We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Total eclipse of the sun in Australia-NASA
Here is a hypothetical situation. You are about to board an airplane which has recently been repaired after a serious engine malfunction. As you board the plane, the pilot announces that all is well. The mechanics have assured him that there is now only a 40% chance of an engine failure while in flight. Would you board the plane?
Yet, some of today's churches take that risk all the time when it comes to a child predator because the predator is viewed as being no longer a problem. Here are a few reasons that are sometimes given.
- He got married.
- He became a Christian.
- His probation officer told me there is no problem.
- She has repented. (Yes, women can be pedophiles)
If a church that you attend makes these claims, it is time to ask questions.
Disclaimer: I am not addressing a situation such as 18 year old guy who has sex with his 15 year old girlfriend and lands of the sex offender registry.
Let's say that there is a man who has been convicted for molesting a 5 year old child and he is now attending your church. Why should you be concerned?
Statistics on pedophilia
According to this paper from Harvard called Pessimism About Pedophilia:
One challenge in the scientific literature is that most of the studies on pedophilia have involved men convicted of crimes against children, and experts estimate that only one in 20 cases of child sexual abuse is reported. It remains unclear how prevalent pedophilia is in the general population. Research on convicts may not apply to people with pedophilic tendencies who live without detection in the community or suffer silently while controlling their impulses.
What is pedophilia?
According to a TWW post, the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual link pedophilia is defined as
recurrent, intense, sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child.
Can it be cured?
From the same post:
Web MD states, "Sadly, there is no cure for pedophilia." This is true. There is no cure, but there is treatment.
I want to make an important point. Marriage does not cure pedophilia. The pedophile has a compulsive behavior and is attracted to children. Some pedophiles have been known to marry in order to have access to children within the intimate home environment link.
Unfortunately, when investigating the issues surrounding child molestation, we find statistics all over the map since so few molesters are ever caught. However, it is important to understand that pedophilia just doesn't evaporate when a person "becomes a Christian." Here are some reported stats.
Pedophiles have a high risk of reoffending.
From the above post at TWW:
According to a study by Abel in 1987, reported in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2(1), 3-25, offenders against female children had an average of 19 victims, while those against male children had an average of 50.
From a post intended to downplay the reoffense rate link
The accurate statement would be that the offenders committed an average of 128 offenses (This means there are higher and lower offense rate-ed. note)
From a later study by Abel link
A 1994 National Institute of Health survey of 453 pedophiles, conducted by Dr. Gene Abel, showed these criminals were collectively responsible for the molestation of over 67,000 children. That’s an average of 148 children per individual pedophile.
Here is a take away point. The average pedophile, by the time he is arrested, is highly likely to have molested others but was not caught.
Are all of these arrested offenders easy to spot?
"There are 400,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, and an estimated 80 to 100,000 of them are missing. They're supposed to be registered, but we don't know where they are and we don't know where they're living. -Ernie Allen, President of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Childrento co-anchor Hannah Storm on The Early Show link.
But, wouldn't good Biblical teaching prevent the pedophile from re-offending? (From previous link)
The behavior is highly repetitive, to the point of compulsion, rather than resulting from a lack of judgment. Dr. Ann Burgess, Dr. Nicholas Groth, et al. in a study of imprisoned offenders.
Don't background checks prevent this sort of thing? (From previous link)
Inmates who victimized children were less likely than other inmates to have a prior criminal record-nearly 1/3 of child victimizers had never been arrested prior to the current offense, compared to less than 20% of those who victimized adults.- BJS Survey of State Prison Inmates, 1991.
They are Christians, now. They won't do it again, right?
Wrong-would you get on a plane with the following statistical probability of engine failure?
From a Harvard paper link
One review found recidivism rates of 10% to 50% among pedophiles previously convicted of sexual abuse, although this could include anything from an arrest for any offense to reconviction on a crime against a child. One long-term study of previously convicted pedophiles (with an average follow-up of 25 years) found that one-fourth of heterosexual pedophiles and one-half of homosexual or bisexual pedophiles went on to commit another sexual offense against children.
Aren't pedophiles strangers hiding in the bushes? From the previously quoted Harvard study:
Parents should be aware that in most sexual abuse cases involving children, the perpetrator is someone the child knows.
Is it the church's fault if pedophiles show up churches?
Of course not! Pedophiles will target any institution that has trusting parents and kids. This goes for churches, Boy Scouts and youth sports. The shame belongs to those who want to hide the problem.
What should we do with a "repentant" pedophile/molester who want to come to church?
Churches often hide the fact that a convicted pedophile is at the church. This may be out of the misguided belief that conversion, Bible study and mentoring can "cure" the problem.
This is dangerous. Pedophiles are highly manipulative and can appear to be repentant when they are grooming their next victim. Or, they may want to do the right thing but are struggling with terrible urges. Remember: this is a compulsive behavior not rooted in good judgment.
What is a sign that a pedophile is not repentant?
This past summer, TWW reported a situation in which a convicted pedophile, Don Cameron, moved back into the neighborhood where his reported victims lived.The neighbors were horrified. At the same time, he was asked not return to his church campus because he did something. The church is not saying what "the something" is. You can read about it here link. By God's grace, we were able to apply some mild pressure and he moved out within days link.
This is NOT, I repeat, Not a repentant pedophile.
How do we know if a pedophile is repentant?
A pedophile/molester shows repentance by going the extra mile to be blatantly open about his past. Everyone in a church must be informed about his presence. This is the only solution, in my opinion. Wade Burleson of Emmanuel Baptist Church spoke with Janet Mefford and gave us some insight into how he handles this
We work with sex offenders in Celebrate Recovery, a program in our church, and we have those who worship, but when someone who's been convicted of a sexual crime is being ministered to in our church, we write a letter saying they are welcome to come, then we post their picture, we post their crime, and we distribute it to every person who is an employee or a servant in the church who's working with other people and say this is the person that's coming, this is what he did, you need to know his face, you need to know his name, you need to identify him, you need to love him, but he is never to be alone in any room with any person. And you know people have been upset with that. Why would you do that? And we tell the sex offender, that's the consequence of the choice you made when you abused a child. And so that's what we do."
From Wade's comment we see some helpful suggestion that a church should consider to help a pedophile/molester be truly "repentant."
- Announce his conviction and presence to the church.
- Put his picture up around the church.
- Make sure the pedophile/molester is escorted at all times.
- Make programs such as Celebrate Recovery available to those who struggle.
- Make sure people in your church understand the issues surrounding child sex abuse. (Tune in this week to E Church to hear such a sermon.)
Most importantly, TWW believes that church should make a concerted effort to remember the victims and to reach out to them when appropriate. It is not always that difficult as seen by our previously mentioned intervention in the Don Cameron situation.
A Public Service Announcement to (SGM) CrossWay Community Church in Charlotte, NC.
On 3/1/13 Marge Sweigart (she has bravely decided to use her name due to her concern for the safety of children at this church) posted the following comment at TWW.
SGM would be wise to heed Wade Burleson’s advice. I was horrified to learn yesterday that there is a registered sex offender who molested a 5 year-old who is currently an usher at my former church (CrossWay Charlotte). He was there when we were there and he is still there. I asked someone who is still at CrossWay if they recognized his face. He did. I asked if he had heard anything about him being a sex offender. He had not. NO ONE KNEW except the pastors and a few of their chosen ones. They did not inform us as care group leaders or as parents. I was involved in children’s ministry and oversaw the bathroom monitors (security for kids during church) and I was not informed. My husband was a team leader on the church’s security team and he says he doesn’t recall ever being informed.
I called Marge and asked her for some details. Her response prompted me to call CrossWay on March 1st. I was able talk with the church's executive administrator, David Moore. I identified myself and said I was an editor for TWW. I then read the above comment to him. I asked if he would confirm, deny or not comment on the statement. He told me that he did not have the "authority" to do so. He said he would talk with those who do and if they wished to respond, they would contact me. There has been no further communication.
In keeping with our belief that churches must be open and honest with their members about the presence of convicted pedophiles/molesters/sex offenders in their midst, we want to alert CrossWay that it is alleged that a man, convicted of taking indecent liberties with a 5 year old, has been attending your church since 2009. At one point it is alleged he served as an usher ( a position of respect within this community.) We believe that, if this man is penitent, he will be accepting of this post.
PS -Please forgive the overuse of the word "alleged."
Kevin Scott Davis, JR. (Convicted sex offender)
Alleged Time Line
October 2009: According to an alleged statement by Davis' wife, the two of them have been at the church since 10/09 but did not marry until 2011
October 3, 2009: Date of the offense
October/November 2009: Coverage by WBTV.com link
Huntersville Police arrested Kevin Scott Davis, Jr., on Saturday and charged him with one count of indecent liberties with a child.
According to the search warrant, Davis showed the victim a movie on his computer. Based on the child's description, the movie appeared to be pornographic in nature. Davis is also accused of inappropriately touching the child.
During the second incident which happened a month earlier, Davis is accused of tickling and inappropriately touching the victim.
September 9, 2010: From the North Carolina sex offender registry: link
Davis was sentenced to 3 years probation of taking indecent liberties with a 5 year old minor. He will be on the sex offender registry for a minimum of 10 years (9/2020).
You can see his photos on this page.
September/ 2009 or 2010: At some point it is alleged that the pastors of CrossWay became aware of this conviction and that the care group for Davis was notified.
March 2011: Davis' wife allegedly states they are a newly married couple. Therefore, she married a convicted sex offender. Was this with the pastors' blessing? We don't know.
August 2011: Kevin Davis and his wife were listed as members in the CrossWay online directory in 8/2011.
August 2011: Marge Sweigart, who says she was involved with children ministry and her husband, who says he was the team leader for the security team, leave the church after learning about the Detwiler documents. At this time, they allege that neither of them had ever had been informed of the presence of the sex offender.
November 2011: A friend of the Sweigarts allegedly finds out about the presence of Davis via the sex offender registry and allegedly expresses concern, via email, to the pastor because she/he alleges that Davis was an usher. It is alleged that the security team is informed at this time. Davis is reportedly not allowed downstairs in childrens' ministry area. Allegedly, the pastor who received the email said that Davis had become a Christian after the conviction. Why is this relevant to the safety concerns?
March 2012: Another friend leaves the church. He used to be the head of one usher team (there were allegedly two). He allegedly recognized Davis after looking at the sex registry photo. He allegedly stated that Davis was not on his usher team but did not know if he was on the other team. He allegedly states that, while he was at the church, he was not told that Davis was a sex offender.
August 2012: Kevin Davis and his wife were allegedly listed in the CrossWay membership directory for 8/12.
March 1, 2013: A close friend of the Sweigarts, who is allegedly a current teacher in the CrossWay children's ministry, claims that she hadn't been informed of the presence of Davis in the church.
March 2, 2013: A married couple, with small children, who are allegedly friends with the Sweigarts, who are allegedly current members of CrossWay were contacted via email by Marge on this date. They allegedly claim that they did not know of the presence of the sex offender.They allegedly expressed gratitude for the information.
March 2013 A close friend, who is a member of the current security team, alleges that he has been informed that Davis is a sex offender.
March 2013: An alleged employee/staff member allegedly did not know that a sex offender is present in the church.
Does this church ever inform the membership of those who are under church discipline?
It's interesting to me to think about how the pastors would always inform the church when people were under church discipline for things like adultery, alcoholism, and becoming a Mormon. This would sometimes be announced at a members meeting, but more often, they would either email all the church members or they would email an announcement to the care group leaders and have them read the announcement at their respective care group meetings. And those meetings had members, visitors, and teenagers at them. I remember one instance where the church was informed that a care group leader had to step down from leadership because his teenage daughter became pregnant out of wedlock. And yet when a registered sex offender joins the church, it's kept secret from all but a few people.
I asked Marge what she believes is the thinking is behind allegedly alerting the entire church about a pregnant teenager but allegedly not alerting them about a sex offender:
They do background checks on children's ministry workers and they probably do for ushers, too. It's possible that the pastors didn't know about his conviction until he decided he wanted to be an usher. I think their thinking is that the man confessed what he had done so there is no need to tell people about it. They probably want to extend grace to him and give him a chance to prove himself, but I think they are also very naive about sex offenders.
One final concern from Marge:
I also had the thought today that people should be informed when there's a sex offender because activities go on all the time in the building that involve children – dance classes, homeschool co-ops, drama, kids going with their parents for various things like rehearsals and stuff like that. The building is usually open at those times and anyone can wander around. If adults don't know that someone is a sex offender, they might see him there and not think anything of it. The pastors and his care group can't trail him 24 hours a day.
End of public service announcement
We want to commend the bravery of Marge Sweigart for speaking out about this situation. Her concern for the welfare of the children in SGM is to be commended. Jesus loves children. He warned that those who would harm them deserved a swim in sea with cement boots. Marge is a hero. Kris at SGM Survivors is a hero. Jim, formerly of SGM Refuge, is a hero. The people who were abused and brought the suit against SGM are heroes. (ed.note 3/7/13 9:23 PM- I am referring to those victims whose pedophiles were caught and were convicted. The other alleged victims are also heroes)! Please join with me in praying for these wonderful people who put themselves on the line in order to speak out and serve the most vulnerable amongst us. May God bless all of you!
Lydia's Corner: Joshua 15:1-63 Luke 18:18-43 Psalm 86:1-17 Proverbs 13:9-10