Question and Answer

Confidentiality guidelines for elder visits

Question:

Are matters that members share with elders on home visits confidential? Do elders report to the session what has been shared with them? Do you have guidelines on confidentiality when elders do home visits?

Answer:

This is a very good question. The session on which I serve follows this general rule: If it is information that is necessary to provide oversight of a member's soul, it is going to be shared with the rest of the session unless there is good reason not to.

With regard to your elders, it might depend upon whether or not you asked them not to repeat what is told to them. For the most part the elders have come to see how you are doing spiritually and are not interested in gossip.

But there are times when matters discussed are of importance to the church and perhaps to your soul. For example, if you say you intend to become a Muslim, or you intend to murder a neighbor, or you are angry with the pastor, such information needs to be given to the rest of the session (or in the last example, the pastor needs to know, don't you think?). On the other hand, that you struggle with your faith, or you wish you had spent more time in the last year reading your Bible, or are not sure how to share your faith, those things are not likely to be made a major item of discussion. Do you see the difference?

Your best option, though, is to ask the elders up front what your session's policy is. And if you are going to tell them something you want kept private, just ask them to keep it confidential. On the whole the best guidelines are found in Ephesians 4:29.


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

Return to Formatted Page