“When you are being hunted, set your mind as the predator.” ― Toba Beta
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(Note: For purposes of this article I am discussing serious, registered sex offenders. I am not putting the 19 year old male who has sex with his 16 year old girlfriend into the category of predators.)
One of the nice things about blogging for years is the people who notify me when interesting or eyebrow raising material hits social media. The first thing that made me aware that Registered Sex Offenders were being given unusual access to a church was this text from a local friend who texted me:
Summit’s new Registered Sex Offender (RSO) policy? Yes or no?
It is unclear whether or not the policy has been or will implemented be at The Summit Church. However, it is printed with The Summit Church logo. Is this one of those political *trial balloons?” Throw it out there and see what happens? I have not found it on their website as of yet. At the very minimum, Summit members should be aware of this document since it is supported by their leaders.
Brad Hambrick is the author of this document for Caring Well. He is also the Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church. He considers himself a Biblical Counselor and teaches this subject at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Jimmy Hinton did an excellent post on some troubling aspects of this policy.
There are a number of things that worry me about this document. However, I believe that there is a substantive issue that is being underplayed. I will list a few other issues that I see with the policy. I will save the* challenge answer *until the end. However, you may totally disagree with me and I look forward to your thoughts on the matter.
Why Jimmy Hinton became concerned about this document.
Jimmy has read through the Caring Well Curriculum. He said he believes the policy which appears In Lesson #10, goes out of its way to protect the wolves and I am inclined to agree with him.
Advocates and abuse survivors are not quite convinced that the SBC is really working to protect victims. Neither am I, especially after going through the Caring Well curriculum. To be fair, most of the content is decent. I found myself audibly Amen-ing Diane Langberg and Rachael Denhollander throughout. Those two understand abusers and what it takes to keep people safe from them. Then I came to Lesson Ten–Pastoral Care and Correction For an Abuser. The problem with this dangerous lesson is the same problem I encounter with the vast majority of churches–the theology doesn’t allow them to name people as wolves and to keep them at bay. Worse, it actually protects the wolf while leaving the sheep vulnerable.
I love the way he puts this. The false theology surrounding this problem is one that assumes that all people are in actuality repenting. (This is a clue towards answering the challenge question.) I find this.
This false theology of protecting abusers assumes that all people are capable of repenting and that the church should be a place where all are welcome, regardless of what they’ve done (or are doing). It’s driven by authoritarian leadership structures that give leaders all the power to make decisions regarding abusers, regardless of what church members or abuse survivors think. It allows leaders to keep the church in the dark about the presence of abusers and anyone who questions the leaders’ decisions are labeled as divisive trouble makers.
This document under The Summit Church logo is taken directly from Lesson 12 of the Caring Well materials according tho Hinton. You will see the similarities.
Here are some concerning aspects of this document.
The policy appears to assume that the RSO is experiencing emotional difficulty with the consequences of *past* actions.
Of course coming to grips with past predatory behavior is difficult and it darn well should be. The RSO has harmed another person who has had to live with the longterm consequences of being abused. The long term emotional consequences for the VICTIM are downright devastating. Somehow, this is glossed over in favor of the delicate sensibilities of your everyday church predator.
The church leaders want believe that the RSO is actually experiencing emotional difficulties due to their heartsick realization that their past actions have ruined another person’s life. But, what if the RSO is doing what predators do best-playing games in order to manipulate church leaders and gain access to the children?The recidivism rate is something that must be considered.It is not inconsequential.
We recognize that wrestling with the consequences of past actions can be emotionally difficult. We want to reiterate throughout this process that you are offered full forgiveness because of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
Dear RSO, don’t live with a sense of shame.What?
I think it is emotionally and spiritually valid to live with a sense of shame over heinous actions. Shouldn’t a man who has molested all of his foster children, as well neighborhood kids, be ashamed and even wrestle with it for the rest of his life? Good night! One might think they are discussing how not to feel shame for exceeding the speed limit.
There is also an assumption that the RSO’s expression of shame is real as opposed to a game they play in order to manipulate adults in order to gain access to the children. (Another hint.)
–We recognize that wrestling with the consequences of past actions can be emotionally difficult. We want to reiterate throughout this process that you are offered full forgiveness because of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. We do not want you to live with a sense of shame.
Most of the members of the church will not be told about the presence of an RSO and that is dangerous.
The lowly members of The Summit will not be told about the RSO who is attending church. This is a dangerous plan.The Summit is a huge church with tons of kids in their youth programs. It’s really nice that the high up leaders are aware of the presence of a predator but they are NOT the ones who care the most about the well being of the children. Parents are the ones who care and love their children and are naturally protective. They should be told of the presence of an RSO.
Who would know about this arrangement and agreement? Those who would know about this arrangement are: the pastors of the Summit Church, the lay elders at your campus, campus security teams, and the point person(s) over children and student ministries at your campus.
Are they afraid to hurt the feelings of the predator by *outing* them? That is ridiculous. These predators are designated Registered Sex Offenders because they are publicly registered due to their crimes. The cat is already out of the bag. If this RSOP wants to come to church, he should be willing to allow his picture to be posted around the public areas. Why wouldn’t he unless he has some ulterior plans? Do you want to know how serious this person is about needing help to overcome his problem? Ask to post his picture around the church and see if he becomes angry.
I am so concerned about this that I have a suggestion for the parents at The Summit. Why don’t you get together and publish a list of registered sex offenders that people know are attending the church. Give the list to the other parents. For example, there were a number of people in my former church who knew that Don Cameron was a child sex offender and a number of people warned one another about his presence. The pastor at one of the churches coddled him which came back to bite the church.
So the church wants the RSO to attend a small group meetings in homes when children are present so long as the parents give permission. They call this *doing life together.*
I believe this policy puts an awful burden on the parents of The Summit. Imagine they know how much the pastors want to have RSOs attending their church and small groups. Not only that but the pastors want them to be treated well and not to be shamed. I believe that subtle pressure on the families could be applied if it hasn’t already happened. “Don’t you believe that Jesus can heal even pedophiles?”
I will not attend a Summit Church small group or visit the home of a Summit Church family where children are present,without the parent knowing my history and giving permission for my entry into their home.
The pastoral staff is given way too much leeway in determining whether or not the RSO should be allowed. to attend the church
Look at some of these questions. When I notified the pastor at the Anglican Church that Don Cameron was wandering around, he told me that Cameron was not at risk to reoffend. This was a man with a life long history of doing just that. In the end, he was kicked out of the church because he did what pedophiles do. He got a bit too friendly with the kids. Pastors do not have the training to evaluate pedophiles. Predatory behavior is not just *another sin like any other.*
The grand finale: What is the underlying problem with this entire document?
The document never once states that pedophiles, molesters, and other types of people with paraphiliac have a profound, deep rooted psychiatric problem. This is not just another sin. In fact, for most of them, there is no definitive cure at this time. Some will be able to learn to control their impulses but it is always there, lurking in the background and it is foolish and perilous to assume that they are healed.
To make matters worse, far too many people in the church believe that this is a simple *repentance* problem and that all will be well. Blithely saying that Jesus will heal you is problematic since sometimes He doesn’t. Some pedophiles will learn to cope with their disorder with a whole bunch of help from professionals and I mean well trained psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. However, some in the church have bought into the *it’s all about sin* approach. This is naive and dangerous.
Predators are expert manipulators. That is why so few are arrested. Why is that? They know how to charm the parents and are experts in playing the repentance game with young, inexperienced pastors who think 3 years in a divinity school has made them competent to counsel everything that falls into their laps. The predators love such naiveté.
I am smart enough to know that I can be manipulated by expert predators. On. the other hand, I’ve met a number of pastors like that Anglican pastor as well as church members who think they would know if the guy is playing games… except they don’t. They get fooled like everyone else.
Let me close with this quote from Jimmy Hinton’s post about predators who can fake repentance and sorrow when necessary. Caring Well means to understand that a smart predator can fool everyone.
(Parole board member) A couple of years ago I interviewed someone who works with the parole board and has worked in the prison for over 22 years. He told me that sex offenders always change character when before the board. They know the right things to say and when and how to cry. It is all faked. He described one inmate who was a serial child rapist who propped his feet on my friend’s desk. He was cocky and arrogant. A few days later he was before the parole board and was sobbing, saying he’s learned from his mistakes and promised to never hurt anyone again. He was so “ashamed” of what he had done. Here is an excerpt from my interview:
(Jimmy Hintons asking a question) Unless someone is an abuse survivor, most Christians I interact with assume that child predators are remorseful and ashamed when they go to prison and that they pose little risk when they get out of prison. Does this perception match the reality you see with incarcerated sex offenders?
(Parole board member.)“Absolutely not. We obviously see that remorse about every time I interview a sex offender in my room or any time a parole agent does. I don’t interview as many as I used to but when I do remorse is always the first thing we see. They are crying and say they are so sorry for what they have done. When they get to my department they want to sit on the tack because that’s how they’re getting out the door. In Pennsylvania, we have the Act 98 law. The law says that if you are not admitting to your crime and you are not in treatment, you are not even considered for parole. So remorse is their ticket to get a green light to the parole board.“