Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Sections
Blog Section Banner
 
You are here: Home >> Blog >> Marie Fortune's Blogs >> No Sex Offenders in Church? Part I

No Sex Offenders in Church? Part I

May 18, 2007 — Categories:

“I’m a convicted sex offender and I would like to attend this church." At FaithTrust Institute, we are receiving weekly inquiries about this situation from anxious clergy and congregations. Some congregations are turning away offenders. This initial reaction may be understandable, but let’s be clear: The identified, self-acknowledged sex offender is the least of a congregation’s worries.

“I’m a convicted sex offender and I would like to attend this church." At FaithTrust Institute, we are receiving weekly inquiries about this situation from anxious clergy and congregations. Some congregations are turning away offenders. This initial reaction may be understandable, but let’s be clear: The identified, self-acknowledged sex offender is the least of a congregation’s worries.

There are already sex offenders in congregations of all faiths. Period. Most of them are unidentified and unaccountable. The pedophiles may be abusing their own children or children they teach or coach or counsel. Others may be assaulting their wives or girlfriends. Others may be harassing or stalking their co-workers. Professing faith and engaging in spiritual practice does not preclude anyone from engaging in sexual offenses. But when a sex offender discloses his/her history and asks to worship with a congregation, the congregations’ concern for the safety of the members’ children as well as for the potential impact on adult survivors who worship there is also understandable.

Is the only option to turn the offender away? The congregation could see this as an opportunity to be a part of a sex offender’s accountability system. This is not a naive, “all is forgiven,” head-in-the-sand response. It is recognizing that the faith community can contribute to a sex offender’s not re-offending. We can become part of his/her accountability process. And although sex offenders cannot be “cured,” some can be managed and function within the community. A few basic guidelines can help: 1) the offender accepts that the congregation needs to know who they are, 2) he/she cannot participate in certain parts of the congregation’s program, e.g. work with children or youth, and 3) he/she will be accompanied by a responsible layperson whenever they are attending events.

If these expectations are not acceptable to the offender or if he/she violates them, then he/she is not welcome to worship with this congregation because he/she is a danger to others. There are obviously some significant theological issues at stake here. Stay tuned. In Part II, I will address these.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

Document Actions