The article linked to some suggested resources for churches trying to decide what to do about registered sex offenders. Heaven help the sex offenders!
Perhaps now that The Lutheran has made it known that...
1. "public perception of the risk of repeat sexual offenses [is] much higher than it is"
2. "offender registries and notification systems have little to no effect on recidivism rates and may, in some cases, increase the risk they will commit future sex crimes"
...the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) can rethink the "help" they offer congregations.
In a document titled Legal Resources: Responding to Sex Offenders in a Congregation, the ELCA says,
Numerous studies in recent years point to an extremely low likelihood that pedophiles can or will change. Without extensive professional treatment, virtually all child sexual offenders will re-offend. Repentance, prayer and pastoral support can be crucial elements when combined with life-long treatment, but, in themselves, they offer little hope of changing the behavior of perpetrators.Let's begin with the casual use of that frightful word, pedophiles. Most sex offenders are not pedophiles, not even those who offend against children. Most pedophiles are not sex offenders. Pedophile is a word meant to frighten you.
As for that hopelessly grim statement, virtually all child sexual offenders will re-offend, see #1 above. The recidivism rate of sex offenders is extremely low.
The ELCA document continues:
A convicted sex offender who wishes to be part of a church community, whether one he or she has attended for some time or a new one, should expect to have conditions placed upon his or her participation. This can best be done through the development of a written covenant, signed by the offender and by church officials, preferably by both the pastor and the chairperson of the Church Council (or other administrative body of the church).
The covenant should begin with a clear statement of the role of the church as "sanctuary," with appropriate Biblical reference(s).There's more but this is the point where I started laughing. The role of the church as sanctuary? Not for sex offenders! Sex offenders should expect to have conditions placed upon his or her participation. Forgiveness? Pfft.
The appropriate Biblical references in this case are meant to warn the sex offender that the need for sanctuary for people who are uncomfortable with former sex offenders trumps the need for sanctuary for the sex offender who wants spiritual nourishment.
Surely there must be some appropriate Biblical references about forgiveness and mercy that could guide a congregation in welcoming a sex offender. Maybe something like this:
Ephesians 4:32 - And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.Back to the covenant that sex offenders must sign:
As part of your growth and penitence, you shall prepare and deliver written acknowledgments and apologies for the pain caused directly or indirectly by your actions. At the very least, you shall address these statements to your victims, their families, your own family and the members and supporters of this church. (Requests for forgiveness shall not be included). This will become part of an open letter to the congregation, informing them of your presence and of the conditions of your participation.My, that's quite stern. I am trying to imagine the effect on children in the congregation. I am trying to imagine the effect on the family of the sex offender in the congregation.
Another condition for the covenant:
You may not use restroom facilities in the church buildings.Welcome to church; stay away from the coffee.
Yesterday, I stood on my well-worn soapbox and was gently pulled down by someone reminding me that other people do have stories that make them fearful -- someone betrayed by a financial advisor, someone whose family suffered a murder, for example. Some fear they could be victims of another crime.
Members of the congregation who have been convicted of non-sexual crimes such as assault or fraud -- possibly leaving someone critically injured or leaving a family in dire financial straits -- those convicts can come to church with no covenant demands. They can even use the restroom.
Crimes and the effects of those crimes fall in a wide range. Some sex offenders perpetrated a violent rape; some touched no one. Some assaults don't do serious injury; some leave the victim in a vegetative state.
After serving their sentences, some criminals are allowed to continue with their lives without public self flagellation; some are seen as needing only a quick stop at the restroom to return to wicked ways.
The reason so much attention is on sex offenders is that there is a list of them. Once there is a list, the fear seems justified. They must be dangerous if the law requires them to register!
When I found Ephesians 4:32, I also ran across this:
John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.God gave his Son and the ELCA is putting conditions on space at the table?
This helpful document suggests that some in the congregation can partake of the Bread.
Some are allowed only to smell it.