News reports across the country document the uproar that occurs when a community learns that a convicted sex offender is living in their neighborhood. is living in their neighborhood. Emotions run high and the cry to protect often includes demands that the offender be ostracized.
The same high emotions can also tear congregations apart. What should a congregation do when a convicted sex offender wishes to join or to regain fellowship at a Seventh-day Adventist church?
First, the congregation should be assured by the Pastor and Elders that the protection of any and all potential victims will and must always be the highest priority. Extending grace and the privilege of fellowship to a convicted sex offender should never include permitting inappropriate interaction between the offender and potential victims.
The person who seeks to join or to return to the fellowship of a church congregation should recognize that interaction with potential victims is a privilege he or she has lost. They should understand that the congregation has both the right and duty to protect every member from possible harm. member from possible harm.
In 1994 there were approximately 234,000 offenders convicted of rape or sexual assault under the care, custody, or control of corrections agencies. Nearly 60% or 140, 400 of these sex offenders are under conditional supervision in the community. The local church will have contact with them as it engages in evangelism & community out reach.
Offenders 96% Male4% Female Black 48% White 48% Other 4% 60% 7-30 years of age Never Married 53% Divorced 21 % Married 17% Separated 6% Widowed 2% 90% of youth & 65% of adult victims knew the offender
Sexual offences encompass a spectrum of criminal activities… Creating, pandering or possessing obscene materials, voyeurism, prostitution, soliciting, sexual imposition, sexual assault, statutory rape, rape, and other offences
“…be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. “ Matthew 10:16
Offer every opportunity for the redemption of the person while maintaining the safety of all who attend the church and its activities
Begin with prayer and study When it becomes known to leadership that such a person desires to attend and/or become a part of the congregation, the Pastor and Elders should first convene a time for study and prayer. No decisions should be made until the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Scripture are consulted.
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven… 2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven… 2 Chronicles 7:14 Where no counsel [is], the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors [there is] safety. Proverbs 11:14 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven… Dan. 2:17-18
Hold a meeting with the Pastor, Elders and the person …discuss the offence …discuss their spiritual journey …discuss any legal issues -parole or probation? -restraining orders? -other relevant conditions, situations?
If the person is under the supervision of a Parole or Probation Officer, arrange a meeting with the Officer, the Pastor, and the Elders only …to confirm the credibility of the person …to learn of addition resources to aid leadership If the person is no longer supervised by the court, contact the trial court for information regarding the person’s offense.
Contact Adventist Risk Management Seek information regarding local and state laws, as well as any possible liability
Establish a Covenant with the person that includes accountability contacts and an observation team.
Covenant A signed agreement stating when, where, and which services, programs, events, etc., the person may attend
Accountability Contacts The Pastor and several Elders who agree to support & counsel the person.
Observation Team Individuals who will discreetly escort and observe the person escort and observe the person at all church events
While these measures are an effort to protect the church from harmful acts committed by new members, measures should be taken as well to educate church members of the realty of sexual offenses occurring in the context of church life.
There should also be a screening process for church officers as a means of providing an additional degree of safety. Many churches have adopted a policy of performing background checks on those in leadership positions and those employed by the church.
Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer… for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. Isaiah 56:7 Isaiah 56:7 They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Mark 2:17 Mark 2:17