In February, the Savannah Presbytery created a new policy that prohibits pastors from performing weddings, baptisms, funerals and counseling services for members of their former congregations, except at the invitation of the new pastor.
The policy also limits how ministers can respond to those requests.
Punishment for violating that policy may result in removal of ordination.
The "Separation Ethics" policy is still a proposal under the Savannah Presbytery, the governing body over 42 Presbyterian (USA) churches in southeast Georgia, said Interim Executive Presbyter Greg A. Garis. Leaders are expected to vote on the policy May 20.It is unfortunate that the presbytery has to go to this length to keep ministers from interfering in the lives of their former church members. Whenever we have to make a rule in the book, trouble must have been a-brewing.
I am grateful that I have never had this hassle (yet) either from former pastors who meddle or meddling myself. I tend to move across the continent on each move so it makes it tough for me to meddle. Frankly, I have enough to do without stepping on the toes of the clergy who follow me. I deeply respect boundaries. Meddling is not providing pastoral care to the hurting. It is meddling. It creates divisiveness and it keeps the congregation and the new pastor from building relationships.
Yet, most of the time, we handle this without a rule in the book. There are ways in which new pastors can include the ministry of predecessors who live in the community. It requires ongoing conversation and shared guidelines between the former and current pastors.
I am curious as to how my colleagues have experienced this (as well as parishioners).