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.