Ethics 1

(note: I occasionally reflect on my ethics in a formal way.  You can find those reflections here, and my most up to date Personal Code of Ethics here.)

1) Find and provide an appropriate definition, discuss your understanding, and provide illustrative examples for each of the following seven terms: morals, values, personal bias, professional boundaries, confidentiality, right and wrong (100 words each minimum, not including definitions)



“those values that give voice to the needs and legitimate expectation of ourselves and others” (Weston 3)

moral (Merriam-Webster)

: concerning or relating to what is right and wrong in human behavior

: based on what you think is right and good

: considered right and good by most people : agreeing with a standard of right behavior

Morals are those things within ourselves that help guide us on an ethical path.  There is a reason the term “moral compass” is a fairly common phrase.  Morals can be a tricky issue because what is in line with an individual’s personal morals, may not be in line with the morals of society.  In those cases the line blurs between which route should be taken when making decisions (ie: a “moral dilemma”).  This is partially where the idea of the moral compass comes from: this idea that we have a set of internal values and morals that guide us when we feel there are injustices being done in the wider scheme of things.  Morals guide us in how to act when we consider what it is that we value.  Morals are often tied tightly to hot-button issues (like gay rights and abortion) since they can differ from person to person with each having strong arguments to why they are right, which in turn leads to discussions of moral dilemmas.



“those things we care about; those things that matter to us; those goals or ideals we aspire to and measure ourselves or others or our society by.” (Weston 3)

value (Merriam-Webster)

: relative worth, utility, or importance

Values are often big-picture ideas.  They are the things that we aspire to make better in ourselves and in the world, because they are things that we are passionate about and believe will help make the world a better place, or help us to make our microcosm a better place.  These can be things like equality, happiness, and education.  For example, I value education, and think that everyone should have the equal opportunity to learn with the least amount of obstacles in their path.  This means for me in pursuance of my values I will do what I can to make knowledge, learning, and training as accessible as possible for those around me who desire to better themselves in this way.


Personal Bias:

bias (Merriam-Webster)

: a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others that usually results in treating some people unfairly

Personal biases are beliefs that predispose us to think or feel a certain way.  What it means is that with a personal bias we go into a situation already holding some beliefs about it.  This clouds our ability to be objective and impairs us when we seek to approach all on equal footing.  It may impair our ability to treat others in a fair and just manner.  It is often drawn from a place of privilege, and thus becomes extremely important for us to be aware of our personal biases so that we can compensate for them in our interactions.  This can be seen especially in instances of working with individuals who in some way aren’t like us.  An example that is seen all too commonly in our society and in the media is that blacks in America are often viewed suspiciously, and that view is nearly always based on nothing more than the color of their skin and the personal bias that whites and white society has against them.


Professional Boundaries:

boundary (Merriam-Webster)

boundaries : unofficial rules about what should not be done : limits that define acceptable behavior

Professional boundaries are lines that we should not cross when we are acting in a professional capacity.  This often refers to things that are acceptable when we are not in our professional role, but that are considered out of line when we are. This can be things like drinking in public, close friendships, and romantic/sexual relationships.  If professional boundaries are set early in a professional relationship they are less likely to be broken since all parties will know where they stand.  For example, with my students, professional boundaries are clearly established from the outset.  They understand the dynamic, and even when working with my high school students, where those boundaries can relax a bit, there is still a line in our conversations and interactions that cannot be crossed.



confidential (Merriam-Webster)

: showing that you are saying something that is secret or private

: trusted with secret or private information

: marked by intimacy or willingness to confide

: entrusted with confidences

Confidentiality is when information is told by one person to another and the second person agrees to keep that information private.  In some cases confidentiality is explicitly understood.  This is often because it is either marked that way (often seen in the case of government secure documents) or the person sharing the information initiates the conversation with a phrase something along the lines of “can I tell you something in private?”  Confidentiality can also be implicitly understood.  This happens often in one of two ways.  Either the two parties are involved in some sort of relationship (romantically, platonically, professionally, or otherwise) where there is an expectation that information shared in conversation won’t be shared, or the information that is shared is expected to be recognized as confidential information due to it’s nature (often emotional or related to others relationships). In some states confidentiality between clergy and their congregation is also protected by law.



right (Merriam-Webster)

: morally or socially correct or acceptable

: righteous, upright

: being in accordance with what is just, good, or proper

Right is more subjective than other moral indicators. When something is right, it is often judged by a single person and determined based on whether or not it is in line with their worldview.  Right is often a qualifier to other words, such as socially right, morally right, financially right, etc.  Things that are right worldview are influenced by our ethnicity, our religion, our socioeconomic class, our education, among others things.  The different mix of these variables will lead to each person have a variable sense of what is right.  An example something that is viewed as ‘right’ is the belief that we should be sure that every person can receive the care they need to be healthy.  People may differ on how we go about that, but in general many, if not most, can probably agree that it is right for everyone to not suffer due to lack of care.


wrong (Merriam-Webster)

: behavior that is not morally good or correct

: an injurious, unfair, or unjust act : action or conduct inflicting harm without due provocation or just cause

: something wrong, immoral, or unethical; especially : principles, practices, or conduct contrary to justice, goodness, equity, or law

Like the indicator of right, wrong is also more subjective than other moral indicators. Something is wrong when it goes against an individual’s worldview.  This once again is often a qualifier for other words (social, moral, financial, etc.).  Things that are wrong in our worldview are again influenced by our background (ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic class, education, etc.).  The different mix of these variables will lead to each person have a variable sense of what is wrong.  An example of something that is viewed as wrong is murder.  Even if there are sometimes morally gray areas about whether or not someone should have been killed, murder is generally agreed upon as wrong, even if there is justification for it.



2) Self-awareness is key to the implementation of professional ethics. Discuss how your personal morals, values, bias and ability to maintain adequate boundaries, confidentiality and determine right from wrong might both positively and negatively impact your professional relationships. (200 words minimum)


My own personal morals and values have been helping me determine right from wrong for quite sometime now.  They are growing and shifting as I gain more life experience, and I hope that I will continue to be able to fine-tune them as I continue to grow.  I currently work in a field (education) where I have to work with a large variety of people, many of whom come from very different backgrounds than me.  I fell that this has made me more adaptable when it comes to understanding my personal bias on issues as well as negotiating the line of professional boundaries.  I’ve had to engage with my biases and work to understand how they are influencing me and how to overcome and account for them.  I’ve taken the time to unpack my invisible backpack and examine the privileges that I have in my life (McIntosh).  The fact that I’ve already done a lot of this work, and continue to do it in my profession everyday positively impacts my ability to carry over this knowledge into the professional relationships that I will develop as a priest.

The point that I think I will have the hardest time doing, and so will have to continue to be self-aware of, is working on maintaining professional boundaries.  In teaching, this hasn’t been a problem because from the very outset, the line is already there with my students and my coworkers.  This will be the same for people that I meet in the new role as priest.  I think the fuzzy line that I will have to carefully walk is with those people who I already have some sort of relationship with.  The folks that I am already friends with in my local community when they begin interacting with me in the way they would with a priest, I will have to walk that line.  I don’t foresee a problem regarding any romantic relationships forming within my local community, so while it is something to be aware of, it shouldn’t be a problem.  I will have to be careful that any favoritism I show, perceived or actual, is kept to a minimum because it will likely reflect on this new role.  This would negatively impact the professional relationships that I will develop as a priest.



3) Discuss how an individual learns to determine right from wrong and explain the factors that influence this determination? (100 words minimum)


As individuals we are conditioned from a young age.  We learn as children, both directly and through observing others, the way to act and how to speak.  Through positive and negative reinforcement and positive and negative punishment we learn what things lead to good results and what things lead to bad results.  As we continue to develop as adolescents and young adults we begin to learn more about determining right from wrong as we become more in tune with social pressure.  We learn that there are gray areas, and ways that we believe differently from those around us, or from the world as a whole.  This is evidenced by the multitude of posters that hang up around school buildings that say “What is right is not always popular.  What is popular is not always right.”  Throughout our lives we learn to determine right from wrong based on the values we place on others things in our lives.  For example, those who are religiously devout (or were raised in a religiously devout environment) often drawn on the knowledge gained in their religious studies to help inform their sense of right and wrong.

4) Describe several reasons why an individual would strive to “do the right thing”? (100 words minimum)


A huge driving factor in the motivation to do anything is “because it feels good.”  Part of our conditioning when learning to do the right thing builds on making us feel good when we do so.  It isn’t always a straight line, and there are several other factors that may go into striving to do the right thing because it feels good, but that is a huge part of it.  Sometimes a person will strive to do the right thing because it directly benefits them, and that makes them feel good.  Sometimes a person will strive to do the right thing because it will benefit their community, and doing good makes them feel good.  Sometimes a person will strive to do the right thing because they want to conform to the social pressure to do the right thing, and the level of stress that exists when we are fighting social norms and peer pressure isn’t there, so that feels good.  Sometimes people will strive to do the right thing because of a belief in karma, or “if I do good now, surely the universe will pay me back in kind later” and that reassures them, giving them hope, and thus making them feel good.




5) Discuss how an individual’s values relate to the decision-making process. (100 words minimum)

Because values are “those things we care about; those things that matter to us; those goals or ideals we aspire to and measure ourselves or others or our society by,” it is those values that allow us to classify each action as right or wrong, moral or immoral (Weston 3).  Our values guide our conscience, our moral compass.  When we are considering what action to take, or if we should take an action, we consult our moral compass, and what things we see as valuable.  If we value honesty, then we would be less likely to lie to someone because that would go against our view of what is moral.  By having a set of values that we can identify, we are able to consult those values when determining how our actions reflect or agree with them.

6) Discuss the importance of ethics to the clergy-lay relationship. Do you believe a clergy person has ethical responsibilities? If so, what are these responsibilities? (300 words minimum)


I think all people have ethical responsibilities, and this is especially true for people who have a professional relationship with others where there is a perceived or actual power imbalance.  Because priests within ADF are granted the mantle of priesthood by the Folk, it is essential that we interact with them in an ethical manner.  It is imperative that we approach the Folk with respect and fairness.  While being an ADF Priest does not necessarily make one a role model or a leader by virtue of holding that title, there are many who still place weight on the actions and words of those who wear the stole.  Whether or not it is asked for, having the title of Priest means that there is often an implicit trust that comes with it when dealing with the Folk.

The Folk trust us to speak with them in confidence when they come to us with a personal issue.  They trust us to not use that information against them, or to gossip about them.  The Folk trust us to act with fairness.  We must be careful not to show favoritism, and to be aware of what acts may be perceived as favoritism so that we can find other approaches. The Folk trust us not to use our title for personal gain, whether in the organization’s politics or in interpersonal relationships.  We should strive to get places based on our own merit, and not through use of our title.  This means that we shouldn’t attempt to “pull rank” for something that would benefit only us.  Additionally, we should be wary of building romantic relationships with the Folk because this can lead to distrust on many levels and between many people.

As a Priest, when working within the clergy-lay relationship, it is important to always hold that trust of the Folk in mind, and carefully consider our actions and words to ensure that we are doing as little as possible to harm that trust, and as much as possible to build it.  Being in a position of perceived power has many responsibilities, and requires that person to have a strong ethical sense in order to not abuse that power and harm those who have placed that trust and responsibility on you.



7) Discuss the meaning of confidential privilege, the laws in your state that provide for this privilege and the extent to which it applies to clergy-lay communications in your community. (200 words minimum)


Confidential privilege is the concept that when someone divulges information to another who is bound by confidential privilege that that information will not be shared except where required by law.  It is a crucial point of trust building between the clergy and their congregation.

In Ohio, clergy are not required to divulge communications held in spiritual confidence unless they suspect or know of abuse.  However, if those communications were in confidence, or if it is part of their ministerial duties, then they don’t even need to do that if it violates sacred trust. And in this case sacred trust means something that was said directly to the cleric and in the context where sacred trust in invoked.  I’ve included the sections of law that pertain to this below, with relevant passages highlighted.  However, because we don’t have a concept of “sacred trust” in our religion, the bounds of “sacred trust” and its related confidentiality don’t apply.  Additionally, because we don’t have any documents at the national level that allow for us to provide confidential pastoral counseling or related services as part of ministerial duties, those conversations are also not legally required to be held in confidence.  Because of this, ADF Priests likely don’t have any legal protections for confidential clergy-lay communications in Ohio. This is not to say that we should not abide by confidential privilege and respecting the trust that the Folk place in us when they speak to us in private. It just means that there is some uncertainty of whether or not that confidentiality would be protected in a court of law if it was demanded that we share.

Ohio Rev. Code § 2151.421(A)(4)(b)-(d)

A cleric is not required to make a report concerning any communication the cleric receives from a penitent in a cleric-penitent relationship if, in accordance with § 2317.02(C), the cleric could not testify with respect to that communication in a civil or criminal proceeding.

The penitent in a cleric-penitent relationship is deemed to have waived any testimonial privilege with respect to any communication the cleric receives from the penitent in that cleric-penitent relationship, and the cleric shall make a report with respect to that communication if all of the following apply:

  • The penitent, at the time of the communication, is either a child under age 18 or a mentally retarded, developmentally disabled, or physically impaired person under age 21.
  • The cleric knows, or has reasonable cause to believe based on facts that would cause a reasonable person in a similar position to believe, as a result of the communication or any observations made during that communication, the penitent has suffered or faces a threat of suffering any physical or mental wound, injury, disability, or condition of a nature that reasonably indicates abuse or neglect of the penitent.
  • The abuse or neglect does not arise out of the penitent’s attempt to have an abortion performed upon a child under age 18 or upon a mentally retarded, developmentally disabled, or physically impaired person under age 21 without the notification of her parents, guardian, or custodian in accordance with § 2151.85.

The above sections do not apply in a cleric-penitent relationship when the disclosure of any communication the cleric receives from the penitent is in violation of the sacred trust.

2317.02: Privileged Communications:

2) As used in division (C) of this section:

(a) “Cleric” means a member of the clergy, rabbi, priest, Christian Science practitioner, or regularly ordained, accredited, or licensed minister of an established and legally cognizable church, denomination, or sect.

(b) “Sacred trust” means a confession or confidential communication made to a cleric in the cleric’s ecclesiastical capacity in the course of discipline enjoined by the church to which the cleric belongs, including, but not limited to, the Catholic Church, if both of the following apply:

(i) The confession or confidential communication was made directly to the cleric.

(ii) The confession or confidential communication was made in the manner and context that places the cleric specifically and strictly under a level of confidentiality that is considered inviolate by canon law or church doctrine.

Chapter 47: Occupations – Professions

Counselors, Social Workers, Marriages, and Family Therapists (R.C. § 4757.41)

Chemical Dependency Professionals  (R.C. § 4758.03)


This chapter shall not apply to the following:

Rabbis, priests, Christian science practitioners, clergy, or members of religious orders and other individuals participating with them in pastoral counseling when the counseling activities are within the scope of the performance of their regular or specialized ministerial duties and are performed under the auspices or sponsorship of an established and legally cognizable church, denomination, or sect or an integrated auxiliary of a church as defined in federal tax regulations, paragraph (g)(5) of 26 C.F.R. 1.6033-2 (1995), and when the individual rendering the service remains accountable to the established authority of that church, denomination, sect, or integrated auxiliary;


8) One of the main principles of ethics is to “do no harm”. Discuss the meaning of this principle as it applies to the clergy-lay relationship. (100 words minimum)


Regarding positive ethics Isaac Bonewits said

“We believe that ethics and morality should be based upon joy, love, self-esteem, mutual respect, the avoidance of actual harm to ourselves and others, and the increase of public benefit. We try to balance people’s needs for personal autonomy and growth with the necessity of paying attention to the impact of each individual’s actions on the lives and welfare of others” (Newburg).

The Hippocratic Oath is often (mis-)quoted as containing the phrase “But first, do no harm.” All actions have consequences.  Sometimes those consequences are positive and sometimes they are negative.  More often those consequences are a mixed bag of positive and negative.  When taken in the context of the clergy-lay relationship I think we must consider that we are trying to make the choices that will cause the least harm, and benefit the most people.  In this, we can always use active listening as a first strategy.  Additionally, we must have a strong moral compass, and have developed an ethical code that we can abide by, in order to have something to fall back on to ensure that we are doing the best we can to first do no harm to ourselves, to those in our community, and to the clergy-lay relationship as a whole.

9) Compare and contrast the Nine Virtues described in the ADF Dedicant Path and prominent values in the dominant culture of the country in which you live. (200 words minimum)


The Nine Virtues in ADF are Wisdom, Piety, Vision, Courage, Integrity, Perseverance, Moderation, Hospitality, and Fertility.  Many of these are easily agreed upon virtues in the USA as well.

There is value placed on wisdom, and as a culture we encourage people to seek out those who have gained wisdom through their life experiences.  However, as a Millennial in the USA, it is also encouraged to seek wisdom from less established sources, and instead seek wisdom through personal experience gained by risk-taking and creative problem solving.  This relates to the virtue of vision.  We value the ability to see the bigger picture, and plan out ways to make that dream a reality.  It also relates in part to the virtue of fertility. We like to encourage freethinkers and those with creative minds.

There is value placed on piety, though in ADF we define piety based on the actions we take in our religion, rather than a certain set of ascribed beliefs.  There is also value placed on integrity.  This is holding true to the things that you value and to yourself.  In the USA it is especially valued to walk to the beat of your own drum and not to let others define who you are.  We have a certain flair for independence and take pride in our ability and right to be ourselves.

There is a huge precedence for the value of perseverance in the USA.  In is contained in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence that we are each entitled to “the pursuit of happiness.”  There are stories, myths, and legends about people in America who came here with nothing and through their perseverance built a life for themselves and became rich an famous.  Pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is hugely valued in the USA.

Moderation is also something that is valued here, though it seems to be a value that has a variable degree of implementation.  One can be moderate in things from drugs and drinking, to consumerism, to sex.  We tend to see a lot a press given to enforce the idea of moderation as it relates to puritan ideals such as abstaining from drinking, drugs, and sex.  This contrasts sharply with the other part of the virtue of fertility.  However, there is less social pressure put on those who engage in rampant consumerism, and in some cases, society even seems to encourage this lack of moderation.

The last virtue, hospitality, is encouraged in American society, but it seems a bit more one-sided that the value placed on in in the context of ADF and the *ghosti relationship. Hospitality is a guest-host relationship, and each party has duties to hold to.  In American society the host often seems to have more duties and the guest less.  Think of parties you’ve attended where many of the guests leave without picking up after themselves, or family gatherings where someone always seems to overstay their welcome.



10) The Nine Virtues described in the ADF Dedicant Path are proposed as a starting point for individuals embracing a value system inspired by traditions of the past. Utilizing the ADF nine virtues, develop a Code of Ethics for your use as ADF Clergy. Describe how you derived this code from the Nine Virtues and how you would apply this Code. (No minimum word count for the Code; however the Code must contain a minimum of five principles; 300 words minimum for the description)


  • “I will pray with the Good Fire” – I will maintain my own practice and my own relationship with the Kindreds. In this way I will have the fertile soil in which to grow into my role as a Priest.
  • “I will lead others to the Flame” – This is part of my Initiate Oath, and means that I will not hoard my knowledge or skills.  I will be a good role model, guide, and teacher for all those who seek to walk the path of neo-paganism, and I will provide services relating to this path as much as I am able.
  • “I will be kind to others” – It costs me nothing to be kind to someone.  My words and actions have the possibility of deeply affecting others, and my kindness may be the only bit of hope a person sees that day.  I will also do what I am able to be sure that kindness is a priority in interactions that I observe and am part of.
  • “I will acknowledge growth” – This is two fold: I am constantly growing and as such should strive to continue learning.  Others are also constantly growing, and I should allow in my perception of them that they are continuing to learn. I will not hold grudges.
  • “I will be an independent and responsible person” – I will be my own person, and determine my own actions.  I will walk my walk, and not let others’ vision of me influence my path. I am responsible for my own actions, and will strive to remember that I am not responsible of the actions of others.  I will also fulfill duties that make me a responsible member of society and the priesthood, especially as it relates to the law.
  • I will be loyal and hold true to my word.” – When I make a commitment, those who are depending on me should be able to be certain that I will not back out, or that if I do it is for a very good reason.  I will speak truth whenever possible, admit when I don’t know, and seek out those who do know.  I will maintain the confidence of those who have trusted me to hold space with them.


In addition to the Nine Virtues, other ethical codes that have influenced my own code of ethics are The Delphic Maxims (Oikonomides), The Hippocratic Oath (“Various Physicians Oaths”), and the Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Ohio Educators.  I have broken down the Nine Virtues below to discuss how each relates to my Code of Ethics.


Most of these points can relate back to wisdom.  I am sharing the knowledge I have gained, and thus providing others with wisdom.  I am acknowledging the places where I still have room to grow, and that allows me to continue to seek wisdom. Additionally, it takes wisdom to know what path I should walk, and wisdom to examine my own values and how they apply to my path.


The act of prayer and maintaining my relationship with the Kindreds is summed up in the first point of my Code of Ethics: “I will pray with the Good Fire.”


I have goals, and in order to see those goals come to fruition I am acknowledging that there is always room for growth, and that there is always room for improvement.


It takes courage to be independent and walk my walk.  It can also take courage to hold true to my word when I may be pressured to do otherwise.


Integrity can be summed up in the famous line from Hamlet: “To thine own self be true.”  From the Delphic Maxims, one of the most well known is maxim #8: “Know Thyself.”  If we are in tune with who we are and what we desire we have the ability to begin to sort out what our ethics are, and how to live with integrity in our own lives.  I’ve had to examine myself in order to write this Code of Ethics in the first place, and when I consider how I will be an independent person, I need to first have a good idea of who that independent person is.


Perseverance can be seen alongside integrity and courage.  In determining who I am, I will need to persevere in order to maintain that sense of self despite any obstacles I may encounter.  I will need to persevere in continuing my path of growth and in continuing to challenge myself.


Moderation is not as explicit in my Code of Ethics, but there is the implied expectation that I will moderate my behavior to reflect these points.


“I will be kind to others” draws on hospitality.  Part of building a relationship of trust does as well.


This encompasses my dedication to continue growing, both as a person and as a Priest, as well as my dedication to helping others grow.  It is also present when I recognize that there is growth always happening.




Works Cited:

“Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Ohio Educators.” Ohio Department of Education, 11 Mar. 2008. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. <>.

McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack.” Institute for Social Research. University of Michigan, 1 Jan. 1989. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <>.

Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. <>.

Newburg, Brandon. “Integrity: Ethics and Pastoral Support.” The ADF Leadership Handbook, Chapter 10. Tucson, AZ: ADF Publishing, 2011. PDF file.

Ohio Rev. Code. Lawriter Ohio Laws and Rules, 2014. Web. 9 September 2014.

Oikonomides, Al. N.. “Records of “The Commandments of the Seven Wise Men” in the 3rd c. B.C..” Classical Bulletin: 67-76. Web. 1 July 2014. <]] >

“Various Physicians Oaths.” Physicians Oaths. Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. <>.

Weston, Anthony. A Practical Companion to Ethics. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.

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