Many, many people, especially parents, become very angry when it comes to sex offenders.
Their irrational approach is understandable but society cannot be guided by emotion and anger.
Society, and the churches, have to have a pastoral plan for the care of sex offenders.
Of course, in this are the victims of sex offenders should always be the NUMBER 1 concern.
Victims have the priority in this area – and victims should be listened to, believed, supported, given the very best counselling and pastoral care and be justly compensated for their horrific ordeals.
Sex offenders should be detected, prosecuted and sentenced to serious terms of imprisonment. In prison they should receive therapy for their illness.
And when they get out of prison we Christians have a duty before God to extend pastoral care to them.
That pastoral care should enable
- The offenders to live in places where they pose the least danger to children.
- The offenders are entitled to a safe home and a quality of life.
- They should be accepted into church communities and have a designated person to supervise them and help them not to reoffend.
- They should be encouraged to engage on a life long programme so that they can manage their condition.
In the case of bishops and priests they should never again be allowed a public ministry or access to children or vulnerable others.
Offenders need to stay away from schools, youth clubs and public areas where children gather.
In my experience there are two types of sex offender:
- Those who know and accept what they did was morally wrong and criminal and who are determined not to reoffend.
- And those who have no remorse and would quickly reoffend if they got the opportunity.
The first type can he helped.
The second type cannot – and they must be supervised most carefully as they pose a high risk.
There are those who say that sex offending is an unforgivable sin. It is not. There is no sin, no matter how great, that cannot be forgiven by God if the person is truly sorry and determined not to do the wrong again.
I have worked with both victims and offenders.
I have been commended for working with victims – and condemned for working with offenders.
But the Christian and the minister/priest is there for all men and women – not matter what they have done.
Sometimes I think that it would be a good idea if there were well thought out and supervised religious communities in which offenders could live a life of openness, prayer, support and goodness.
Of course, such a community would need access to the very best medical, psychological and psychiatric expertise – as many offenders are very devious and can be very persuasive.
Those who work with offenders, to stop them reoffending, are actually involved in child protection work.
Sex offenders are still human beings and must be treated as such.
And at the same time, our number one priority must be the protection of children and the care of victims.
Simon Bass – Chief Executive of The Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service
“As followers of Jesus, we are called to minister to everyone in church including sex offenders, but we should never do so in isolation from child protection professionals or in ignorance of the harm done to their victims.
In fulfilling God’s mission, we should open wide the church doors as we minister to anyone who calls upon Jesus’ name (Romans 10:13). God’s grace through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ, makes a way for all who have sinned, even if that sin is also a heinous crime (Ephesians 2:8). God wants us restored to him, and in right relationship achieved through our willingness to repent and seek forgiveness. I am so grateful that we serve a God of second chances. In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus teaches that God will always welcome with open arms those who come to him with an authentic, repentant heart. This includes sexual offenders (Luke 15:21-22).
When churches minister to sex offenders, they must implement a careful grace that is based upon an educated understanding of offenders and how they act. A careful grace starts with putting the needs of children and survivors first. A careful grace embraces the reality that actions must have consequences. A careful grace requires church leaders and workers to be trained in child protection, and our churches to have clear and effective child safeguarding policies and procedures. Only within a context of careful grace can churches effectively care for sex offenders. What does careful grace require of churches who minister to sex offenders”?
In order to protect children, churches should require sex offenders to sign a written contract that articulates clear behavioural boundaries relating to any church-related function with consequences for failing to comply and that articulates on-going pastoral care that the offender must receive from the church. Church contracts for sex offenders enact Galatians 6:10, doing good to everyone as we have opportunity. Being a good steward in church includes stewarding risky conduct. We should not place a convicted sex offender in a place of temptation; we need to be wise (Matthew 10:16).
Contracts should be in place for anyone who the church knows has committed any type of sexual offence, whether against an adult or a child. Sexual offences should include both physical, sexual abuse and online abuse (i.e. child pornography). Such contracts should remain in place indefinitely, and be reviewed on a regular basis, irrespective of whether or not the offender is under the jurisdiction of the court.
A risk assessment should be a condition of any offender contract, with the understanding that the church may decide that the offender must worship somewhere else. Most sex offenders want to be accepted into the church and will likely attempt to minimize their crime. Thus, it is critical for the church to ascertain whether or not it is even possible for the offender to join the congregation. When evaluating an offender for membership, a church should obtain a professional risk assessment from the offender’s probation officer or any other professional whom the court has ordered to supervise and manage the sex offender.
Church contracts should also severely limit sex offenders’ participation in any form of public ministry in the church. The contract should outline the service boundaries sex offenders must keep in the church and in the wider church family. Sex offenders commonly target children in the church in order to gain their trust for the purpose of eventually abusing them outside the church building. Therefore, an offender must never be placed in a position of trust or responsibility that in any manner communicates to children that they are safe.
A church should not ask a sex offender to be part of the public platform. They should not share their testimony about their offences for a number of reasons:
An offender’s testimony is insulting to survivors of abuse who hear offenders describe their past sins.
An offender’s testimony may give the impression to kids and parents that the church considers the offender to be safe.
For some sex offenders, they will get sexual pleasure in re-telling their story.
An offender’s testimony can distance survivors in the church, who rightly will be asking where is their opportunity to share their stories about the harm done to them, and God’s healing.
An offender’s testimony can also cause disunity in the church as people have very strong emotional responses to sex offenders, with the result ranging from vigilantism towards the offender to people leaving the church.
Truly repentant sex offenders will understand and accept the limitations within the contract. Churches who implement contracts for sexual offenders are not being judgemental. Instead, they are recognizing that true repentance is demonstrated by embracing accountability and a lifetime process of authentic transformation. Most critically, churches who implement contracts for sexual offenders understand that the principle aim of such a contract is the protection of children who are a precious part of the church family”.