Moral Exemplar or Ethical Professional? Clergy and Sexual Sin in Methodist Church Law

Darryl W. Stephens


This essay compares and contrasts the use of two paradigms for clergy ethics in Methodist law and polity over the past century: clergy as moral exemplar and clergy as ethical professional. Focusing on the regulation of the sexual lives of clergy, in particular the proscriptions of divorce, homosexuality, and marriages involving divorced persons or same-sex partners, the possibilities and limits of each paradigm are explored. Advocating for judicious use of each approach, even as they are found together to be an insufficient depiction of the totality of clergy ethics, this essay calls the church to develop a substantive, theological account of singleness, marriage, and sexuality to nurture the moral lives of clergy and the Christian communities they lead.


clergy ethics; homosexuality; divorce

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