(And because my pastor had told me not to tell anyone about the sexuality, I ended up having to discuss a “relationship” whose existence I was not allowed to acknowledge.) It stinks to keep secrets from the people you pray with, because then how on Earth can you pray in any meaningful way together, if you can’t talk about one of the most important things in your life?
But pastors can turn all that knowledge around very quickly to get you to feel you’re falling in love.
They show compassion, worming their way deep into your inner life.
Pastors very frequently begin their interactions with new parishioners by sitting down, maybe over dinner, or in their office, or in my case over email, and letting the parishioner talk about their deepest secrets. In my situation, from the beginning I told my pastor about my fears about death, family problems, and troubles with my studies.
And she would put all these secrets in a Biblical and theological perspective, and then pray for me, because that’s what pastors do, right?
Unlike, perhaps, some of the readers of this article, I actively support full LGBTQ equality, and I do not believe that the only province of sexuality should be the marital relationship. But you, and I, and everyone, universally agree that some classes of sexual behavior are simply acceptable, like child molestation, or sexual assault.
And pastors dating their parishioners—although seemingly more benign at first—actually fits into that category. When you belong to a church, the ministers consult each other about what’s going on in your life—and this can create conflicts of interest if you’re dating one of them In my case, when I grew increasingly frazzled by my relationship with my pastor, I couldn’t go to one of the other ministers and talk about it. This would be like dating your manager, and then going to the CEO of the company for relationship advice.
It’s worse than being on the cover of the National Enquirer, because it’s your that’s curious about your sex life, and they’re all spiritually invested in the pastor’s emotional stability.
One of the few parishioners that found out about me and my pastor ended up giving me a 20-minute lecture on how I’d better treat her well, because she was currently an “integrated personality”, and we didn’t want that disturbed.
Think about titles: “Reverend” (from “revere”), “Monsignor” (“my lord”), or, in the Episcopal Church, “Father” or “Mother” (do I need to explain that one? For a while I was dating someone whom convention would have me refer to as “Mother Strickland”.