6. Personal Behaviour


6.1 The personal behaviour and relationships of clergy and church workers have a significant impact on the Church and the community because they are a model to others.  In a context where their responsibility is to care for others, people will especially observe the way in which clergy and church workers exercise power.

6.2 Abuse of power is at the heart of many relationship problems in the Church and the community.  In essence, abuse is one person’s misuse of power over another. Sometimes abuse will be a one off event and at other times it will be a pattern of behaviour.

6.3 Abuse can take any of several overlapping forms: bullying, emotional abuse, harassment, physical abuse, sexual abuse or spiritual abuse. Abuse in a family or domestic context is commonly known as “family and domestic violence”.

6.4 It is important for clergy and church workers to be good citizens and obey the laws of the community, except where those laws conflict with Christian convictions.

Standards for clergy and church workers

These standards state the Church’s expectations for personal behaviour and the practice of pastoral ministry.

6.5 You are not to engage in:

  • bullying;
  • emotional abuse;
  • harassment;
  • physical abuse;
  • sexual abuse; or
  • spiritual abuse.

6.6 You are not to abuse your spouse, children or other members of your family.

6.7 You are to be responsible in your use of alcohol and other mind altering or addictive substances or services.

6.8 You are not to undertake any pastoral ministry when you are impaired by alcohol or any other mind-altering or addictive substances.

6.9 You are not to use any prohibited substance.

6.10 You are not to take property belonging to others, including intellectual property.

6.11 You are not knowingly to make statements that are false, misleading or deceptive.

6.12 You are not knowingly to use offensive language.

6.13 Without a legitimate purpose you are not to view, possess, produce or distribute restricted material.

6.14 You are to observe the law, other than any law that:

  • is contrary to the Holy Scriptures;
  • unjustly prohibits the practice of religion; or
  • prohibits civil disobedience.


These guidelines explain and illustrate best practice and highlight practical ways to achieve it.

6.15 You need to be aware of the impact that abuse can have on people.

The impact of abuse

A person who is abused may suffer emotionally, psychologically, physically, socially and spiritually. The impact can be life long and affect the person, their relationships and their capacity for ministry.

How abuse affects the person and their relationships

The person who is abused may experience:

  • feelings of shame, humiliation, rejection, powerlessness, insecurity, anger and resentment;
  • sadness, tearfulness, depression, anxiety;
  • fatigue, disturbed sleep, changed appetite and ill health;
  • substance abuse, gambling and use of pornography;
  • becoming more withdrawn or aggressive;
  • burn out;
  • suicidal thinking and action;
  • loss of self-esteem and self-confidence;
  • marital and family problems;
  • breakdown in community and collegial relationships.

How abuse affects ministry

Clergy or church workers who are abused may experience:

  • loss of coping skills;
  • disillusionment;
  • inability to concentrate;
  • loss of motivation;
  • decreased productivity and competence;
  • bad decision-making and poor judgement;
  • loss of faith or crisis of vocation;
  • difficulty trusting others;
  • diminished employability;
  • premature desire to cease employment.

6.16 You need to be able to identify bullying and the cultures and environments which encourage it.

Cultures and environments which encourage bullying

Contexts in which bullying is likely to flourish are characterised by:

  • overbearing or inadequate leadership;
  • poor management;
  • a high level of competition;
  • a climate of uncertainty and insecurity;
  • lack of support and governance structures;
  • poor handling of conflict;
  • rigid structures;
  • low level of participation or consultation;
  • excessive demands on time;
  • unclear role description and processes;
  • inadequate grievance procedures.

6.17 If another person indicates by their words or actions that they feel bullied or harassed by you, review your conduct.  If in doubt, cease the conduct and seek advice.  When teaching, admonishing or exercising discipline as part of your pastoral ministry, be sure you do it respectfully.

6.18 Love and care for your family and pay particular attention to the effect of your ministry on your family relationships.  Ensure that your behaviour in family relationships is consistent with this Code.

6.19 Take steps to prevent your spouse or children or other members of your family becoming victims of your stress.  If you find yourself acting violently or abusively to any member of your family, seek professional help immediately.

6.20 Monitor your consumption or use of alcohol and other mind altering or addictive substances or product (e.g. gambling) to ensure your wellbeing and that of others.  Seek professional help if the use of these substances or products adversely affects your ministry, personal wellbeing or relationships.

6.21You should be sensitive to the effect of your language on others.  Avoid using language that may be misunderstood or that bullies, threatens, belittles, humiliates or causes unnecessary offence or embarrassment.  Take care when using:

  • any swear word;
  • language which has sexual connotations; and
  • racial, religious or other group descriptions.

6.22 Exercise discretion when viewing or using restricted material.  You should:

  • consider the legitimate purpose of viewing or using the restricted material;
  • consider whether your conduct will damage your reputation and impair your ministry; and
  • disclose the purpose and circumstances of your conduct to a supervisor or colleague to avoid any misunderstanding.

6.23 When engaged in civil disobedience, do not act violently or intentionally provoke violence.

6.24 Be sensitive to the effect of your dress on others.  Dress appropriately to the context.

6.25 You should comply with copyright legislation.  Ensure that any licences for the use of copyright material are current and complied with and that copyright is duly acknowledged.