Remember this United Church of Christ ad?
Ironically, another UCC congregation is struggling to welcome someone: a convicted sex offender:
And that opened a firestorm of emotion, dredging up memories of child abuse from several adult members and creating a debate over safety versus inclusiveness. Suddenly, a liberal, progressive church that prided itself on being welcoming to all people was struggling with what that really meant.
Tears welled up as the pastor recounted the conversation. “Nothing in my almost 30 years of ministry has prepared me to turn somebody away,” he said.
When the church's preschool heard about Pliska, both from the service and later from a letter from the church, one of the parents was so outraged that she began a petition drive in protest.
“It's not appropriate to have him there,” said Jessica Muehlhausen of Vista. It doesn't matter to Muehlhausen that the preschool isn't open on Sundays or that her family does not attend the church. What matters to her is the risk.
“Mark Pliska has a right to worship,” she said. “He just needs to find an appropriate church that isn't attached to a children's center.”
Shockley said Pliska has since been evicted from his home and lost his job as a mechanic.
The pastor blames publicity and has stopped using his name. Muehlhausen blames Pliska. “People who commit crimes like this against children have this coming to them,” she said.
Emphasis added. This woman is obviously wrong. The Church cannot deny the Word and the sacraments to any repentant sinner. A colleague of mine at Asbury is associate pastor at a church with a similar member. He has very strict guidelines and when and where he can go and is held accountable for them. It's worked well, although some members of the church would prefer that he drop off the face of the earth.
What about you readers? Have you ever had to deal with issues of safety and welcoming for ex-convicts?
Hat tip: Christianity Today blog. But now I can't find the permalink anymore. Anyway, it was there.