Released Sex Offenders
and Pastoral Care

Some sex offenders who are released from custody with the help of Christian prison ministries are at times referred for potential membership in a church or congregation.  

This can be a confusing request for church authorities because it catches them between a rock and a hard place.  

On one hand... ministry exists to bring people closer to God.  Part of the rehabilitation of sinners.  

On the other hand, church elders and authorities are stewards of the church and its ministry.  As stewards they must protect the people from anyone who might harm them and lead them away from God.

Their stewardship role is a way out of the impasse that a request of membership for a sex offender creates.

Ordinary prudence does not reject the sex offender out of hand.  It would be against the purpose of ministry to do so.  However, it would also be against the purpose of ministry to accept such an offender into the congregation without raising some basic issues that would help church authorities to arrive at a prudent decision.  

So here are some starting points for should add others that are relevant to the values of your congregation.

(Click on the tabs below to open a panel. Reclick to close to minimize scrolling.)

Some questions for evaluating sex offenders

  1. Did the accused person abuse minors or adults? If minors...were they adolescents or prepubertal children (these abusers are psychologically very different)? If he (I'm assuming its a male...very few women are convicted of sexual abuse) abused adults were the adults married...because such abuse affects the whole family.
  2. Is the offender seeking some kind of redemption?

    Or is he merely fulfilling a condition of his release to attend church?
  3. What kind of sex offense was it? Patting someone on the bottom is an assault...but it is not the same thing as a rape.
  4. Was it a one-time offense or was it a series of offenses?

    A one time offense may represent a lapse in judgment for any number of reasons (e.g. alcohol abuse). The serial sex offender already has a history of relapse.
  5. Was it a person-to-person offense or was there no human victim? Actually molesting a child is not the same thing as possessing child pornography a victimless crime.
  6. If the person is accepted as a member of the congregation...who should know about the offender's history...and how much should they know? With a convicted offender there would be a trial record which is a public document. However, charity requires that the information be handled with prudence.
  7. What conditions does the sex offender have to live up to...and who supervises the cooperation with those conditions?

    For example, are regular counseling sessions required? Is a curfew imposed? And so forth.
  8. How much should the congregation know about the counseling? And how do you deal with a therapist or counselor about this issue? Confidentiality is a privilege that the counseling client has. The therapist does not have the privilege. Confidentiality does not mean secrecy. It means that knowledge is transmitted with the permission of the client through proper those who need the information for a proper purpose...such as decision-making.

If carefully answered using only data and no unverifiable presumptions... church authorities should be able to arrive at a considered decision about whether or not they could take on the responsibility of a convicted a member of their congregation.

Evaulate the resources of your ministry periodically.

From this sex offenders page you can go back to sexual boundaries.

Or, you can...

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