Should a Pedophile be Welcome at Church?

I’m not sure how to react to this story, but I think it’s a good one for discussion. On MSNBC I found the following story: Sex offender can worship – with conditions. I find the story troubling. As a grandparent of 5, I have to ask whether I would regard it as safe to have my grandchildren at church with him. At the same time, I would also have to ask what alternative I would propose to minister to such a person.

The church made a covenant of restrictions on his activity, monitoring, and accountability. But one church member expressed the question quite well:

Mary Carlson, a single mother of an 8-year-old girl, has fears despite the covenant. “He is a pedophile, and this pedophile might be fantasizing about this little girl across the aisle,” she said.

As a United Methodist, I uphold “Open hearts, Open minds, Open doors,” at least insofar as I can make any real meaning of the slogan. But this open?

Any thoughts?

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  1. Seems like anyone could be “fantasizing about x” at any given time. While Christianity focuses upon the heart, isn’t what is at stake here the offender’s behavior? Why worry about someone else’s thoughts if they are being struggled against and the outcome of them monitored?

    Certainly no one is going to allow this person to be the head of the nursery, or to be involved in Sunday school. Shouldn’t they be allowed to partake of the same worship & forgiveness that the rest of the body is? If the worship service is a taste of what god’s kingdom looks like, then that’s not the place to exclude….

  2. Today, the paper’s lead story was about the monitoring of registered sex offenders and maps of their location, along with accounts of how neighborhood groups reacted when they got the news of their imminent arrival. As a parent, I’m certainly concerned about my daughter’s safety, especially since studies show a high rate of repeat offenses–higher than any other crime. However, I believe these people need a chance to be a “normal” part of society. I’d hope that a church would provide a safer environment than many other places where an offender could be given a chance at feeling included in society.

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