Thursday, April 5, 2007

Responses vary when sex offenders go to church

Faith communities are, more and more, facing the issue of convicted sex offenders desiring to worship with them. This Associated Press story outlines how several congregations have handled this:

"Rev. Steve Nickodemus, pastor of Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Sandpoint, Idaho, said he sensed a feeling of remorse and religious fervor from a man who sought to attend services three years ago after serving a prison term for molesting his stepdaughter many years ago.

At the same time, Nickodemus was concerned for families in the congregation and for children at the church's Little Lamb Preschool and Kindergarten.

'If we are really going to live as Christians, then we're going to have to deal with this,' he said. First, Nickodemus talked to the man about his crime, current living conditions, therapy, support network and requirements of the 13 years on probation he was facing.

Church leaders eventually agreed to let the man attend church only with a chaperon from the moment he arrived by car and required that he stay away from children and accept constant monitoring.

Since then, Nickodemus said, the sex offender has continued to attend a men's group and worship services. After initial reactions ranging from concern to outrage, most of those who attend the 11 a.m. service know and have accepted the fact that they're sharing the pews with a sex offender, the pastor said.

'I had to overcome some of my own fears,' he said. 'There are some sex offenders out there who are not conforming to what the law requires, but they won't be the ones who'll come to you and ask if they can come to church.'"

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