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Center Ethics: A Reflection

January 2012
By: Dianne Pomon

No matter how successful our PCC ministries appear on the surface, it is wise as directors to reflect back on ministry activities and examine our actions as leaders as well as that of our board of directors. Do we reflect a biblical standard of ethics as we oversee our centers? Do we exhibit strong ethics as we do our day-to-day activities of writing a newsletter, training volunteers, or organizing a fundraiser? Does God's Word stand as the foundation of all decisions made at our centers?

Is it possible that all of us at some time have violated ethical standards of a Christian ministry and unknowingly done harm to another center or ministry? Or have we intentionally acted in an unethical manner in order to help our center be more successful?

In today's culture we are experiencing not only a "spiritual famine" but an "ethical famine" as well. Has this ethical famine possibly spilled over into some PCC and other pro-life groups? Perhaps we need to seriously examine ourselves to see if we have sinned against the Lord in our eagerness to meet center goals.

Let's take a look at the root cause of this issue of ethical famine in the land of PCCs. It goes back to the Garden of Eden and our own personal sin and carnality. From the time we are conceived until we draw our last breath, sin is with us. This sin all begins in our hearts and is manifested in our actions. "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander" (Matthew 15:19). Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that our "heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick." Thus, the root of the problem of the lack of ethics in pregnancy care center is a heart problem. This heart problem shows us that we are often not obedient to God nor are we seeking His will through His Word. We are not fully trusting in God for our provisions but placing our faith in man instead.

WITHOUT MORAL ABSOLUTES, THERE ARE NOT GOING TO BE ANY ETHICAL STANDARDS FROM WHICH TO FUNCTION.

Along with this heart issue, we may have developed a contaminated worldview that continues to tell us there are no moral absolutes. Without moral absolutes, there are not going to be any ethical standards from which to function. Thus, we find ourselves embracing relative truths instead of absolutes. Relative truth tells us that if the majority is doing it, it must be permissible. If the outcome appears to be positive and if man praises our efforts, it must be acceptable. When the world tells us that the end justifies the means (pragmatism), it will seem satisfactory to us. Because we are faced with different situations, we can simply change our standards since they are now flexible.

But does this way of thinking line up with biblical truths? Throughout God's Word, we see that man is both morally and ethically responsible to God. When we violate God's moral laws, there is always a consequence. We know that from our own lives and in counseling those who come into our centers. Sexual immorality often leads to pregnancy and STDs, the consequences of sin. Various sins of unethical behavior will also have severe consequences on our ministries. We may eventually find ourselves quickly losing credibility in the eyes of other PCCs, our volunteer staff, the church, and even our donors. Will God continue to bless our ministries if we continually justify our sinful actions?

One of the biggest ethical issues I have observed in about 20 years of ministry is the issue of competition. It seems some centers have an attitude of competition towards others. If one center gets an ultrasound, we must have one too, but it must be a newer state-of-the- art model. If another center opens a satellite office, we must do the same as quickly as possible. When finances get tight, the competitive center will sometimes justify going into another center's geographical area to obtain financial support from area churches. Sometimes disparaging words may be spoken to encourage churches to support our center rather than another.

The Heart of the Matter

Feeding into that competitive mindset is a jealous, envious heart. This kind of heart will sometimes seek to know everything going on at other centers. In order to accomplish this, they may go so far as to attend another center's fundraising efforts just to see how they do things and how successful it appears to be. They may even get on another center's mailing list in a secretive fashion in order to monitor that center's activities.

Some centers have a prideful heart. They often brag they were the first to achieve a specific ministry goal. They perceive themselves as having the largest budget and paid staff. They desire the praise of man and for others to look to them as the model center in the area. They believe themselves to have all the answers to all center issues, be it staff and board relations, recruiting of volunteers, fundraising, etc. But how ethical have they been in achieving ministry goals? Have they allowed the world to creep into their ministry? Does the Gospel of Jesus Christ take a back seat to other center goals? Are they seeking the praise of God or man?

Another center might have a heart of thievery. Have you ever considered that plagiarism of other ministries' copyrighted materials is theft? To put our name on written material someone else labored over writing is stealing. Our newsletters should be above reproach at all times and not have stolen articles within them. Copyrights are there for a purpose, and PCCs should respect that. Training manuals, brochures, booklets, etc., simply should never be photocopied for use within our centers. When concepts or ideas are written about that are not original, we must give credit to the author from whom we obtained the material.

Considerations

Perhaps it is time we ask ourselves a question: "Will God continue to honor our center if unethical actions are present?" We need to remember that success in God's eyes is not our annual budget, not how many satellite centers we have, how many clients we see, how large our staff is, or if we have an ultrasound machine sitting in our office. Success in His eyes is reflected by our obedience to Him (Colossians 3:22) and our willingness to boldly proclaim the Gospel to hurting young women (Matthew 28:18-20). God is not looking at just the physical aspect of our centers but at the spiritual as well. Our goal at all times should be to glorify God as we serve in these vital ministries.

What are some possible solutions to help all of us uphold ethical standards in our centers? Perhaps for a starter, we should make certain that all staff and volunteers, including ourselves, are of the highest ethical and moral integrity. We all need to refrain from pride and arrogance in our personal lives as well as our professional ones.

WHEN WE VIOLATE GOD'S MORAL LAWS, THERE IS ALWAYS A CONSEQUENCE.

One of the most profound ways to stop unethical behavior is to pray for other pregnancy centers around us, including their director, staff, and board of directors. It is vitally important that we work with one another, not against each other, because we simply are not in competition with each other. Be willing to share your successes and failures with each other, whether it involves a fundraising effort or a training program. As we pray for each other and work together, unethical behavior simply will not occur.

Never be critical of another pregnancy care center or ministry to your staff, donors, or the church. An exception would be to "judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24) or to expose false teachings (Titus 1:10-16). Be honest in all communications regarding your ministry with the church and your donors. Do not plagiarize others' materials in your own publications or teachings (Exodus 20:15-16).

Refrain from jurisdictional disputes, but respect churches closer to another center and do not solicit support from them. Sometimes centers share funding, and that is perfectly acceptable when circumstances present themselves that allow this to happen.

All decision-making for fundraising, public relations, and center operations should be guided by God's Word. If we are adhering to Scripture in all we say and do, we will never function in an unethical manner.

It is vitally important to the health of our centers for us not to have an ethical famine, but rather to seek to nourish one another as we labor to serve the Lord. Competition between centers should be avoided at all costs. We should seek to share with one another our successes, but do so in a manner that would help another center, not tear them down. Remember the Golden Rule: "Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (Matthew 7:12). By remembering that simple rule, we should be able to reflect back on our ministry and know we have functioned in an ethical fashion.

Dianne Pomon, a registered nurse, has served as a CPC director for about 20 years. She and her husband have five children. Her heart's desire is to see biblical counseling and evangelism become an integral part of all pregnancy care centers.



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