To explain... I believe it is a dilemma because it appears to me that there is a strong necessity for the pastor to maintain privacy not for their own protection, but to protect the parishioner in a relationship that has bizarre power dynamics embedded in it. The public function of a pastor, in other words, is supported by a certain amount of privacy.
Obviously the boundary lines here are fuzzy and movable. They change depending on the congregation, the pastor, the situation and the personalities involved. I am not advocating any specific solution for all times and places.
The example I gave last time was a direct question from a parishioner about the politics of the pastor. To such a direct question it is probably best to respond directly - either by refusing to answer or being honest. Many situations aren't that direct though. It is more likely that the pastor will be dragged into a conversation about politics sideways, and in those situations it is easier and more appropriate to give sideways answers.
Some reasons for doing this:
- if there is productive conversation going on between members of your congregation. Once the pastor weighs in it can shut conversation down.
- if there is strong disagreement and you agree strongly with one side or the other. If you take sides than you will alienate people and deepen divisions in the church.
- if the issue is likely to be a distraction from more important matters.
A pastor accepts a call in a church that was built in the 60's. The sanctuary has abstract stained glass windows in garish colors from that period. A sizable contingent in the congregation passionately desires to get the windows replaced. An equally sizable contingent loves the windows and is adamant about keeping them. The new pastor privately dislikes the windows and people from both sides come to her asking her opinion to buoy their side of the argument.
If the pastor here is honest about her opinion she will upset a significant portion of the congregation. We all know that you can't please everyone, but wouldn't it be wise in this instance for the pastor to keep her opinion to herself and to try to mediate a resolution between the warring factions in her church?
What I'm getting at is that there are times, more frequent than one might expect, when the pastor ought to set themselves aside in deference to their role in the church. They ought, in other words, to keep their thoughts and feelings private, in order to be effective in their public role.
Can you think of examples where the opposite is true? Where it is important that the pastor expose themselves for their ministry?