Code of Professional Ethics for Members of the UUA District Staff

Throughout the years since the merger of the Unitarians and the Universalists, we have wrestled with the creative tension inherent in the terms of our identity as religious liberals. Our “binding together” and our “free searching” provide roots and wings: the roots of community and shared values, and the wings of the free mind and spirit. The strength of the 1985 Principles and Purposes statement is that it honors the many sources of our “living tradition” and unequivocally lifts up our common affirmations. Our covenant -- within the District Staff of the UUA, within the District Services staff group, within each district of our Association, and within and between each of our congregations -- is the practice by which we embody the interdependent reality we affirm at every level of our existence. Our greatest challenge is to practice respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person in harmony with our commitments to responsibility, justice, equity and compassion in all human relations. Our message and practice need to be congruent.

UUA district staff in the 20 districts of the Unitarian Universalist Association are bound by the Codes of Professional Practices of the UUMA, if they are ministers, and of LREDA, if they are religious educators. There is currently no published set of guidelines governing the behavior of lay members of the District Staff.

Therefore, by this document, all members of the UUA District Staff agree to abide by the Code of Professional Practice contained in the UUMA and LREDA Guidelines, as modified herein. We affirm the following as our standard of commitment to the practice of our profession, with respect to our personal conduct and to all interactions with each other, with ordained clergy and with the members of our UUA congregations.


Because the religious life is a growing life, I will respect and protect my own needs for spiritual growth, ethical integrity, and continuing education in order to deepen and strengthen myself and my profession.

I commit myself to honest work, believing that the honor of my profession begins with the honest use of my own mind and skills.

I will sustain a respect for the ministry. Because my private life is woven into my profession, I will refrain from private as well as public words or actions degrading to the ministry or destructive of congregational life.

As a sexual being, I will recognize the power that this profession gives me and refrain from practices which are harmful to others and which endanger my integrity or my professional effectiveness. Such practices include sexual activity with any child or with an unwilling adult, with a counselee, with the spouse or partner of a minister or person in a congregation in our District, with interns, with students for the ministry, with other district staff in my District, and in any other such exploitative relationship.

Because the demands of others upon me will be many and unceasing, I will try to keep especially aware of the rights and needs of my family and my relation to them as spouse, parent and friend.


I will stand in a supportive relation to my colleagues and keep for them an open mind and heart.

I will strictly respect confidences given me by colleagues and expect them to keep mine.

In the interest of maintaining positive and professional relationships with UUMA and LREDA members serving congregations within my district, and to avoid being triangulated in an unhealthy way, I will refrain from having substantive contact with members of a congregation without notifying the minister or religious professional. Exceptions to this practice require consultation with the Director of District Services.

I will not speak scornfully or in derogation of any colleague in public. In any private conversation critical of a colleague, I will speak responsibly and temperately. It is inappropriate to make comments about UUMA or LREDA members in reports that will be made public without informing them of the contents of the reports in advance and giving them a chance, if necessary, to seek the advice of someone associated with the appropriate Good Offices program. UUA staff who must sometimes be critical of the behavior of UUMA or LREDA members can do their job of consulting with and advising ministers and congregations without “speaking scornfully or in derogation of a colleague in public” and when engaging in private conversations they can do so “responsibly and temperately.” I believe that even when being critical it is possible “to speak the truth in love.”

Should I know that a colleague is engaging in practices that are damaging, as defined in the UUMA or LREDA ~ Code of Professional Practice, I will speak openly and frankly to her/him and endeavor to be of help. If necessary, I will bring such matters to the attention of the appropriate bodies. There are situations in which UUA staff must speak in confidence when talking about colleagues with other members of the UUA staff or with the members of bodies with whom they are working, such as the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. This is different from speaking derogatorily in public.

If, in the course of consulting with a congregation, I find that there is evidence of “conduct unbecoming” on the part of a UUMA member or a member of LREDA, I will not first discuss such matters in a public report. Instead, I will first inform both the minister or religious educator involved and the Ministry and Professional Leadership staff group. Depending upon the severity of the reported misconduct, I will bring others into the situation as seems appropriate at that time.

Should the conduct continue, I will inform the appropriate congregational leaders of his or her church of the evidence, outlining to them the possible actions that could be taken, such as filing a complaint with the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, the UUMA or LREDA and then allowing the church leadership to decide if this is what they want to do.

As a member of the UUA staff I will be aware of the role and responsibility of the UUMA and LREDA Good Offices Person(s) in my area, and will consult with her/him/them as appropriate. I am willing and able to advise UUMA members, LREDA members as well as congregations and other organizations where to turn for help when in trouble.

The nurture of the relationship between a congregation and its called minister and/or religious educator is of utmost importance to the strength of the movement and to the integrity of our ministry. The same is true of the relationship of members of the District Staff with congregations and ministers in their Districts. For this reason, consultation among colleagues practicing the diverse forms of our ministry within the same geographic area is essential to promote healthy congregational life. I will defer accepting any invitation for my services associated with the work of the UUA District Staff from persons in a District where I have served as a member of the District Staff until I have consulted the current District Staff person. If I remain a resident in the District last served, I will refrain from any involvement in the life of that District for a period of two years subsequent to my departure. After that, I will consult with my successor before taking on any assignment for the District. If I am duly settled in a congregation or community-based ministry as a parish minister, minister of religious education or director of religious education, I shall offer only such services as are appropriate to my present ministry, consulting with my colleagues and the local District Staff person about any roles or services I perform which may have an impact on their area of responsibility. The purpose of such consultation is to reach mutually acceptable understandings about the appropriate roles that former District Staff persons in the same geographic area should play. Irreconcilable disputes should be referred to the Director of the District Services staff group for mediation.

I will defer accepting any requests for professional services associated with the work of the UUA District Staff from members of any District until I have consulted with the incumbent District Staff person. In order to maintain my colleague’s free choice in this matter, I will inform the person requesting my services of the necessity to consult our professional guidelines regarding the activities of former District Staff. If my colleague requests that I refrain from performing the service, I will refuse the invitation, and indicate that our Code of Professional Practice forbids me from performing the service. Should emergency circumstances make such a consultation impossible, I shall render only limited services and consult with my colleague at the earliest possible opportunity.

I will inform my colleague in advance of any public engagement I may accept in his or her District, which might bear upon local issues or policies. If approached by a member of any colleague’s District for advice on matters affecting my colleague’s work, I will consider carefully the circumstances of the request. If the advice sought indicates a possible violation of the Code of Professional Practice, I will listen carefully and explore appropriate ways of addressing the issue within the context of our Code and the UUMA and/or LREDA Guidelines. If the advice requested is not of this nature, I will inform the person of my professional obligations under this Code, and carefully consider whether it is appropriate for me to respond in any way. When in doubt, I will err on the side of deference to the prerogatives of my colleague’s call.

If I am to share the work of a District with another professional or professionals, I will earnestly seek clear delineation of responsibility, accountability and channels of communication before responsibilities are assumed. I will, thereafter, work in cooperation and consultation with them, taking care that changing roles and relations are re-negotiated with clarity, respect and honesty.

If I am a member of a colleague’s congregation, I will in all ways honor the priority of his or her call to the ministry or religious education work of that congregation, and I will carefully shun inappropriate influence which other members may yield to me. I will be generous toward a colleague who is a member of my congregation.

I will share and support the concerns of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association and of the Liberal Religious Educators Association, especially as reflected in their respective Guidelines.


I will uphold the practices of congregational polity including both those of local self-government and those of counsel and cooperation within our Association. Throughout my work in the District, I will teach the history, meaning and methods of congregational polity, recognizing informed and faithful adherence to these practices as the bond preserving and reforming our free corporate religious life.

I will respect the traditions of the District and the UUA, enriching and improving these in consultation with the members.

I will hold to a single standard of respect and help for all members of the District community of whatever age or position.

I will deal respectfully with lay leaders and members of congregations in my district. I will not speak derogatorily of them in public, and I will be judicious in reports concerning their behavior and will speak to them first if my public report criticizes them.

I will respect absolutely the confidentiality of private communications of members.

I will remember that congregational leaders, religious educators and ministers place special trust in their District leadership and that the members of the District allow the District Staff professional to become a part of their lives on the basis of that trust. I will not abuse or exploit that trust for my own gratification.

I will not invade the private and intimate bonds of other’s lives, nor will I trespass on those bonds for my own advantage or need. In any relationship of intimate confidentiality, I will not exploit the needs of another person for my own.

I will not engage in sexual activities with a member of the District who is not my spouse or partner, if I am married or in a committed relationship. If I am single, before becoming sexually involved with a person in the District, I will take special care to examine my commitment, motives, intentionally and the nature of such activity and its consequences for myself, the other person, his or her congregation and the District.

I will exercise a responsible freedom of the pulpit with respect for all persons, including those who may disagree with me.

I will encourage by my example an inclusive, loyal, generous, and critical spiritual leadership.

I will take responsibility for encouraging clear delineation of responsibility, accountability and channels of communication with ministers and other church staff members in the District.

I will take responsibility for encouraging adequate and sensible standards of financial and other support for ministers, religious educators and other staff within the District.

I will inform the Board of the District immediately when I have accepted a call to another position.


I will encourage the growth of our congregations and the spread of the ideals of the Unitarian Universalist tradition and fellowship.

I will participate and encourage lay participation in the meetings and activities of our Association.

I will encourage financial support of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the District and associated programs.

I will inform myself of the established candidating procedures of the Unitarian Universalist Association, and I will strictly observe them. I acknowledge that it is inappropriate for any member of the UUA staff to publicly support any candidate for office within the UUA.


In word and deed, I will live and speak in ways representing the best Unitarian Universalist tradition and leadership in the larger community.

I will maintain a prophetic pulpit, offering to the community religious and ethical leadership.

I will encourage members' participation in efforts to resolve community problems.

I will offer sympathetic support to ministers of other religious bodies serving within the District.


Adopted: June 24, 2003

Modified: December, 2006