counseling

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by dmerritt, Feb 15, 2006.

  1. dmerritt

    dmerritt
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    A 14yr. old boy goes to his pastor and tells him he thinks he is gay. The pastor who is not a certified counselor begins to counsel him on a weekly basis without the parents knowing. He tells the boy he needs to tell his parents but the boy doesn't want to. The family leaves the church not knowing there is any counseling going on. The pastor stops the counsel and does not tell the parents. 4 years later the parents are told by the now 18 yr old that he is gay. Leaving them to try and deal with this problem with an adult instead of a minor. Is this legal?
     
  2. bapmom

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    why wouldn't it be legal? Might not be very wise of the pastor to not tell the boy's parents, but it's not illegal from what I can tell.

    ps. not being a "certified counsellor" really has no bearing. A spiritual counsellor, such as a pastor, does not need to be certified by a state, as he counsels based on the Bible, not based on a state-approved class.
     
  3. exscentric

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    Would doubt it but every state is different, call a lawyer if you need to know. Used to be lawyers would give general answers over phone or first visit free - ask about cost up front if you don't want to pay.

    Maybe there is a legal aid group near by - check the yellow pages.
     
  4. bapmom

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    dmerritt,

    why do you ask? Are you looking for a reason to go after your pastor legally for a choice that this boy has made?

    Remember, no matter how this pastor handled his counselling session (and if you are not his parent, you don't really know what happened 4
    years ago) this decision was ultimately up to the boy. He chose to go against what the Bible says, and he has chosen to live how he wants. Don't go back and blame the pastor for not having been able to "fix it all" 4 years ago.
     
  5. Fundamentalist1611

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    These parents need to put their energy and efforts in praying for this boy to get saved and repent of his reprobate sin then to attacking the preacher. If the preacher did something to the boy (perverse) then by all means that's fine but that's not the case here. The preacher was WRONG for not telling the parents. Parents are the authority over children NOT the pastor. Fellowship should be broken with him, he's not wise and seems to be quite unfit for the ministry.
     
  6. Ulsterman

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    That seems a little harsh 1611, I agree he was unwise to counsel the boy without parental consent, and I agree that they are the primary authority in the boy's life, but maybe the boy asked to speak with the pastor in confidence (I think he still needed to let the parents know something of what was going on), and he felt obligated to confidentiality.

    It would be better if he was graciously corrected in his handling of the situation, rather than disfellowshipped. Wisdom comes with experience, and in this case it might be coming a far more quickly than he had reckoned on.

    If he messed with the boy, then he has no place in society, let alone the church, he should be locked up.
     
  7. Convicted by the Spirit

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    That statement holds no grace what so ever. very harsh. Have you ever failed in the ministry? There should be a balance between mercy and justice when dealing with failers in others.

    The blame is not to be on the pastor. He may have been pleaded with to keep silent by the young man. If you were to blame anyone then blame the parents and child. In most of the cases where someone has become gay he or she has become extremely bitter and angry against that same sex parent.
     
  8. TaterTot

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    Its not illegal for a pastor not to report homosexual thoughts to a parent. There are some things that do have to be reported legally, but that isnt one of them. I think most pastors would refer someone with those type deep issues to a professional, as seminary counseling classes can only carry a pastor to a certain level in counseling certain issues.
     
  9. PastorSBC1303

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    I am sorry, but there is no way that you can determine this from one post on the BB.
     
  10. rbell

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    "Is it legal?"

    This question is really loaded. Were any laws broken? I seriously doubt it...clergy are given latitude in most areas, and if you're not dealing with issues such as criminal behavior, abuse, etc., there is no legal requirement in any state I'm aware of to report this issue. Your mileage may vary, though.

    Yep, the pastor should have told the parents. That was a mistake. Now, is there any liability issues at stake? In this day and age, probably. You can sue for just about anything these days. In my state, winning a judgement against the pastor (based on what few facts I have) would be quite an uphill battle...but I'm sure other states would be less on the minister's side.

    We really don't have enough info to offer too much insight here. I probably fall between Fundamentalist (he shoudn't be in ministry--too harsh) and convicted (the pastor shoulders no blame--we can't make that judgement, and we can't determine what made this kid choose to participate in the gay lifestyle). But, we don't have the contextual framework of what was said in this counseling...had this boy been experimenting? Was it a lust or pornography issue? We just don't know...

    But, I would have involved the parents pretty early, if it were me.
     
  11. Fundamentalist1611

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    That seems a little harsh 1611, I agree he was unwise to counsel the boy without parental consent, and I agree that they are the primary authority in the boy's life, but maybe the boy asked to speak with the pastor in confidence (I think he still needed to let the parents know something of what was going on), and he felt obligated to confidentiality.

    It would be better if he was graciously corrected in his handling of the situation, rather than disfellowshipped. Wisdom comes with experience, and in this case it might be coming a far more quickly than he had reckoned on.

    If he messed with the boy, then he has no place in society, let alone the church, he should be locked up.
    </font>[/QUOTE]As I would expect...I'm under fire on the Southern Baptist Board.

    That seems no where near as harsh as the pastor neglects to tell the parents of a very very serious problem. This is like knowing that the child is addicted to cocaine and not telling the parents. It's irresponsible and shows foolishness on the part of the pastor. A pastor has a very large responsibility and it's wrong how so many people on this board always take the side of the preacher just because he has that "title". A pastor is held more accountable than the members of the church.
     
  12. Fundamentalist1611

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    If this post was directed at me then:

    Did I ever say that it was illegal? NOPE! I gave a hypothetical situation. That's a big difference.
     
  13. Fundamentalist1611

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    I am sorry, but there is no way that you can determine this from one post on the BB. </font>[/QUOTE]I'm not laying the law down on this case. I go through life and all my interests like a detective. I look at both sides and all the data present, from that information I make the proper, rational, ethical, and truthful answers.

    If this is the truth of what happened, then yes, I believe that should be the case with this pastor and the family of the sodomite boy. The church would deal with the pastor the way they see fit (what a local church does is their business).
     
  14. tinytim

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    Fun. 1611, so what I am hearing you say, I may be wrong, is that no teen should be allowed to come to their pastor in confidence. Am I right?

    Where do YOU draw the line in confidential matters? What should be told, what should be kept confidential?
    How can we win trust with people if they know we are going to tell on them?

    I agree with Tatertot, He should have referred him to counseling..But then again, I don't have the whole story.
     
  15. Fundamentalist1611

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    Tiny,

    I have no problems with teens/adults confiding in the Pastor and the Pastor with them, that's fine for many situations. That's not the debate here. The debate is this VERY VERY serious issue. This should never have been kept from the parents.

    This isn't a kid struggling with rock music etc. (i'm not down playing that scenario) but this is much more critical in all honesty.
     
  16. paidagogos

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    On the other hand, any Bible-believing pastor ought to recognize his obligation to the parents especially if they are members of his flock. God put parents in charge of their children. In order to fulfill their Biblical parental role, they must be knowledgeable. It seems you are playing the pastor’s obligation in confidence to the counselee against the obligation to inform the parents. Counseling is not a confessional; there is no absolute commitment to confidence.
    Biblically, the bonds of confidence are not as strong as you seem to think. This is a weed rooted in the muddled thinking of the Roman Catholic confessional, secular psychology and psychiatry.
    Most certainly not with a promise of absolute confidence! Sometimes it is a Biblical mandate to break the confidence and require the counselee to confess his sin to another that he has wronged.
    So, what do you hope to accomplish through counseling? A secular psychologist would have no problem with the homosexual thoughts. In fact, he would encourage him to pursue them and establish his own identity as a homosexual. Would you recommend a Christian psychologist? What do they have to offer more than the same old secular pabulum with the most objectionable parts eliminated and a few Bible verses interspersed here and there? From a Biblical standpoint, who is more qualified than a Bible-believing pastor?

    There seems to be an explicit faith in professional counseling (i.e. the Cult of the Expert). What does this professional counselor have more than a knowledgeable pastor? Techniques? Methods? Specialized knowledge? Nope! If he does, then I would like to know specifically what they are because I have missed them entirely in my years of graduate work in psychology and counseling. In fact, I would say the average professional Christian psychologist, so-called, has much less knowledge of Scripture than a good pastor. So, why would you refer this guy to counseling?

    Also, there is a real problem with the idea that a person with homosexual thoughts needs professional counseling. After all, homosexuality lusts and behaviors are choices and sin as much as heterosexual desires and behaviors are choices and sin outside of marriage. Sexual desire for another, other than one’s spouse, is sin. Christ called it lust. Why is homosexual lust a special case that needs so-called professional counseling? If a pastor preaches and counsels against heterosexual sin, then he is equally qualified to preach and counsel against homosexual sin.

    My point is that believing homosexuality needs special professional counseling is a throwback to the time when secular psychology thought homosexuality was an aberrant behavior. Now, it is accepted and you won’t find it listed in DSM-IV. So, why do Christians hold onto old outdated secular thinking? Why don’t we make a clean break and become eminently Biblical? Homosexuality, both lust and deeds, is sin and needs Biblical confrontation from the pulpit and in individual counseling by God-fearing pastors. What more needs to be said?
     
  17. bapmom

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    Let's not forget that in this particular case we have only one person's word for any side of this story. We don't even know how this person heard of the situation, nor how closely they are actually related to it.

    Could be that the pastor in question was in counselling with that boy, but that the gay issue never came up. Could be all sorts of things.

    Im always wary when someone right off the bat wants to find out just how "illegal" the pastor's actions were.

    Although it does bring up an interesting thought process. Recently Ive had to deal with some counselling issues with some teens and pre-teens in our church. My husband and I had to decide if we needed to take it to the pastor and thus break confidentiality. While my hubby isn't in a pastoral position, the counselling time is a time when the kids know that they can come and talk in confidentiality. We told the kids we would be talking to the pastor, and we urged them to do so as well. So thats how we handled it.
     
  18. Ulsterman

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    I am not Southern Baptist - never have been and in all likelihood, never will be. Have been an IFB all my Christian life.
     
  19. paidagogos

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    One of the most basic questions is whether the pastor represented himself as a pastor performing counseling as a pastoral duty or as a professional counselor. If he called himself a professional counselor then he would probably come under the licensure requirements of the state and its attendant obligations. Most states see pastors performing their pastoral functions in a different light. NC, for example, does not treat pastors as counselors unless they charge for their services.

    Although statutory laws vary from state to state, pastors generally do not have the same legal reporting requirements, except for abuse cases, as other professionals. Nally v. Grace Community Church ruled that the church and pastor were not obligated to refer in CA for suicidal thoughts. Most states only mandate reporting of abuse cases but do not require obligatory referrals for pastors.

    However, the preceding paragraph is really irrelevant for this case. Since homosexuality in no longer considered aberrant behavior, there are no legal requirements for informing or referring. So, no law was broken by the pastor.

    On the other hand, there may be several legal theories under which the parents may sue although this is un-Biblical.
    1. Duty—failure to carry out a recognized legal duty. This case would break down here since there is no clear legal duty of the pastor to inform the parents. On the other hand, the pastor could claim an obligation to confidentiality depending on state law. Or, he could argue that homosexuality is not an aberrant or illegal behavior. The only point in favor of the parents is that the boy was a minor under their jurisdiction.
    2. Breach—breach of contract. It would be extremely difficult to build a case for a contract here even though the parents may have been members of the church. IMHO, this is the best shot but it is an extremely long one.
    3. Breach of fiduciary duty—breach of trust. This would be very difficult to establish since the counseling was unknown to the parents. If they had taken the boy to be counseled, then they may have some weak case here. Their only argument would be to church membership and the implied trust.
    4. Causation—counseling caused the problem or extenuated it. Since the boy professed homosexual thoughts prior to counseling, I cannot see any grounds here.
    5. Damages—caused harm. With the current cultural view of homosexuality, how can one prove damages because the boy becomes homosexual? The boy, not the parents, would stand a better chance by claiming that the pastor repressing his homosexuality harmed him.

    This topic comes under the general heading of counselor-counselee relationships and clergy malpractice. If you are interested, you may check out the following court cases.
    Schmidt v. Bishop, 779 F.Supp. 321 (S.D.N.Y. 1991) [New York]
    Dausch v. Rykse, 52 F.3d 1425 (7th Cir. 1994) [Illinois]
    Sanders v. Casa View Baptist Church, 134 F.3d 331 (5th Cir. 1998) [Texas]
    Jacqueline R. v. Household of Faith Family Church (2002) [California]
    Richelle L. v. Roman Catholic Archbishop (2003) 106 Cal.App.4th 257 [California]
    Wende C. v. United Methodist Church (2005) 794 N.Y.S.2nd 282 [New York]
     
  20. paidagogos

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    This whole matter of confidentiality concerns me. It seems that we are always on one of either two extremes—gossiping about none of our business or hiding from people what they need to know. One good rule of counseling is to never make an absolute promise of confidentiality. Reassure the counselee that you will not gossip or needlessly tell others but you cannot promise total secrecy. You will only divulge the information when there is a compelling need to do so. By being candid, you will gain one’s confidence. There are times when the confidentiality must be broken. So, the counselee should know this up front. Sometimes, one must insist that the counselee tell someone else especially if it involves Biblical reconciliation. No, unreserved confidentiality cannot be honestly promised if we are going to fulfill our Biblical obligations.

    I know the fear—they won’t tell me unless I promise unqualified confidentiality. No, that’s generally an unfounded fear. They may not tell you immediately but they will eventually tell you. You just have to wait a little longer—usually they’ll tell you in the same sitting. If they won’t tell you without a binding promise, then something is amiss in the situation. They may not be ready to deal with their problem and it doesn’t really matter whether they tell you or not since they won’t do anything about it. On the other hand, it may be a trust issue and nothing builds trust and confidence more than candidness. Have you ever noticed how they keep asking over and over for the same binding promise even after you have given it? A frank trust is better than all the sappy reassurances in the world. No, being candid and transparent is best in the long run, IMHO.
     

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