Ministering to Pedophiles

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Pastor Douglas Wilson, defending a pedophile

Recently, there have been several scandals involving high-profile pastors who have welcomed convicted pedophiles into their churches. These pastors have argued that all people, no matter how broken or how egregious their sin, should receive God’s grace. The problem is, these pastors are being deceived by men who aren’t really repentant and, therefore, pose a grave danger to others in the church. Today, I want to address the pedophile’s deception and show what true repentance and ministry to them should look like.

A Pretense to Repentance

One thing pastors should know is that true repentance is extremely rare for pedophiles. It takes a profound sense of entitlement and a profound lack of empathy to sexually violate a child. Many have spent years charming and manipulating people to gain access to victims. These are people whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2). They purposely prey on the weak and vulnerable. It takes a serious shock to the system for these offenders to own the pain they have caused.

When it appears that the law may be closing in, the pedophile begins seeking allies who will shelter and defend him. Because the Church offers grace for those who repent, that is often the first place a pedophile will go. He will strategically choose a church that is in another city, county or state–someplace where his crimes and victims are not yet known. Often, he will join the church as a newcomer and begin ingratiating himself among the unsuspecting members. He may announce to the church that he was once “a wretched sinner,” but has recently given his life to Christ. He may hint that his sins were “really bad,” but he is now “living a new life.”

Only when it appears that his crimes won’t remain hidden does the pedophile then privately approach the pastor and confess. To the pastor, who is not yet aware of any legal action, it may seem that the pedophile is confessing out of genuine remorse. That is almost never the case. The pedophile is aware of the charges being filed against him and is seeking to usurp the narrative. He will say such things as,

  • “It was a misunderstanding.”
  • “I made a mistake.”
  • “I didn’t really know what I was doing.”
  • “Things got out of hand.”
  • “I let the devil control me.”
  • “I really cared about the child.”
  • “It was terrible for me.”

The pedophile will only reveal as much as he needs to sell his story. A little truth makes the lie go down smooth. He may even sob and appear emotionally distraught. He will often claim that he got on this path because he, too, was victimized as a child.

A gullible pastor will be moved by this performance. He will buy the pedophile’s claim that he wants to turn from wickedness and live a new life. There is just one problem: his victims are seeking to put him away for life. How will he pursue his new God-given purpose if he’s forever sitting in prison?

As the scandal unfolds, the spin continues. As new details of the crimes are revealed, the pedophile will insist that he’s very, very repentant and can’t understand why his victims continue to be so hurt. He just wants to live his new life. To “prove” it, he will agree to ongoing counseling with the pastor. After a while, he will suggest, ever so subtly, that his victims are making the crimes out to be worse than they actually were. He may tell the pastor that, at the time of the molestation, his victims didn’t complain and even appeared to want it. The pedophile is now the one being “victimized.” The ongoing legal battle is simply a “vengeful attack” on his “good character.”

At this point, the gullible pastor is fully invested in the pedophile’s narrative. Because the pastor may not know the victims or have ever spoken to them, he does not know how serious the violations actually were. Because the pedophile seemed so contrite at his first confession, he has no reason to doubt that the pedophile was anything but totally forthright. When he accompanies the pedophile to court and sees a composed, humiliated man on one side and hurt, angry victims on the other, it only solidifies the image of the pedophile as the one under attack.

Seeing Through the False Narrative

The easiest way to see through the pedophile’s spin is to notice how he speaks about himself. An unrepentant pedophile keeps the narrative focused on himself. It’s all about how terrible the experience was for him. It’s about how sorry he is. It’s about how hurt he feels by the legal process. It’s about how much he wants to move on. He will say things like, “I know I did wrong. I feel so bad.”

What he doesn’t say is how bad his victims feel. When talking about his crimes, he avoids describing them in detail. When he is forced by circumstance to name his actions, he minimizes them or speaks as if they were beyond his control. “I touched her. It was a mistake.” “I suddenly found myself in her room.” “She was just so sweet, I couldn’t help it.”

In all of his “confessing,” the pedophile never takes responsibility for his actions or talks about the damage he has caused.

How to Minister to a Pedophile

Pastors who wish to minister to pedophiles must demand genuine repentance. Here is what a repentant pedophile would do:

  • Confess his crimes before the congregation. He would let everyone in the church know exactly what he did and how serious it was.
  • He would focus his narrative on his victims–their pain, their suffering, and their need for justice–while protecting their identities.
  • He would renounce his right to be around children. He would ask the congregation to be vigilant in keeping children away from him.
  • He would refuse positions of ministry and trust in the church. (He’s not biblically qualified for them anyway.)
  • He would willingly submit himself to the care of a licensed mental health professional and the oversight of a law officer.
  • He would fully cooperate with all authorities, confess his crimes to the court, and willingly serve any recommended prison sentence.
  • He would offer restitution to his victims.
  • He would give his victims proper space to heal, offering to leave the church or move away if necessary.
  • He would let others in the community know that he is a registered sex offender.

A pedophile who refuses to do these things is not repentant and should be put out of the church immediately.

The pastor must also make it clear that any ministry the pedophile receives shall not come at the expense of his victims. Just as salvation comes first to the Jew, then to the gentile (Romans 1:16), the victims receive their ministry first. A pastor should never sit on the pedophile’s side of the courtroom while there are victims from his community on the other side. A repentant pedophile would understand this position and encourage the pastor to hold it.

I believe that churches and pastors who agree to minister to sex offenders are undertaking an incredibly difficult, commendable, grace-filled challenge. However, such churches need to be educated on what genuine repentance looks like. Getting it wrong only endangers the church’s most vulnerable members.

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57 responses to “Ministering to Pedophiles

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  2. So this issue is what led me out of my charismatic fundamentalist/cult last year. Overall I thought that the church needed this: “However, such churches need to be educated on what genuine repentance looks like” but the leader who “hears from God” had a different approach. In general the church lacked a lot of practicalism therefore seeing that the healing and security moving forward meant leveraging secular resources like counselors and cops was out of the question.

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  5. I have been in the middle of this decision as a Pastor. My considered opinion is that such a person should be in adult male only ministry venues. Yes, it is not what we hope could be the case, but for all concerned it is the way things have to be for both congregation and offender. If the offender protests that he wants access to the family of God for his newly balanced life in Christ, sign off. Ploy or no ploy, there are consequences that cannot be erased and must be negotiated for all concerned. There is too much at stake and the pedophile should recognize this, too. If he doesn’t, then you know what you are dealing with.

    • I’m very glad you’re being wise in this decision! I agree, adult male-only ministry is the safest route for all involved. Thank you for having a true shepherd’s heart.

  6. Here is the problem with what I am about to say. It will be assumed that I do not care for those who have been hurt by the sin of pedophilia. This is not true. I care deeply for those who have been hurt. I do. Please hear me when I say that.

    But I care for the gospel as well, and I care for the man or woman who is in Christ who has committed the sin of pedophilia in their past as well, and I care that the church stop listening to the world on this issue and actually believe that Christ is able to save, yes, even to save a person from the sin of pedophilia.

    I challenge the statement in the article that reads: “true repentance is extremely rare for pedophiles.” I challenge the idea that this statement is based on biblical truth. I would assert that this statement is as true and provable from scripture as “true repentance is extremely rare for thieves, or adulterers, or liars, or idolaters, etc”

    I believe this statement and those like it betray a lack of understanding of the nature of true repentance and faith and are in essence a denial of the gospel of Christ.

    Let me explain briefly. Is true repentance ultimately a work of the person or a work of the Holy Spirit in the person? If it is ultimately a work of the person then we can say that those who have committed the sin of pedophilia are so hardened and callused in their sins that the best they can come up with is worldly sorrow over being caught. This of course is the case made in the article above (and that echos in the blogosphere and american evangelicalism everywhere). This only makes sense, if, IF, repentance is a work of the person themselves and not of the Holy Spirit.

    Lets assume we agree that repentance is a work of the Holy Spirit in the person. Lets also at the same time try to hold the statement in question as true. If we hold both as true then we must come to the conclusion that the sin of pedophilia is in a class of its own and is a “hard case” for the Spirit, or maybe a sin that He is prejudiced against and chooses not to save from as often as he does form others. We must assume pedophilia simply doesn’t fit into the list of 1 Corinthians 6 where Paul says “and such WERE some of you,” or at least if it does it is only in “extremely rare” cases. Then we have to ask the question why is that? Why does the Spirit bring all of these other sinners to true repentance, always, even to the point that Paul would say it’s a past tense descriptor of who they were, but he extremely rarely does that for the man or woman who have fallen to pedophilia? Again we can come to the conclusions above or……I submit to you that there is no answer to that because it is not a biblical scenario.

    The biblical answer of course is: repentance is the Spirits work in the person. This is the good news of the gospel! God comes to those whom he has unconditionally chosen and gives them new life, justifying them and “cleansing them from ALL unrighteousness” (1 john 1:9). As a matter of fact, if a person is in Christ, they are predestined to come to true repentance and be sanctified. “Those whom he has foreknown he has predestined to be conformed into the image of his Son.” (Rom 8:29) There are no two ways about this, this is the promise of the gospel.

    I would submit to everyone that the biblical response to this statement is every person who has committed the sin of pedophilia who has been bought with the blood of Christ will always and in every case come to true repentance. The scriptures do not single out the sin of pedophilia from other sins as one the Spirit extremely rarely cleanses a person of through repentance and sanctification. This is a subjective statement that has no biblical weight behind it. It is formed more from the worlds understanding than the wisdom of the Scriptures.

    This does not mean that we do not exercise caution and discernment in every case, it simply means we must believe the gospel even for those who have committed the sin of pedophilia.

    • I think that the Gospel does not mean what you think it means, with respect to your serious commitment to the Good News. Your deductive theological stance does not take into account the actual situations. I have been immersed in this world as a Pastor. And I have seen the damage your version of what the Gospel means has done. Though you might not be of the persuasion of the hyper-grace group, this kind of approach is familiar to me after 44 years in pastoral ministry. It denies what we all know to be true – new creation in Christ does not mean a struggle free future, and the struggle of the pedophile should not be released into the local church without severe guidelines and certain privileges withdrawn. I respectfully submit this to you.

      • Brother I’m afraid you may have missed my final statement about exercising caution and discernment. I do not disagree with you that there is a lasting struggle against indwelling sin, nor do I disagree that there are lasting practical consequences for our past sins. I also do not disagree that the elders have the responsibility of getting their hands very dirty in the necessary details so they do not place unnecessary restriction on a brother or sister where they do not apply.

        My issue is with the statement about people who have committed the sin of pedophilia only being truly repentant in “extremely rare” cases and the deeper biblical and theological issues that brings up. I stand by my theology concerning this.

        Blessings.

        • I do not understand how this is a theological issue. Is it as common for murders, violent rapists, pathological liars, and other “hardened sinners” to come to Christ as it is for ordinary sinners? Or would continual violations of conscience and natural social relations render one more insensitive to the calling of the Spirit. Notice that Paul said, “So were SOME of you.” Not “all of you” or “most of you.”

          Pharaoh was an enslaver. He hardened his heart against God 10 times and still died without repenting.

          The Bible warns us of people who are always seeing but never understanding, learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.

          Remember, a child molester has committed one of the most grievous sins against nature, conscience and society. They have exploited the most vulnerable and innocent for their own pleasure, lying and deceiving to do so. Ask yourself: how likely is it that someone with such a hardened conscience would be moved by the gospel message? It happens, but I wouldn’t dare think it common.

        • This is a deeply theological issue! The depth of it is only exemplified by this comment. If I am understanding you correctly you are advocating that it is easier for some to accept the gospel than it is for others because some are less sinful than others. You betray a faulty understanding of sin when you compare murderers and rapist to “ordinary” sinners. The only thing that separates you from the murderer and pedophile is not that there is some inherent greater evil in their heart, or some lesser level of it in your heart, it is because God has restrained the evil in your heart. Your heart, outside of Christ, is exactly the same as every other heart on the face of earth.

          I want to submit to you that it is impossible for anyone to accept the gospel unless God first moves in their lives. For the sake of brevity I will not quote the passage but only refer you to Romans 3:10-18. Believe it or not those universal statements include us all.

          To answer the issue of how common it is for the “extraordinary sinner” to be saved vs the “ordinary” sinner. We might find the issue lies not in the person hearing the message but in the message being preached. I in fact am involved in prison ministry and know multiple other men who are as well, and I can tell you with full assurance that that the good news that Christ came to save sinners, and yes to sanctify them as well, finds a resting place among fertile soils in many hearts. Christ is an extraordinary savior who came to save the extraordinary sinner.

        • Could you please explain how these verses teach that some are more easily/difficultly saved because they are less/more hardened in their sins?

        • Is it not obvious? Everyone in the parable (the types of ground) heard the gospel. But only one type produced the fruit of the Spirit. Why? Because the other types were hardened: compacted dirt, rocky soil, thorns. For the most hardened, the gospel had no effect at all–the enemy snatches the truth away.

          I’d like to know how you view this passage.

          And I’d still like for you to address my previous questions, namely: if repentance is ONLY the work of the Spirit, then why did Jesus and the apostles repeatedly command people to repent?

        • No. I’m sorry, it is not obvious from the text that some people are more easily saved than others.

          The point of this parable is not to teach that it is the amount of hardened sin in a persons heart that determines whether or not they will hear and receive the message. The point of this parable is to teach us the difference between true and false faith. The Lord is simply showing us that there will be some who outright reject the gospel and there will be others who seem to have received it and been born again but in the end they fall away showing their faith was false from the start. In each of these three scenarios the point is these people are not and have not been saved. The fourth scenario, where the soil is fertile and the seed ends up going to maturity and bearing fruit, these are the ones who are truly saved. That is the point.

          The bible no where teaches that the likely hood of someone believing the gospel ultimately depends upon the hardness or softness of a persons heart. If that were the case we all stand in a very very un-saveable state. The scriptures are plain in that we are all in an equally lost and hardened state until by divine grace we are given life. Ephesians 2 for example says we were dead in our sins, no exceptions. Sure, from our perspective some of those dead people have a more amiable disposition than others. Some of those dead people have done atrocious things that clearly display the wickedness within their hearts. But lets not be deceived, we are all dead and hardened in our sins. “No one is righteous, no, not one, no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside together they have become worthless. No one does good, not even one.” (Rom 3:10-12) “The Lord saw that the wickedness of men was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen 6:5) Every. Only. Continually. That’s not a very pretty description of the human heart, and the heart is the issue.

          So lets bring it in to our hearts, lets see how ordinary the “ordinary sinner” really is. Have you ever been angry with a person in your heart? Have you done it more than once? How many times has your heart been like this? You are liable to the same judgement as a serial murderer. (mt 5:21,22). Have you ever lusted after another in your heart? Have you done it more than once, more than twice? You are a serial adlulterer (mt 5:28). Have you ever lied? I wont bother with asking how many times but I’m willing to bet if we added it up we’d find that you’ve been very dishonest, maybe just a smaller version of a pathological liar. But guess what? That is “ordinary” on this side of the fall. “Every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” It’s not a pretty picture but it is reality.

          We are all born in a hopeless estate; lost, dead, hardened, children of wrath, wicked, at enmity with God. Divine grace and divine grace alone softens the heart of a man or woman so that it becomes the fertile soil where the seed grows to maturity bearing fruit. Ultimately this softening of the heart is God’s doing. It is him who comes to the sinner, opening their ears to hear and giving them sight to see. He is the one searching for the lost coin and the one who goes after the straying sheep. And I would submit to you that it is no harder for God to save the pedophile than it is for him to save you or me. Even more the salvation of the pedophile is no less full than ours is. Salvation is of the Lord, and he has mercy on whom ever he wills and hardens whom ever he wills (Rom 9:18).

          If you think it is harder for a pedophile to be saved, I respectfully ask, might it be because you think they are less deserving? Jonah knew that it was not hard for the Lord to save the vilest of the vile in nineveh. He didn’t want to go because he personally hated the ninevites and knew God was merciful, able, and willing to save them. Maybe you truly don’t think God is able, or maybe you simply don’t want him to.

          And to answer your question. Repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit in a man which we see evidence of in the mans actions. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good pleasure.” I am no less confused on this issue than the apostle Paul. Divine sovereignty in the life of the believer does not negate our culpability. We are responsible to repent, but if we do, we do it because God is first at work in us.

        • Interesting. You say, “The point of this parable is to teach us the difference between true and false faith.” BECAUSE THAT’S EXACTLY THE WHOLE POINT OF MY ARTICLE–to show what true and false repentance looks like when it comes to pedophiles. Why are you so intent on arguing theological semantics, here? On substance, we agree. There is true and false faith, and true and false repentance. So why, when I’m attempting to warn others of the deception of false repentance, do you insist that I am without grace and limiting God? Either Christ is at work in the pedophile who “confesses,” or He is not. If it is determined that He is not, why give him access to the fellowship of believers?

        • I am intent on talking about theology because this article was a theological article. You are discussing matters of the church and of the gospel. If we should like to talk about something else, lets write about something else next time.

          I will stop now though because it is clear that you have no intentions of actually hearing or addressing the questions I have raised.

    • In one part, I agree: the scriptures do not single out pedophilia as a particularly hard sin to cleanse.

      But I think we disagree on how the Spirit works. A person must first accept the work of Christ and receive the Holy Spirit for it to lead them in the way of repentance. God doesn’t save anyone without their consent. If repentance were ONLY the work of the Holy Spirit and the sinner had no involvement whatsoever, then why did Jesus tell people over and over again to “Repent and be baptized”?

      What about the many scriptures that speak of the wicked who harden their hearts to God’s Word?

      What about the scriptures that say, “You shall know them by their fruit” and “Demonstrate the fruit of repentance”?

      Just because Paul had some former adulterers and homosexuals in his church doesn’t mean that God saves every single sinner. These people were brought to repentance because they accepted the truth and desired to be brought to repentance. You said, “…if a person is in Christ…” That really pins it, doesn’t it? A person must first get into Christ–and Christ into the person–for the transformation to occur.

      And that’s the deal here. It’s not that God can’t save or that the Spirit can’t sanctify. It’s that the pedophile must accept the truth of his sinful condition and allow the Spirit to do the work. When a pedophile accepts the truth of his sin–how terribly he has violated God’s children–he will show genuine, broken remorse. He will seek to avoid temptation and willingly abide by godly standards of accountability, even insisting upon them. Just because he sobs and says he’s accepted Christ doesn’t make it so. There must be fruit, or it is an act.

      • Respectfully, your order of events is incorrect. “A person must first accept the work of Christ and receive the Holy Spirit”. God chose His children before the foundation of the world… this is first… He chooses us, not us choosing Him. He must first change the depraved heart before that heart can do anything good. We turn away from sin once He has done this… that is repentance. Man, in his sinful state, cannot turn away from sin toward God… if this were the case, we would not need God at all.

        • I guess that depends on whether you’re a Calvinist or an Arminian. 🙂

          But let’s say you’re a Calvinist. God must change the depraved heart before repentance can occur. I agree with this. In many ways, the Spirit enables people to turn to Christ. I think this is a mystery, something we cannot fully comprehend. But at any rate, the scripture is clear: salvation results in visible fruit. And repentance involves some action or choice on the part of the saved (otherwise, why did Jesus command people to repent?).

          The scripture is also clear in this regard: not everyone who claims to be in Christ is. Paul said that those claiming to be Christian but continued in depravity should be put out of the assembly. That is my whole point. If a pedophile is truly changed and repentant, there will be fruit. If he is not, there will be fruit of a different kind. It is dangerous to let an unrepentant pedophile into the church, hoping that if he hears the gospel enough times that Christ will choose to change his heart, while the pedophile has access to children, grace, and the benefit of the doubt. Don’t confuse repentance with salvation or sanctification. Repentance is the obligation of man, salvation and sanctification are the obligation of the Spirit.

        • Yep. I thought Calvinist soteriology was behind your comments. I find High Calvinism seriously struggling with antinomianism today, a la Tullian Tchividjian, Paul Tripp, Steve Brown, etc. Some do root how we treat pedophiles in their view of election. Since election (as they see it) finds no root in rationality and moral choice, so the treatment of pedophiles also tends toward this trajectory. I know this is not a discussion about Calvinism, but soteriology is determinative. One of the reasons I turned away from High Calvinism after 40 years was its inability to bring moral judgments to sanctification. As I went back to Scriptures to ask why this might be, the Bible opened up anew to me. Doug Wilson uses Calvinistic soteriology consistently and is not as bothered as others from broader, mainstream Christian orthodoxy.

    • On the topic of salvation/ repentance- If I’ve understood what you (Zeb) have said you’re equating true repentance with someone’s ability to be or receive salvation? And if “true repentance is extremely rare for pedophiles.” that would mean it would be extremely rare for them to be saved? Salvation is based on belief in Christ being the Son of God & dying for our sins, and in order to be saved we recognise this and acknowledge our sin- whether someone can recognise who Christ is & still be unrepentant of sin is a huge theological question, & isn’t that why we differentiate between sanctification & justification? I think your theological questions about what constitutes repentance needs to be asked without an agenda. But what sin is need to be defined first.

      As for “ordinary” & “extraordinary” sin – (Zeb): ” If I am understanding you correctly you are advocating that it is easier for some to accept the gospel than it is for others because some are less sinful than others. You betray a faulty understanding of sin when you compare murderers and rapist to “ordinary” sinners. The only thing that separates you from the murderer and pedophile is not that there is some inherent greater evil in their heart, or some lesser level of it in your heart, it is because God has restrained the evil in your heart. Your heart, outside of Christ, is exactly the same as every other heart on the face of earth.”

      This is not true.

      Clearly all sin ultimately separates us from God. But God does define sin as our responsibility or choice- not as you have suggested something that can blamed on God or Satan (look at Gen 3). And God does define some sins as more evil- more costly in their consequence, and more evil in the heart (OT laws made this clear, as do our laws today). Look at the original Hebrew words for sin “chata’ah” (missing the mark), transgression “Pesha” (willful sin, & iniquity “avon” (willful & rebellious, that’s the hardened heart that April refers to, but also sin that damages others) – they clearly have a greater consequence, intent and specific attitude attributed to them.
      Sin levelling is nothing more than an exercise in minimising one persons actions/attitude while making another’s more serious – so they appear equal.

      And the NT warns that those who are unrepentant won’t enter Heaven- 1 Corinthians 6.

  7. Several years ago, when our congregation was struggling with how to minister to a recently released pedophile, a frustrated elder made a comment that has stuck with me ever since: “If our legal system took these crimes and the recidivism rate as seriously as they should be, this wouldn’t have become our problem. The right ministry for this man is a prison ministry!” At the time, the comment struck me as incredibly harsh and I took him to task after the meeting.

    Later, when the same pedophile moved on to another church and then took terrible advantage of a woman with senile dementia (everyone knew to watch him like a hawk around kids, so he went to the other end of the vulnerable spectrum) I remembered my elders comment and had to reflect that he’d been right, while I was the one being naive.

    • i would have thought that, if hte state were functioning properply, the only ministry said offender would receive would be the rite of Christian burial. BTW and just out of curiosity, did you apologize to the elder you rebuked?

    • Theological discussions tend to become irrelevant noise when it is your child that is injured for life. Worse yet is when the repentant saved pedophile kills his next victim and your child was the stepping stone to that conclusion.

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    • Just a note to my readers: I have not had an opportunity to review all of the documents linked here to determine their thoroughness. An initial glance indicates that this church is diligently addressing the problem in a responsible manner.

      • The second document is very well thought out and makes a great starting point for a church. This plan is actually the exact legal counsel we received only a few months ago. But….

        What a document like this, and the original article I believe, fails to address is 2, 5, 10, 25 years down the road. Are we still escorting this person to and from their pew? Should we hold annual meetings where they have to divulge their past to all the new members? (an easier method would be a scarlet letter) Are they still not allowed to greet members? etc. Do we ever begin to believe that this person may actually be saved and the blood of Christ might actually be effective for their sanctification? Maybe even becoming convinced as a church that Christ has broke the power of sin in their lives not only in word, but also in deed? We believe it for us, why not for them?

        In far too many cases we act as if a plan like this is the answer to every situation and at all times. It is a good and necessary starting point in many situations but if the brother or sister shows true signs of repentance or if its been 25 years from their offense and they have lived faithful lives to Christ since then, it is impossible to justify, from scripture, this type of action towards them. Come one people, we must stop operating out of fear. Operate cautiously sure, but not in fear.

        I would suggest, if we fail to think beyond the first weeks, months, however long, then no matter what we say, we have failed to think faithfully and biblically through the issue. Sorry folks, these situations are never as black and white as we would like them to be.

        I would also suggest, if the person in the pew is unwilling to forgive a professing brother who has displayed all the fruits of a repentant believer, it is the unforgiving one who is in sin and needs to come under the watchful eyes of the church.

        Mrs. Kelsey, have you had an opportunity to consider how the verses in Mt 13 teach what you hold them to?

  9. I think the job of pastor is the most difficult job there is and I thank Jesus Christ that He calls and strengthens men for the task. First I would like to say that all sin is deceptive by nature and you could apply your path to true repentance to any gross sin, I’m thinking right now of the drunk driver who kills someone who seems to make the exact same excuses as those mentioned above. Sin is selfish and seeks to hide in the darkness.
    Second I would like to say that weather we like it or not Christ came to seek and to save the lost and He does that through the ministry of the church . Pastors can not shy away from the difficult situations because they aren’t socially acceptable. I agree that you can’t just throw open all doors to the pedophile and say all is forgiven and forgotten, having said that though Christ’s forgiveness is real for all sinners and when He forgives the sinner is restored to fellowship with Him and his people.
    Finally I would like to say that once a sin is committed against someone it can’t be taken back. A pedophile , drunk driver , adulterer etc. can ask for forgiveness and can even , if possible , make some kind of restitution but they can never restore that which was lost. We need to seek truth in repentance and in faith for all of God’s people and when we see falsehood seek to correct it. We cannot however demand something of the sinner that they can never measure up to and by so doing drive them to despair and doubt God’s grace and mercy. That would be our gross sin.

    • Certainly, it would be unreasonable to demand that a person never be tempted. It is impossible to live without being tempted. However, it is perfectly reasonable to ask someone to avoid that temptation and limit their privileges among the body. My opinion is that while male adulterers can be forgiven and restored to fellowship, they should be disqualified from positions of leadership–especially if they were Christians or pastors beforehand. True ministry does not occur at the expense of the other members.

  10. Hi, April. You wrote (above), “a child molester has committed one of the most grievous sins against nature, conscience and society.”

    I agree with you that sexually molesting a child is a grievous sin (without apology or reservation), but I don’t know if I can create a taxonomy of the most to least grievous sins. Can you? How? What research is your statement based on?

    Furthermore, I think I could argue that a women who KILLS her baby (in or out of utero) is an even more grievous sin. This appears to be the gist of why God finds it abhorrent to see Israel engaged in child-sacrifice (Jeremiah 19).

    Do you give similarly pessimistic (and unsubstantiated) counsel regarding the evangelization of women who’ve murdered their unborn children?

    Again, the abuse of children is horrific, but the pedophile appears to have earned himself (or herself) a special spot in Hell according to some. And Wilson is seated next to them.

    • Why all this debate over semantics? How is it relevant to the point I have made?

      All I said was “one of the most grievous,” not “the most grievous.” If you find abortion more grevious, so be it. It doesn’t detract from the fact that child sexual abuse is a vile, heinous crime.

      Can I create a taxonomy of sins? It wouldn’t be perfect, but there are rules of thumb. I judge primarily based on 1) length and severity of consequences to self and others, 2) the person’s intent, 3) level of violence, and 4) violation of others’ consent. For instance, while adultery is a grevious sin, I don’t rank it as high as child sex abuse. Why? Because sex abuse involves exploitation of innocence, violation of consent, and years of painful trauma for the victims. People engaged in adultery are consenting adults. While it causes serious emotional damage to those who were cheated on, it’s not at the same level of child sex abuse.

      As far as my counsel to those ministering to women who have had abortions…

      Who in the church do they endanger? Do they have a consistent, ongoing desire to end the lives of unborn babies? When they see a pregnant woman, do they have to beat back an urge to thrust a knife through her belly? The two scenarios just aren’t comparable. THE PEDOPHILE HAS A CONSISTENT, ONGOING DESIRE TO BE SEXUAL WITH CHILDREN. That desire rarely ever goes away. The church may minister to them, but there must be safeguards in place, AND THERE MUST BE GENUINE REPENTANCE. That is all I’m saying.

      BTW, I never said Wilson was going to hell. I only said he’s not fit to pastor.

      • It seems to me people talk semantics because it takes the responsibility for being vigilant, doing something and actually making a discerning judgement off their shoulders.

        Quit trying to make pedophelia about theology. It’s NOT. You cannot just “repent” and “pray” this away. A pedophile is by their own nature, sexually ATTRACTED to CHILDREN. They CANNOT be near children. Period. It’s not a matter of sin and a matter of the adults having some common sense and keeping these people away from children. It’s a disorder of the vilest type. I wish the church would take the energy they spend fighting homosexuality (which between two consenting adults hurts NO ON) and fight child sexual abuse/pedophelia which DOES hurt people. It hurts children who are NOT capable of being sexual, seducing, giving consent or mutually participating in a sexual activity. (No matter how much these fake pastors think).

        Jesus himself made a comment about sinning against a little one being a BIG deal.

        THIS particular sin, more than any other, damages the soul of the child. It wasn’t the actual abuse…or the behaviors that I did in response to the abuse that harmed me. It was the fact that it wounded my SOUL. It made me hide from myself and from God, because the abuse told me I was dirty and worthless.

        Before you dismiss this as something to repent of, STOP. Ask an abuse survivor what their life is like. What it feels like. The memories that won’t go away and the number of showers that never make you feel clean.

        The ache never really goes away. No matter how many hours of therapy, prayers or hard work. It NEVER. EVER. GOES. AWAY.

        It’s a crime and a vile sin. Quit making excuse for it by arguing semantics.

        THANK YOU April for speaking loud about this!

  11. I was just reading this on Wednesday night and I think it is relevant – don’t forget that even Pharoah ‘repented’…

    Calvin on true repentance, from Exodus 10:16-17:

    ‘Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you…’

    “For we must observe this distinction, which I have already laid down, between the hypocrites who lie and deceive designedly, or who knowingly and willfully delude others, and those who beguile themselves, and have a terror of God’s judgments, even while they cherish iniquity and impiety in the secret recesses of their hearts. Pharaoh was a hypocrite of this latter kind, who, although having no professed intention of deceiving either God or Moses, yet, because he did not prove and examine himself, did not sincerely confess his sin… …inasmuch as his heart was still enchained by secret corruption he (Pharaoh) deceitfully made a show of the outward signs (of humiliation) instead of the reality. Wherefore David, when he declares, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered,” has good cause for adding, “and in whose spirit is no guile.” (Psalm 32:1, 2.) In order, therefore, that we may prove to God, whose attribute it is to search the heart, the truth of our repentance, let us learn seriously and inwardly to examine ourselves, lest there should be any hypocrisy lurking within us.”