Tuesday, July 01, 2008

On Competency Expectations : Take a cue from the Canadians

Setting aside the fact that expecting competency and professional ethics from professionals is simply appropriate, it seems to me we could take a cue from the 1998 Canadian Supplement to the UUMA guidelines.
Others have quoted the new rule, but I'll put it here for any who aren't following along on other blogs.
"The fellowship of a minister may be terminated by the Ministerial Fellowship Committee for unbecoming conduct, incompetence, or other specified cause."
Employment law is different in Canada, so a minister can be "dismissed for cause." Dismissal from a congregation is not what this particular rule change is about, but I mention it here because we might take some wisdom from this in terms of its usefulness in identifying where the bar might be set, what might constitute incompetence.

“Cause” is a term of art and in general means particularly egregious behavior such as repeated drunkenness in the pulpit...

I think it's the funniest line in any professional document I've ever read, and it makes me happy every time I can find an excuse to refer to it. This may be the first time I've been able to refer to it and have it actually be directly relevant.

And it also appropriately sets the bar clearly so as to avoid messes regarding personality or disagreements of style, theology or low/high churchiness and the like.

If you've never seen it, the entire paragraph is:
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.

Also, as an aside, may I take this moment to state my strong opinion that all LREDA members ought not only read our own Guidelines, but the UUMA Guidelines as well (and hopefully the updated ones will be finalized if not already, and Google-able and on the UUA website soon) And vice versa. We are all accountable to professional standards and expectations of ethical behavior, and as religious professionals it is incumbent upon us to be aware of how those standards and expectations are and are not the same given our different responsibilities within a congregation.

I'm just saying.