The UUMA Guidelines was first adopted in 1965,
and represents one of the most thorough codes for the practice of ministry
within the congregational church tradition.
contains several documents:
- A Preface and Introductory Essay on Ministry.
- A Code of Professional Practice. This is the ethical
code of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association. According to the bylaws of the UUMA, the Board of Trustees is charged with upholding and enforcing this Code.
- The Guidelines themselves. As implied by the name,
the Board of Trustees is not bound by the UUMA bylaws to the same standard of
enforcement as with the Code. Frequently
Guidelines suggested are for congregations as well as ministers. However, the UUMA takes these Guidelines
seriously. Flagrant disregard of the
Guidelines by ministers can be cause for censure or other disciplinary action by
the Board of Trustees.
The UUMA wants Guidelines to be a living
document. To that end we have made revisions from time to time. Some revisions have been editorial in nature,
correcting errors or making changes for clarity and simplicity. Some changed the tone of Guidelines to
reflect more strongly concern for the interests of the congregations we serve
or to reinforce our individual freedom and responsibility as ministers. And some attempt to alter or reform our
understanding and practice of ministry.
All but editorial changes have been made at annual meetings of the UUMA.
In June 1985, a broadly ranging set of revisions
affected many parts of Guidelines.
These included more specific affirmation of congregational polity as the
foundation of our ministry; use of covenantal language rather than that of
labor/management relations to speak of our responsibilities to congregations
and vice versa; specific counsel to retired ministers and part-time ministers
not to refer to themselves, nor to behave or think of themselves, as ministers
of a congregation unless duly called; new acknowledgments of maternity and
paternity needs; and the careful choice of gender inclusive language throughout
to reflect that ours is a ministry in which women and men serve our
congregations truly and fully on an equal basis.
Recent revisions have been narrowly focused. In 1985-87 we responded to the concern of
many members that Guidelines should speak specifically to the ethics of
our behavior as sexual beings in the ministry. Amendments were proposed to the first three sections of our Code of
Professional Practice - Self, Colleagues and Congregation. All but one amendment were approved at the Annual
Meeting of 1987. The final amendment
pertained specifically to the responsibilities of single ministers. It was reconsidered, recast and then approved
in June 1988. The Guidelines Revision
Committee hoped by offering these amendments that in the process of considering
them as well as in their application, we would speak more often and openly with
each other about what it means for us to be sexual beings and ministers, the
energies involved and the decisions and ethics required.
In the 1988 revision a Canadian Supplement was added,
addressing the particular needs of those serving Canadian societies.
In 1990, a Professional Rights Procedure was added to
amplify and clarify the procedures involved when UUMA members bring grievances
against each other for violating the Code of Professional Practice.
In 1996, additions to the Code of Professional
Practice and the Guidelines delineated areas of non-discrimination to include:
race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or ethnicity. It was amended again in 1998 to include
In 1992, amendments and additions to the Code of
Professional Practice clarified the responsibilities that ministers who live
and practice in the same geographic area have to each other, and the
prerogatives due a settled parish-based minister called by the congregation
serving that geographic area.
In 2007, following the suggestion of the most recent
chapter to review the Guidelines, the Board of Trustees appointed an ad hoc committee
to review, redesign and rewrite the entire "Guidelines"
In 2008 changes to the Professional Rights Procedure
were passed. A timetable and process for a major Guidelines Revision was
approved. The document (known as Guidelines) was divided into three
primary sections: Covenant, Code of Conduct and Standards of Professional
At the 2009 UUMA Annual Meeting a new Covenant was
adopted and a new Code of Conduct was approved for a first year of study.
At the 2010 Annual Meeting the new Code of Conduct was
adopted and a new set of Standards of Professional Practice was approved for a
first year of study.
At the 2011 Annual Meeting in Charlotte, the new Standards of Professional Practice were approved by the membership. The Guidelines Committee was also asked by members to continue a process that was started at least twenty years ago: Shaping and guiding the UUMA’s reflection and conversation regarding ministerial relationships in the ministerial setting. The excellent work done by previous Guidelines Committees bequeathed the Committee a challenging and clear agenda. At the 2012 UUMA meeting in Phoenix, members voted on Guidelines Committee recommendations and committed to a second year of study. The Committee reviewed and discussed chapter and individual feedback and presented recommendations to the 2013 Annual Meeting in Louisville that added to the Code of Conduct these words: "I will not engage in sexual contact, sexualized behavior, or a sexual relationship with any person I serve as a minister." Changes to the "Standards, II, G" were also accepted.
In 2015 a new section of the Standards of Professional Practice, regarding social media and other forums of online ministry, was presented to the membership and put out for a year of study. Feedback led to substantive revisions to the draft language in 2016 and a second year of study. Final wording was adopted by the membership in 2017, creating section V. Social Media and Online Ministry.
In all of this the UUMA has tried carefully to respond
to the needs and concerns of its members in order to reflect in Guidelines the
best insights and wisdom for an effective and successful ministry.
United in our call to
serve the spirit of love and justice through the vocation of ministry in the
liberal religious tradition, we, the members of the
Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, covenant with one another:
- To conduct ourselves
with integrity, honoring the trust placed in us;
- To embody in our lives
the values that we proclaim on behalf of our faith;
- To support one another
in collegial respect and care, understanding and honoring the diversity within our
- To hold ourselves accountable
to each other for the competent exercise of our vocation;
- To use our power
constructively and with intention, mindful of our potential unconsciously to perpetuate
systems of oppression;
- To seek justice and
right relations according to our evolving collective wisdom, and to refrain from all abuse or exploitation;
- To cultivate practices
of deepening awareness, understanding, humility, and commitment to our
- To labor earnestly
together for the well being of our communities and the progress of Unitarian Universalism.
Through fidelity to this covenant and our Code of
Professional Conduct, we aspire to grow in wholeness, and bring hope and
healing to the world.
will be honest and diligent in my work to fulfill the offices of ministry
according to the stipulations of my call or employment and my best professional
will not misappropriate the money or property of the congregations, agencies or
enterprises I serve, or of their members, staff or clients.
the limitations of law, I will respect the confidentiality of private
communications from those to whom I minister.
will honor the intellectual property of others, assuring that appropriate
attribution is given to avoid intentionally creating the impression that the
work of others is my own.
will demonstrate respect and compassion without regard to race, color, class,
sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, physical or mental ability or
ethnicity. Such equitable treatment
shall be extended to all to whom I minister regardless of position in the
organization, including to those who may disagree with me.
will work to confront attitudes and practices of unjust discrimination on the
basis of race, color, class, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age,
physical or mental ability, or ethnicity,
and to challenge them within myself and in individuals, congregations,
and groups I serve.
will make myself a candidate for a pulpit or other position of ministry only
with serious intent, and I will observe the established candidating procedures
of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
will stay informed of the latest rules and policies of the UUA’s Ministerial
will not engage in public words or actions that degrade the vocation of
ministry, or diminish among us the esteem of our calling.
will not engage in sexual contact, sexualized behavior or a sexual relationship with any person I serve as a minister.
Expectations of Conduct
will share and support the concerns of the Unitarian Universalist Minister’s
Association, especially as reflected in the UUMA Covenant, Code and Standards.
Within the limitations of law, I will respect confidences given me by
colleagues and expect them to respect mine.
will not speak scornfully or in derogation of any colleague in public. In any private conversation concerning a
colleague, I will speak responsibly and temperately. I will not solicit or encourage negative
comments about a colleague or their ministry.
Expectations of Conduct apply to all forms of public or private media including
electronic and internet communications.
will seek consultation among my colleagues practicing the diverse forms of
parish-based and community-based ministry within the same geographical area, so
that we may develop a mutually agreed Letter of Understanding regarding our
several roles and the ways in which these may and may not intersect.
I am not a settled, interim or consulting minister of a congregation served by
a colleague, I will not offer, and will not accept requests for, ministerial
services or public leadership from members of that congregation, or in that
congregational context, unless I have a covenant with or until I have consulted
with the minister serving there.
my colleague asks me to refrain from performing such service or appearing in a
leadership capacity, I will comply.
emergency circumstances make advance consultation impossible, I will render only
limited service, and consult with my colleague at the earliest possible
I have occasion to perform ministerial or leadership functions, apart from
routine contact with members or clients of my current ministry, in contexts
where colleagues are serving, I will make an effort to communicate with those
colleagues, and to respect their professional prerogatives and be responsive to
of a congregation hosting District or UUA events will be assumed to have
invited colleagues to appear in leadership capacities at such events.
I am to share the ministry of a congregation with other ministers, I will seek
clear delineation of responsibility, authority, accountability and channels of
communication before responsibilities are assumed. I will thereafter work in cooperation and
consultation with my colleagues, taking care that changing roles and relations
are re-negotiated with clarity, respect and honesty.
will acknowledge the reality of power differences based on defined
responsibilities and authority within congregations, agencies or
enterprises. I will acknowledge the
reality of privilege arising from differences of social location and historical
marginalization. I will exercise the
power of my authority and the privileges of my social location in such a way
that I do not disadvantage my colleagues on the basis of my or their race,
color, class, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, physical or
mental ability or ethnicity.
a supervisor, I will recognize the special responsibility I have to colleagues
and staff who I supervise, and I will work justly and compassionately with the
authority given to me.
a minister in a role supervised by a senior colleague, I will work to support
my colleague's leadership and the success of our shared ministry.
my ministry to a congregation has ended, I will refrain from offering or
performing ministerial services for members of that congregation, except at the
invitation of my incumbent successor colleague(s).
I belong to or attend a congregation served by a colleague, I will honor the
prerogatives of that colleague’s responsibility for leadership in that
congregation, and in all ways seek to support that colleague’s ministry. I will initiate an open and direct
conversation with my colleague(s) in order to create a mutually agreed
covenant, expressed in a Letter of Understanding, about the role I am to play
in the church. If I am a member of a
congregation that I once served, this may include the possibility of absenting
myself from any presence at all. I will
articulate clearly my own hopes and expectations regarding my relationships in
the congregation, and my intention to avoid wielding any undue influence among
the members. I will only participate in
leadership roles that support and benefit the ministry, and at the request and
with the permission of the minister(s).
I will neither listen to nor volunteer criticisms of my colleague(s). As necessary I will describe appropriate
channels of communications to members seeking to express concerns.
I am a settled minister in a congregation having retired or other ministers as
members, I will seek to foster cordial and candid relations with my colleagues
in recognition of the value of their presence in the congregation. I will initiate an open and direct
conversation with my colleague(s) to enter a mutually agreed covenant,
expressed in a Letter of Understanding, about their participation in the life
of the congregation. I will bring any
concerns arising from the relationship my colleague(s) have with the
congregation directly and promptly to the attention of my colleague(s).
I am elected Minister Emeritus/a, I will recognize that this honor sustains a
continuing but changed relationship with the congregation I once served as one
of its ministers. I will initiate an
open and direct conversation with my successor colleague(s) to enter a mutually
agreed covenant, expressed in a Letter of Understanding, about the role I am to
play in the church. My successor
colleague may choose to include the congregation’s board of trustees in this
covenant process. I will honor the
prerogatives of my colleague’s responsibility for leadership, and in all ways
seek to support that colleague’s ministry.
I am a settled minister in a congregation that has elected a Minister
Emeritus/a, I will recognize the meaning of the honor that the congregation
has bestowed, and the significance of the continuing relationship of ministry
it implies. I will initiate an open and
direct conversation with my Emeritus/a colleague(s) to enter a mutually agreed
covenant, expressed in a Letter of Understanding, about their participation in
the life of the congregation. I will
bring any concerns arising from the relationship the Minister Emeritus/a has
with the congregation directly and promptly to that colleague’s attention.
discovery of ministerial misconduct and the healing of congregations, agencies
or enterprises that have experienced such misconduct, take priority over the
expectations of collegial courtesy.
calling attention to any deviation by my colleague(s) from this Code, I will
adhere to the processes described in Accountability, below. So doing will not be regarded as a failure of
The provisions of the Code of Conduct identify
standards of behavior for members of the UUMA.
Violation of these standards by any member is a matter of concern to
other members, and may result in disciplinary actions.
The following procedure is to be followed when a
member of the UUMA becomes concerned about a colleague’s adherence to the code.
In most instances, a member who believes a colleague's
behavior to be inconsistent with the Code of Conduct should express their
concern directly. As an alternative, or
should the direct approach not achieve the desired result, a Chapter Good
Offices Person (GOP) should be consulted.
A GOP is initially neutral, advising the member, and exploring the
possibility of an informal resolution of the concern.
In the event that a Chapter GOP cannot settle a
concern between ministers, the minister or the Chapter GOP will seek advice or
intercession with the Continental GOP.
If the concern is still unresolved, the concerned minister should write
a letter of complaint to the Committee on Ethics and Collegiality (CEC), fully
specifying the nature of the concern making it a formal complaint.
The CEC, working in consultation with the UUMA Board of Trustees’ GOP, will assess the complaint; invite communications
from involved UUMA members; make recommendations toward the resolution of the
complaint; and report to involved UUMA members and to the UUMA Board of Trustees that the complaint:
- has been resolved at this stage, or
- relates to disagreements about Standards that are not
- is without foundation, or
- should become a formal grievance, and be referred to
the UUMA Board of Trustees.
In dealing with complaints against a UUMA member
serving on the staff of the UUA related to actions undertaken in the line of
their duties, the CEC will:
- advocate and practice forbearance;
- consult with the appropriate supervisor at the UUA;
- remain mindful of the complex roles and
responsibilities with congregations, agencies, enterprises and other parties
carried by such members of the UUMA.
When a written complaint is referred by the CEC to the
UUMA President for consideration by the Board of Trustees it becomes a formal
grievance. An action under this process
may also be initiated by the Board of Trustees or the President of the
UUMA. Grievances will be acted upon as
- In their fact-finding, discussion and actions in
response to grievances, the President and members of the Board of Trustees
will be guided by four fundamental principles:
- caring for the persons involved;
- concern for the severity of the issues.
- Consistent with these principles, members of the UUMA
bringing complaints and grievances, or against whom complaints and grievances
have been brought, are assured that collegial confidences will not be disclosed
by members of the CEC or the Board of Trustees, except:
- as mandated by law;
- to prevent a clear and immediate danger to a person or
- where disclosure of a confidence may be required for
defense in a legal action between colleagues;
- if, and only to the extent that, there is a waiver
previously obtained in writing.
- The Board of Trustees shall notify the member in
writing of its intent to act on a grievance at least 30 days prior to its
meeting. The member may respond in
writing to the Board of Trustees and/or attend the meeting in person. The member shall be offered reasonable
expenses to attend the meeting. If an
adverse action is taken, the member may make a final appeal to the next annual
meeting of the UUMA.
- UUMA members shall have full access and full freedom
and right to respond to all evidence cited against them. In addition, they always have the right and
option of advisement by counsel at their own expense, but at no time can they
be represented by counsel in these proceedings.
- The UUMA Board of Trustees' action in response to a
grievance shall be in writing to the members involved, and will be in the form
of one the following actions:
- advice that the grievance is unfounded, or undeserving
of action in which case no public notice shall be made by the UUMA, or
- private caution, professional admonition or formal
reprimand in which case no public notice shall be made by the UUMA, or
- conditional probation, indefinite suspension or
removal from membership in the UUMA.
- Any member against whom an action has been taken may
appeal to a meeting of the membership.
Such appeal must be made by certified mail to the President of the UUMA,
within thirty days of notification and no later than 45 days prior to the next
annual meeting of the UUMA. In such
cases the action of the Board of Trustees shall stand until and unless
overturned by a vote of the UUMA membership.
Unless the action of the Board of Trustees is overturned by the
membership, it shall become the official position of the UUMA, and be binding
on all members. The action of the
membership meeting shall be final.
- If, and only if, an action consisting of probation,
suspension or removal has been taken, and no appeal has been made within thirty
days, or the appeal has been denied, notice of the action by the Board of Trustees shall be given promptly thereafter to the member’s congregation or
other employer and to the Ministry and Professional Leadership Staff Group of
the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Ministerial Fellowship Committee
and the membership of the UUMA.
I. Ministers’ Expectations of Ministers
To seek and to accept ordination to the
Unitarian Universalist ministry is to dedicate oneself to the redemptive power
of religious community in the world as expressed in the unique heritage of the
liberal faith. A minister makes a
vocational commitment to this work in a variety of institutional and relational
Members of a Unitarian Universalist
congregation have freely gathered to become a body of people walking together
in religious community. Congregational polity is central to the life of these
communities. From honored principle, in practice each local congregation is
ultimately and finally self-governing in its institutional authority, as well
as pledged to cooperation and consultation with other member congregations of
the Unitarian Universalist Association.
By the corporate act of call, the members of
the local congregation acknowledge their need for the service of one prepared
by education and personal commitment for the work of ministerial
leadership. They pledge to labor with
the minister in bringing to fruition the promise of the free church, and to
provide for their sustenance. In the
context of both congregational and community-based ministry, the ministerial
call signifies creation of a distinctive partnership in which minister and
congregation alike affirm their intention to share in a religious pilgrimage of
mutual care, joy, forbearance, self-discipline, and a desire to serve the
II. Ministers' Expectations of Institutions They Serve
While the work of ministry is often
challenging, it should be structured in such a way as to be sustainable over
time, and model health, integrity and wholeness. It is in the interest of the ministry as a
whole and the future of the Association that ministers be provided with ample
compensation and benefits, and good working conditions, as specified
below. The UUMA urges its members not to
accept substandard compensation, benefits or working conditions.
The Board of Trustees of the UUMA may find
a congregation or other agency to be in patent violation of right relations
with a minister as described in these Guidelines, and make that finding public.
Recognizing that ministers are called to nourish the health and
wholeness of the communities they serve, and recognizing the fiduciary nature
of our profession, and as stated in our actionable Code of Conduct, ministers
will not engage in sexual contact, sexualized behavior, or a sexual
relationship with any person they serve as a minister. The following are non-actionable best practices drawn from the wisdom of
much research across many religious organizations about what behaviors uphold
healthy religious communities and ministries. In the spirit not of legalism but
of deepening our understanding of loving, just, healthy relationships, these
guidelines point towards truths about the profession of ministry and healthy
ministerial conduct, understanding that no truth names the whole truth or
covers every situation. To that end, ministers should engage in discerning
dialogue with themselves and with their colleagues—to better understand what these best
practices mean in the context of each ministers’ own ministerial setting and in
the context of the collective ministry we all share.
III. Responsibilities and Expectations Among Colleagues
IV. Call, Initiation, and Severance Procedures
V. Social Media and Online Ministry
Social media changes all of the time with application updates, privacy setting changes, and the emergence of new social media platforms. Given its quickly changing nature, any “rules” we might create could be rendered obsolete shortly after their creation. Instead, we suggest you consider the following values and questions when engaging online. As a reminder, our UUMA covenant, guidelines & standards of professional practice all apply to our electronic communications and social media.
We seek to embody the following values as ministers:
- Caring/ Loving
- Bringing people together
- Using our power constructively, mindful of our potential to unconsciously perpetuate systems of oppression
- Justice seeking
- Bearing witness to reality
- Refraining from abuse or exploitation
- Providing leadership
- Being of service
- Being open to new understanding
1. How does this post or comment express my understanding of covenant?
Our UUMA Covenant, Guidelines and Standards of Practice apply to all electronic communications.
- Does this post have implications for my covenant with my colleagues?
- Would I say this if I were speaking face-to-face with another colleague? With a group of colleagues? From the pulpit?
2. How are our Unitarian Universalist values and vision expressed in my communication?
- What kind of conversation am I starting or encouraging?
- Who is this conversation serving?
3. How does what I’m saying reflect on Unitarian Universalism?
As ministers we are always representing Unitarian Universalism. People learn about who we are based on their reading of our individual posts and comments.
- What will someone new to Unitarian Universalism learn from my post?
- If I look at my post or comment as evangelism, where is the good news?
- When we disagree with our institutions, how we communicate our concerns matters. Institutions are made up of people, and how we treat other people online becomes part of the online UU identity. Are my comments towards institutions expressing the values of our Covenant?
4. What is my tone?
Without vocal tone or visual cues to guide us, online comments can easily be misinterpreted. Be mindful that disagreements can escalate quickly on social media. As leaders, we are responsible for managing our own resilience. Consider stepping away from the conversation and coming back to it after a rest.
- Why am I posting? Am I feeling tired, angry, scared?
- If there is conflict, how is my contribution going to de-escalate the situation?
- If I’ve already contributed to this conversation today, would it better to wait 24 hours before adding anything further?
- Would this conversation be better furthered by a phone or face-to-face conversation?
- How will my post draw people into conversation?
5. In what ways am I in relationship with my intended audience?
Ministry happens in relationship, whether online or in person. Be transparent if you have a vested interest in a conversation. Be accountable if you are speaking about other people or institutions.
- If you are posting anonymously, how are you in relationship with your audience?
6. How would I feel if my post or comment were shared beyond the intended audience?
Be sure to understand who will be able to access what is created on any electronic platform. Know the available privacy options and any group covenants. Be mindful that electronic media can always be shared through screen capture: anonymity and privacy cannot be guaranteed.
- Will I be embarrassed if this post appears somewhere else?
7. Would I be uncomfortable if the people I serve read this post?
Be aware that distinctions between public and private are increasingly blurred online, and the nature of online communication is such that a post made in one platform may well show up in another. Understand that our UUMA Covenant covers everything you say online, and your personal communications may end up being read by congregants or others who do not distinguish between personal and professional.
- Within your post, how do you convey when you're speaking for yourself and when you're speaking from the authority and accountability of your role?
8. Does my communication reflect best practices for working with children and youth?
Consider carefully before communicating online with children and youth, accepting friend requests, etc. If your role calls for you to communicate directly with children and youth online, be sure that your organization has a policy stating how this will happen. Be aware that you don’t always know the age of people accessing information: the audience of your posts may include children and youth.
- Would you say this to a child or youth if you were face to face with them?
9. How does my communication support my colleagues’ ministries?
We envision a vibrant network of interconnected ministries that strengthens the reach and impact of Unitarian Universalism. How might our online activity and practice of collegial covenants support this vision?
- How might I covenant with an out-going minister in a way that strengthens Unitarian Universalism as well as my ministry? With other ministers in my area?
- How might working together strengthen the presence of our faith in people's lives?
10. Does my online behavior support clear, covenanted boundaries at the beginning and end of ministries?
Our guidelines call us to establish clear boundaries for healthy transitions. We develop these boundaries in covenant with our predecessors and/or our successors. The nature of the changes will vary depending on the context and the preferences of the colleague continuing in the role. Requested actions might include everything from staying “friends” but not responding to posts by former congregants up to and including de-friending of former congregants. During a ministry, as you develop new platforms for online communication, consider how you will change your use of the platform when you leave your role.
11. Have I taken power dynamics and the nature of systemic oppression into account in this post or comment?
- How do power differentials and identity differences affect my use of social media? How do they impact others?
- Who is missing from this conversation?
- What can I do to make this conversation more inclusive, just and equitable?
If you hesitate—even for a moment!— over the answers to any of these questions or how to embody our values and Covenant, consult a trusted colleague or good officer.
For the Guidance of Ministers
Serving Canadian Congregations
This supplement has
been prepared to reflect the differences in the law and in social benefits
between Canada and the US as they affect ministers entering into agreements
with Canadian congregations.
Although Canadians and
Americans are accustomed to crossing each others’ borders for vacation and
business reasons, and although we seem very familiar to each other, moving to
Canada is still moving to a foreign country.
This means that issues like tax law, although similar in principle, are
different in the particulars.
This means that one
cannot take for granted that issues like housing allowances are treated the
same way, although the net ultimate effect may be the same. Because of the proximity of our two countries
and because many people besides ministers move back and forth, there are
arrangements to facilitate most issues like pensions that are ongoing in
Canada is by American
standards a socialist country which means that there is universal health care
and unemployment insurance. These social
safety nets cost money. The result is
that the standard of living is not as high, however the quality of life for
most people is higher. Attempts to make
direct comparisons between salaries in the US and salaries in Canada are
deceptive. Although Canadian currency is
also based on "a dollar,” each dollar represents a different set of social
choices - different, not necessarily better.
A minister entering
into an agreement with a Canadian congregation will still be considering the
same things - housing, pension, benefits - as in the US. They may have to be arranged a little
differently to produce the best income possible from the package the
congregation is offering. There are many
ways to structure salaries and many individual lifestyles to consider.
Moving to Canada does
mean paperwork, but if undertaken step by step (remember linear thinking) it is
not unduly complicated.
Vyda Ng, Executive Director
Canadian Unitarian Council
400-215 Spadina Ave
Toronto, Ontario, CANADA M5T 2C7
references are to sections in the body of Standards
of Professional Practice.)
General Comment: In Canada, for all secular
purposes such as income tax, the Canada Pension Plan and Unemployment Insurance,
ministers are considered employees. Therefore, both the minister and the
congregation are required to make payments into the plan in amounts determined
on the basis of salary. Note: Unemployment insurance is covered in a compulsory
plan similar to the Canada Pension Plan. Federal and Provincial Income Taxes
are also deducted by the employer.
Section I.B.7.n In Canada we do not have
Districts nor are Canadians officially part of the UUA. This should be read as
“regional and CUC affairs”.
Section I.B.8 As noted above, ministers are
considered as employees for tax purposes. This does not negate the intent of
paragraph 8, but it may impose a level of “standardization”.
Section II.F.1.a Parental leave is mandated
differently in each province. Where parental leave is a relevant issue, any
Letter of Agreement or Contract will have to conform minimally to the laws of
Section II.K.8.d Payout of accrued vacation upon
termination is required by law and is set at 4 percent based on salary earned
from the previous June 30 to the date of termination. Contracting parties may choose to set a higher level of compensation in advance
or through negotiation at time of termination.
Rights and responsibilities at
dismissal are not covered in the current Standards of Professional Practice.
Differences in Canadian and US law make this worth mentioning. Employment law
is significantly different in Canada from that in the US. Ministers who feel
that they might be dismissed or pressured to resign should make sure they know
their rights, not in order to exacerbate the situation or to encourage
litigation but rather to facilitate a fair settlement. Congregations which feel
that they might want to dismiss a minister should also be very aware of the
consequences of taking actions which could be construed as wrongful dismissal.
Before any action is taken, either or both parties should, in addition to using
all UUA resources, consult with the Executive Director of the Canadian
Unitarian Council for general advice about relevant considerations in the
Canada a distinction is drawn between being dismissed for cause and being
dismissed. "Cause” is a term of art and in general means particularly
egregious behavior such as repeated drunkenness in the pulpit, failure to
conduct services with no notice given or molestation of children in the church
school. In situations where there is clearly cause, no benefits of any kind and
no salary need be paid after the date of dismissal. Where "cause” in the
legal sense cannot be established it may be that longer benefits than those
described as normal in the US will have to be paid. In either case the minister
is entitled to be treated fairly, to know the details of the charges and to
have an opportunity to reply. Failure to proceed fairly can result in a review
by the courts. Separation of church and state is not observed rigidly in
Canada, and there are an increasing number of cases where courts have concluded
that ministers were not treated fairly.
Section II.K.10.n Depending on the terms of the
minister’s agreement with the congregation a financial equivalent to the
accrued sabbatical leave might be required. It could also be part of a
Section II.0.2 Revenue Canada does not require
that housing allowances be the subject of a vote. The housing allowance for a
minister is the fair market rental value of the minister’s accommodations,
whether rented or owned. The decision about what this amount should be is a personal
matter for the minister to determine after consulting local real estate people
or looking at the cost for comparable accommodations. Therefore, in Canada the
housing allowance should not be listed separately. When the minister has
decided on the appropriate amount, the person responsible for producing the
paychecks should be informed so that income tax will only be withheld on salary
minus the amount of the housing allowance. There is a government form to be
completed by the congregation stipulating the amount set aside for Housing
Section II.0.3 There are, at the present time,
no Unitarian parsonages in Canada.
Section II.P.1 Ministers serving in Canada may
continue in the UUA pension plan. The CUC has letters on file confirming this.
Ministers may also continue in the UUMA disability plan in order to avoid
paying tax on the proceeds in the event of collecting under the plan. The cost
should be paid by the minister rather than the congregation. Health insurance
is universal in Canada. In some provinces it is free; in others there is a
small charge. This insurance covers virtually all medical situations, though
does not usually provide drug benefits, alternate therapies or disability.
Supplemental insurance is available at reasonable cost. Some congregations
include supplemental and disability insurance as part of their package.
Section II.Q.1 Car allowances for ministers are
treated like housing allowances. There is discretion for the minister to
determine the amount to be claimed. For this reason car allowances should not
be listed separately but should be included in the salary.
Section III.D.3 In Canada, employers are
generally required to provide benefits to employees working half time (20
hours/week) or more. Benefit packages for less time can are a matter for negotiation
with the congregation.
Section IV.C.1 and IV.D.1 A non-Canadian minister coming
to Canada faces immigration challenges. The congregation and minister will be
required to provide considerable additional documentation beyond the Letter of
Agreement. Further, spouses and children of the ministers are not automatically
granted visas or work permits. Ministers considering such a move are urged to
contact the CUC early in the discussion process. Though many attempts have been
made to create a publication covering immigration, changing regulations and even
attitudes of individual officials make a complete and straightforward manual
impossible. Colleagues who have in recent years been through the process can
provide valuable first person insight. They underline that while time
consuming, the immigration process to Canada is comprehensible and fairly
straightforward. The key issues are establishing a time-line/schedule well in
advance and following through step-by-step in the process. Legal assistance may
be necessary; consult with the congregation, the CUC, and/or the UUA.