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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

In light of the many, horrific, recent events (Trump administration looking to erase transgender people, bombs sent to prominent Democrats and CNN, shooting more unarmed black people, shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue) I feel that I need to make my stances perfectly clear.

I stand with the minorities, be they racial, religious, or sexual orientation and gender identity.  I fight with them where I can, and when I can’t, I try to raise awareness.  I stand against all who do not, and denounce those that attack any of them.

Unfortunately this past week is not anything new, and it has only happened more often and on larger scale over the past few years.  We have an administration that won on xenophobia and white nationalism, or in plainer terms, by imitating the Nazis.  Unfortunately this is not a uniquely American problem.  I really wish it was.  This kind of thing is showing its face throughout the world.  In Germany, we had a far right “Nazi” party win seats in their parliament last year.  We had the conservatives push for Brexit in the United Kingdom.  Just this week we had the far right win the presidency of Brazil.

America as a nation is stronger for its immigrant history.  We will only get stronger when we open ourselves up to the ideas and culture that future immigrants will bring.  Our problems are not because of immigrants, they are in large part due to greed by wealthy people and corporations along with the policies to support that greed.  For that reason alone, everyone should vote, and vote against those that support this greed.

Our racial minorities are continuously under attack.  I support Black Lives Matter wholeheartedly.  They are not saying that non-black lives don’t matter, but they are bringing into focus that there is a significant bias against them, especially from the police.  What is worse, when it is the police they are dealing with, they have good cause to fear for their lives. This is not limited to blacks though as most racial minorities have similar fears.  We need to embrace this movement and work towards more equitable policing, especially in predominately minority areas.

I firmly denounce any and all bigotry to any religion. The antisemitism of the synagogue shooting is horrific.  In this day and age there should be no reason to hate a person because they are Jewish.  For that matter, nobody should hate someone because of their religion at all.  We need to realize that if someone is truly following the teachings of their religion, and not a perversion of it that is meant to control others or perverted for political purposes, there is much more in common than different, especially when you are talking about the values the religions teach.

For anyone that is transgender.  I support you too.  There is no reason to not believe that you are not the gender you identify with.  I fully support you living as the gender that you identify with, and to be yourself and to be comfortable with yourself.  I find it abhorrent that anyone would think otherwise, and I will continue to do what I can to make sure you can be who you are.  I will do what I can in the fight that is currently going on, and I am more than willing to listen and learn from you.

With all of that, I will again make this offer to anyone that is reading this.  I live in a state that is likely to be minimally screwed by the current administration.  I offer you refuge here, and will help you transition to a more liberal area of the country if you feel the need.  My home is always open to everyone that does not hold a xenophobic, white nationalist, or similar belief.  I can always get a cup of tea, coffee, alcohol, and/or food here.  I pledge to help however I can and however you want, be it just sit here and let you vent or a shared brainstorm on what to do next.

In closing, I hear you, I support you, and I am here for you.

*Originally posted by Rev. Robb Lewis, who gave me permission to post it here, and to say that I agree with and stand behind his words. I’m sorry to not have the eloquence to be able to give my own words to this situation, but I offer these instead. 

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I have done the thing. My hand guides the heaven-bound boat. My feet walk the paths of the earth mother. I am a priest of the people of ADF, and I have sworn my oath before them and all of my spirit allies.

May I always remember how it feels to be this blessed.

New Priest - Jan's photo

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When did you hear the call to the path of ADF priesthood? What did it sound like?

If I may offer an answer that is slightly tongue in cheek, it sounded like a phone call to Rev. William Ashton where he asked me why the h*ll I wasn’t doing the CTP. (It was not a subtle call, that one.)

To more seriously answer the question, I need to go back to days long before my even knowing that paganism existed, to the time as a child when I first considered a calling to ministry. My paternal grandfather is a minister, and he is a wonderful example of the beauty and sacrifice that such a vocation can take. When he retired, I spoke at the party – I was eight – and read a poem about being shown the way to do things, instead of being told. I think back on that now and all the things that he showed me how to do that I am now doing in my grove, and I am thankful for him.

I think back on considering Methodist seminary, on considering whether I had a Catholic vocation to holy orders, on my days with a Trad Wicca outer court, and it is very clear to me that I’ve always been intended to be a priest, have always been called to ministry. I just had to find the right religion first.

When I began to study with ADF, it was entirely as a solitary. It wasn’t until I began working with a group – flexing my muscles as a leader – that I started to consider ADF’s priesthood. Over time, as my study group grew, as I was encouraged by other priests who provided shining examples of servant leadership, as my own spirituality grew and changed, I realized that while the path of the Initiate will one day be one that I walk (and probably soon), my little community here needed a priest, and I was willing to step up to fill that need.

ADF is my spiritual home. I’ve studied a lot of theology, and tried on a lot of religious hats, but until I found ADF – and specifically a devotional polytheist current within ADF – I never truly felt like I’d found the tradition I was supposed to plant my roots in. In ADF I’ve found a tradition that values both study and piety, ritual and action, history and inspiration. Reimagining the Indo-European religious practices has given me a depth and breadth of spiritual practice unlike anything I’ve known before – and unlike my days studying Christian theology, the more I study, the more sure I am that I’m in the right place, and that I’ve found the place where my vocation is meant to be nurtured, cultivated, and grown into a full-blown ministry.

The call itself wasn’t something that began or ended at any one time, but rather something that grew and was nurtured in me by my practice and study, by other priests, by my community, and by the Kindreds, until it was something I could no longer ignore. In August of 2014, I officially set foot on the path to become ADF clergy.

What form do you expect your vocation to take?

I expect my vocation to take a few different forms, based on my work so far in the clergy training program. My oath will be to serve the gods, the folk, and the land, and I see my vocation as falling into those categories as well.

I know that my devotional relationships with my deities will remain the central focus of my private practice. I have taken oaths to that service, and though I fully expect to “Serve the Gods” in many and different ways, I will likely always remain both a public servant priest and a devotional priest. I look forward to my vocation encompassing multiple spirits and to my service in the community continuing to be one where I am known as a polytheist priest – someone who will make offerings on behalf of the folk, and who will help people listen to the gods and spirits that are important to them, even if they are largely unknown to me.

I also expect that my vocation will continue to grow one on one, with the people to whom I act as a mentor. I have a strong history of helping people who feel “lost” find their footing again, getting them restarted in a devotional practice and helping them find a new home in paganism. That home may or may not be with ADF, but usually within a few months of working with someone they feel more confident and empowered to step out on their own and be the type of pagan they are called to be. Since I seem to attract these types of people both in-person and online, I will continue to make myself available for both in-person and virtual mentoring, and I look forward to seeing many more folks find their way.

My vocation in my community will, I hope, continue to express itself through the growth and development of Nine Waves Grove. I have tried since my first study group meetings in 2013 to empower the people in my group to lead, to study, to teach, and to perform rituals in such a way that my grove has never become “the Lauren show” – and I fully expect that to continue. With a slowly, but consistently, growing membership, I serve there as a coordinator, as a liturgist, as a spiritual counselor, and as a mentor, and I hope that my vocation to leadership in this group continues to grow along with it.

Serving the land is probably the place where my vocation feels the weakest, at least in the sense of things that are demonstrable outside of my own small spaces. I expect that I will continue to serve my local landbase, to clean roadsides and waterways, support legislation in Houston that preserves our wild spaces, and to grow what things I can in the little bits of earth I have access to. I have always sought to be the “Druid of this Place”, and I want to continue to be that druid.

Do you feel prepared to become an ADF priest now? Do you see further work that you will need to do to prepare yourself for the work ahead?

I don’t feel like the work I will need to do to be the best priest I can be will ever be done, but I do think that right now I have done the work that it takes to be a first-circle priest. In many ways, the work that I do for my gods and my grove already is the work of priesthood, and it is now up to me to “formalize” that relationship through ADF and ordination. I knew what priesthood often looked like when I started, having grown up in a family with a minister, and I knew what I needed to do to prepare for that and practice that, even though much of it has been external to the clergy training program courses themselves. ADF’s study programs have given me the academic foundation for my priesthood, but I expect to be challenged and continue to grow in study even as I mark this one moment of completion in my journey.

But the work of being a better priest is ongoing, and I am fully prepared to continue to study, both within ADF and with other groups, in my goal of serving the gods, the folk, and the land. I hope never to feel stagnant, never to feel like I’ve “learned it all”, because this journey is one that will change and grow as the responsibilities I have change and grow. May I never become complacent, and may I always strive for growth and the betterment of my ministry and service.

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It is typical of members who are running for ADF’s Mother Grove to field questions from the membership at large. Several members have compiled these questions into a big list for all of us to answer, so you’ll find mine here. I’ll add to this post as more questions are asked. This is a long post, but I think it’s worthwhile as a candidate for our Board of Directors to be as thorough as possible in answering these kinds of questions, so people can vote accordingly.

Blessings,
Lauren

*****

My name is Lauren Mart (though some of you may have known me previously as Lauren Neuman). I am an ADF member since 2012 and a Dedicant since 2013. My current study work has me moving towards completing ADF’s first circle of the Clergy Training Program. As well, I began a study group in 2013 that is now functioning as Nine Waves Grove in my hometown of Houston, TX, where I serve as Senior Druid. My primary hearth is Anglo-Saxon, though my daily practices (like all of ours) are as much my own as they are representative of my hearth culture.

What sort of Vision do you bring to the table for the future of ADF?

ADF is my spiritual home – something about this organization clicked for me from my very first exploration into the Dedicant Path back in 2012. Since then, I have refined and reinvented my personal Druidry to fit the growing role it has in my life. I want to see that druidry expand to encompass newcomers and solitaries, to see them supported in their vital role in our organization. I want to see us lead the way in paganism in consent culture and diversity. I want us to get our hands dirty in the environment around us, and to be druids of the land, not just druids of the library. I want us to serve the Kindreds with our whole hearts – however that looks to each of us. I want each person to bring their own brilliance, their own genius into ADF and find there a home for it to grow and flourish, that we may be, together, stronger than any of us is apart. And I want us to foster excellence. True excellence requires sacrifice – and I know that’s hard to think about. Each of us has the opportunity to bring out the best in each other, and I want to see that as ADF steps forward into the next years of being Our Druidry.

Are there any *specific* problems or goals that you want to tackle? How do you hope to address those problems/goals?

Recently, ADF has found itself in a sort of “combustion cycle”, especially online, where every six to eight months there is a blow-up about something. This is also indicative of a culture where there is a lack of transparency and trust – where people feel like they can’t trust the leaders of the organization to do the right thing (especially in these trying times where the “right” thing may be hotly debated).  I want to bring folks into the discussion, be a voice that is level-headed and (hopefully) trusted in these conversations, and always do my best to be as transparent, as trustworthy, as empowering, and as kind as possible, both to my fellow members of the MG and to the membership of ADF as a whole. Personal sovereignty is near to my heart, and I’d like to see that respected across ADF – that each of us brings our own genius to these challenges, and a culture of us-vs-them only makes us all smaller. Let’s be large. Let’s quote Whitman, and contain multitudes. Let’s embrace, and increase, our diversity in the organization. Not every idea is good, but literally any person in this organization should be respected for having good ideas – let’s open our hearts and minds to each other, from the MG right down to the newest member – and try to move forward into a place of more trust and transparency.

If you win the position you are running for, what will be the biggest obstacle you will have to overcome? How do you plan to do so?

There will be a lot to learn! I am an active member of ADF, and follow along with as much as I can from where I and my grove serve our community, but stepping into this position on a national level will bring with it new challenges. I expect that it will take a lot of my time and energy, and a lot of both hard work and heart work. But I feel strongly that new voices are needed in our organization – folks maybe who are like me, who haven’t been around ADF for twenty years. This is my sixth year as a member of ADF, my fifth year as a dedicant. I’ve done a lot of work in the organization, and I’ve gotten a ton in return. It’s time for me to do my best to serve this organization and try to help us overcome our growing pains and step into the next thirty years of Our Druidry.

Volunteer recruitment and burnout are big problems. Do you have any plans to address either of those issues?

Well, I’m volunteering! I’m new to ADF on the International level. I want to see other beginners, like me, feel empowered to take steps into the limelight. To feel heard, and valued, and then supported as we bring a new generation of leaders to ADF. To support this, I want to see a continuation of all of the work that folks like Crystal Groves have done, to get positions in ADF advertised widely and broadly. I want to see groves recruiting members to serve in more positions above the grove level, and I want to see solitary voices stepping into positions of leadership and guiding our growth.

I truly believe ADF has the smarts and the vision and the wisdom to grow into the organization that we all want it to be, if we put our minds and hearts toward that purpose.

What special skills would you bring to the position?

I bring with me the skills I have developed in bringing a group of three folks, meeting once a week to talk shop about paganism and transforming that into a functioning grove of fifteen, with weekly meetings, study groups, and the capacity to lead a (in my *totally* unbiased opinion) fantastic ritual at a statewide festival.

As well, I bring with me years of experience talking with other pagans about how to begin. I’ve talked with countless folks in the last six years about how to start a pagan practice, how to find what they’re called to do, how to Do the Work, whatever it looks like for them. I know how to listen to someone, help them distill their ideas down into core values and concepts, and then turn those core values and concepts into actions and practices that we can all learn from. Every time I do this, my own druidry is strengthened. I hope to bring those experiences with me into the Mother Grove, that we can all hear from both the beginner and the advanced practitioner.

Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the mind of the beginner, there are many possibilities.” I hope to bring my own cultivation of “beginner’s mind” to the Mother Grove, and maybe bring your infinite possibilities along with me.

How will you contribute to building a culture of consent in ADF?

I will make sure that, among other things, a consent culture course is taught (ideally as the first workshop) at any event where I am giving a presentation. If there is no-one to teach such a course, I will teach it myself.

Beyond that, I will do what I can to continue ADF’s cultural growth towards consent, including training our Grove Organizers and Senior Druids, creating consent training that is appropriate for all age groups and all event types.

Were it up to you, where would you take this organization 5 years from now, and how would you get us there?

I want to see ADF become a truly safe space for folks to come when the polarized, monotheist, black and white culture that is so prevalent in our world becomes too much. I want to see our solitaries empowered to teach in their communities (if they want to do so), our initiates serving the folk one-on-one with divination and perspective and vision, our groves providing places for families to come who need infrastructure that has, as yet, been unavailable to pagans. I want to see our priests empowered to be priests, not just administrators or sacrificers, and to lead the way into new arenas for Our Druidry. Big dreams, I know, but I feel that this organization has something special and I don’t want our light – our vision – to be clouded or lost in a world that largely doesn’t know what to make of us.

What other roles have you held within the organization, and what have you done while in them?

I joined ADF in 2012, as a solitary member. From there I started a study group, which became a protogrove, and now is a chartered grove (Nine Waves Grove, in Houston), where I have served as both Grove Organizer and now Senior Druid. Our grove has had as many as 12 ADF members associated, and our high days typically serve 25-35 members of our community. I am also the Anglo-Saxon Vice Chieftain of the Northern Kin, was an active member of the Druid Moon Casts when those were still active, and have been active in the Texas pagan community, helping build community between the groves in various parts of our state. Aside from that service, I am new to ADF on the International stage, and bring a fresh new set of eyes and perspectives to the organization. I hope that my enthusiasm and work ethic will translate into my service to ADF on the Mother Grove.

How will you encourage ways of making ADF accessible to children (with parental consent, of course)?

Our children are our future. In my work with Nine Waves, we have just grown large enough to begin creating resources for children. I know other groves are doing this work, and rather than have all of us re-invent the wheel, I’d like to see a cross-grove project to bring children’s resources together. Whether that’s simply a list of documentation that people are willing to share on a page on the website or something bigger will depend on the kind of response we get as a MG, but I think that it is absolutely time to begin to compile all of that information.

What does the NOD job description mean to you and how would you fulfill the duties of NOD?

I believe that the responsibility of the Non Officer Director (NOD) is to serve as one of the voices of the folk on the Mother Grove. Recently there have been troubles with transparency, as well as members of the folk feeling dismissed and unheard when decisions are made. Like many of you, I see that as a troubling sign that our organization is unhealthy. As NOD I will work to the best of my ability to be both accessible to anyone, as well as to be as transparent as I can be within the bounds of the office – even if all I can say is “We’re working on XYZ thing and should have something to share publicly soon”.

I also want to get new voices on the MG. Aside from my service to the Northern Kin, this is my first foray into ADF as an International organization. I bring a fresh new set of eyes, a strong voice, and hopefully can lead the way for more of our folk to feel empowered to get involved in our organization in whatever ways they can.

Lately, ADF has been rocked by several ‘scandals’ for lack of a better word, and frankly, the MG has floundered. From appointing people to making statements without complete information, these sorts of things are damaging to the organization. If elected, how would you go about navigating the issues facing the organization around bringing more transparency to processes while still responding to crisis in a timely manner?

This is a double-edged sword; we must be transparent, so that our members know that we are acting. But we must also be unified as a Mother Grove, for without a feeling of unity, we will be torn apart in the political climate of the world right now. I want to see more people interacting with MG members outside of just the minutes and meeting notices. We have a PR person for major releases, but as leaders we have to be willing to be human in public. That’s scary – it’s scary even considering it now, as just a Senior Druid. But without our humanity, without transparency, and without acting with both Wisdom and Vision, we flounder, and our organization suffers. I can’t make promises here on turnaround time, but I can say, should I be elected to NOD, I would do my best that every member of ADF knows they can come to me as a level-headed resource for discussion.

How do you view environmental issues within the context of ADF? What, if any, goals do you have to change the current actions or lack of actions currently present within ADF?

ADF is at a crossroads with regards to the environment. Like so many things in our culture, it is a polarized and polarizing force that must be handled with care. But we are druids – at heart, we honor the Earth Mother. I would like to see more environmental action, even if it’s not surrounding public policy. Let’s get groves to challenge each other on environmental service hours – let’s clean up our rivers and beaches (watersheds are close to my heart, as I live in the bayous of Houston, and they need so much love). I want to see our groves take their commitment to community service seriously, and go out and be known as the people willing to get their hands muddy to make the earth a better place. We can do that, regardless of our politics.

How do you view the role of solitary members within ADF and how do you anticipate that role will change over the course of your proposed term?

I started my tenure in ADF as a solitary, and the solitaries of ADF have a special place in my heart. You are the life of our organization, because through you we find our growth. I took it upon myself as a solitary to pray for the “communities” of ADF, and I would like our communities to return the favor. Should I have the opportunity to travel, I would hope to see solitary members where *they* are, not expect them to come to me, out here in Houston. I especially want to support the solitaries that are solitary not by choice, but by geography, in developing new resources for starting groups that might be even less formal than a protogrove. That’s how I got started with my own community, and I’d love to share that knowledge so that solitaries who want to (and I know that’s definitely not all of you) have the support and resources they need to try and plant a little acorn of a community where they are.

How would you work to make ADF as respected and legitimate as any other church in the USA, and the world.

To be respected on the level of other churches in the USA and in the World we need a bigger vision for our clergy training program – that’s likely to be a revamp that will take a long time, but modern humans need modern priests, and we can’t rely on the Indo-European “Sacrifice-Priest” to be our only model of priesthood. I’d like to see more training in pastoral care, in counseling, in one-on-one work, and in leadership models that will bring us more in line with the kind of training that churches in other religions have to offer.

In real actions, how would you, if elected, improve on the great job the MG has been doing?

In very real ways, stepping into the MG right now is stepping into some really big shoes. There are folks on the MG who have done tireless, often thankless work, and I feel as NOD it will be my job to take their efforts and run with them. To be unflagging in my support of transparency, of best practices, of listening, and of being decisive about where we truly want to take our organization into the future.

I would like to hear the candidates thoughts on strategic planning for ADF.  Where do you see us in 10 years?  20 years?  How are we going to get there?  What are your goals on the MG?

We need a vision for ADF that is bigger – as we take steps toward our current goals, we should be pushing out further into the future. I want to see us, as an organization, think bigger than just churches. I want to see more multimedia content, streamed rituals, a solid online presence that doesn’t restrict the folk to communities where those already exist. I want to see us lead the way in Paganism, to show that we have the smarts and the cohesion to turn what was a “new idea” in 1983 into something truly groundbreaking. We’ve always challenged ourselves to excellence, and I think excellence in growth is one of the ways we should be looking forward.

That will, likely, mean that ADF has to make some decisions about what we stand for – I hope that I can help guide the MG as we decide (both as the MG and as the organization as a whole) how we want Our Druidry to look.

How would you ensure fair treatment of members regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender identity, sexuality, immigration status, class, or ability?

By being a voice for *all* members of ADF – even the ones who aren’t sure they can speak up. As a NOD, it would be my job to take the mantle of criticism, in lieu of someone who was afraid or unsure how to speak up. I want to bring us forward, and that means sometimes being the one to stick my own head above the crowd. Throw your ideas my way, let’s work on them together, and I’ll bring them to the MG. I can’t promise we’ll get everything implemented, but I can promise that they’ll get brought up.

How would you look to heal divisions in the organization, bring the organization to a sense of more inclusive wholeness and create a positive vision for all members regardless of whether they are clergy, dedicants, solitaries, old-timers, newcomers, etc. Do you feel that all members are equal?

All members of ADF are, at their core, members of ADF. Regardless of what titles we hold, what study programs we complete, what service we provide, we are all members of this crazy thing we call Our Own Druidry. It is *ours* – and it is painful to me to see the impressions that people have of divisions within the organization. It is hard for an organization that is divided within itself to stand, steadfast in the rising tide of insanity that is the world at large right now. But grand ideas about unified druids are only so useful as the voices who will seek to heal those divides. That will take time, but I can think of no language that expresses my desire to be part of that healing process strongly enough.

ADF is my home. I want it to be a home for all of us, regardless of the things that have so far divided us.

How do we assure that non-Clergy, especially members with experience and skills that could be useful the organization, have a voice and place within leadership?

I see the recent MG move to advertise all positions as a good first step in this direction. I think more and more, we will need to have new voices be strong and present in our organization – not from outside the organization, but from within. We need a way to coordinate volunteers, and bring forward those of us with skills that can help our druidry grow. I would like to see this happen in increasing numbers with positions from the Regional Druids up to the MG, where assistance is called for and advertised, and the folk are empowered to serve. Without new members in service, we will burn out.

And finally, what are we offering to members who are isolated and have no interest, time, and/or ability to pursue a study program?

ADF offers a spiritual home where anyone can find others of like mind and like heart, where all are welcome to make sacrifices. Yes, we are a studious organization, but we are an organization founded with the idea that laity are to be celebrated. I think the upcoming “Hearthkeeper” idea is an excellent one – a set of “first steps” into our practices as Druids that doesn’t require homework, just hearth-work. I want to nurture that program and see it grow into a network that is ADF-wide.

Since I started my tenure with ADF in 2012, I have talked to countless people, all over the world, about how to start a devotional practice, about how to live as druids. I think everyone brings their own genius to such an endeavor, regardless of whether they ever write a book report, and we should be in the business of connecting the dots, bringing people together, and helping them find a home for their spirituality.

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There are a number of theories relative to ethics and ethical behavior, however, a universal truth for resolving moral dilemmas, is non-existent. Ethics by definition is the systematizing, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. Ethics 1 will explore professional ethics as it applies to the ADF clergy-lay relationship.

Primary Goal

The primary goal of this course is for students to enhance their knowledge of professional ethics, as it relates to their work as ADF Clergy, through research, analysis, self-introspection and the development of a personal Code of Ethics.

Course Objectives

  1. Students will increase their knowledge of basic ethical concepts and explore the impact of these concepts on the clergy-lay relationship.
  2. Students will identify their own personal morals and values and examine the potential impact of their morals and values on their work as ADF Clergy.
  3. Students will utilize their existing knowledge of the ADF Nine Virtues and as well as newly acquired knowledge of other widely accepted ethical principles and codes to develop a personal Code of Ethics.

1.    Find and provide an appropriate definition, discuss your understanding, and provide illustrative examples for each of the following seven terms: morals, values, personal bias, professional boundaries, confidentiality, right and wrong (100 words each minimum, not including definitions)

Morals

1 a :  of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior :  ethical moral judgments
b
 :  expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior a moral poem
c
 :  conforming to a standard of right behavior took a moral position on the issue though it cost him the nomination
d
 :  sanctioned by or operative on one’s conscience or ethical judgment a moral obligation
e
 :  capable of right and wrong action a moral agent

(Merriam Webster)

Morals are the principles by which one makes decisions about what is right and wrong in behavior. Societies have morals (or moral-like structures) that guide them, as well as individuals having their own ‘moral compasses’, so to speak. Often a society’s hot button issues (our current ones seem to be gay marriage and abortion) come about when individual morality conflicts with societal morality. My ninth-grade civics teacher always said that legislating morality didn’t work, but I’ve come to believe, as an adult, that it’s restrictions on morality that are hard to legislate. Permissive moralities are still moralities, they’re just a lot easier to maintain laws about. Ethical dilemmas come about when a person’s morality conflicts in some way – either with itself, or with society.

Values

3 :  relative worth, utility, or importance – a good value at the price – the value of base stealing in baseball – had nothing of value to say

(Merriam Webster)

Values are the big picture ideas from which definitions of right and wrong are derived. They are bigger than “right and wrong” in the sense that morals dictate behaviors specifically, where values are principles on which morals are built. Much like morals, values can exist at a societal or personal level, or on a group level such as within a grove. Nine Waves Grove values study and learning, so we make decisions about our group meetings that emphasize and prioritize those things that we value. It would not be morally wrong to prioritize something else as a grove, but that is what we have chosen to value, as our group began as a study group, and we would like to continue that tradition. If, over time, our values change, we can change the way we structure our behavior to mirror those changing values.

Personal Bias

3 a :  benttendency
b :  an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially :  a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment :  prejudice
c :  an instance of such prejudice
d (1) :  deviation of the expected value of a statistical estimate from the quantity it estimates (2) :  systematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others

(Merriam Webster)

Biases are a tendency for a person to think or respond a certain way in certain situations, especially in a way that is unfair to or slanted towards a certain outcome, regardless of the actual details of the situation. Systemic biases in a culture can be inherited, and often are inherited, by the members of that culture as personal biases – often in subtle and insidious ways. A good example of a systemic bias is found in resumes and job hunting, where names that are non-white-sounding are judged more harshly than stereotypically Western names, even by people who have been trained not to have racial bias affect their decisions. Personal biases like this often get in the way of treating a situation fairly, and should be identified and sought to root out as much as possible.

Professional Boundaries

1 :  something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent – Those two trees mark the boundary of our property. The mountain range that forms the country’s northern boundary

(Merriam Webster)

Professional boundaries set limits on interactions between professionals and the groups they serve. They prevent misbehavior (and the implication of misbehavior) of a sexual, personal, financial, or religious nature. Especially, they prevent someone in a position of power (like a clergyperson, but also like a doctor, teacher, or employer) from interacting with people in their organizations in a way that is inappropriate. My primary experience with professional boundaries is in the workplace, where sexual, religious, and political conversations are not relevant to our work, so I do not engage in those conversations with coworkers, and my bosses do not expect me to be forthcoming with my thoughts on those kinds of subjects. Boundary setting is especially important in the Neopagan community, where often political, religious, and sexual values are different than within the wider society.

COnfidentiality

1 :  marked by intimacy or willingness to confide – a confidential tone

2 :  privatesecret – confidential information

(Merriam Webster)

Confidentiality is the status of something as private or secret between two (or more) parties. This can be explicit, such as someone pulling someone aside for a conversation and asking specifically that the contents of the conversation be kept private, or implicit, such as within relationships where the details of the relationship are understood not to be public. In some religions, the relationship between laity and clergy is understood to be confidential in certain situations (such as within the sacrament of reconciliation in the Catholic Church), and sometimes those bounds of confidentiality are so strong as to be respected within a court of law. In a Neopagan clerical sense, confidentiality is something I would seek to uphold, simply because I value being trusted by my grove, but as always, the mandatory reporting requirements in Texas (and my own personal morals) would require that I break confidentiality if I thought someone was harming a child, for example.

Right and Wrong

Right:

2 :  being in accordance with what is just, good, or proper – right conduct

Wrong:

2 :  something wrong, immoral, or unethical; especially :  principles, practices, or conduct contrary to justice, goodness, equity, or law

(Merriam Webster)

Right and wrong are exceptionally subjective measures that vary wildly from culture to culture. In the broadest sense, ‘right’ action upholds the laws of the society, and ‘wrong’ action breaks those laws. Personal morals, however, might dictate doing a ‘wrong’ action (from a societal standpoint) because it is ethically the ‘right’ thing to do. Civil disobedience is perhaps the most well-known action of this type. As well, individuals must weigh their actions versus their own sense of right and wrong in a challenging situation. Morals, values, ethics, and fairness all weigh into an individual sense of right and wrong, leading to a lot of ‘gray’ area between black and white polarities. These grey areas are seen even in the legal system, where one person killing another person can be judged more or less harshly depending on the circumstances of the killing. Someone accidentally hitting a pedestrian with their car will usually get a much lighter sentence than someone who premeditates and brutally murders another person intentionally, despite the law regarding “one person killing another person” as wrong.

2.    Self-awareness is key to the implementation of professional ethics. Discuss how your personal morals, values, bias and ability to maintain adequate boundaries, confidentiality and determine right from wrong might both positively and negatively impact your professional relationships. (200 words minimum)

All of the topics in question 1 have instances where they could create potential conflicts – either internal or external – along the path of being a public, pagan clergyperson. For myself, I tend to hold myself to very strict standards, especially where confidentiality is concerned, but also in terms of doing the right thing for myself and for my group. The one place where I struggle now, and expect to continue to struggle in the future, is in maintaining adequate boundaries. Not necessarily in a sexual or professional sense (that’s something I don’t think I will need to worry about), but in the sense of maintaining an appropriate amount of distance and “proper behavior.”

When I started Nine Waves as a study group, I was the de-facto leader, but I was not a clergyperson. Over the years, I have begun to act as clergy for the group that is now my grove, but in general, the members who have been around since the beginning treat me more as a friend than they do as a priest. This is fine, as they certainly are my friends, but I worry that there will be the perception of bias or improper conduct there. I’ve also felt a sometimes heavy burden as a Grove Organizer and then Senior Druid to constantly act as an ambassador of ADF, and I expect that will only grow, serving to enforce my need for boundaries and ‘right’ behavior – where that expectation of myself will be higher than I would put on others. As well, I can find it easy to get excited and not set good boundaries for myself and my time, which is not so much a question of right and wrong as it is a question of maintaining my own personal health and well-being.

My personal values and morals are not likely to conflict in professional relationships with most pagans, but in Texas, it is possible that I will run into pagans who have very different morals and values than I do, especially where it comes to race, sexuality, and gender-orientation. I expect my own professionalism will be the best way for me to navigate those interactions, as well as my virtue practice with ADF. I can be hospitable without compromising on my values and morals, and I can ensure that my group does the same.

3.    Discuss how an individual learns to determine right from wrong and explain the factors that influence this determination? (100 words minimum)

Learning right from wrong is a process that starts from very early childhood, with the first expressions of consciousness. As I watch my niece and nephew grow up (they are currently two and a half years old), they are like little sponges, absorbing the culture, morals, and ethics of the people around them. They learn from what they do, from what they are told, and from the media that surrounds them. Some of my own formative memories come from interactions with my parents, but also from the television shows Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood – both shows that teach fairness, tolerance, understanding, and compassion to children, as well as helping them grow into (what I would call) ‘good people.’

As children grow up and enter school, societal factors grow much larger in their determinations of right and wrong, and peer pressure especially becomes a much larger factor that extends well into the teenaged years.

Even as adults, though, our determinations of right and wrong can and do develop, whether from interaction with others, life experiences, or our own changing perceptions of the world. Religions, social groups, political movements, and (increasingly) social media all affect how adults make decisions about right and wrong behavior. Like teens though, if surrounded by enough voices to do something more or less ethical, our morals and values can change. My own morals and values have changed dramatically since I left college, largely due to my surrounding myself with people whose beliefs I respected, and through the complete abandonment of my childhood religion.

4.    Describe several reasons why an individual would strive to “do the right thing”? (100 words minimum)

I can think of two primary arguments for why someone would strive to ‘do the right thing’, one internal, and one external.

As an external argument, a person would do the right thing because it comes with some sort of feedback that they see as positive. Whether an actual monetary reward, social appreciation, a feeling of belonging, or otherwise feeling rewarded for making the correct decision, the attitudes and opinions of those around us often influence the way we behave and can pressure us (in a good or bad way) into ‘doing the right thing’. This audience can also be ‘cosmic’, in the sense of karma or other forces that may judge a person’s actions on a grander timeline and scale. Though John Wooden says that “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when nobody is watching,” having an audience definitely influences why people do the right thing.

As an internal argument, many of us also have values and ethics that we strive to live up to. ADF’s nine virtues are perhaps a strong reminder of the internal compass that we place on ourselves. We do the right thing because it fulfils our values and promises to ourselves. This is the argument that places how we feel about ourselves next to how others feel about us, and weighs our personal opinion as more important. This is also the ‘right decisionmaking’ that happens when there isn’t anyone around to see that we make the right choice, but prefer to do so to live up to our own moral compass.

5.    Discuss how an individual’s values relate to the decision making process. (100 words minimum)

Values, as defined in question 1, are the big picture ideals around which we base our morals and ethics as people. These big picture ideals might be things like ‘tolerance’, or ‘compassion’, and they serve as the foundation of our decision-making process most of the time. We weigh our decisions against what our values say is important, and (ideally) make decisions that are in line with those values the majority of the time. Emma Restall Orr defines decision making axes as: intuition and conscience, emotion and feeling, rational sense, balancing pleasure and pain, religious law, social and political law, rights, and personal freedom (Orr 68-95).

These can be looked at through a lens of win/loss – when there is a decision to be made, and a person sees that they will ‘win’ from that decision, in the sense of gaining something or being closer to their own ideals, they will usually decide to act according to their values. Similarly, if something is viewed as a loss – even if it’s a loss of integrity or other personal judgment – they will usually decide not to act in a way that is contrary to their values. In the ‘gray area’ between moral absolutes, multiple values may come into play, and decision-making gets more complicated.

6.    Discuss the importance of ethics to the clergy-lay relationship. Do you believe a clergy person has ethical responsibilities? If so, what are these responsibilities? (300 words minimum)

Ethics are extremely important in the clergy-lay relationship because of the expectations placed on that relationship and the expectations placed on the clergyperson. The folk of ADF do not expect a simple fire-priest or liturgist, they expect pastoral care and counseling because of our culture’s relationship to priests in other, specifically Abrahamic, religions. Whether or not the ADF priest wants those responsibilities, the folk will frequently expect that kind of care and consideration based on the society in which we find ourselves, and so there is an ethical component to priesthood that is important to consider.

Perhaps the most immediately obvious in this is confidentiality – when people approach a priest, they do so expecting to find a person who will listen to and help them with issues (often moral dilemmas!) without the threat of those conversations becoming part of the public discourse, especially within a grove. Whether or not the priest can actually help solve the problems, people expect that the nature of those interactions will stay private. As well, they expect that priests will be people of virtue and ethics, and will be able to help them navigate their own ethics and values.

Above all, clergy must interact with the folk with a sense of trust and fairness, especially because of the power (whether perceived or actual) that priests have within the structure of a religious group. This type of power dynamic can distort relationships in the same way that bosses/reportees, teachers/students, and even older/younger relationship dynamics can work within families. Priests hold positions of leadership, and as such there are expectations of trust and fairness, especially in a group like ADF where the folk give the mantle of priesthood to the priests. Those expectations may not be entirely fair, and they may not be entirely realistic (see: The Dogma of Archdruidic Fallibility), but they are important to consider when defining what behavior is ethical as a clergyperson.

7.    Discuss the meaning of confidential privilege, the laws in your state that provide for this privilege and the extent to which it applies to clergy-lay communications in your community. (200 words minimum)

Confidential privilege is the assumption in a court of law that communication between a clergy and a lay person when made privately and not intended for further disclosure. Within the state of Texas, ADF clergy fall under the designations of clergy members, and thus fall under the statutes of Rule 505 about confidential privilege. The exception to this is when there is abuse that has happened or is believed to have happened, per Sec. 261 of a minor, or per Sec. 48 of the elderly or persons with disabilities.

Within ADF, however, we do not have a religious doctrine that privileges the clergy-lay communication with confidentiality in certain situations. That does not mean that ADF clergy should not strive to act ethically when things are told to them in confidence, however, it does mean that on an organizational level we are not required to do so. This is probably for the best, as it allows our clergy to act within the laws of their particular states.

Rule 505: Privilege for Communications to a Clergy Member

(a) Definitions

(1) A “clergy member” is a minister, priest, rabbi, accredited Christian Science Practitioner, or other similar functionary of a religious organization or someone whom a communicant reasonably believes is a clergy member.

(2) A “communicant” is a person who consults a clergy member in the clergy member’s professional capacity as a spiritual adviser.

(3) A communication is “confidential” if made privately and not intended for further disclosure except to other persons present to further the purpose of the communication.

(b) General Rule. A communicant has a privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent any other person from disclosing a confidential communication by the communicant to a clergy member in the clergy member’s professional capacity as spiritual adviser.

(c) Who May Claim. The privilege may be claimed by:

(1) the communicant;

(2) the communicant’s guardian or conservator; or

(3) a deceased communicant’s personal representative.

The clergy member to whom the communication was made may claim the privilege on the communicant’s behalf—and is presumed to have authority to do so.

(Varghese)

SUBCHAPTER B. REPORT OF CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT; IMMUNITIES

Sec. 261.101. PERSONS REQUIRED TO REPORT; TIME TO REPORT. (a) A person having cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect by any person shall immediately make a report as provided by this subchapter.

(b) If a professional has cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected or may be abused or neglected, or that a child is a victim of an offense under Section 21.11, Penal Code, and the professional has cause to believe that the child has been abused as defined by Section 261.001 or 261.401, the professional shall make a report not later than the 48th hour after the hour the professional first suspects that the child has been or may be abused or neglected or is a victim of an offense under Section 21.11, Penal Code. A professional may not delegate to or rely on another person to make the report. In this subsection, “professional” means an individual who is licensed or certified by the state or who is an employee of a facility licensed, certified, or operated by the state and who, in the normal course of official duties or duties for which a license or certification is required, has direct contact with children. The term includes teachers, nurses, doctors, day-care employees, employees of a clinic or health care facility that provides reproductive services, juvenile probation officers, and juvenile detention or correctional officers.

(b-1) In addition to the duty to make a report under Subsection (a) or (b), a person or professional shall make a report in the manner required by Subsection (a) or (b), as applicable, if the person or professional has cause to believe that an adult was a victim of abuse or neglect as a child and the person or professional determines in good faith that disclosure of the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of:

(1) another child; or

(2) an elderly person or person with a disability as defined by Section 48.002, Human Resources Code.

(c) The requirement to report under this section applies without exception to an individual whose personal communications may otherwise be privileged, including an attorney, a member of the clergy, a medical practitioner, a social worker, a mental health professional, an employee or member of a board that licenses or certifies a professional, and an employee of a clinic or health care facility that provides reproductive services.

(d) Unless waived in writing by the person making the report, the identity of an individual making a report under this chapter is confidential and may be disclosed only:

(1) as provided by Section 261.201; or

(2) to a law enforcement officer for the purposes of conducting a criminal investigation of the report.

8.    One of the main principles of ethics is to “do no harm”. Discuss the meaningof this principle as it applies to the clergy-lay relationship. (100 words minimum)

Harm is an incredibly difficult concept to gauge, and striving always to “do no harm” is a largely impossible task. However, as an ethical guideline, if we expand it from “do no harm” to “do the least amount of harm, to the smallest number of people,” it becomes a much more applicable structure to clergy ethics. As clergypersons, ADF priests are often found in leadership roles, whether in local groves, in larger communities, or on the national scale of the organization. As leaders, they are tasked with making decisions, and it’s a useful exercise to examine what the downstream costs are in terms of who might be harmed by a decision – from the grove, to the larger community, to the priest themselves. Ethical decisions will always have consequences, and it is nearly impossible to make a difficult decision that will not have both positive and negative consequences in the long run, but evaluating potential harm is at least a good starting place for a priest making a difficult decision.

9.    Compare and contrast the Nine Virtues described in the ADF Dedicant Path and prominent values in the dominant culture of the country in which you live. (200 words minimum)

ADF’s nine virtues are Wisdom, Piety, Vision, Courage, Perseverance, Integrity, Fertility, Hospitality, and Moderation. These virtues allow me to live as both an American and an active ADF member, though the variations of their practice are different within the two social groups for sure.

Wisdom – the virtue of knowing the truth and essence of a situation – is especially valued in American society as the ‘wisdom of elders’, but we find wisdom in many places. Those of us who are around the Unitarian Universalists often find that they value the wisdom that comes from quieter voices, and seek it even in unlikely places.

Piety, in ADF, is defined by right action in a religious sense. American piety is twofold, encompassing both religious belief and patriotic duty. While this is generally (at least in mainstream society) expressly confined to Christian religious practice and the strongly conservative, often Christianity-laced expressions of patriotism, more Americans are valuing the piety that comes from other religions, and those who have stood up to the face of American culture often do so from a sense of patriotic piety.

Vision is strongly emphasized in American culture. We like visionaries, people who see the world for what it could be, instead of simply the way it is right now, and we also really like it when people have the Courage and Perseverance to stick to those visions and make them into a new reality.

Integrity, which I often conflate as much with wholeness as with right action, is something that individuals must strive for, and while some Americans do value it, others place value in other, flashier virtues. I would say that, however, integrity is baked into our national mythology with stories such as George Washington not being able to tell a lie, and Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Honest Abe’ moniker.

Fertility, to Americans, is more often regarded as fecundity and related to sex, I think largely because of the associations our culture has with Puritanism. However, when explained, most people think creativity and being prolific with ones gifts are virtues worth cultivating.

ADF’s strong focus on hospitality is not always a virtue that Americans understand. While we instinctively cultivate relationships with our communities, the American ideal is much more individualistic than any of the Indo-European cultures would have recognized, and that triumph of the individual over their society often works counter to how reciprocal hospitality works. As well, American society places a lot of emphasis on the responsibilities of the host, and less on the responsibilities of the guest.

Moderation, however, is a virtue that Americans often say they find as an ideal, but as our society was founded by religious zealots seeking freedom, most often American moderation is found in our willingness to let each other do as they will, and to define one’s own boundaries for themselves. As such we value moderation as a society, but many individuals struggle with being moderate in their beliefs, especially in today’s political climate, which is exceptionally polarizing.

Overall, I find that ADF’s virtues are not in conflict with my living in American society directly, but the emphasis in the two groups is often different enough to be notable. I find it especially interesting that the so-called ‘warrior virtues’, of courage, perseverance, and integrity, are the ones that translate the most easily, while the producer virtues are the ones that are the most different. This is especially interesting when you think of the agricultural basis of so much of our society, and I do wonder if my understanding of American culture would be different if I lived in a rural community instead of in the large city where I currently reside.

10. The Nine Virtues described in the ADF Dedicant Path are proposed as a starting point for individuals embracing a value system inspired by traditions of the past. Utilizing the ADF nine virtues, develop a Code of Ethics for your use as ADF Clergy. Describe how you derived this code from the Nine Virtues and how you would apply this Code. (No minimum word count for the Code; however the Code must contain a minimum of five principles; 300 words minimum for the description)

I will nurture the fire of piety in myself and others. As a Priest, I will maintain my own spiritual practices and nurture spiritual practices in others. I will tend the fire of piety.

I will be kind and encourage kindness. As a Priest, I will seek always to be kind to others, and when I am faced with a challenging person or situation, I will first ask how I can be kind in that situation or to that person.

I will walk the path of justice. As a Priest, I will seek to correct the many injustices in the world, as much as it is within my power to do so, even if I can only act in the microcosm that is my smaller community.

I will act with integrity and fairness. As a Priest, I will be a person worthy of trust, and as unbiased and impartial as I can be in each situation that requires it.

I will uphold the laws of nature and ecology. As a Priest, I will remember that nature lives according to laws and that I must act within those laws. I will seek to minimize my negative impacts on the environment and to maximize my positive impacts.

I will uphold the dignity of all persons, human and non. As a Priest, I will remember that I serve the Gods, the Folk, and the Land, and thus all beings are worthy of dignity and respect.

And if I may steal from the Methodists the quote most often attributed to John Wesley, I will seek to:

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.

(“John Wesley”)

I found this question both difficult and easy. Difficult to begin, but once I began, I found that my last four years as a Dedicant and my last two years as a Senior Druid prepared me well for writing out what kind of Priest I would strive to be. As with any code of ethics, my values are on display here, and many of those come directly out of ADF’s nine virtues.

  • Wisdom, in that all of these virtues will require wisdom and in that they come out of my collected wisdom from my time living as a human on planet Earth.
  • Piety, in that the first thing I focus on is the fire of piety that I seek to nurture in myself and in others, and in the way that all of my values are influenced by my dedication to the Kindreds.
  • Vision, in that this is a vision statement for my future as a Priest, and in that I must have the ability to see something through to the future in order to create that reality for myself.
  • Courage, in that some of these statements will be difficult, and I must be courageous in facing hard decisions.
  • Perseverance, in that none of these principles will be easy to uphold all of the time, and that I must work at it, in the long haul, to become the Priest I wish to be.
  • Integrity, in that justice, trust, fairness, loyalty, and dignity all stem from being a person of integrity.
  • Fertility, in that these principles will encourage my own spiritual growth, and ideally the spiritual growth of others – whether in ADF or outside of our organization.
  • Moderation, in that I must always know where my boundaries are, and I must always know what is possible – even if I will always strive to do just a little bit more, it is good to be balanced. As well, moderation and balance are some of the laws of ecology, which I find as a Druid it is important to maintain.
  • Hospitality, in that all things come down to relationships, and I, as a Druid Priest, must be willing to embody *ghosti as often and as strongly as possible, for it is on those relationships that the rest of this code of ethics will fall.

Any code of ethics is only as good as the Priest who follows it, and I intend to post this publicly, as well as to share it with my grove. I must be accountable first to myself, but second to them, as I walk the path of Priesthood in ADF.

Works Consulted

–. The ADF Leadership Handbook. Tucson, AZ: ADF Publishing, 2014. PDF file. 28 August 2017.
<https://www.adf.org/system/files/members/publications/leadership-handbook/leadership-handbook.pdf&gt;.

“Bias.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

“Boundary.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

Hereford, Z. “Healthy Personal Boundaries and How to Establish Them.” Essential Life Skills.net. Web. 3 Sept 2017. <http://www.essentiallifeskills.net/personalboundaries.html&gt;.

–. “John Wesley.” Wikiquote. Web. 25 Sept 2017. < https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Wesley >.

“Moral.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

Orr, Emma Restall. Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics. Hants, UK: O Books, 2007. Print.

“Right.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

“Value.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 3 Sept. 2017.

Varghese, Benson. “Rule 505: Privilege for Communications to a Clergy Member.” TexasEvidence.com. Web. 25 Sept 2017. < http://texasevidence.com/article-v-privileges/rule-505-communications-to-members-of-the-clergy/&gt;.

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