Sex Offenders in the Church?
July 19, 2011
Updated June 7, 2018
1 comment 414 views
What happens when, upon release, a convicted sex offender joins (or re-joins) a congregation? To date, my experience has taught me that there is no single “right” answer and that the process of finding the “best” answer will definitely test the mettle of a congregation and its leadership team.
What needs to be done or said? What needs to be agreed upon and when? Whose interests should be considered? What do the secular authorities require? More importantly, what does our Lord require? How prepared is your church?
Some churches require that the offender’s name be published in writing (or verbally announced) to the congregation. The rationale is that the entire congregation should be warned. Others disagree and ask the following:
Some would say that the publication is required by law; others would disagree. Some would say that publishing the names of one brand of sinner smacks of the “scarlet letter” of old; others would say we need to protect our children.
Recent publications have referred to the convicted sex offender as the “modern day leper”. Should we keep them “outside the city gates”? How do we minister to them? What if the offender is seeking God for the first time and attends as a guest of members of your church?
How do the rules change if the offender is/was a youth (in which case publication would be prohibited)? Under what circumstance can a 15 year old offender socialize with his or her peers... or is it completely prohibited? Matthew 18:15 – 17 advises as to the discussion we should have with the one who sins and refuses to cooperate. The passage finishes with:
If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (NIV).
The question remains: In what manner should we treat those pagans or tax collectors... or today’s lepers?
Perhaps the best solution consists of ensuring that:
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We all want to hate sex offenders; we can't imagine their crime, especially when it involves children. They are so smooth, so arrogant, so sure that there will be no consequences for them (and unfortunately they are so often right about that). Yet our Lord loved each one so much that he died on a cross for them. He calls us to love one another, not judge one another. We are no better; we are all just as dependent on the grace of our Lord. There are some very good questions raised in this article; questions that need to be addressed and carefully considered.if we are to follow our Lord and love the unlovely - while at the same time protecting each precious child of God in our midst. Lord, help us to consider these questions in our church communities as we seek to reflect your love to all people.
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