile life … not just seasonal or occasional visits to such a thing. And such living comes at a high personal cost, make no mistake about it.

    Such lists inevitably leave something out and emphasize some things without attention enough to others. Who will judge, if not the Father? Are we junior lords of the congregations we work among, or are we their servants for Christ’s sake? And if their servants for Christ’s sake, what business do we have pretending anyone else has the right or place to demand a signature from a fellow servant not commanded and demanded by Jesus?

    If the person truly follows Jesus, what else is there left to ask them to commit to doing? And if they do not truly follow Jesus, what good is a signed statement to remedy that?

    Show me someone who knows and loves Jesus and I will show you someone for whom such ethical statements are irrelevant and inadequate. Loving Jesus deepens the standard more than any document signed under the duress of most ministry negotiations. If that is not enough for us, what are we saying about ourselves?


  7. Alabama John says:

    A signed code of ethics is worthless, look at the Catholics that have one governing their behavior.
    If a man is sorry, it wouldn’t matter and if he is good, its not needed.

  8. Larry Cheek says:

    I cannot see a document of this nature being honored on judgment day. If men were to honor this document as a substitute of the consulting the masters instructions, how would you think he would view the situation.

  9. What is most troubling about this document, is not it’s content, but rather that people who proclaim to follow Jesus, find that statement of faith insufficient as evidence of what this document seeks to provide.

  10. Alexander says: “The first letter to Timothy can also be received as a ‘Code of Ethics’.”
    Good observation, Alexander. That description helps put Paul’s words in a meaningful context.
    Alabama John says:
    A Pastor must be: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.
    I’ll take this code over the more wordy one the NAE offered. Three-finger salute optional. 8)

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