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Can pastors/Men of God be trusted with members’ confidential issues?


Isaac Ayo Olawuyi

Pastors are seen as God’s representatives on earth. By their calling they are deemed to be closer to God than the rest of the people. Sometimes they are revered and trusted with members’ personal matters. Do members still feel safe to discuss their issues with pastors and are the men of God faithful to keep sealed lips? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.

‘Keeping A Secret Will Depend On The Circumstances’
(Superior Evangelist Samson O. Banjo, President, United Aladura Churches, UAC, Worldwide)
It is possible for a pastor to be trusted with confidential issues, definitely, that is part of his job as a pastor, but it also depends on what you are trusting the pastor with. For instance, if you tell a pastor, I’m sorry I have just killed a man please don’t tell any body, ‘I am running away.’ And then you see the police harassing his neighbour, who has nothing to do with it. If you can’t tell who killed that neighbour, you should at least correct the police that it was not the neighbour that killed the person. Because I don’t see how you are going to sleep when they are threatening to hang him for what he did not commit, meanwhile, you know the person, who killed him, and has ran out of the country. So, when a member comes to you with such a secret, you have to tell the person to go away with his secret or that he/she should go and confess.

However, you must maintain that confidence as a pastor, but if it is a case that is against the law of the country or against the principle of humanity; you must go and confess. Again, it is the duty of the pastor to keep the confidence reposed in him by his members. So it depends on what the secret is.

It depends on what the confidence is and the pastor will have to respond according to the circumstance. Or somebody tells you a secret that he is going to bomb Aso Rock tomorrow and you know it’s serious, you said I’m a pastor I won’t talk and in the process about 100 people died. So, the pastor will have to respond according to circumstance.

‘We Are Forbidden To Disclose Information Shared With Us’
(Very Rev. Msgr. Gabriel Osu, Director, Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos)
I WILL only respond as a Catholic Priest. By virtue of our training and calling as Priests, we are disposed to hearing all forms of confidential issues and confessions from the faithful.

Confessions, for instance, is a very private affair. It is, therefore, forbidden for a priest to disclose information — under any circumstances — obtained in the form of religious confession. It is called, “the sacred seal of confession.” Any priest who breaks such seal would attract the wrath of the Church’s hierarchy. It is even more sacred than the relationship between a Doctor and his patient or a Lawyer and a client.

‘You Cannot Be A Pastor If You Cannot Be Trusted’
(Pastor Femi Onasanwo, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Living Spring, Bayo Adeyemo Street, Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos)
You cannot be a pastor if you cannot be trusted with confidential information. A pastor must be trusted with confidential information that is why you are a pastor. Nobody expects a pastor to go out of his way to divulge any information, which a member shared with him. But I want to say this: a lot of people misjudge pastors. There are certain information that members may share with you as a pastor and looking at it critically you feel that sharing it with other members would help the congregation, especially those who are also passing through such a difficult situation. The aim is to help people in same condition, but no name must be mentioned. Some people think that because my case resembles what I have shared with the pastor, they conclude, therefore, that the pastor is speaking about them. It is not like that. That man of God may feel this is an opportunity to encourage one or two people who might be going through what the other person went through. The information you shared at particular time will be of great help to somebody who is going through same thing now, but no name must be mentioned.

This is what happens most of the time but a lot of people think he is preaching with my personal matter, which I shared with him the other day. No genuine pastor would do that. That is why they are there, they are taking the place of God at that particular time when you are sharing that particular information with him, they are believing that you will not disclose such secret with any other person. That is why they are holding you in high esteem, but when a pastor does otherwise, that is a wrong and I believe one way or the other, the pastor can be called to order.

‘No Confidential Issues Should Be Used As Sermon’
(The Rt. Rev (Dr.) Isaac Ayo Olawuyi, Bishop Diocese of Lagos Mainland. Methodist Church Nigeria)
Pastors and men of God are known to be God’s representatives on earth. If people can disclose personal issues to doctor, lawyer and some native doctors why not with a servant of the living God. No one else should have the qualification of trust other than the representative of God.

Everyone be it a believer in Christ or not should be able to feel free to trust a Pastor with a confidential matter. That should be the normal thing. It is one of the duties of a Pastor to counsel and pray for members of the church. It will be a disaster for a Pastor to betray the trust confided in him. No confidential issues should be taken to the pulpit for a sermon illustration. If any man of God does that he has betrayed a trust and thereby lost his dignity and respect as a Pastor.Every Pastor must learn to keep secret and never divulge the secret entrusted to him. What is personal should not be made public. Otherwise such Pastor has become a betrayer.

‘Men Of God Must Treat SuchInformation Discreetly’
(Pastor Sunday Adelaja, Senior Pastor, The Embassy of God, Ukraine)
BUT men of God have to treat such information from individuals very discreetly. The most appalling thing with some men of God being confidential about the information they get is that, when people come to their church these days, the pastors will bring microphones and the camera, making the victim or person in need to be telling their problems right to the world on TV or the internet. So in most cases, all the information the pastor knew is being exposed right to the world. This is something that has to be revisited in the Nigerian church. 

It is one thing that the pastors openly talk about the issues, which is also wrong, but what is even more appalling is, as mentioned, that these people now put cameras on your face, and people who have neighbours, friends family members, colleagues, etc. have to be going around with that stigma.

Additionally, they still have to live their lives after all these ministers have exposed them. I have an impression that these ministers are just using the plight and problems of the people to build their own name as powerful men of God whereby destroying the lives of people. This must be revisited and addressed. 

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