A Father Confessor
The President of the Southern District of the LCMS, the Rev. Eric Johnson, encourages pastors to have a father confessor, to make private confessions and receive absolution - and he wisely encourages pastors under his oversight to not make confessions to him because of the nature of his office.
From “This Ministry We Share,” June 1, 2019:
Every pastor needs someone they can talk to, someone they can trust, someone they can confess their sins to and receive the assurance of the forgiveness of their sins in Christ Jesus from their Father Confessor.
We as men, as fallen men, as men of pride and self-sufficiency often fail to have someone we can trust who can hear our struggles, give sound brotherly advice, and offer the needed absolution of sins. But this is an area that every pastor would do well to pay attention, and to cultivate a relationship with another trusted man of proven godly wisdom, character, insight, and confidence.
As District President, too often my role becomes one of the Law. Synod has made it clear that as DP, I cannot hear your confession without there being repercussions. But you need someone who can hear you when you struggle, especially when you struggle with sin. A trusted Father Confessor can hear you, hear your sins, can apply Law and Gospel to your life, can absolve you of your sins without fear of your confession ever leaving the seal of the confession over that man’s lips. For this reason, I encourage you to find a man you can trust who can hear your struggles, offer sound Law/Gospel advice, and who can absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is such sweet comfort and assurance in hearing the Gospel that your sins are forgiven. As a pastor you give that assurance to others, and you too need to know from the mouth of your pastor, your Father Confessor, that your sins are indeed forgiven; that for Christ’s sake the Father has cast your sins as far as east is from west, and chooses never to remember your sins again.
You will be a healthier, happier, and more content pastor if you will find that man who can become your Father Confessor.