Legal and Ethical Matters Relevant to the Receipt of Financial Benefits by Ministers of Religion and Churches: A Case Study of the New South Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia
Author(s): Pauline Ridge
This paper discusses some of the findings of a research project on the use of spiritual influence for financial gain, using the New South Wales Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) as a case study. The paper begins with the hypothesis that regulation is required with respect to the receipt of financial benefits by ministers of religion and religious bodies from those under their spiritual care. Current legal and ethical regulation is briefly outlined before the project’s findings are discussed. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with leading players in the New South Wales Synod, who were asked to recount stories relating to the receipt of financial benefit that they perceived to constitute an abuse of spiritual influence for financial gain. It was found that at least two general scenarios existed which caused concern to interviewees but which were not regulated by law. The paper describes examples of these scenarios and considers whether they raise legal or ethical concerns.