A Word from Your CBC Team: You’re reading the second in a series of posts by Professor Hosea Baxter on Urban Apologetics. You can read Part 1 at: Urban Apologetics: Answering Their Questions.
If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation… (2 Corinthians 5:17)
As I craft this blog, I am in dialogue with an urban pastor who is ministering in the midst of the issue of sex offenders. Within a five-mile radius of his church, he believes that almost 220 ex-sex offenders are living. For him, this article is not just a theory; it is reality. He is central to the content and the conclusion of this post. Pastor X, we shall call him, has several of these ex-sex offenders as members of his congregation. One, in particular, we will call John Doe, is being trained to become a ministry leader.
Sex-Offenders in General
Pastor X is not oblivious to the statistics related to sex offenders in our society. He knows, unfortunately, there is no shortage of sex-offenders in our culture. Equally disturbing, according to the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, most people will be violated by people they know. Thus, one’s most intimate surroundings and best-loved relationships become the most likely source of the victim’s pain. This will factor in significantly when it comes to creating safe surroundings for injured parties.
The United States Department of Justice reports that only 30 percent of sexual assault cases are reported yearly. In 2012, this department documented 62,939 child sexual abuse cases alone. In that same year, it was reported that there were 346,830 sexual molestations on persons twelve years and older. When it is suggested that this number only represents 30% of the actual attacks, we know we have a serious problem in our culture. It is estimated that 18% of adult females in the United States have been raped (about 20 million women). Sadly, 1.8 million adolescents will be molested with 34% being younger than nine.
Sex-Offenders and the Church
All these numbers exemplify the brokenness of humanity and the need within the church to have ministries addressing these issues. In light of the number of sex-offenders returned to urban communities, it’s incumbent upon the urban church to be extremely active in these areas, especially Pastor X. The people of Christ must develop ministries that will address residency concerns, employment issues, integration back into the family (assuming it is wise or legal), and integration back into the community. These types of ministries are in short supply in our cities, which means the redemptive work of Jesus these men and women need is being neglected.
As Pastor X assists these men and women in working out their sanctification, his task is complicated as he strives to allow the redeemed to live out their calling in Christ, while protecting victims and potential victims in his church and the community. In the minds of some, John Doe is a spiritual leper. He will be forever disqualified from ministry, especially children’s ministry. Disconnecting from certain ministries is wise depending on the offense. We can view this not as skepticism of his redemption, but a consequence of his actions, along with the safety of others. It is also distancing him from potential temptations. However, what about adult ministry?
Pastor X meets the challenges of adult ministry by being completely open with the congregation. They have a right to know the exposure they will face as it relates to this topic. The body also has an obligation to vet likely leaders, and by law; they have a right to know where sex offenders reside within their community. The pastor credits his congregation with being a loving community. They have been very sympathetic to the sexually broken within the congregation. He believes part of this is due to the brokenness of urban life.
The fallen identify with the fallen.
From the Outside Looking In
Acceptance inside does not always equate to approval outside. Other ministries put distance between Pastor X’s church and their own. When it comes to working with Pastor X, one ministry states, the liability issues are just too high. Pastor X holds no malice. One ministry hired a lawyer to determine the degree of liability they might face if something went wrong. Pastor X approves and understands. He works with other ministries to the degree that they feel comfortable. There is an extent to which he knows the legal implications can be emotionally and financially staggering.
Is There a Place in Ministry for Sex-Offenders?
Currently, Pastor X is training one of the ex-offenders to become an elder; John Doe will be an associate minister. Both are on staff. John Doe completed his M.Div. prior to his fall from grace. He, they honestly believe, was falsely accused and convicted. That, however, is a completely different story. There is an extremely high accountability program implemented within the church for these men. There has to be. In conjunction with an intimate engagement with the body of Christ, these men are allowed to minister.
Other Ministry Concerns
This blog I hope is nothing more than a wake-up call for the need of ministries that seek to bring healing to sexually broken people. The need for such ministries will increase exponentially as our society legitimizes new forms of sexual brokenness. Some of you may be disappointed because there are no detailed how-to-dos in this article. That may come after I review this pastor’s program a year from now. In fact, other ministries are looking at how Pastor X brings healing in this area, because they are looking for models to mimic. I also want you to know that I have not touched on numerous other issues related to sex offenders. Those leaving our prisons with this moniker, especially child-molester, will have insurmountable time mending relationships and recapturing their lives. They will have difficulty finding employment, a place to live, and welcoming churches to name a few.
As horrendous as sex offenses are, Christ came to redeem sinners. We must join Him in this calling no matter how repugnant the offense. Let’s look at how others are plowing this field but let’s not wait to see the fruit of their labor before we become engaged. We and they cannot afford it.
Join the Conversation
Can Christ’s redemptive power turn sex-offenders into ex-offenders?
Is there a potential role, with proper safeguards, in the church for ex-offenders?
What safeguards and boundaries do you suggest for wise protection of children and members in the church?
What resources do you recommend on this topic? A resource that CBC recommends for setting wise boundaries in the church is On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church by Pastor Deepak Reju, Ph.D.