Several churches within the Churches of Christ denomination have come under fire for allowing sex offenders to attend services. Critics accuse those churches of failing to care for the victims. Defenders claim that those who are truly repentant should not be turned away. Most likely, this is a debate that is going to find its way into all denominations because the problem of sexual abuse is baring its ugly soul across denominational lines.
The sexual abuse of minors is especially heinous. There is something about the betrayal of a child’s trust and the violent disruption of innocence that causes most of us to respond in extreme ways that we don’t generally respond in the face of other crimes. As a society, we understand that children are to be protected and nurtured. Shamefully, over the last few years, report after report about sexual abuse suffered by children at the hands of pastors, youth pastors, and other church staff members has surfaced. As we rush to examine policies and practices to help ensure the safety of our children, little thought is being given to what becomes of those guilty of the crime and yet are truly repentant.