My chains fell off, my heart was free
One of the nice things about being retired is that I no longer have to suffer through mandatory training in clergy ethics, professional boundaries, or whatever we're calling it this year. Such courses are not merely tiresome (and now, they demand that we pay
to participate!) -- they are basically useless. They also frequently become an opportunity for our pretended masters at the Conference level to bang us all over the head with their ideological enthusiasms.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all in favor of training clergy in the area of professional (and personal) ethics. But we already do that. We take courses in seminary that cover it. When we join the Conference, we are put through an orientation process that covers it. We vote on updated ethical guidelines now and then in clergy Executive Session, and these guidelines are published in the Conference Journal (or would be, if we still published a paper journal; however, they are still published on the Conference website, if you can find them in that ethereal rat's nest). Furthermore, as time goes on and new issues emerge in the church and in the larger society, we talk about them at our DS's initiative in clergy meetings. Yeah, there are still clergy who do stupid or hurtful things, but the idea that we didn't tell them where the lines are is silly.
So, why do we require this training every couple of years? It doesn't prevent any clergy misconduct that I can see, so it doesn't spare any clergy or any parishioners any heartache. Who benefits? The Conference.
The sole reason
we do these time-wasting and annoying seminars and on-line boondoggles is to protect the Conference from lawsuits. You see, when something goes badly wrong and lawsuits start flying, they tend to get launched in every possible direction. In the case of alleged clergy misconduct, the clergyperson will get sued, but so will the congregation he or she works with, and so will the Annual Conference.
Even if the Conference has nothing to do with the misconduct, it will be alleged that it was the Conference's duty to have done something to prevent it. Sending clergy to regular annoyance meetings is the approved way to say, "we have done our due diligence, so you can't pin it on us."
That's all. It's just a bit of CYA
("Cover Your Anatomy"). It's a little apotropaic totem that keeps the bad spirits from inflicting their juju on the Conference. It also gives overpaid Conference staff something important-sounding to do to justify their continued employment.
You could do the entire regime with one District meeting a year where attendance was recorded, without significant cost. Those who couldn't attend on that day would be sent the Ethics Packet, and would sign and return a statement saying they had read it and agreed to abide by it.
I really don't think I'll be less ethical just because I don't have to take these silly courses. I am still responsible for my behavior -- I always was -- but I'm also free from the burden of compliance for the sake of institutional protection.