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Given the qualifications for an overseer in 1 Timothy 3:1-2 and Titus 1:7, would a pastor threatening to expose the sins of another pastor's family member unless he choose a course of action be a disqualifying event? What about if that pastor never made good on the threat of exposure?

Update: I'm being intentionally nondenominational for several reasons, one of them being my desire to get a broad-spectrum impression of how Christendom might answer such a question.

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The specifics here make me wonder if this is a pastoral care question, that if real, should have you going to another pastor to resolve. If it really is general, then I remove my vtc. – Affable Geek Feb 5 '12 at 13:55
I don't believe that the threat withdrawn is a problem, it may be that this could be construed as a gracious act, maybe the other elder had a change of heard over the severity of the issue. – Nate Bunney May 8 '12 at 14:56

Since you don't mention the denomination I'll simply answer from the Catholic perspective. If a priest were to break the seal of the confessional he (1) commits a grave sin, (2) is automatically excommunicated, and (3) that excommunication can only be lifted by the Pope himself (Code of Canon Law, 1388 §1).

So from the Catholic perspective, it's a very disqualifying event.

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This is very helpful, thank you. What if the priest makes the threat but in the end doesn't carry through with it? – fbrereto Feb 5 '12 at 5:47
Again, speaking only in a Catholic situation, if a priest were to threaten to violate the seal of the confessional that needs to be brought to the attention of the bishop immediately. If you're concerned about the bishop not being helpful or even making matters worse you could appeal directly to Rome (though if you don't trust the diocese you won't want to try to go through anyone in your diocese for this). It has to be addressed by someone with jurisdiction in the matter, which is the local bishop and the Pope. – Audio Sancto Feb 5 '12 at 5:52
The question was not referring specifically to the seal of the confessional. He might have acquired that information by other means, not a confession. – vsz Feb 5 '12 at 13:42
I made the assumption of it being confession; if it's outside of confession then it would be detraction. – Audio Sancto Feb 5 '12 at 16:16

in general

The pastor, an office clearly inferior to Jesus himself, should bear in min Matt 18:15. In it, Jesus says that for any brother, you should go to him privately, then take witnesses, and only then confront ther person publically. Only aftr all of this, would discipline require being expelled from the church Common sense in regards to pastoral care says this should be a minimum esclatation procedure.

If, in the mind of the pastor this sin is grievous enough to warrant the full discipline of the church, then at the end (and only the end) of this procedure it may require exposing the sin to the church before expelling him.

But keep in mind, while that may be a result, it is most clearly a failure for the pastor I'd he has to get to that point.

what if the person whose sin must be exposed is the pastor?

The target of the accusations and the congregation should remember that donatism is a heresy, and has been thought of as such since the 4th Century. What donatism says is that the efficacy of the sacraments is dependent of the holiness of the minister. That has been explicitly rejected by the church since the time of Augustine for the reasons Augustine wrote.

Thus, even a sinful pastor has a place in the church, as Baaker, Swaggert, et al show.

As Paul says in Philippians 1:18, it doesn't matter whether Christ is preached out of pure motives or impure ones, only that Christ is preached.

What the blackmailer threatens then is not the target's legitimacy before God but rather the efficacy of the leader before man. In attacking a successful church, he is doing a bad thing.

If, however, the target is himself harming the church for other reasons - teaching false doctrine, preying on the innocent, whatever, then it in exposing the sin, he is merely correcting a brother. The bible already has clear procedures in place (confront him privately, bring a brother, then expel him). If exposing the sin is done after these things, then it is just a part of that last step- expelling him from the congregation.

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I'm sorry, I was reading this as a pastor accusing another pastor, although I would argue this is still a useful answer then in light of present day news. – Affable Geek Feb 5 '12 at 13:53

I do not believe that the threat of exposing someones sin is itself a sin unless it is done outside of the Matthew 18 principles. God calls us to hold one another accountable.

The part of your question about 'chose a course of action' has me curious. If that course of action was not directly related to the sins in the pastor's family then I do believe that could be sin. For example if one pastor threatened to expose the sins of another pastor's family unless the first pastor gave him $1000 that would certainly be sinful.

In the case of not making good on the 'threat'. It seems that this could be construed as a gracious act, or that the pastor had second thoughts as to the severity of the act.

It also seems to me that since the sin here is not specifically with the pastor but with his family that much care should be taken in deciding whether the pastor is directly responsible. In the case of an adult child the pastor's sin becomes increasingly questionable.

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Let's take the question as it stands at face value. As I understand it, one pastor went to another and said "unless you do such-and-such a thing then I will tell people about the sin someone in your family committed". The English language has a word for this, and the word is 'blackmail'. On the face of it that is what is happening, and I hope nobody needs an biblical explanation to point out that this is not just a 'disqualifying event' for the blackmailing pastor, but a crime that should be prosecuted.

Now lets consider a very few possible circumstances when this might not be as bad as it looks.

  1. The sin is something that directly affects the pastors duties. For example the pastor's wife might be embezzling church funds. In this case it is reasonable to insist that the pastor take steps to address the issue, and that if they refuse then other people be empowered to take such steps.
  2. The pastor is somehow aiding and abetting the sin, in which case it's the pastors sin that is in question. Dealing with this should still be done on the basis of Matthew 18.

The other question is what is the "course of action" the accusing pastor wants the other pastor to take? If it is not directly related to addressing the 'sin', then this is unquestionably blackmail, no matter what the other extenuating circumstances are.

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