How do you welcome a sex offender?
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