Do Methodists confess their sins to God or the pastor? Do pastors have the authority to say that I am forgiven?
United Methodists understand our need to confess our sin before God and one another. In fact, we are encouraged to share our spiritual issues with each other (James 5:16). When we confess our sins, we have the assurance that God promises to forgive us (1 John 1:9).
When we gather for worship, United Methodists often pray a prayer of confession together. The confession is followed by a declaration of pardon, which may be as simple as, “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!” Confession and pardon together remind us that we are sinners saved by grace.
In some churches, the pastor is the conduit through which God forgives. United Methodists understand that Jesus is our High Priest (Hebrews 3:1) and our confessions are made directly to God through Jesus Christ without the need of an additional mediator (1 Timothy 2:5-6).
At ordination, one of the roles the pastor takes is to “declare the forgiveness of sins,” proclaiming God’s pardoning and empowering love. The fact that the pastor shares this assurance, “in the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven,” and the congregation announces it back to the pastor and each other is significant. The pastor has no special authority to forgive sin. God is the one who forgives and we remind each other of that gift.