In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How far does redemption really go?

I read a really interesting article (http://www.christianpost.com/article/20091011/sex-offenders-fight-for-right-to-attend-church/index.html) about sex offenders in Georgia and North Carolina who are challenging some of their state laws that pertain to church involvement for sex offenders. From what I gather, their state laws are written in such a way that convicted sex offenders are not allowed to volunteer in church, even in adult activities such as singing in the adult choir or cooking meals in the church kitchen.

This poses some really interesting questions.

I've thought about this a lot. All the data shows that sex offenders do not get better; the whole once a sex offender always a sex offender thing. Yet I know that scripture teaches that if any person is in Christ, he is a new person and that God can change anyone's life. However, we've got to be wise and never put our children in harms way. (By any chance can you tell that I'm conflicted on this topic?!)

I'm somewhat sarcastic in my title question because although redemption is total, how we deal with people here on earth is another issue entirely.

I'm certain that we don't want sex offenders volunteering in any kind of children's ministries - that much seems sure. Every church I've attended completes a background check on you if you want to volunteer with children or youth and I think this is wise. We have a responsibility to protect children.

OK, so let's say volunteering with children or youth isn't an option; then what is? What if a sex offender is volunteering in a non children ministry such as the choir or cooking for a church luncheon or something, and has indirect contact with children, is this OK? We've all most likely heard enough stories about people in church leadership, respected positions, molesting, or worse, children that our hearts already despair. If we already know, via past convictions, that a person has deep problems in this area, are we just paving the way for abuse to happen if we let this person volunteer in church?

I'm thinking that, although God's forgiveness is complete, there are consequences to our actions. So someone who has past convictions would need to serve in behind the scenes ways that only involve other, adult volunteers and where there is someone in charge who knows about their past who can monitor. My thought process being that I don't want to set them up in a position where they will be looked up to and parents make assumptions about their natural safety due to what they do (although why in this day and age someone would do that, with all we know, is beyond me). Perhaps volunteer activities such as prison ministry, cleaning at the church building when it's closed, stuffing church bulletins, etc.

Mostly, I think that someone who has a background of being a perpetrator would need to have a mentor in the church who works with him/her to be involved in those things that are appropriate to the situation. The mentor could also provide some accountability and encouragement. The mentor would need to have some knowledge on the dynamics involved with sexual abuse.

It is such a heavy issue. I'd really be interested to hear your thoughts.

What do you think? Do you think sex offenders should be allowed to volunteer in church activities?

8 comments:

Theta Mom said...

I think you said it best, "I'm thinking that, although God's forgiveness is complete, there are consequences to our actions." In my opinion, a sex offender should not be allowed since the stastistics show they will repeat the offense again.

Thanks so much for nice the nice comment on my blog! Would love to follow if you follow as well. :)

sarah said...

not with my kids. Actually here in Canada a man, highly respected in the church, loved teacher, worked at a Christian camp for years. This past summer two boys had the courage to come forward. He sexually touched them. There was enough evidence to charge him. A day after being charged, he commited suicide. Absolutely not and the church needs to put things in place to ensure children really are safe. Sarah

JD Curtis said...

I checked out the recidivism rates T and youre right. I think it would be one thing if a pastor wanted to minister to and counsel these types of individuals one night a week , when there arent any other activities going on at the church, and entirely another for the offender to desire to take part in the regular church activities that you listed. When they committed their crimes, they must have realized that upon their convictions, their lives are going to be different and they might have to adapt to a different way of doing things. Yes, they are going to be considered pariahs. Thats a fact that they're going to have to accept.

Shannon said...

Ohhh that's a good question. I think it would be really going against God's word to not allow people, even convicted felons, to volunteer in the church. Clearly though, there have to be limits. If the person was convicted of embezzlement, you wouldn't let them volunteer around money. But you could allow them to direct parking, help with grounds keeping, etc. I think there are things to do and ways to help people who have broken the law, without banning them from the church.

Sex offenders? That's tough. You are right, I think the studies show it's very hard to cure. I would probably not want it to go on (never with kids) without careful supervision. Maybe have someone buddy up with another adult?

I hate to ban people from church. But you are right about there being consequences. It's a tough call for sure.

Robert Madewell said...

"I've thought about this a lot. All the data shows that sex offenders do not get better; the whole once a sex offender always a sex offender thing. Yet I know that scripture teaches that if any person is in Christ, he is a new person and that God can change anyone's life."

I do have an answer to your dilemma, but you won't like it.

"I'm certain that we don't want sex offenders volunteering in any kind of children's ministries - that much seems sure."

I think that you're assuming that sex offender means pedophilia. That's not necessarily always true. Some sex offenders are those who commit crimes against adults (male and female), i.e rapists, voyuers, public exposure, etc.

So, I think they shouldn't be allowed to volunteer for anything that'll put them in contact with their prefered type of victim.

jenny said...

it's complicated. live, kids' lives will be put in jeopardy.. i can't think of anything useful...

RCUBEs said...

It is scary and hard to trust...to let them be near or with children...Satan will always use that bondage to make them ineffective even when they came to know Christ's freedom.

Tracy said...

Yet another tragedy Sarah. It really is a problem in the church that these things happen.

Yeah I see your point JD, and I think Theata Mom agrees with your view.

I laughed when I read what you wrote Shannon because if seems that you're in the same boat as me. Wanting to be Biblical and loving and extending grace but recognizing the need to be very wise and protect potential victims.

I definitely laughed out loud when I read you comment Robert about "I do have an answer to your dilemma, but you won't like it." You make a good point about that sex offenders doesn't mean just pedophiles. I also think you're spot on in your suggestion that "they shouldn't be allowed to volunteer for anything that'll put them in contact with their preferred type of victim."

I'm with you Jenny, it is complicated. That's why I was interested in what people's take on it is.

It definitely is scary Rcube. My hope would be that as local churches we could find some way to help these perpetrators, if they are sincere, experience an ever growing faith and be able to reach out in positive ways to others that would not put others at risk from them.

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