Some church members aren’t aware that clergy have a Ministerial Code of Ethics that they follow. The code is simple, it is clear, but for some clergy it is hard to follow. When we pastor a church we build bonds, relationships, and grow to love the members we serve. What happens when we leave?
I received the news that a member of the congregation had been in the hospital for a serious condition. It was old news because they were now home and doing well. While that member had not be active in the church for many years, they called a former minister to come and visit. That pastor was now in another state, knew the congregant wasn’t active, and drove all the way to visit the patient in the hospital. While that sounds special and feels warm and fuzzy, the clergy person broke their vow to the Ministerial Code of Ethics.
To go back, and in the role of a pastor, minister to a former congregant without the invitation of the sitting pastor, is unacceptable. We don’t go back and make hospital calls, do weddings or funerals. It interferes with the present ministry. To do so, could mean that the violating minister can lose their standing in the Church. The clergy that does these violations has a problem. They are generally self absorbed into thinking they are special or better than any other minister. They rarely see that they are being used and are willing participants because of poor self-esteem. This type of ministry is built around the person and not the Church. It is unhealthy because those individuals rarely bond with a new minister and a continuation prevents them from ever having a healthy relationship in the congregation. Those individuals usually leave the local church.
This is a lesson for the clergy and lay person alike.
We have all read in the news about the death of Fred Phelps. Many will sigh relief at his death. Others will with a strong voice say, “May he burn in Hell.” He, his family and his church were relentless in picketing at military services and anyone who stood up for gay rights.
This man who was so outspoken in his earlier years about civil rights became passionate in his later years about the sinfulness of the gay lifestyle. I never understood his thinking and rationale, for I was always like Abraham Lincoln, to deny liberty to one group is to deny liberty to me.
If Fred Phelps was having a funeral service it would be too tempting to want to go and picket. After all, an eye for an eye. But that would not be the Christian way. Turning the other cheek is not always easy. Forgiveness is even harder. Jesus said, “If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Luke 17:4) But we learn as Christians, that forgiveness is necessary even without the other person asking. “Why?” because forgiveness is for us!
Hatred may win the battles and wars on the battlefield. In the final call of life, it is love that wins. Lives are changed for the good through LOVE.
When the children were growing up we purchased an old motor home. We traveled a lot of places in that motor home (Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Branson, etc.). I don’t remember a time that we were out that something didn’t breakdown. A member of the church once said to me, “Bill, motor homes are a nice concept, they just don’t work.”
Even after Vickie’s death the children and I went on trips. Today, if you ask them about that motor home they will tell you about all the break downs, the lack of sufficient air conditioning and me losing my temper in the heat. When I remember back, I remember the laughs, the joy of bringing friends, the places visited and the joy of being together as a family.
We Christians are sometimes like that. In our travels with God we have joy and laughter – many good times. In that journey we also have many difficult times – many valleys. Why is it that way? It comes down to a choice of what we want to remember. May we in our journey of life remember the good times and forget the bad. Life is much more pleasant when we do that.