The UUMA Guidelines
TABLE OF CONTENTS (click here for a PDF version)
A. Candidating for Congregational Ministry
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.
Guidelines contains several documents:
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 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" document.
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 Practice.
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 2018 the membership voted to change the UUMA Bylaws such that the Board of Trustees could propose amendments for immediate adoption to these Guidelines. Upon approval of this bylaw, the Ethical Standards of the Code of Conduct and Section II.G 2 Personal or Romantic Relationship were amended to bring alignment to the two sections regarding expectations around sexual boundaries.
In 2019 Section I.C.5 of the Standards of Professional Practice was added to reflect the learning nature of the ministry and coincided a UUA bylaw revision changing the language from Final Fellowship to Full Fellowship. The following articles of section I.C were renumbered to reflect this addition.
In 2020, the Annual Meeting voted to adopt revisions to the Code of Conduct and Standards of Professional Practice presented by the Ethics and Accountability Guidelines Committees. The Ethics committee was charged with eliminating gaps and inconsistencies in our ethical standards and clarifying and strengthening our standards against behaviors that perpetuate white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, and other systems and structures of oppression. The Accountability Committee was charged with developing a clear, transparent, and accessible process of accountability and restoration for colleagues who have a covenantal breach with another colleague or colleagues. Also added to the Expectations of Conduct was an invitation to include partners in conversations around letters of understanding when participating in a colleague’s congregation.
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:
1. All members of the UUMA are in covenant together. Our systems of accountability strive to restore this covenant when it is broken, to protect the integrity of this covenant, promote public safety, and work toward healing the person(s) who is harmed. Our core values in this system of accountability are justice, integrity, and healing.
A. When a member of the UUMA is harmed by a violation of our code of conduct by another member of the UUMA, they should contact a Good Officer with the appropriate specialty. They can contact any of these officers listed by the UUMA. The Good Officer will discuss the issue with the member, be a support/coach to the member, and help the member decide how to proceed. The Good Officer with the appropriate specialty will be trained in trauma-informed care, ARAOMC, and be prepared to guide the member through how and where to report, seek redress, and find healing. The Good Officer with appropriate specialty will file a simple report of the contact with the UUMA Executive Team. If the member declines to proceed the report must so note and acknowledge that in the future the member may reverse this decision and choose to proceed.
B. A minister who has been identified as breaking covenant (including if they themselves realize they have erred) may contact Good Officer with right relations specialty to assist them in restoring covenant. A minister who so requests will be provided coaching to repair a breach, especially but not only involving power and/or identity, and thus reduce the risk of re-traumatizing another member.
C. Sometimes, the Good Officer with appropriate specialty will find that no real violation of our code has happened and can help the member understand the code more fully and/or provide a more pastoral response. A member can ask the UUMA Accountability Coordinator(s) to review the decision that the code has not be violated, and that person may in turn may ask the Good Officer, or another, to proceed with remedies, or may affirm the decision. The Coordinator(s) and Good Officer should lean toward remedy. If a minister who has been identified as violating the code believes that, in fact, no violation of the covenant has occurred, they are nonetheless well served by participating in the process to clear up misunderstandings and move toward healing. Rights for a member to appeal a finding are included in the remedies themselves, listed below.
A. Stop the Violation. The Good Officer with the appropriate specialty may instruct another minister to stop the violation of the code of conduct, including to cease a behavior and/or to refrain from any communication with another member immediately, pending steps at repair outlined below. This instruction must be followed. A failure to follow this instruction constitutes egregious misconduct and necessitates a report to the UUA Office of Ethics and Safety. In some cases, if an instruction to stop the harm is not followed, the Good Officer with the appropriate specialty may request the UUMA Accountability Coordinator(s) to contact, directly, and/or through UUA or CUC Congregational Life staff, the chair of the governing board of the ministry setting and request immediate action to intervene. The minister who is thus instructed may appeal, in writing, this instruction to the UUMA Accountability Coordinator(s), who may affirm, amend, or overturn the instruction, or remand the matter back to the Good Officer with the appropriate specialty.
07/2020I. 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 forms.
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 common good.
G. Personal or Romantic Relationships
1. It is essential that if expectations for congregational pledging or agency fundraising exist, they be stated and clarified during the candidating process, since these expectations will necessarily be part of the minister’s financial consideration.
a. Some ministers pledge to give as much as do people in similar circumstances.
2. Unless it is otherwise agreed, the minister’s contribution is to be handled with the same confidentiality as that of other people.
I. Committees on Ministry and Ministerial Relations Committees
1. A Ministerial Relations Committee serves as support and counsel to a minister, and as a communication channel between the minister and the congregation or agency.
2. A Committee on Ministry pays attention to the ministry of the congregation in the broad sense -- how well the congregation is ministering to its members, the surrounding community, and the world -- its professional ministers(s) being only part of the effort.
3. In either case, committee members should have the confidence of the minister(s) and the congregation or agency.
J. Review and Evaluation
1. It is the minister’s responsibility to assess their own abilities, utilizing the various tools and methods available through the UUA or other resources, and to continue their professional development. The minister should also be prepared to assist congregations, agencies and enterprises they serve in developing strengths and competencies within the institution and in its leaders.
2. Congregations, agencies and enterprises use varying mechanisms for review. Each minister and institution must seek the means best suited to their situation, potentially including:
a. Ministerial Fellowship Committee renewal process;
3. Mutual accountability between laity and ministers for the health and well-being of the institution’s ministry is an essential purpose of review and evaluation. Ministers achieve greater accountability when there are regular reviews of their performance as measured by established goals, and reviews of their Letters of Agreement or contracts, including compensation. Congregations achieve greater accountability when ministers are included in the regular review of institutional performance, goals, and action plans. Such shared review can benefit the personal and professional growth of the minister, give strength and a sense of direction to the congregation or agency, and broaden areas of communication and cooperation between them.
1. The tasks of ministry are too numerous for one individual to fulfill. Successful ministry requires the effective use of time by a minister. Ministers will determine the emphases of their ministries, and the weekly and annual structure of their time, on the basis of their interests and skills, as well as the needs of the people and institutions they serve and the demands of love and justice in the world.
2. Ministers are responsible for monitoring the boundaries of their work and energy, and for educating those they serve as to the structures of time that best protect their well-being and the quality of their ministry. In general a minister should be free to decide the organization and priorities of their own time, and consult with the governing body of congregations and agencies and/or their supervisors around these matters.
3. Provisions regarding professional service, continuing education, General Assembly, vacation, planning and study leave, and sabbatical should be set forth in the minister’s Letter of Agreement or contract.
4. Various practices of deepening awareness, understanding, humility, and commitment to one’s ideals are essential to the religious life. Time devoted to these practices is a necessary part of ministerial work.
5. Ministers must establish clear guidance about the best ways for staff, congregational leaders and those they serve to reach them in ordinary circumstances or in case of emergencies.
6. The Work Week in a Congregation
a. Full-time ministry consists of no more than an average of 48 hours or 12 working units (morning, afternoon or evening) per week. Part-time ministries take a variety of forms (as described Section 3d). Care should be taken to specify the expectations of time for all ministries. Included in this figure should be time for study and personal reflection, as well as opportunities for access to the minister. Attendance at meetings relevant to the congregation’s programs is part of the minister’s working week. A minister should be expected to spend no more than three nights per week involved in parish-related activities.
7. Professional Service, Continuing Education & General Assembly
a. Professional Service: Ministers are often called upon to offer professional service in settings outside their congregation, agency, or enterprise. These invitations may include:
1. Other congregations
b. Continuing Education: Ministers are responsible for the ongoing development of their skills and competencies through a continuing education plan.
c. Ministers and congregational leadership must jointly determine whether attendance at District Meetings and UUA General Assembly constitutes either:
1. A meeting relevant to the congregation’s program, and is considered normal working time, or
d. Ministers should accept invitations for Professional Service and plan Continuing Education in consultation with their institutional leadership. Up to four weeks per year should be allowed for these activities.
a. The minister shall be allowed no less than four weeks of vacation each year.
9. Planning and Study Leave
a. The minister shall be allowed no less than four weeks each year for planning, study, and preparation for upcoming ministerial activities.
10. Sabbatical leave is an investment that the congregation, agency or enterprise makes in the future of a ministry. Sabbatical leave is to be used for the minister’s professional development, and is expected to benefit the institution and/or the movement.
a. The minister accrues one month of sabbatical leave each year, subject to the other conditions set forth in this section.
1. Each minister should have a suitable, furnished, sound-proofed, private office at the church, agency or enterprise or such other building as may be appropriate.
2. The minister may choose to conduct certain elements of their ministry from home.
3. It is wise for the minister to ensure that someone else is present in the building while meeting with individuals.
4. Secretarial support is an essential need for a minister; the ministry will be less effective to the extent that a minister is expected to perform secretarial duties routinely.
5. The minister should not be expected to perform custodial duties on a routine basis.
M. Staff Relationships
N. Ministerial Compensation
1. Members of the UUMA support one another in expecting just compensation for professional services. The UUMA endorses the Fair Compensation Guidelines of the UUA, including recommended benefits as minimum standards.
2. The minister in a multiple staff congregation, agency or enterprise who has primary responsibility for the general direction and ministry of the institution should receive compensation commensurate with this larger and particularly sensitive responsibility.
3. A scale of fees for ministerial services, such as weddings, memorial services and supply preaching, will be maintained by the UUMA Board of Trustees. Revisions to this scale will be periodically presented by the Board of Trustees for review and adoption by the membership.
4. The annual process of determining ministerial compensation should be conducted with discretion and dignity. Budgetary deficits should not, except as a last resort, be covered by decreasing the minister’s agreed-upon compensation.
5. Any overt linkage of ministerial compensation to new or increased pledges and contributions should be avoided, as it may distort the minister’s relationship with the congregation and their commitment to serve people regardless of economic status.
1. Wherever possible and feasible, the minister should be allowed to select their own housing, and the privacy of that residence should be respected.
2. In the U.S., part of a minister’s total compensation is a tax-exempt housing allowance, as defined by the I.R.S. It is best for the amount to be established by an annual vote of the board or congregation.
3. If a parsonage exists and the minister chooses to live there, certain understandings should be clearly established:
a. how and by whom routine maintenance is to be performed;
P. Other Benefits
1. Each congregation, agency or enterprise should provide the minister with benefits commensurate with the recommendations of the UUA Compensation Guidelines. These should include health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, pension and contribution in lieu of employer’s FICA. The UUA Contributory Pension Plan is currently available through the Association. However, ministers may be enrolled in other pension plans.
2. Because personal situations vary, benefit packages should be structured to reflect the needs of individual ministers.
3. In the event of disability, payments for salary and housing, contribution in lieu of FICA, insurance premiums, and pension contributions ought to be continued for six months or until disability insurance begins, if sooner.
4. Benefits for the minister and for all employees should appear in a budgetary category separate from salaries. Unless otherwise required, these should be paid directly by the congregation, agency or enterprise.
5. Beyond traditional honoraria, ministers should be cautious about the propriety of accepting personal gifts. Care should be taken to avoid the appearance or reality of exploitation or undue influence.
Q. Professional Expenses
1. It is the responsibility of the congregation or agency to provide for the expenses incurred in performance of its ministry. Ministers should be fully reimbursed for such expenses incurred in the course of their work. Funds sufficient for these expenses should be budgeted in a category separate from both salary and benefits.
2. Funds designated as professional allowances should be spent within broad categories. Such categories may include, but are not limited to: Books, periodicals, meetings, conferences, continuing education, hospitality, equipment, computers, software, communications technology, travel, transportation and child care related to professional travel.
3. For all such expenditures, the minister should present an itemized account for reimbursement.
4. The minimum conferences a minister may wish to attend include General Assembly, district annual meetings, ministerial gatherings and institutes at local, district and continental levels. All expenses should be paid out of professional expenses provided by the congregation, agency or enterprise for attendance at these events.
1. The goals of ministry are rarely achieved through isolated endeavor. Ministers may find themselves:
a. serving as colleagues in the same congregation, agency or enterprise;
2. Congregations, agencies or enterprises benefit when ministers relate to each other in ways that model:
a. self and systems awareness;
3. Congregations, agencies or enterprises suffer when ministers relate to each other in ways that foster:
a. ambiguity of roles;
4. Collegial relationships are expected to be professionally sensitive, respectful, and supportive. It is beneficial to collegial relationships for all members of the UUMA to attend chapter and cluster meetings and to welcome each other warmly at these gatherings.
a. Life Members and other retired ministers are appreciated at chapter and cluster events as they choose to participate.
5. Any minister who joins or participates in a congregation, agency or enterprise other than the one they serve, should recognize the authority other members may yield to them and exercise such influence cautiously and only as it supports the work of the current minister(s).
B. Ministers in Multiple Staff Settings
C. Community Ministers
1. Community Ministers are urged formally to affiliate with a congregation in order to ground themselves in the support and accountability of a Unitarian Universalist covenantal community.
2. In congregations served by a Parish Minister, the Community Minister should initiate the application for affiliation through that colleague. Ministers serving congregations have a collegial obligation to encourage the congregation to prepare a process through which to respond to applications for affiliation from community ministers. In the absence of this process, congregational ministers should respond with thoughtful consideration to requests for affiliation.
3. Where the congregation is served by a Parish Minister, such affiliation should be based upon mutual respect and a clear understanding between the Parish Minister(s) and the Community Minister(s) of their expectations of one another, expressed in a Letter of Understanding which should be reviewed by the ministers periodically.
4. Community Ministers seeking to affiliate with a congregation not currently served by a minister should make their application through the congregation’s governing body.
5. Affiliations established between a Community Minister and a congregation should be expressed in a Letter of Affiliation specifying:
a. financial support, if any;
6. An affiliation established between a Community Minister and a congregation endures beyond the tenure of any minister of that congregation, and should be made known to any future interim minister and ministerial candidates.
7. All ministers shall respect the work of any Community Minister who is a member of the congregation that they serve regardless of whether the Community Minister affiliates with that congregation or not.
8. All ministers should keep Community Ministers apprised of actions they take that may bear on the work of the Community Ministers.
9. Community Ministers shall respect the integrity of the relationship between members of a congregation served by a colleague and that colleague. Parish Ministers shall respect the integrity of the relationship community ministers have with the individuals they engage in their ministries. Within the limits of professional confidentiality, if any minister has occasion to offer ministerial services to someone known or discovered to be in a professional relationship with a colleague, they should notify that minister about that occasion.
10. Ministers serving nearby congregations should recognize the challenges that community ministers may confront in making collegial connections and help facilitate those connections when possible. Community ministers and their colleagues all benefit from when community ministers attend UUMA chapter and cluster meetings and cultivate collegial connections.
D. Part-Time Ministers
1. Congregations, agencies or enterprises may call or hire a minister to serve alone in a part-time position. Congregations, agencies or enterprises seeking additional ministry may create a part-time ministry position in addition to existing full or part-time ministries.
2. Part-time Ministers are entitled to all protections, rights and courtesies, and are bound by all collegial expectations, as defined in the UUMA Covenant, Code of Professional Practice and in these Standards.
3. Financial support for the part-time ministry should reflect proportionally the full-time UUA Compensation and Benefit Standards and paid time off.
4. The responsibilities of a part-time minister should be described fully and carefully in writing at the time of hire or call.
5. These agreements should call for a specific amount of the minister’s time to be given to the congregation, agency or enterprise including time for study, reflection, and planning for institutional crises. To the extent possible, working days and hours should be specified and respected by the institution, the part time minister and any other ministers serving the institution. Ministers should not be expected to attend meetings or events scheduled outside of agreed working hours.
6. The agreement should also address the following issues:
a. The part-time minister cannot be expected to do all that a full-time minister does. A clear division of responsibility should be maintained and regularly renegotiated and affirmed, between the part-time minister, institutional leadership, and any other ministers serving the congregation, agency or enterprise.
7. Any service to a second congregation or other employment should be discussed in advance with institutional leadership and any other ministers serving the congregation, agency or enterprise, along with any expectations the institution may have concerning the nature of further employment.
8. If the minister understands the part-time ministry as a step towards a full-time position, this expectation should be described in writing along with the necessary conditions, and a timetable for renegotiating the agreement should be spelled out.
9. If either the minister or the congregation, agency or enterprise does not wish the part-time minister to be a candidate for its full-time ministry position in the future, this should be stated clearly at the time of call or hire.
E. Interim Ministers
1. All ministers should respect the unique expertise of Interim Ministers, be supportive of their work, and recognize the special challenges of the period of transition.
2. Interim Ministers are entitled to all protections, rights and courtesies, and are bound by collegial expectations defined in the Covenant, Code and Standards of the UUMA.
3. There are relationships between ministers and congregations, agencies and enterprises that endure beyond the tenure of any particular minister. Interim Ministers are expected to acknowledge and respect these relationships and not disrupt them arbitrarily. Colleagues in enduring relationships with congregations in transition are expected to support the work of the Interim Minister. These enduring relationships include:
a. Emeritus status as voted by the congregation;
4. There are other ministerial relationships that are contractual and may not be enduring in nature.
5. When interim ministers contemplate taking actions that will affect any of these relationships or bring them under congregational scrutiny they are expected to abide by any Letters of Agreement or contracts in effect and encouraged to seek guidance from chapter Good Officers. In addition, an interim minister may consult with the District Executive and the UUA Transitions Office.
1. Ministers and students preparing for the ministry have much to offer each other in comradeship, encouragement and the exchange of ideas and experience. Discernment of fitness for ministry, and the nurture, support and training of future of colleagues are responsibilities of all ministers.
2. It is important that students become acquainted with the culture of Unitarian Universalism by being involved in the life of one or more congregations, interning at a Unitarian Universalist setting and attending UUMA Chapter Meetings and, if possible, UUA General Assembly.
3. It is important as well for UUMA members to behave toward students in candidate status with collegial respect, openness and hospitality, including at chapter meetings.
4. Ministers should be careful not to exploit their greater power relative to students, including interns.
5. Students in candidate status, who become members of the UUMA, are responsible for making themselves familiar with and abiding by the provisions of the UUMA Covenant, Code and Standards. This represents a change in role and status that will alter the nature of the students’ relationships with both lay people and ministerial colleagues.
6. Part of preparation for ministry entails understanding and respect for the demands and constraints on a working minister’s time.
G. Departing Ministers
1. In general, the future well-being of a congregation, agency or enterprise is best assured by the fully effective departure from leadership of any minister whose service to that institution has ended.
2. Congregations are especially vulnerable in periods of ministerial transition. Therefore, departing ministers should exercise particular care to minimize their influence and presence within the congregation, agency or enterprise and their interactions with members, staff and clients during times of transition.
3. There should be no intentional or ministerial contact between a departing minister and members, staff or clients of congregations, agencies or enterprises they have served until there can be a covenant expressed in a Letter of Understanding between predecessor and subsequent ministers. In those uncommon cases where personal or familial relationships persist, care should be taken to assure that those relationships do not have a negative impact on the institution or on subsequent ministries.
4. Experience has shown that over the long term a congregation and a previous minister may benefit from that minister’s continuing participation as a member of the congregation after their professional leadership to that community has ended. Predecessor and subsequent colleagues should adopt covenants expressed in a Letter of Understanding defining the nature and limits of this participation.
5. Unless the departed minister chooses to suspend all contact and participation in the congregation during the period of an interim ministry, the Letter of Agreement with the Interim Minister must be understood to be limited only to the period of the interim ministry. It is the responsibility of both parties to make it known to the congregation that the agreement is limited and that the provisions of the agreement with subsequent colleagues may be significantly different.
6. The provisions of this covenant should be arrived at through conversation and negotiation with an understanding that the well-being of the congregation and the new ministry is of primary importance. When disagreements persist, Good Offices may be employed, but ultimately the judgment of the new minister shall prevail. It is the responsibility of the involved ministers to inform the congregation of this covenant.
7. If either a predecessor or successor minister believes that this covenant is not being effectively maintained, then they should engage their colleague and seek reaffirmation or renegotiation of that covenant with consideration for the delicacy of the current minister’s role. Should this effort not resolve the concern, Good Offices should be consulted, and with the recommendation of the Good Officer the matter may be referred to the Committee on Ethics and Collegiality.
8. A departing minister may be expected to discontinue all contact with the congregation, agency or enterprise, its members and staff if:
a. the former ministry involved established misconduct;
9. It is good practice for a minister to prepare family members to understand that a change in the minister’s relationship with a congregation, agency or enterprise may affect them all, and may mean the end of ties that family members may have with that institution. It is politically wise and collegially generous for a successor minister to reach out pastorally to the family of the predecessor minister if they remain in the congregation or community.
10. When a minister is no longer a member of the UUMA, and is no longer bound by the Code of Professional Practice, the nature of the previous professional relationship with the people of a congregation or the clients of an agency or enterprise should not be exploited in the solicitation or conduct of their subsequent employment.
11. When a minister leaves a congregation for community ministry, they should not solicit members or presume upon a relationship they had with their former congregation until they have an opportunity to establish a covenant with the new minister of that congregation. In the absence of a new minister the covenant should be established with the leadership of the governing body of the congregation.
12. In all cases, ministers must continue to respect the confidences granted and the information about individuals gained in congregations, agencies or enterprises they once served.
H. Ministers Emeritus/a
1. Emeritus/a status may be granted by vote of a congregation, or agency leadership, at the completion of a minister’s long and faithful service in that setting. Typically, the Minister Emeritus/a is entitled to a circumscribed continuing place in the life of the congregation or agency, although the minister may go on to serve in other positions elsewhere.
2. Relationships between congregations or agencies and their Ministers Emeriti/ae vary in expectation and practice. These relationships may include some or all of the following:
a. a gift from the congregation;
3. The nature of the relationship should be carefully considered and agreed upon in writing by the congregation or agency and the minister. This agreement should be included in the Declaration of Emeritus/a status voted by the congregation or agency. This Declaration should be made known to the congregation or agency, as well as to any future ministerial candidates.
4. The role of Minister Emeritus/a must be exercised in such a way as to support the well-being of the congregation and the success of future ministers.
5. All expectations in the Code of Professional Conduct and the section of the Standards regarding "Departing Ministers” apply to Ministers Emeriti/ae, except as specified in the Declaration granting Emeritus/a status. The declaration, however, cannot over-ride the expectation of a covenant, expressed in a Letter of Understanding, with any successor colleague.
IV. Call, Initiation, and Severance Procedures
A. Candidating for Congregational Ministry
1. The UUMA supports the settlement procedures described in the UUA Handbooks on Ministerial Settlement and on Interim and Consulting Ministries, and calls upon our members to abide by them.
2. The UUMA endorses the UUA policy of non-discrimination in employment. Ministers should expect congregations not to discriminate on account of race, color, class, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, mental and physical ability, national origin or ethnicity, except for the promotion of diversity when choosing among well-qualified candidates.
3. Ministers in search should expect the leaders of a congregation to have developed among members an explicit sense of common direction before search begins. Attempts to use pre-candidating and candidating procedures as a device for dealing with divisions among the members of a congregation are unfair to the candidate and may even seriously damage their career as well as the congregation.
4. Ministers in search should be candid in presenting themselves, past problems and achievements, and the reasons for wanting to serve a new congregation. They should expect the congregation to be equally forthright in its presentation to candidates and potential candidates. Truthfulness is particularly important in the following matters: resources, number of members, financial position and activities, past problems and achievements. The congregation should be completely candid with reference to the previous minister’s departure. The candidate should be equally candid.
5. When a minister has accepted a search committee’s invitation to participate in a pre-candidating weekend, that pre-candidate is understood to have a commitment to appear in the neutral pulpit as arranged, regardless of the offers they may have received from, or preferences they may feel for, other congregations. At a minimum, if the pre-candidate cancels their scheduled appearance, they are obligated to arrange for, and compensate, a substitute preacher. If the pre-candidating weekend is canceled by the search committee, it is that committee’s responsibility to arrange for the filling of the neutral pulpit.
6. Candidates should expect the congregation to be clear about their needs, and resources for the provision of financial support and supportive assistance for the work of ministry. Candidates should be prepared to discuss their financial needs and expectations and how their compensation package should be structured.
7. Substantial accord on major issues relative to the Letter of Agreement should precede the candidating week.
8. Before accepting a position in a congregation, agency or enterprise with more than one minister, a candidate should engage in discussion with colleagues who will work together, giving careful thought to lines of authority and responsibility. These structures should be well articulated.
9. When another minister is being called, a minister continuing to serve in a multi-minister congregation, agency or enterprise should expect to be consulted by the Search Committee, or in some circumstances to serve on it.
10. The minister’s spouse or partner should be present for at least a part of the candidating period. The congregation should assume all financial commitments related to this visit.
11. During the candidating week, time should be available for connections with UUMA colleagues. Members of the Search Committee should not participate in such events.
B. Moving Expenses Associated with Congregational Ministry
1. The size and resources of our congregations vary, as do the needs of ministers and their families when the expenses of the minister’s move to a new location must be met. Of greatest importance is that any agreement reached with the newly called minister be written in detail to avoid possible hurt and confusion at the onset of a ministry, especially since it is not uncommon for changes in budget and congregational officers to occur between the time a minister is called and the time when they actually move.
2. A newly called minister should expect a detailed written agreement regarding moving expenses. This should be negotiated before the candidating week takes place. Items to be noted should include:
a. total amount budgeted by the congregation for moving expenses;
C. Letter of Agreement as an Expression of Congregational Call
1. The covenant between a minister and a congregation takes the form of an exchange of letters following the vote to call. It is essential that the congregation issue such a Letter of Agreement, and that the minister respond in writing. Items for consideration are extensively covered in the appendices, which should be read with care.
2. The written Letter of Agreement should describe expectations and obligations of congregation and minister, and should be reviewed periodically.
3. The Letter of Agreement should be understood as a commitment of mutual service and support and not as a detailed contractual arrangement. The language in the Letter of Agreement should reflect the dignity of the congregation and the ministry, clearly leaving to the minister wide professional discretion in the exercise of the calling, and at the same time clearly spelling out the kinds of services required and the means of accountability to the congregation.
4. In general the Letter of Agreement will be drawn up by a negotiating team in conversation with the candidate. The candidate may invite the assistance of a Good Offices Person or another colleague in that conversation.
5. In all cases the minister and the appropriate and empowered congregational body should agree to the terms of the Letter of Agreement before the congregation's call to service is issued or accepted.
6. The congregation’s call to service, as expressed in the Letter of Agreement, can only be terminated by a subsequent vote of the congregation, according to its by-laws, or by the resignation of the minister.
D. Contract as Employment Agreement
1. Congregations, agencies, and enterprises may enter into relationships of ministry that do not constitute a covenant of call. These employment agreements take the form of a contract between the minister and the governing body of the institution establishing the rites and functions normally associated with ministry.
2. Contracts should specify expectations and obligations of the minister and the institution, as covered in Section II, Ministers Expectations of Institutions They Serve; including (but not limited to)
3. If the minister understands the contract ministry as a step towards a called position in the congregation, this expectation should be described in writing along with all necessary conditions for that change.
4. The contractual employment of a minister can be terminated by:
a. expiration of the established duration of the ministry;
E. Initiation of Congregational Ministry
1. The minister should work with the governing body and the search committee to identify a process of communication for that fosters realistic mutual expectations for the initiation of the new ministry.
2. The minister, the governing body and the search committee should decide on a time for the search committee to celebrate and disband, and what continuing role the members of the search committee may have in facilitating the new minister’s settlement.
F. Departure from Congregational Ministry
1. The minister should relate in confidence to a responsible congregational official (usually the president or a chair of the Committee on Ministry or the Ministerial Relations Committee) when the minister has accepted an invitation to precandidate in another congregation or agency, or when a firm date for retirement or resignation has been decided.
2. The governing body should be informed of the minister’s decision to candidate for another position, or when a minister's decision to retire or resign is to be made public.
3. Upon acceptance of the call from another congregation or agency, the minister and governing body should confer with regard to the most constructive manner of informing the congregation.
4. A date for the end of active ministry in the congregation or agency should be agreed upon by the minister and governing body. Until that date, the minister can (and often should) help the leaders to prepare for the vacancy in the ministry. This may include educating members about interim, candidating and settlement procedures, including the importance of early consultations between representatives of the congregation and the District Executive, the Ministerial Settlement Representative and the Transitions Office. However, departing ministers must take no direct role in structuring the search process.
5. It is generally inadvisable for any minister to suggest or comment on candidates to serve as successor. If a congregation, and its minister, agree to engage in succession planning, this must occur before the timing of the minister’s departure is shared.
G. Dismissal and Negotiated Resignation
1. The following procedure is designed primarily for congregational settings. However, some of these provisions may usefully be applied by ministers departing from other agencies or enterprises.
2. When conflict in the congregation, agency or enterprise, reaches a significant level of severity, ministers should consult with Good Offices and draw upon the resources of the UUA and its field staff.
3. When a settlement seems to be in imminent danger of ending because of discord, the minister and the congregation, agency or enterprise, may need to choose between a vote to dismiss or negotiating a resignation. While it may, in some instances, be to the benefit of the institution to go through a painful process of a vote to terminate, often the interests of both the institution and the minister are better served by negotiating the minister’s resignation. Such a decision and the ensuing negotiations will benefit from the advice of Good Offices and the District Executive, each attempting to facilitate a solution that serves the interests of all parties.
4. Ministers should strive to end their tenure of leadership in a congregation, agency or enterprise, in such a way as to protect the well-being of the institution, and not contribute to needless polarization within it.
5. In the event of a negotiated resignation, unless otherwise provided in the Letter of Agreement, salary, parsonage use or housing allowance, and benefits, although not professional expenses, are expected to continue at the same level for the longer of three months or one month for each full year of service up to ten months from the date of a negotiated resignation, or until the minister has found another position, if sooner. Minimal contractual obligations should apply in the case of criminal malfeasance or of an acknowledged violation of the Code of Professional Conduct directly injuring the involved institution.
6. Although a Letter of Agreement may call for a specified period for notice of resignation, the minister and governing body may agree to an earlier cessation of ministerial activities while the minister is still receiving compensation and benefits.
7. In negotiating a resignation, ministers should not propose or accept an arrangement whereby the terms may not be disclosed.
8. When the future of the ministry is to be submitted to a vote of the congregation, ministers should be aware of the provisions of congregational bylaws and their Letter of Agreement, and insist that these be followed.
9. Following a vote to dismiss, the minister should withdraw from all active participation in the congregation, agency or enterprise for the rest of the severance period.
10. In the event of dismissal the minister should expect any accrued vacation to be compensated in the financial equivalent, but the minister should not expect any accrued sabbatical leave to be compensated.
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:
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.
2. How are our Unitarian Universalist values and vision expressed in my communication?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
8. Does my communication reflect best practices for working with children and youth?
9. How does my communication support my colleagues’ ministries?
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?
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.
Ministers must not engage in bullying or emotional abuse of colleagues, staff, congregants or anyone else they serve. This may include, but is not limited to, a pattern of:
Colleagues need to be sensitive to cultural differences in expression. Expressing emotions or raising one’s voice is not in and of itself bullying or emotional abuse. Colleagues also should be sensitive to the fact that prior trauma affects how people interact with each other. One person’s loud expression may be a trigger for another person. If we are triggered by an interaction with a colleague, we can contact a Good Offices Person for help in processing the interaction and restoring covenant. Finally, colleagues should also be aware that appropriate use of power by supervisors, which includes (but is not limited to) setting limits for employees, expecting certain levels of performance, and asking for accountability when expectations are not being met, is not considered bullying.
Tokenism in the context in which we practice refers to any superficial gesture, however well-intentioned, of accommodation to the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion of members of underrepresented, historically-marginalized groups. The practice of tokenism may include a sense by a member of the dominant group of fulfilling an ethical mandate, of “doing the right thing”, or of avoiding criticism. Within the context of our ministries, tokenism may appear, for example, in the areas of hiring practices and volunteer recruitment, congregational membership, and programming.
Avoiding tokenism requires ministers to deepen their understanding of the values of promoting such diversity, equity and inclusion.
The following questions may be helpful:
1. When seeking to bring or add diversity to the setting in which I serve, what is my motivation?
2. When hiring or recruiting volunteers, am I considering the candidate’s identity more than their areas of knowledge and expertise?
3. Am I or is the leadership of the setting in which I serve:
4. Am I deepening my understanding that the equitable inclusion of people of diverse identities and from diverse backgrounds:
C. Who is Served by a Minister
In general, the people you “serve” as a minister refers to the individuals or population with whom you interact as their particular professional in a way that creates a differential of power and vulnerability. If you are in a congregation, it means congregants. If you are a pastoral counselor, it means your clients. If you are a professor in an academic institution, it means your students. If you are a community minister, it is whatever population you serve that meets the above criteria. While this provision would allow for a guest minister or an affiliated minister of a congregation to date a congregant, it is strongly advised to consult with the minister or senior minister of that congregation before proceeding. For affiliated ministers, we strongly recommend addressing the appropriateness of dating congregants in an affiliation agreement.
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 peoples’ lives.
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.
(All 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 their jurisdiction.
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 time of 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 Canadian context.
In 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 negotiated settlement.
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 Allowance
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.