Code of Conduct for Faculty, Staff, and Teaching Church Mentors

Jan 1, 2023


About Western Theological Seminary

Located in Holland, Michigan, WTS offers 16 graduate programs online, in residence, in English, and Spanish for women and men preparing for faithful Christian ministry. WTS was founded in 1866 when seven of the eight members of Hope College’s inaugural graduating class wished to become ministers and petitioned their denomination to allow them to complete their education in Holland. Since that time, WTS has been preparing women and men for a lifetime of ministry all around the world in many ministry and denominational contexts.

By Western Theological Seminary

It is the purpose of this Code to call forth our best practices and to assure that our community of faith reflects the Spirit of Christ.  Western Theological Seminary’s Code of Conduct offers specific guidelines for professional relationships and is not intended to determine whether a person is legally liable in a court action or whether other legal consequences may occur.

As faculty, staff, and teaching church mentors:

  1. We will not exploit the trust and vulnerability of students. We will refrain from exploiting a teaching or mentoring relationship for our own personal or professional gain.
  2. We will refrain from behavior that discriminates against a member of Western’s community based on factors such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, disability, language, or socioeconomic status. The seminary faculty affirm the principles of academic freedom and academic standards as expressed in the ATS document on “Academic Freedom and Tenure” and “Professional Ethics for Teachers” referenced in Appendix B of the handbook.
  3. We will refrain from all forms of abusive words or actions, including sexual misconduct or harassment. Such behavior is offensive and violates the relationship of professor to student, mentor to student, or staff to student. What constitutes sexual harassment is identified in the seminary’s Handbook (Appendix C).
  4. We will not engage in sexual intimacy or romantic involvement with students while they are enrolled at Western Theological Seminary. Due to the power differential in the relationship, a student can never consent as an equal to intimate or sexual behavior or involvement.
  5. We will maintain the boundaries set by professional roles and functions. We are mindful that dual (or multiple) relationships with students are at times unavoidable but could impair our teaching or mentoring or our judgment about the nature of the relationship and the role and function we play in the relationship. Dual roles include, but are not limited to: being a teacher and counselor; professor and friend; faculty member and business partner; supervisor and spouse.
  6. We will not coerce, harass, criticize, nor end the mentoring relationship with a student who has acted in a reasonable, responsible and ethical manner to protect his or her integrity when the student feels a boundary has been transgressed. We will build and provide structures that ensure safety and confidentiality for students when they do speak out.
  7. We will not use our professional relationship with graduates for personal gain. We recognize that teacher-student and mentor-mentee relationships involve a power imbalance which often does not end when a student graduates.
  8. We will protect confidentiality. As faculty, staff and teaching church mentors we will obtain informed consent when we refer to a student in any presentation or in publications.
  9. We will seek informal paths that can lead to understanding, healing, reconciliation, and restoration in the spirit of Matthew 18:15-20 when relationships are broken or damaged in the community. However, when a formal complaint of sexual misconduct or harassment has been filed, we will follow the seminary’s policy as described in the Seminary’s Handbook, Appendix C.
  10. We will remain mindful of the possible effect of our own physical and mental health on our ability to teach and supervise students. We will not initiate a teaching or mentoring relationship when we know that personal problems or lack of training will prevent us from being an effective teacher or mentor.
  11. We acknowledge that Western Theological Seminary can end a mentoring relationship with an individual or a specific congregation at any time without providing detailed reason for doing so if the wellbeing of a student is at risk.
  12. We acknowledge that Western Theological Seminary, a student, a mentor, or a congregation can pursue legal advice when it is determined that unethical behavior occurred.
  13. We recognize that students have received a copy of this Code of Conduct and have been empowered to speak out against any and all abusive behavior. We acknowledge that students are encouraged to report any and all abusive behavior to the Academic Dean, the Dean of Students, or an appropriate Seminary representative.