Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


How do you welcome a sex offender?

Linda pointed out an article in The New York Times, Sex offenders test church's core beliefs. The test is for Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, California. The church sign says "all are welcome," but how welcoming they are to sex offenders is an open question. The church's struggle came after a registered sex offender sent an email to the pastor saying that he was moving to the town and wanted to know if he would be welcome at the church. The pastor thought that by setting limits that the man would avoid children and always be escorted by an adult, the issue would not present a problem.

But the 300 member church had a variety of reactions including those who said, "If he stays, I leave," while others said "If he leaves, I leave." A member of the congregation who was molested as a child said, “But what do you say to one member who was abused for 10 years, several times a week? By welcoming one person, are we rescinding our welcome to some of the survivors among us, people in pain and healing, members of our family?”

Publicity over the church's dispute led to the sex offender losing his job and his housing. He is now homeless. The church is still working on a written policy and in the meantime, the sex offender can not worship at the church, but instead meets with a small group from the church.

What would we do here?
As a church with a lot of children in church and activities for kids including children's church and scouting, we certainly have policies in place to protect our children. I know that our church is safe in terms of what takes place at church.

I would not fear for our children if a registered sex offender wanted to come to worship. Obviously that person would never be allowed to work with children's church or Kids in the Kingdom or other children's ministries. There is a difference between forgiveness and hospitality and opening up a person to needless temptation. So, if someone came and worshipped that would be fine. Though I would find that given the high number of churches with low to no attendance by children, that there might be less problematic places to worship than King of Peace.

The real danger is not the known offender looking for a place to join others in worship. The danger is the person not known to be an offender. The one who acts perfect on church grounds and so engenders trust and then gains access to children away from church, with our policies and procedures.

Forgiveness starts this evening
Wrapped up in this issue are issues of forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive? Do you have to forget? Tonight from 7-8 p.m. we begin a study on the process of forgiveness. I'll lead the four sessions in which we will consider these questions and learn more about the relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation, and none of it involves forgetting.

A couple of questions for y'all? Should the church have let everyone know the sex offender was coming to worship or just those in leadership? Should the church have been more welcoming or less?

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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  • At 4/11/2007 9:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To answer the first question: Everybody in the congregation needs to know if there is a sex offender in their church. How would you feel if you walked into your place of worship, totally ignorant of this information and your beautiful child sat next to the offender to worship? Wouldn't that pose unnecessary temptation to the offender anyway?

    What if the offender couldn't resist temptation? There are too many opportunities available other than children's ministries for he/she to strike again.

    For example,(and my children have done this), during worship, your child leaves the worship area to get a drink of water or use the restroom. A few minutes later, the offender is tempted, sees an opportunity and does the same. What if the only people who know about this offender are church leaders, and they are too busy with the service to notice? Frightening!

    To answer the second question: Churches are full of families. Families are full of children. Forgiving a sex offender is one thing, but placing my family at risk in church is another. Home and church are the two environments where children should be safe and parents should feel confident that they are. makes me wonder if we've been worshipping with a sex offender at our church, and nobody knows. This sheds a whole new light on the stranger and hospitality. But, is that our fault or that of the offenders in the first place?

  • At 4/11/2007 9:28 AM, Anonymous Linda+ said…

    This situation puts us all on the horns of a dilemma. Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them, but he knew who they were and he knew what they had done.

  • At 4/11/2007 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well, put Linda. Jesus knew who he was eating with. As a mom who has used church members as babysitters, I need to know.

  • At 4/11/2007 5:32 PM, Blogger Robin D. said…

    The Evil One will use every opportunity to separate and harm us.

    Sometimes a simple question has several answers, good answers. I wish there was a simple solution to this one.

    As a pediatric health care provider I have helped to put away more than one sexual predator. One man was very tragic because predation ruled his life. He was a kind, helpful person on the outside. On the inside he was ruled by his obsession to prey on children. Like any predator he looked for the weak or unprotected.

    When he was captured and put on trial, I found myself pitying him. Yes, He was sorry he got caught. He also seemed to be genuinely contrite for the damage he caused. He seemed at a loss as to how to stop himself or to make up for it. At one point he asked to die.

    I truly do believe that God can remake people. I believe he forgives all sins, even the ones I can't. I wish for a heart that is not hard but I don't have it.

    In this "In Between" world we have to watch for predators. We beg for our own forgiveness even when we can't forgive others.

    I agree that for a sex offender to worship with us he would have to be known and be watched. That might be an unacceptable situation for some parents. I would have to support the parents in this case because they are legitimately protecting their children from threats. Protecting children IS God's Will.

  • At 4/17/2007 7:35 PM, Anonymous Gina said…

    Being one of the educators of the "Safeguarding God's Children" program for the diocese, I know that these are questions that are being raised in churches all over the country. Most sex offenders are never arrested or labeled which makes checking the registries inconclusive. I definitely believe that if a sex offender is registered in society he or she should also be registered in the church. I myself have found it difficult to break bread with many parishioners over the years, but we are expected to respect the dignity of all people. All people should be welcomed. If safeguarding policies are set up in churches, a sex offender who is coming to the church to gain access to children will leave and go somewhere else. A sex offender who is truly looking for a spiritual home will be willing to register himself in the church to protect the children and himself. Unfortunately, most sex offenders don't believe they have a problem.

  • At 12/23/2008 3:34 PM, Blogger Mykidsdad said…

    Let's put it into real perspective. 90% of offenders weren't convicted of child related offenses and of the 10% only 1% is considered high risk. Look one out of a hundred is still to high, but considering these offenders go through therapy, probation/parol then must even register all the time. The likelihood little sally or johnny going to be touched or even looked at is a stretch at best. If an offender comes out in the open in honesty he or she should be respected for it.
    Me? I'm a dad and a giver in the community. Got a program together to give back by helping the clients of my hair salon donate to a local children's hospital care packages for kids year around. Love even from me (a sex offender) can mean somethings.


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