Confidentiality

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by following-Him, Sep 26, 2003.

  1. following-Him

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    I have been unfortuanate enough to have a pastor in the past betray two of my confidences. Today I hear that he has been discussing a situation and a meeting concerning that situation with his wife. Would you consider this acceptable? Is it something you do or would do? What can I expect to be kept confidential by a pastor?

    Blessings

    Sheila
     
  2. Trotter

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    Sheila,

    My heart goes out to you. Betrayal of trust is a wound that cuts deeply.

    No, this is unacceptable, unless it involved something that would have to be presented to others. Let me give you an example:

    Say a man goes to his pastor for counseling, and admits that he is having an affair. The pastor must then confront the man about it. If the man will not forsake the affair and repent, the pastor is under obligation to go to the man with at least one witness, and so on. If the man will not turn from the sin, the pastor must bring the matter before the church for discipline.

    I don't know your situation. But the confidentiality between pastor and flock is not as clear cut as that of a doctor or lawyer.

    It is another thing altogether if he breaks confidence without warning you of it, or does so flippiantly. Too many pastors break confidences with people while preaching by using their situations as illustrations.

    In Christ,
    Trotter
     
  3. following-Him

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    This is going to end up a church matter, but I was suprised that my pastor had discussed it with his wife at this stage.

    I have had other chats (informal) and conversations with him when I have been surprised at what he has said about other people. I don't think he should have done. I really don't know if I can trust him anymore.

    Blessings

    Sheila
     
  4. Trotter

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    Sheila,

    You can't. You can forgive him (which sounds to me like and ongoing proposition...). But as far as investing trust, I think he would have to show a turn of heart first. We're called to love one another, not be stupid.

    In Christ,
    Trotter
     
  5. dianetavegia

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    I've been in a church where the secretary said Pastor would come out of his office after counseling someone and share graphic details with her and his senior secretary. I went to the chairman of the deaons. My friend got fired for it even though the preacher was the one gossiping. She had only shared that he was telling them what Mr. and Mrs. XYZ had said. My friend only told me he had repeated specifics and she didn't know what to do. He called her a liar. He's still the pastor there, 25 or more years later.

    I had a pastor repeat something personal many years ago that I had asked him to pray about. I never confronted him about it but would never feel I could trust him again.

    Even with his wife..... no. This is wrong! When my friends tell me something, I don't share it with Jim.

    Diane
     
  6. computerjunkie

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    I work for the Senior Pastor at my church. I set up his appointments, but he does NOT share with me what was discussed, although sometimes he asks me to do something for a needed follow-up. Even if that is required, he still does not share any details of the discussion.

    He also knows I am completely trustworthy in those types of situations. In fact, I don't even like for people to know who came to see him. If someone wants people to know they came to see the pastor, THEY can tell them. It will NOT come from his office.

    I think pastor confidentiality is of the utmost importance and a pastor who shares confidences is completely out of line.

    CJ
     
  7. Jim1999

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    From this pastor to God's people, confidentiality in the singular is of utmost importance and I would guard it with my life.

    Even my personal files were kept at home under lock of key and after I retired, after 6 months, and no enqiries, I burned the lot.

    My wife never knew what my meetings with people were all about and she never asked...Obviously she knew who visited. Sometimes people would call the wife and tell her why they wanted to see me and in what urgency, but that had more to do with what wife would do about contacting me.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  8. GODzThunder

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    It should be made known to this pastor that certian things told on confidence to a gospel minister under certian conditions is priviledged information and by law should not and cannot be discussed with others in many states.

    Still, you need to tell your pastor that you are embarassed and outraged that things told to him in confidence have been spilled out as gossip. I would also tell him your feelings of how you feel betrayed and that your trust in him has diminshed because of this so that he can know how people feel about such things.

    In short: TELL HIM.
     
  9. j_barner2000

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    In serving under a senior pastor, as an intern, I have had situations come up where someone was not comfortable talking to the pastor so they came to me. But, I was not sure what to do about them as I am not a licensed or certified counselor. Normally I listened, shared scripture and prayed with the individual. Never have I given direct advice except to pray and perhaps set an appointment with the pastor. My wife knows my appointments, but never the details and often not the name. In a couple of rare circumstances I have shared directly with the pastor if I felt it was a dangerous situation I may give details and names. However, as a rule if I have a question, I will not name names and I am very careful to not betray trust.

    I cannot serve someone if they cannot trust me fully. Trust is difficult to earn and so very easy to lose.
     
  10. David Ekstrom

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    This is a serious matter. First talk to the pastor. If he doesn't respond appropriately, talk to the deacons. A pastor who is this incompetent needs to be removed. If the deacons don't act, it's time to go to a different church.
    You are within your rights to sue, but I don't think you want to do that.
     
  11. following-Him

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    Thank you all, for your help and advice. I have asked my husband, who is a deacon to bring this up at the deacon's meeting tonight. I have asked my husband to ask the pastor when he considers pastoral confidentiality should kick in. I made a complaint about a couple in the church. I had a couple of minutes with the pastor to tell him I wasn't happy just before the church service on a Sunday. I know that it was not the best time, but he is not easy to find or be available at the best of times. That evening, he went to the people concerned (they are personal friends) and discussed it with them and then sprung a meeting on us after the prayer meeting 2 days later. No warning. Later in the week, I find he has been discussing the matter with his wife.
    I am thoroughly fed up and feel likenothing. I am not even worth honouring with confidentiality. I really don't know what else to say. Thank you all for your help.
    Bless you all,

    Sheila
     
  12. Pastor Larry

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    I guess my perspective is a bit different based on what you have told us here. But let me preface by saying that I am making no blanket statements about you. My thoughts are intended to provoke thought on your part, not to condemn you. We are handicapped to a large degree because we know so little about this.

    First, how did you konw he was talking to his wife about it? How did you come by that information.

    I know in my ministry, my wife is an important part of it and quite often has a clearer perspective on issues. She is very good at these kinds of situations and I rely on her quite often for a different perspective. Of course, I trust her implicitly. I also do not tell her everything. There are times I don't tell her anything. But telling a wife about something is not necessarily wrong. I do have some principles on this matter that I won't delineate here for sake of space and topic. However, I would think it unwise to make a blanket statement here condemning this pastor only for that. My question is stiil, How do you know he told his wife? To me that is the bigger issue. Depending on the nature of the situation there may be a good reason for him to have told her. And there may be a problem based on how you found out about it.

    Why did you go to the pastor with this? Why did you not address it yourself or have your husband, who you said is a deacon, address it with you? It seems in Scripture that the first line of problems is addressed one on one. On that basis, with no more information that you gave us here, you may have handled it improperly by going to your pastor. Unless you had already gone to this couple individually, that should have been your first step.

    What did you expect him to do? You told him and he dealt with it. This is a pastor who seems to be on the right track. For him to have sat on this information and do nothing may have been disastrous for the ministry. He did the right thing it sounds like. I know from personal experience that I did not deal with a couple of situations in a timely manner and they exploded in my face leaving people hurt, including myself and ultimately hurting the ministry. I talked to a close friend and mentor about it, and we discussed having to learn this lesson the hard way. The lesson is, Problems don't go away. A recent book I read on leadership talked about tackling problems head on. It sounds like your pastor did what was right.

    To schedule a meeting with you and them was also the right thing. You, as a believer, cannot run from the situation and expect someone else to deal with it. You must face it head on. For him to sit the two parties down is unquestionably the right thing. That way, you can deal with it face to face.

    Again, I ask, What did you expect your pastor to do with the information you gave him?

    Again, not knowing the facts, we cannot make an informed decision about whether or not this was improper. You went to your pastor to complain about another couple. Would they have a valid complaint about the way you handled it? Based on what you have said here, I would think that they do. We must remember that not every situation is that big of a deal. Depending on the complaint, this may be a time for inner reflection. You have not told us much here, really not even enough for us to make an informed decision about it.

    I know quite often that "feeling like nothing" from a situation like this happens when we are concerned about the validity of our complaint and the possibility of looking dumb in front of others who may find out. Again, I am not making blanket statement, but we need to be careful we "I" and "my feelings" are my major concern. If this was a serious issue, than there are more important things at stake.

    But in the bottom line, when you tell your pastor something, expect him to do something about it and do not expect to be left off the hook. We must deal with these things head on and get them resolved. If you made the complaint, then you have the problem, and you must be the one to deal with it.

    I know I have taken a little different tack on this issue but I think it important to discuss the biblical way to handle problems. In a situation of biblical obedience, you go first one on one, then take a couple of people with you, then take it to the church. In a situation of personal discomfort that does not rise to the level of obedience, you may go and talk to them but if there is no change, then you live with it, suffering yourself to be defrauded or hurt for the sake of the ministry (based on the principle of 1 Cor 6 about when a brother or sister defrauds you). It is not worth splitting the body over.

    But when you go to the pastor, you should expect a good leader to face the problem and talk to the people. It seems like you are upset because he did what he should have done. I know if someone comes to me with a complaint about someone else, my first question will be, What have you done about it? and my second will be, "What would you like me to do?"

    I would be very careful with this situation about getting mad at your pastor. Again, if we had more knowledge we would be able to make a more informed decision. Until then, we are guessing. However, from my opinion, based on what you have said here it sounds like you might be being too hard on your pastor. However, I reserve the right to change my mind if you give us more information.

    [ October 01, 2003, 01:36 PM: Message edited by: Pastor Larry ]
     
  13. following-Him

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    First, the pastor's wife told me they had discussed it.

    Second, I sought the advise of other deacons because the couple don't speak to me or my husband and ignore us at every opportunity.


    I won't discuss this any further. I know pastors cannot be trusted. This is not the first time this has happened, other time was twice with different pastor and once with a doctor.
     
  14. Pastor Larry

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    What was her approach?? Do you think perhaps he had asked her to see if she could help as a woman?? I know quite often that issues with women are things I turn over to my wife for obvious reasons. Could it be that simple? Usually when I do that, I tell the person ahead of time that I would like to have my wife get with them. If they are resistant to that, it is usually indicative of a deeper problem where the person doesn't really want help. It is not always that way but if a lady refuses to talk to my wife, it raises big red flags to me.

    That could be a good reason to ask someone else. But if you asked someone else (the pastor) to get involved, why did you get upset when he did? As I said before, what were you expecting him to do?

    Don't you think that is a little unfair to most of us pastors out here who can be trusted? It is fine not to discuss it anymore ... but perhaps you might consider an opinion a little different than your own and try to consider it objectively. Asking advice only from people that agree with you is not a good way to find wisdom in the multitude of counselors. I would encourage you to give this some more thought ...
     
  15. David Ekstrom

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    My response was based on the assumption that you brought a personal problem for counsel and he gossiped about your personal problem. I obviously misunderstood. You were in conflict with someone and you shared your problems with the pastor. I'm sorry for answering so quickly without understanding the situation.
    First, Pastor Larry is right in saying that you should deal with the parties directly instead of triangulating. Of course, there are exceptions. For example, if you suspect someone of child abuse, you should immediately report it to the authorities.
    Approaching the pastor just before church was also not good. You could have found a better time. There are 168 hours in the week. You could have found a different one. But hey, we all make mistakes. I've done that same thing.
    Even still, the pastor botched this by going to the other party. He was just as mistaken as you, but I hold him to a higher standard because of his office. Here's what he should have done.
    1. I can't talk to you right now about this. Can you call me tomorrow? He should let you know that he does want to hear from you. That's his job.
    2. When you call and he hears your complaint, he should say, "Have you spoken to so-and-so about this?" (Unless it's something like child abuse or something like that.) If you say, "no," then he should not get involved. He should remain impartial but should make himself available to help resolve the conflict if you are not satisfied after you confront the other party.
    3. If necessary, he should meet with both parties and should be impartial. He should facilitate communication in order to bring resolution.
    I think he is wrong in sharing it with his wife. In fact, my wife complains that she's the last person to know anything going on at church. I don't bring the office home and my wife is not my associate pastor.
    So, sister, I think maybe you both botched things. But then again, I was clueless with my first remark. Maybe I'm still clueless.
     
  16. Deacon

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    Excerpt from the Personel Manual of the church where I attend:
    Rob
     
  17. j_barner2000

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    I too assumed that it ws a matter not pertaining to a conflict between members... In this case you should have been counseled to go to the other party first, IN LOVE... then with a witness, again, IN LOVE... and then if need be Lay it bare before the pastor and allow him to mediate a solution.
    The pastor should have discussed the issue with the other party because he must remain impartial.
    However, without the permission of the primary folk in the conflict, he should never have discussed the situation with any third party(including the pastor's wife.).
     

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