Accused, Abused and Confused
The likelihood a sex offender attends your church is incredibly high, an Assembly seminar audience was told
Paul Rosier, a retired Baptist minister and Justice of the Peace said this during a video presentation at the start of a seminar on Sunday afternoon entitled 'The Accused, The Abused and the Confused: Pastoral Care for all those in churches affected by sex offenders.'
Mr Rosier referred to statistics that of the 37,000 on the sexual offender registered list, 80 per cent say they have regularly attended a local church.
He said most cases of sexual offences go unreported. The amount of offenders in the UK could be as high as 2-3 million.
'This is a huge iceberg of a problem for society and the church as much of it is hidden.'
Mr Rosier explained that churches react to a sexual offender attending their church in three different ways. Some are in complete denial that such a situation could arise in a church setting, despite much evidence that many sex offenders target churches.
Some churches take a very stern view and try to exclude offenders attending their church. Mr Rosier challenged whether this view was biblical. "Didn't Jesus make it clear that he cares for all?...Are we saying that offenders have no place amongst God's people?"
Other churches want to forgive and forget the offender but often Mr Rosier said this was not our place to do so. 'Is it up to us to forgive? For every offender there is a victim, a survivor.'
Practical advice was offered from a panel of Baptists who have had experience of dealing with sex offenders. This ranged from having a safeguarding policy and enforcing it, setting up contracts with offenders to give them agreed boundaries at church and to recruit staff well to minimise risk.
The seminar was arranged by the Prison Ministry Working Group on behalf of BUGB Sector Ministries Committee. The group will be sending out to ministers a leaflet on the topic, 'Sex Offenders and the local church - a wake-up call' later in May.