This clarifies things considerably. I apologize for my misunderstanding of Pastor Preus' words and subsequent freaking out, and I think we all agree that there are plenty of conversations which neither pastors nor women want to or should have with each other. Thank you, Pastor Preus, for your patient response, and Dr Heidenreich for passing it along. Rebekah
Erich Heidenreich has been kind enough to share with me comments posted in response to these paragraphs in a paper I gave this past June:
“But a deaconess can be a tremendous benefit to the church specifically in serving women in a way that a pastor cannot. While private confession and absolution is a great blessing to the church, there are matters that are simply inappropriate for a woman to discuss with a man who is not her husband. God only knows how many pastor / parishioner relationships that began with a woman confessing her sexual sins to her pastor were concluded by the two of them sinning sexually together.
“A woman can speak from within herself to another woman in a way a man cannot do. No, this is not the ministry of the word, but it is a blessing from God. A woman can listen, understand, and give woman to woman counsel that no pastor can give.”
The respondents have interpreted my words to say that I do not believe that a woman should confess her sexual sins to her pastor. I did not say that. After saying that private confession and absolution is a great blessing I added that there are matters that a woman should not discuss with a man who isn’t her husband. I was not equating confessing with discussing. In fact, I was attempting to distinguish between them. It is one thing to confess. It is another to discuss. All Christians should feel free to confess to their pastor all of their sins, especially those they know and feel in their hearts, and that includes women who suffer the guilt from having committed sexual sins. We confess our sins and God forgives us our sins through the voice of his minister. Confessing and discussing are quite distinct, in my view. Confession may entail further discussion. It may not. As I said, there are some matters that are inappropriate for a woman to discuss with a man who is not her husband. This is not to say that a woman may not confess her sexual sins to her pastor and receive absolution from him as from God himself. It is to say that in certain circumstances one Christian woman can give to another Christian woman the kind of counsel that a man either cannot or should not give. The “mutual conversation and consolation of brethren” may be offered by women to women.
I thank Erich for posting this for me.
Pr. Rolf Preus