Circle Sanctuary Ministry Professional Code of Ethics

I. Introduction

Circle Sanctuary is dedicated to serving people from many spiritual orientations to connect with each other as well as with Nature. We do this through the creation and sharing of rituals, meditations, music, images, and other spiritual art forms. We promote dialog, cooperation, and mutually beneficial networking among individuals, groups, and organizations.  We are a voice within mainstream society to promote understanding and tolerance of Nature-based faiths through public education, interfaith networking, and public relations media work.

Our Code of Ethics provides for our clergy and other leaderships the guidelines of behavior that is expected of Circle Sanctuary leaders. This document also allows us to hold one another accountable.

Unethical behavior compromises our ability to perform and provide ministry. Ministers who act in ways that are inconsistent with our Code of Ethics will be subject to review through the Ethics Committee. We seek to address these violations honestly, directly, and in such a manner as to assist one another to live to our highest potential in ministry.


II. Ministry and its Ethical Responsibilities

Ministry is a sacred trust and therefore ordained ministers have obligations distinct from what is expected of laypersons.  Ministers must be able to exercise the basic obligations of this trust without harming others or themselves.

Ministers have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of those whom they serve. Circle Sanctuary ministers are to live responsibly, especially with ministry funds and personal finances.  Potential financial conflicts of interest between one’s personal finances and one’s ministry are to be avoided. It is the responsibility of the professional to address this conflict in a way that protects and alerts all parties involved.

Circle Sanctuary recognizes and honors the divine nature and essential human dignity of all persons, regardless of their race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, spiritual path or religion, disability, economic circumstance, physical appearance, body type, marital status, or military status. We encourage compassionate, thoughtful and soul-searching dialogue when issues concerning discrimination are raised.


III. Commitment to Ethical Behavior

Circle Sanctuary is committed to providing an inclusive and safe environment for our community members, staff, ministers, volunteers, event attendees, clients, and for all others we meet.

We will strive to fulfill this commitment by:

  1. Urging all members of our community to respect and honor each person they meet, treating them as the expression of divinity that they are.
  2. Respecting expressions of every person's fundamental identity, including (but not limited to) ensuring that rituals and workshops targeted toward a specific class of person are open to all who self-identify as part of that class.
  3. Providing programs which speak to and serve the full spectrum of those who attend Circle Sanctuary's events, as well as providing space for people to speak their own truths and be heard.
  4. Supporting efforts to bring about greater justice and equality in the broader society and world of which we are all part.


IV. Ethics Committee

Circle Sanctuary recognizes the necessity of providing a system for response to complaints of unethical behavior.

Ministerial misconduct is behavior that is unethical and damaging to the ministry and the community, including, for example, sexual misconduct, drug and alcohol abuse/addiction, misappropriation of ministry funds, misuse of power, role, or position.

Complaints will be handled by pastoral concern and response to persons victimized; guidance and appropriate consequences for ministers who are charged with ethical misconduct; concern for the health and wellbeing of the community; and concern for the integrity of the ministry of Circle Sanctuary.

Circle Sanctuary will provide oversight of this process through its Ethics Committee, which may be activated at any time by the Board of Directors via the Ethics Officer. The Ethics Officer will receive and investigate complaints and coordinate support services to affected individuals, as well as appoint additional resources when deemed necessary. All parties will be considered innocent of any wrongdoing until an investigation has been made. In cases where this may concern ordained clergy, the Ethics Committee will make a recommendation to the Ministerial Committee for further action.  

Appropriate recommendations of the Ethic Committee may include:

  1. Personal confrontation with the minister by two ethics committee members, a male and female, about the misconduct.
  2. Request that the minister avoid social contact with the complainants.  
  3. Request that the minister obtain professional help at their own expense to address the specific behavior.
  4. A warning in writing of specific consequences for any future misconduct.
  5. Banning from Circle Sanctuary events (including Circle Sanctuary-associated social media) for a specific period of time until the minister receives professional help and can demonstrate improved behavior.
  6. A temporary suspension of the minister’s credentials with Circle Sanctuary.
  7. Permanent suspension of the minister’s credentials with Circle Sanctuary.
  8. Reporting of suspicious activities or alleged crimes by the minister to the authorities according to state laws.


V. Sexual Ethics and Misconduct

Circle Sanctuary does not tolerate sexual misconduct and/or harassment of any kind. 

Sexual misconduct takes advantage of the vulnerability of persons who are less powerful to act for their own welfare, including children. It violates the mandate to protect the vulnerable from harm.

Sexual Misconduct is the comprehensive term used in this policy to include:

  1. child sexual abuse; including, but is not limited to, any contact or interaction between a child (an individual under 18 years of age) and an adult when the child is being used for the sexual stimulation of the adult person or of a third person. The behavior may or may not involve touching. Sexual behavior between a child and an adult is always considered forced whether or not consented to by the child.
  2. Sexual abuse as defined in this policy as sexual abuse of another person is any offense involving sexual conduct in relation to
    1. any person under the age of eighteen years or anyone over the age of eighteen years without the mental capacity to consent; or
    2. any person when the conduct includes force, threat, coercion, intimidation, or misuse of ordained ministry or leadership position.
  3. Sexual harassment is defined for this policy as follows: repeated unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
    1. submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, or their continued status in an institution;
    2. submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such an individual;
    3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment; or
    4. an individual is subjected to an atmosphere of unwelcome sexual jokes, unwelcome or inappropriate touching, or display of sexual visuals that insult, degrade, and/or sexually exploit men, women, or children.
  4. Sexual misconduct is defined as repeated offensive, obsessive or suggestive language or behavior, unacceptable visual contact, unwelcome touching or fondling that is injurious to the physical or emotional health of another. This includes the misuse of technology that results in sexually harassing or abusing another person.


VI. Ethical Principles of Ministerial Power and Responsibility

Circle Sanctuary ministers and spiritual leaders are expected to recognize and be dedicated to the following principles:

  1. The role of minister/spiritual leader carries with it authority and power. Ministers will fulfill this responsibility and use this power to benefit the people who call upon them for service. They will offer acceptance and support to all people with whom they have contact regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, religion, disability, economic circumstance, physical appearance, body size, marital status, or military status.
  2. Ministers will conduct their work, private and public, according to Circle Sanctuary’s bylaws, policies, and processes, and in the spirit of our inclusiveness policy, mission, vision, and statement of purpose.
  3. Ministers are honor bound to hold sacred all confidences told to them except if a confidence revealed to them is mandated as a need to report via state or federal regulations. Ministers will abide by laws that require mandated reporting to authorized agencies.
  4. Ministers will keep in mind that the welfare of the community is paramount. Should a minister experience any personal crisis, the consequences of which could affect one’s ministry or the ministry of Circle Sanctuary, ministers are strongly encouraged to confer with Circle Sanctuary leadership and to seek counseling or confer with colleagues.
  5. Ministers are expected to maintain the boundaries of the ministerial relationship, realizing that crossing boundaries is a betrayal of trust. In honor of that trust, ministers are not to exploit or violate the emotional, spiritual, or physical well-being of people who come to them for help or over whom they have any kind of authority. Ministers will not use their position or authority to defame or manipulate individuals or groups, or intentionally foster division within the community. Ministers are not to create or cultivate dependencies nor exploit situations or relationships for personal gain.


Circle Sanctuary Ministerial Pledge

  1. I am a Circle Sanctuary minister and a clergy of Nature-based spirituality. I will dedicate time and energy to my ministry and be of service to others and to the Earth. I will also take the time I need to renew myself.
  2. I recognize the wholeness of the Web of ministry. I will be supportive of Circle Sanctuary and its many ministries.
  3. I will avoid extremes and seek balance in my ministry and life.
  4. I will be mindful of Diversity. I will respect spiritual, racial, cultural, gender, sexual orientation and other kinds of diversity.
  5. I will never misuse a person’s trust in me as clergy for my own personal gain; nor will I abuse my power as clergy to take advantage of anyone romantically, sexually or financially.
  6. I will create and focus on positivity in my life and in my ministry.
  7. I will be mindful of how my words and actions reflect on Circle—in the Pagan community and in the community at large. I will live responsibly, especially with ministry funds and my personal finances.
  8. I will act with honor in my relationships and will not neglect my family and personal relationships.
  9. I will transform negativity with positivity. I will work cooperatively, with positivity, with other Circle clergy.
  10. I will continue to learn and grow spiritually.
  11. I will protect the vulnerable; I will watch over children and keep appropriate boundaries with them. As clergy, I will report sexual abuse of minors to the appropriate legal authorities.
  12. May I use my position and spiritual power wisely and never use it for aggression nor for malevolent purposes. May I never use these to curtail the free will of others.
  13. I will be mindful that the Divine dwells in me. May Spirit guide all my thoughts, feelings and actions.