Church Governance or Policy Issues, Leaving the Church, Meetings with the Pastor, Mental Health and the Church, Parenting

Pastoral Confidentiality: Does it Still Apply after Church Member Resigns?

 

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What is the responsibility of pastors for those they deem have “gone astray?” Do pastoral confidentiality rules apply even when someone resigns their church membership?

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Pastoral Confidentiality, church discipline, church membership
What message are we writing on the tablet of human hearts?

 

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The other day, I read an article, Stabbed in the Back by a Cult Leader and it left me feeling sad and angry. “Sheldon” is a young man who met with the pastor of his church of which he was a member for 12 years. The pastor barely knew Sheldon as he had only been there a couple of years. The purpose of Sheldon’s visit was to resign his church membership and to explain some very personal details that led to his decision:

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Since the abuse of my past played a role in the life experiences that led me there, I told him about how I was beaten until I was about 11 years old, forced off medication for my depression, barricaded in the house of my “parents” and threatened with violence when I tried to leave at 21 years old, and about the most recent of the abuse, “The Confrontation,” where just this past December, when I was forced to cut them out of my life, and they tried to break into my home and nearly assaulted me in front of a police officer.

I told him even if I could believe in Christianity again (which is a massive remove possibility), I couldn’t go back to a church as conservative as that church, and I definitely could not return to that church, for my own safety. When I told him this, I explicitly told him that I expected this to be confidential, my exact words were “this should not leave this office.” He never once objected to this, and I went on with the presumption that it would remain confidential.

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There is a lot that we can tear apart in Sheldon’s post: the way the Christians deal with mental health issues, corporal punishment, the idea of adult children as personal property, etc. Each one of those topics can get my ire up, especially as it crosses the lines into abuse. But what I’d like to discuss is this:

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The pastor did in fact reveal Sheldon’s personal details to the church body without Sheldon’s permission.

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Sheldon contacted the pastor to ask for confirmation that he had in fact revealed Sheldon’s personal information, and here is a the pastor’s response (pastor’s name removed).

 

Dear (legal name)
 
 
I would encourage you to meet with me about this issue for little can be said in an email with such a sensitive situation as this. It is true that I informed the congregation of your decision to leave (church name) and, as is my pastoral duty out of love for you, concern for Christ’s flock, and adherence [sic] to His word, I did inform them of the reason for your resignation as you have pursued a different faith than the one to which we adhere.

 

I was obligated biblically [sic] to do this, as our Lord prescribes that the church body have an opportunity to restore a church member who has gone astray. I never submit to rules of confidentiality that are superseded by a higher authority whether that of the state or of God’s Word. Further, I tried to call you, but I could not reach you by the phone number(s) that we possessed.

 

Therefore, I wrote you to communicate my intentions as you resigned the day of the business meeting. Once again, it is out of deep love and in obedience to God’s Word that I have performed these actions. You are more than welcome to touch base with me about this issue if you like. I have tried to go by your house to see you, but have been unsuccessful thus far. You are in our prayers.

Sincerely, 

Pastor ________

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I corresponded with Sheldon to get more information. Sheldon was not in church discipline. He voluntarily left his membership. The pastor sided with his parents.

 

What is the appropriate Biblical response to Sheldon’s situation?

Was the pastor within his right to disclose personal information to the church body?

Is it ever appropriate to share personal information to the church body?

If you were Sheldon’s pastor, how would you have handled this situation?

If you could say something to Sheldon (I have a hunch he’ll be reading), what words would you share with him?

 

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 Update: Sheldon sent me a photo of the letter that his former pastor dropped by yesterday.  This is ongoing harassment.  Sheldon has already resigned his membership.

 

Sheldon, pastor confidentiality, church membership, pastor harassment

 

___________,

I am deeply sorry for the misunderstanding associated with our encounter and my responsibility toward God and the church. The last thing I want is for there to be something else in the way of you coming to the truth. Please know that I care very much for you as many at Grace also do, and I would welcome an in person conversation with you.

 Sincerely,

Pastor ________

168 thoughts on “Pastoral Confidentiality: Does it Still Apply after Church Member Resigns?”

  1. Sheldon, I’m so glad you shared your story, & I’m so sorry for everything you’ve been through. I’m going to write more on this later–but my pastor also mistreated me when I tried to tell him about my abusive mother. He outright called me a “tool of the devil to hurt your mom.” I’ll write more about that encounter later–but it was amazing to me that we both had the same experience, and w/ SBC pastors. 😦

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  2. @lydiasellerofpurple

    “It might be helpful to go back to the original thread where John introduced himself to the blog.”

    I actually had read that. I think you bring up a good point when you said “…to some of our ears”

    I did not get the same impression of John as some others have. And while some are chastising John for not familiarizing himself with the whole blog before commenting, he was able to offer valuable insight as to how the blog would look to someone who happens across this blog for the first time. Once a person has been here a while, he can no longer see how the blog will look to a newcomer. Even if a person disagrees with what John said or even how he said it, one can choose to respond in a nice way.

    @Tom Parker
    I did not see the lack of graciousness that you saw (even though we were reading the same words).

    @Patrice,
    I’m all for extending grace to John (or Patrice or others) whether or not he (or she) has been abused in the past.

    Apparently you saw a lot of “judgmentalism” that I did not see. I just did not take what he said the same way others did, apparently. I think he came in with a unique perspective, a different way of wording things, and, dare I say, some constructive criticism.

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  3. “Once a person has been here a while, he can no longer see how the blog will look to a newcomer. Even if a person disagrees with what John said or even how he said it, one can choose to respond in a nice way.:”

    Bonnie, Thanks for explaining more. But I am confused. Who is the arbiter of “nice” in these situations? How about the blog owner?

    I ask because often victims are told their “tone” is wrong or their responses are “bitter” or gossip. Or they have no proof, etc. There is a pastor who ended up serving jail time years later but before that, quite a few victims had gone to his mentor, Paige Patterson of SWBTS, to complain of his advances only to be told they were gossiping because they did not have 3 witnesses to the advances. As if perps do it in front of witnesses. You would not believe the sorts of rebukes victims get from “Christians” simply because they don’t want to know. Or they hate weakness and think all victims are weak.

    I, for one, am quite glad victims step up to the plate at all. So many stay silent because the fear of being rejected again. John was putting heavy burdens on them early on in other threads. I am proud of people for standing up to him. He was even cruel to Sheldon. Please don’t add to the heavy burdens they already bear.

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  4. “I think he came in with a unique perspective, a different way of wording things, and, dare I say, some constructive criticism.”‘

    Trust me. Spiritual abuse victims have already heard the “constructive criticism” ad nauseum.

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  5. “And while some are chastising John for not familiarizing himself with the whole blog before commenting, he was able to offer valuable insight as to how the blog would look to someone who happens across this blog for the first time.”

    This is not unusual.
    The same way it can look to a “fan” of the guru in a church and how they respond to hearing about someone else who was spiritually abused by the guru. Yes, we have seen it before.

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  6. Bonnie K:

    You said:”I think he came in with a unique perspective, a different way of wording things, and, dare I say, some constructive criticism.”

    Baloney!!! Poor John A–I do not think so.

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  7. “But I am confused. Who is the arbiter of “nice” in these situations?”

    Certainly the blog owner can choose to censor, put in the dog house, ban, etc., whomever she chooses.

    I hope to clarify what I mean by nice (basically common courtesy to newcomer who is different). John, from the very beginning, let it be known that he did not know Julie Anne or Miano, and that upon visiting the blog for the first time it seemed to him [and he went on to describe his perspective as a first timer here]. Almost immediately, commenters began making digs such as “straw man fallacy” (which is fine to point out if there is indeed a straw man, but in this case, John clearly said that this was his perspective–he used the phrase “I am sensing”– upon visiting the blog for the first time); a suggestion that he was just trying to be insulting but wasn’t as good as someone else at that kind of insult (“John could do it better of course. Must not have spent enough time in seeker mega’s to see the pros do it.”); that he was being judgmental; some unsubstantiated suppositions about how John might feel (“I suppose John is okay with Miano’s ‘technique’… I guess John is okay with Miano taking Christ’s place on the throne and judging others…Give yourself a pat on the back John, and send your $$ to support this trash…”); that his comments were meant to be “confusing and superior”; and insult to his name (do we need an arbiter to tell us that it is not nice to insult a person’s name?).

    It is not nice to make unfounded assumptions about a person’s motives. It is not nice to put words in someone else’s mouth with unsubstantiated suppositions. It is not nice to treat someone who comes to a blog and patiently tries to clarify his view point (who also takes the time to listen to the video, who is transparent enough to have his full name and and a link to contact info) to suspicions about why he came to the blog.

    The group dynamics of little {wink-wink} jokes between commenters about John are not nice.

    If someone thinks John is putting a heavy burden on someone, he or she needs to directly confront John with that without rudeness. Making innuendo about his motives or jokes about his name is not “standing up to him.”

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  8. Bonnie, I don’t “do” motives. They don’t matter. I can only go by words in a blog comment. And words have meanings. A lot of people spent time trying to “understand” John and it only went downhill fast. We will have to agree to disagree and I will ignore your rebukes and chalk it up to different perspectives. I simply do not see it your way.

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  9. Bonnie: If you have issues with the way I am moderating, please bring them up to me privately. I agree with Jim – this topic has been diverted to John. Let’s get back on track, please.

    BTW – I will also say that I have seen a pattern of certain people coming to the blog, not paying attention to what the blog is about, interject comments that cause disruption and hijack conversations. Let’s be respectful with the conversation and goal of this site. Thanks!

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  10. You are right, Jimmy, it really is about Sheldon to whom my heart goes out. Unfortunately, John is using every thread to criticize this blog and participants. I have been unable to persuade him to a different opinion. I support the work being done here, my conscience is clear on my motives for participating, I stand by my comments, and I am now going back to supporting victims.

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  11. “This is not unusual.
    The same way it can look to a “fan” of the guru in a church and how they respond to hearing about someone else who was spiritually abused by the guru. Yes, we have seen it before.”

    No that is not at all what I’m saying. If you are suggesting that John’s comments and perspectives are because he is a fan of someone who has abused Julie Anne, I think you are mistaken.

    I’m simply saying just as a new neighbor in the neighborhood, the new employ on the job, the new member of a team, can give valuable insights, so can new visitors to this blog. (John was just an example; there will be other new visitors here.)

    I’m saying it will be a mistake to be suspicous of anyone who comes in with a criticism and assume that the new person MUST be a fan of the abuser. In another thread there was exactly that suspicion.

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  12. Julie Anne,
    Yes, I will contact you directly. (I had already posted the above before I saw that comment.)

    JA note: Thank you!

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  13. “Let’s get back on track, please.”

    Good point.

    As I read the note the pastor left for Sheldon you posted later in the thread I am reminded of this comment upthread which hits the nail on the head:

    “As far as a member going astray, this pastor took the EASY WAY OUT. This Bible passage, which also guides my denomination, refers to those who flaunt sin and destruction in the congregation, not those who disagree with theology or even those who want to leave.”

    The harassing pastor is focused on Sheldon “agreeing” with him on “truth”. Everything will be ok as long as Sheldon “conforms” with the pastors definition of truth. No journey for Sheldon just conformity. No doubts allowed. That is false unity.

    That IS the easy way out. It is also deadening to the soul.

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  14. I feel like dissecting the pastor’s note he left for Sheldon the other day:

    I am deeply sorry for the misunderstanding associated with our encounter and my responsibility toward God and the church.

    JA interpretation: Sheldon, you have a problem. You are not listening and obeying me. And because I am God’s anointed one and have a responsibility to carry out his work, I need to keep reminding you of that.

    The last thing I want is for there to be something else in the way of you coming to the truth. Please know that I care very much for you as many at Grace also do, and I would welcome an in person conversation with you.

    JA interpretation: Sheldon, we care about you so much that I am going out of my way, badgering inviting you until you surrender to my repeated requests. Having you gone is not helping me with my attendance #s. So, hurry up and come back to church like a good submissive boy young man so that our church family doesn’t have the thorn in the side that you have caused disunity.

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  15. The issue of pastoral confidentiality becomes especially important when someone belongs to a church or denomination in which psychologists are distrusted and members are discouraged from seeing qualified therapists.

    Confidentiality is critical to effective therapy. A person being counseled must feel secure in knowing what he or she says will not be repeated by the therapist (with the legal exceptions of threats of violence, confessions of child abuse, and suicide plans of course). It is wrong for pastors to discourage people from seeking therapy outside the church to begin with but to blab what they learn from a counseling session is even worse.

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  16. @ Serving Kids in Japan

    “Please consider sharing your story”

    What, and get called all sorts of bad names, all over again? If you read the comments on my blog, you’ll see that I am used to this. There is a bigger elephant in the room that nobody dares to mention than the faults to be found in certain churches, when it comes to explaining the sort of abuse that it takes people 50 years or so to admit they suffered in childhood or adolescence. But if you really want somebody to hate, somebody to tell that they weren’t abused, and that it was their own fault, find somebody willing to mention that bigger elephant.

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  17. @ Lydia

    “John was putting heavy burdens on [victims] early on in other threads. I am proud of people for standing up to him. He was even cruel to Sheldon.”

    I wasn’t putting any “burdens” on anybody, so far as I can see. I don’t think Sheldon thinks I was “cruel” to him. “Seek and ye shall find” is one of the most encouraging promises of the whole bible.

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  18. @ Jimmydee

    “Has this whole thread gotten side tracked a bit. It really is not about John A is it???”

    LOL!

    Even when I kept my silence, it still went on and on and on.

    There really are only two main schools of thought, on what we ought to be talking about. The majority think that pastors should be bound to confidentiality. Lydia and I think otherwise.

    I value my pastors. I would never expect confidentiality of either of them. I would never ask my pastor for the sort of counselling service for which (as Marsha points out) confidentiality is necessary. That’s not what being a pastor is about, in my opinion. Pastoring is an important job, which it is excellent to do well, and dangerous to do badly, but it is not the same job as being a counsellor, in the modern sense of the word, and never has been.

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  19. @ Julie Anne

    “Let’s get back on track, please.”

    Exactly. The question as I see it is whether formal counselling, in which there is an expectation of confidentiality, is a service that Sheldon was right to expect a *pastor* to provide. I wouldn’t go to an optician to have my tooth filled, or to a dentist to have my eyes tested.

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  20. @ Marsha

    “John is using every thread to criticize this blog and participants”

    I *have* offered some (I would call it) “critique” of the blog’s agenda, and taken offence at some of the content (mostly name-calling, directed at me). But you won’t find any direct criticism of individual participants, only of the worst ad hominem content when it first started. Surely that is OK. I have tried ignoring the various personal insults, but even that hasn’t stemmed the flow.

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  21. Personally, this turning of attention to the motives and style of the commenters is exactly why I rarely comment anymore in blogs.

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  22. I agree, John.

    I will say though that my first husband and I did go talk to our pastor about how to deal with my husband’s toxic father in such a way that wouldn’t have a negative impact on our marriage. We weren’t seeking therapy but good advice from one of the wisest men I know with one if the best marriages I have ever seen. He kept the visit confidential (although no damage would have resulted had he not) because he thought it would be wrong to do otherwise. He is a man with great integrity.

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  23. John:

    I agree with you on not going to a pastor for counseling. I strongly believe that a person should not go to a pastor for counseling unless that pastor is a licensed therapist. I hold this point of view because I do not think that most pastors are trained in any way to deal with mental health issues. I experienced that when I was a ministry student many years ago – however, I acknowledge that degree programs may have changed.

    However, I do think that if someone were to go to a pastor for counseling (and I believe this happens a lot), if confidentiality is asked, it should be maintained. There are some states that hold pastors accountable to confidentiality, therefore, a pastor must maintain that. The only instance where I see a pastor, or counselor, able to break confidentiality is in the case of self-harm, or harm to others.

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  24. Many people go to pastors for counseling, often the only person willing to offer help without huge costs.

    “Troubled people are more apt to seek help from a clergyman than from a member of any other professional group. This puts the minister in a strategic and demanding position. An oft-quoted study of a cross-section of the American adult population revealed that one out of every seven Americans has sought professional help with a personal problem. Of these, forty-two percent went to clergymen, twenty-nine percent went to family doctors, eighteen percent to psychiatrists and psychologists, and ten percent to a special agency or clinic.( Americans View Their Mental Health, p. 307). Ministers are on the front lines in the efforts to help the burdened and the troubled.”
    http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=419&C=262

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  25. In the past my husband was a Deacon, an Elder, a Christian School BoRd member and a leader of two small groups. Because of our so called status within the Christian community, many people came to us for counseling. We always felt honor bound to keep confidentiality. In fact, years later people have written us and said they were so grateful they could trust us. I feel we did a lot of good. We called on God for His wisdom and kept our mouths shut.

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  26. School board, not school bored. Although the latter is probably more accurate.

    JA note: I’m not going to bother correcting this — too funny.

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  27. Haha Leslie! I have a couple of kids who might relate to school “bored.”

    Good for you and your husband with understanding the importance of confidentiality! I’m sure that all of the people that you have helped truly appreciated it.

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  28. If I may clarify, I understand, and have no problem with, someone going to a pastor for advice over a matter. We do that all the time with friends and family.

    I do have a problem when it comes to mental health issues, or when it deals with issues that a pastor has no training to deal with. I would hope that a pastor who finds himself (or herself) in an uncomfortable position of offering counseling to someone regarding an issue way over his/her head, that he/she would refer that person to outside sources.

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  29. I’m late to this discussion and haven’t been able to read all the comments.

    Sheldon shouldn’t have been treated the way he was. I could understand a breach of pastoral confidentiality if someone is threatening to hurt themselves or some else, or if the member had confessed child abuse or some other act which the pastor hearing the confession is legally obligated to report. That doesn’t appear to be the case in this instance.

    In the mid-1990’s I attended a nondenominational church which I left after several years when they went off the deep end on a few things. A couple of years after I left I had a conversation with someone still in that church at the time. He told me the pastor had recently told the congregation that if anyone left for another church, he would go to the new pastor and present the departed member’s counseling files. I was shocked, to say the least.

    I’m not sure what my former pastor would have done if that policy had been in effect when I left. I actually left church for several years following my departure form that congregation, although I’ve long since returned to fellowship.

    I’m glad I got out of that church when I did. Ironically, it eventually fell apart and no longer exists. The last I heard the former pastor and his wife had moved about 50 miles out of town and were running a private school.

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  30. I meant to say someone else, not “some else.” It serves me right for typing a long message after midnight Eastern time.

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  31. Bonnie k wrote, “@Patrice, I’m all for extending grace to John (or Patrice or others) whether or not he (or she) has been abused in the past.”

    Grace is for everyone, yes, but that doesn’t include an obligation to tolerate mean-spiritedness and condescension after several attempts to reach though it to the person beyond. I revert to my original conclusion.

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  32. Kathibonham, I agree. A pastor in over his head has an obligation to refer the person to a therapist, as well as to maintain confidentiality.

    That Sheldon’s ex-pastor sees his responsibility to God as different than his responsibility to Sheldon shows that he has studied too much doctrine and church history and too little relational ethics.

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  33. In my correspondence with Sheldon, I suspect that there would be no referrals to mental health professionals – just a hunch, mind you.

    If you go to Grace Community (John MacArthur), my former church, and many others like those, mental health counseling is NOT accepted as valid counseling.

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  34. “Here is a tip: Never attend a church where you cannot see a detailed budget and vote on it every quarter in a business meeting –where you can ask specific questions and have input into how the money is spent. Never attend a church where staff salaries are a state secret. It is amazing how different those sorts of churches are.”

    Here is another tip – never join a church that requires you to sign a formal membership agreement. 9Marks churches are big into this. I don’t see the biblical requirement of it. It’s a great tool for authoritarian pastors but does nothing positive for the members.

    Another tip for Sheldon – I doubt you have any plans to agree to an “in person” meeting with your former pastor; that would be wise, nothing good could come from it.

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  35. Sheldon (if you’re still reading this far into the thread), I had to cut out my mother too (father is dead). Therapist: “You made a bad decision when you chose your parents, Patrice. Time to fix it.” W00t

    But it’s a lonely harsh action to take, even when driven to it, and even though the freedom is hugely relieving. To be required to also cut out your social/religious community must sometimes make the loneliness and disconnectedness overwhelming.

    I don’t know where you are in the process of healing from the abuse thrown at you, but be very patient with yourself, ok? It took me 14 years from PTSD collapse to finally own a whole day of peace. It is completely worth the effort but what a long slog!

    As to the control-freak pastor, I also recommend a certified letter. I don’t know what’s available in your state against stalking, but I’d use it if he doesn’t quit tout de suite. There are decent people in this world, but he is not one of them. You need never again put up with controlling behavior by others.

    I wish you good friends at your Unitarian church, people who see who you are and like what they see, who enjoying being with you.

    I have also found it helpful to sit on the park bench in my mind, where God hangs out. I lean up against Him/Her, finding love that I’ve never known before. This is a different god than the one I was raised with. S/He approves of how I am made, and wishes me happy. What a concept!

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  36. J.A. wrote: “If you go to Grace Community (John MacArthur), my former church, and many others like those, mental health counseling is NOT accepted as valid counseling.”

    Well, well, well, another piece of the puzzle falls into place. My X pastor Dr. Emerson Eggerich, author of Love & Respect shared (bragged) that he was mentored by J.Mac. (he-he-hey, Julie Anne see how brave I am getting naming names ( ;
    O, boy, o boy, I could tell you several stories how professional counseling was held in disdain. I will hold my tongue. Love it when a light bulb comes on.

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  37. Along with the breach of confidentiality, another aspect of Sheldon’s situation is the “After church member resigns”. Sheldon or Julie Anne may know whether or not Sheldon’s former pastor believes in the Nine Marks theory of church membership. It teaches that pastors must not allow their people to “resign into thin air”. It teaches that pastors are officially accountable before God for members who have officially “joined” their churches. This is taught to be such a serious matter with such eternal consequences that pastors will “damn the torpedoes– full speed ahead” to try to bring the *wandering sheep* back *home*. Usual notions of ethics or kindness or friendship are thrown out he window because of a perceived higher duty to God or the Gospel or the Bible (Heb 13:17, Hebrews 13:17-17, and Hebrews chapter thirteen, verses seventeen through seventeen).
    I have been associated with more than a few churches, para church groups, and home fellowships over more than a few years. Thousands of people have left these groups for thousands of reasons over the years (along with dozens of pastors). Only once have I known someone to be pursued by pastors like this. A man left a Nine Marks church without officially resigning. When a pastor asked him the reason, his answer was unsatisfactory– possibly meaning he was leaving the faith. The man made it clear he was never coming back. Pastors then initiated a Matthew 18 process followed by a special Matthew 18 church meeting to “tell it to the church”. A certified letter was sent threatening excommunication, which was carried out by the pastors in a special I Corintians 5 church meeting the next week.

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  38. “It teaches that pastors are officially accountable before God for members who have officially “joined” their churches.”

    If God exists, I am the only one accountable for my actions. I don’t belong to any other person. As I read these blogs, I read about a lot of pastors who seem to think that church members are property: flocks of sheep to be sheared or slaughtered as necessary.

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  39. “The majority think that pastors should be bound to confidentiality. Lydia and I think otherwise.”

    Gee, I hope that is not what I communicated about pastor confidentiality. I most certainly do think they “should” be bound to confidentiality from a spiritual and ethical pov. I just think it is rare to find a pastor who thinks that way– at least in my neck of the woods. Therefore I would advise folks NOT to confide in their pastor unless they have had a long term and very close relationship of trust with him or her. I simply view “pastor” as a verb and not a noun of office. I do not view a “pastor” as set apart but part of the Holy Priesthood with a function that is temporal. I am not in agreement with the institutional definition.

    As Patrice pointed out earlier about Sheldon’s x pastor…..he studied doctrine and church history more than he did relationship ethics. And that seems to be going on quite a bit out there in Christendom. I think it will get worse as the baby boomer pastors start retiring in droves. Although this idea of signing church membership covenants, agreeing not to speak negative of the church or leaders, etc started as far back as Rick Warren. His pastors.com forums were talking about “wolf” members and how to get rid of them when the internet first started with forums. This stuff is not new in evangelicalism. It is just that people have a place to go where it has happened to others and they can discuss it.

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  40. “It teaches that pastors are officially accountable before God for members who have officially “joined” their churches.”

    If God exists, I am the only one accountable for my actions. I don’t belong to any other person. As I read these blogs, I read about a lot of pastors who seem to think that church members are property: flocks of sheep to be sheared or slaughtered as necessary.”

    In addition to that, many are being taught that husbands are accountable before God for their wives in terms of her behavior, submission, spirituality.

    They are teaching a “religion” that is different from Christianity which is a personal relationship with our Savior. There are no mediators or layers between ourselves and Christ.

    Basically, I am finding many folks who are not full fledged “nones” but have decided not to officially “join” a church they attend because of past experiences as “members”. I can certainly understand it. It is a safety measure. This is a whole other can of worms and driving pastors nuts in my neck of the woods.

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  41. “Well, well, well, another piece of the puzzle falls into place. My X pastor Dr. Emerson Eggerich, author of Love & Respect shared (bragged) that he was mentored by J.Mac. (he-he-hey, Julie Anne see how brave I am getting naming names ( ;”

    Really!!! He was all the rage back in the day with “Love and Respect”. He certainly tried to make bank off it. I wonder how profitable it was? I noticed one had to pay to be part of his online community. If I remember correctly (because we did scads of them) he did a seminar at one of the megas where I consulted.

    He was considered “comp lite” in the seeker mega world.

    So how many women here do not want to be “respected” by your husband? Raise your hand or stand on your head. Hee Hee. Eggerich claims women want to be “loved” and men want to be “respected “and had a whole mental gymnastics on how that played out based upon a wooden reading of Eph 5.

    Amazing what shitck these guys can come up with to twist scripture and make a buck.

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  42. “But it’s a lonely harsh action to take, even when driven to it, and even though the freedom is hugely relieving. To be required to also cut out your social/religious community must sometimes make the loneliness and disconnectedness overwhelming.”

    Yes. this! There is a tension between the loneliness of leaving that “world” which includes family- especially during Holidays– and the huge relief of the freedom of being able to speak without walking on eggshells, believe differently from them and forging ahead. Very few people understand it and will encourage you to overlook that which was poisoning you for so long. Poison kills.

    It is good to know one is not alone. There are others who have had to walk that path and knowing how long it took to get there.

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  43. Julie Anne
    April 13, 2014 @ 10:18 PM

    “In my correspondence with Sheldon, I suspect that there would be no referrals to mental health professionals – just a hunch, mind you.”

    The previous pastor, who was a good guy despite his beliefs, probably would have recommended mental health help, or extended counseling.

    “Rev. Creepy” here, I doubt it. There was a lot of misunderstanding floating around this congregation about mental illness, it always disturbed me how people considered worry a “sin”, and some of them talked about their depression as though it was self centeredness, talking about how they felt better after helping others… smh.

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  44. I have been contacting local attorneys, I want to know whether Illinois is one of the states that legally holds ministers to standards of confidentiality or not, and how much they would charge for a cease and desist style letter.

    Unfortunately, at the time of the December incident, my town’s police department hasn’t seemed too cooperative with me, and I figured a letter from a lawyer would scare them more, make them think a lawsuit could be imminent if they don’t stop.

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  45. Sheldon, I haven’t even addressed your story. I’m sorry and wish you the best on your journey. I hope you find the peace and love you deserve – in or out of a church.
    Bev

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  46. “What a nightmare it must be to simply leave some churches.” Some teach that being in a Local Church (TM) is just like marriage– and divorce should be made difficult!

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  47. “The previous pastor, who was a good guy despite his beliefs”
    You say a lot just with this. Sometimes bad beliefs “inspire” good guys to do evil– supposedly for the greater good.

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  48. Sheldon, I’m saddened and appalled at how you were treated, and continue to be stalked by the pastor. In the church (cult) I was raised in we were taught that we could go to our preacher’s (it was a “sin” to call them pastors) in confidence, if we had a problem. I have major trust issues and never felt comfortable taking a problem to our preacher.

    In answer to the question that is the topic of this blog post, I would have to say yes, a pastor should keep confidential the things you discussed with him. Especially, since you asked him to keep your confidence. If he couldn’t/wouldn’t IMO he should have stopped you right there and said outright, “No, I cannot do that.”.

    Sheldon, I hope that a local attorney can help you. I wish you peace and healing from the horrible experiences you have suffered.

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  49. Sheldon,

    Please read from this link. http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=2017&ChapterID=56&SeqStart=56900000&SeqEnd=57900000

    Not only did your pastor break Illinois statutes, but so did your mother. Both can be prosecuted under Illinois law. Your pastor for betraying clergy confidence, and your mother fot the crime of violence. According to the statute, even the threat of physical harm constitutes the crime of violence, even if that threat was not carried out. Hire a good lawyer and go after them both.

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  50. @ kathibonham

    Hi Kathi

    You wrote:

    66

    … I … have no problem with, someone going to a pastor for advice over a matter.

    I do have a problem when it comes to mental health issues, or when it deals with issues that a pastor has no training to deal with. I would hope that a pastor who finds himself (or herself) in an uncomfortable position of offering counselling to someone regarding an issue way over his/her head, that he/she would refer that person to outside sources.

    99

    Although I see your point, I really do, as the person whose personality compels him to contrariness as a useful tool for finding the truth (“test everything and hold onto the good”), might I please ask, do you see the following point?

    66
    … I … have no problem with, going to a doctor for advice over a matter.

    I do have a problem when it comes to spiritual issues, or when it deals with issues that a doctor has no training to deal with. I would hope that a doctor who finds himself (or herself) in an uncomfortable position of offering counselling to someone regarding an issue way over his/her head, that he/she would refer that person to outside sources.

    99

    (I also have a problem with the idea of going to a pastor for “counselling”, in the modern sense of the word.)

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  51. taylorjoyyoung, I read your post on your Webb site and all I can say is Wow, It was/is a moving story. I think it is a must read for anyone that may not understand where Sheldon is coming from. Your story emphasizes the necessity of individuals that have both feet on the ground and their heads on strait to listen to those that are hurting from abuse. To understand that most of the time the victim is crying out in pain and really doesn’t need additional crap that many will heap on them.
    I thank God that He brought a person of wisdom into your life at just the right time to help you heal. Hopefully, Sheldon will find such a person as well. I am not sure where the idea of a person that has been abused has to allow him/her self to go back into that abusive relationship for any reason. It most assuredly is not a God concept. Honoring one’s parents sometimes has to be done at a distance for the safety and sanity of the abused.
    Jim

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  52. Jimmydeee, thank you so much–what Sheldon’s story reveals is that there is a fundamental theological screw that’s loose somewhere in the SBC. :(. The Wartburg Watch currently has a story up about celebrity SBC pastors minimizing & covering abuse on a multi-state, multi-church, multi-victim level. We all see it because the scandals hit the blogs. What Sheldon’s story (and now mine) tells us is that something is fundamentally wrong with the way that the SBC processes the concept of abuse/victims/sin/crime, etc. I want to encourage you all to go read the Wartburg Watch’s latest post. How many Sheldon’s have to get hurt before someone stands up and says, “This is wrong!!”

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  53. I noticed there is another person with the same name as me posting here. I am John F. Allman and I currently live in the DFW area. I do visit some of the same blogs as others here and have posted as “John A” but not on this particular blog as far as I can recall. I want to make it clear that the comments of the other John Allman are not mine. I have not taken the time to fully read and understand his comments in context but I can see they have not been well received. I do not necessarily agree or disagree with this gentleman. I just want to make sure anyone who knows me does not attribute his comments to me. Thanks.

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  54. Dave A A said: “What do you consider the bigger elephant?” Well, I consider the person who first used the phrase to be the bigger elephant. (I was thinking of another name altogether before I read that; said name has been his only positive contribution to this site thus far).

    John F. Allman: Duly noted. 🙂

    Sheldon, my dear friend: Please disregard the Bigger Elephant. I hope that you will accept my prayers that all may go well with you. I am delighted that you have found a refuge amongst the UUs. I believe that they have provided haven for many who have been sadly ill-used by those who call themselves “Christian”.

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  55. In my experience in my church, pastoral confidentiality is expected for all personal conversations that happen between a priest and congregant. This confidentiality is sacred and lasts as long as either party is alive. It’s one of the few sins that can lead to excommunication if the priest discloses the information to anyone else.

    Before I married, I was in a serious, committed relationship with another parishioner. In a weird situation, another couple we knew from another parish was in a creepy, unhealthy relationship – he was in a serious relationship, but kept telling his girlfriend that he might leave her to be a priest. I thought the girlfriend was nuts to stay with such a creep and told my boyfriend that if he ever wanted to be a priest he needed to break off our relationship before starting the formation process. I felt it was a strange and sick power play to stay in a relationship while dangling the possibility of leaving at any point to ‘serve God.’ I was very outspoken on this issue to my boyfriend and other young adults in the congregation.

    A few months later, my boyfriend breaks up with me on Facebook message. He casually mentions that he’s decided to become a priest – in fact, is going on a formation retreat out of state for the next two weeks – and didn’t tell me before because he knew I’d break up with him…. I was shocked, stunned and hurt. My boyfriend was cheating on me….with the church. I couldn’t understand how he was able to start the formation process while still having a serious girlfriend, so I made an appointment to see a priest from the parish who I was close to later that day. I brought a paper copy of the break-up FB message.

    Fr. T was awesome and a great shoulder to cry on – and I cried a lot. I felt used and betrayed. For months, I had been in a relationship under fraud. I felt like an object – a toy for my boyfriend to play with when he wanted and then tossed away. I wanted to know how this happened – how could a guy be in a visible, public, serious relationship and still be able to start formation in the church. Fr. T – who was horrified by my boyfriend’s callous actions – wanted to talk with the local priest in charge of vocations, but didn’t want to violate my confidentiality. I looked at Fr. T and said “F#$% my confidentiality. Don’t keep this this a secret. I’ll yell my story from the rooftop if that’s what we need to do to keep this jerk from being a priest or hurting another woman.” I gave Fr. T one paper copy of the FB message which he brought to Fr. A.

    This is the way confidentiality should work – the congregant (who is in a state of lesser power) is the only person who can chose to have their story told. If I had said “Don’t tell anyone.” Fr. T wouldn’t have said anything to Fr. A.

    The answer was that my boyfriend played the system. He told one priest – Fr. A who was in charge of vocations and didn’t know about me at all – that he was single and looking into the priesthood. My boyfriend told Fr. T – our usual priest – that he’d given up on being a priest. By the time my ex returned from out of state, he realized that the whole web was collapsing…..and tried to reunite with me. I laughed in his face. That was the last time I ever saw him – and good riddance.

    Like

  56. Good for you Mel!!!! This man was lying to everyone. Not a good way to start a relationship of any kind.

    Like

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