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09 July 2010



>>>You'd be very welcome at the church I serve'. I really meant it, and I hope she shows up some Sunday.

Really?! I was once told by either you or Nick that mentioning St.Mary's LGBT meetings on the SS e-group would be inappropriate, despite the fact that many (well, some) people would be interested and one can be LGBT without engaging in anything contrary to evangelical teaching. I think Peter Ould might have blogged on the topic - would you go along with the idea the being transgendered is not explicitly forbidden in Scripture (but homosexual acts are?), suggesting that LGBT is an uneasy conflation? That said, it is generally true that a transgendered person would be far more likely to welcomed at (say) a Gay and Lesbian centre than a Church, which is truly sad .

>>> Might that be a good thing? Am I being naive? What do you think?

You're being naive. It is to your great credit, David, that you stand up for such challenging gospel imperatives, but I remember the service when you made a similar point about reaching out to sex offenders. The tumbleweed was deafening. But evangelical culture as such seems sadly beholden to worshiping at the shrine of The Family, limiting the opportunities to genuinely reach out with grace and forgiveness. Did you never seen the episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry, being surprisingly nice, invites a sex offender to dinner and chaos ensues? Funny stuff.

If you did extend outreach to sex offenders, with necessary conditions (not allowed at all age services, for example?) I'd suspect that they'd be pleasantly surprised at an invite at all, rather than taking offence at any conditions.

fr dougal

I agree absolutely with your reaction to the TG woman; I was lucky enough to serve in a congregation who very supportive of someone in the same situation.


Am I being naive? What do you think?

Is this an overture of reciprocation
for the "Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus"

On a more serious note
I expect your flock would rather see you as naive
than psychologically manipulative.


Would you inform the congregation and let them know who the offender was? If people left in droves, would you stand by the decision. How often have pet projects come back and bitten you or someone else on the bum? Church is full of vulnerable people - some possibly even like the "dangerous type" wouldn't you be endangering them?

Does the transgendered person's vitriol surprise you? How would you feel about joining an organisation that said "yeah, you can join, but we want to cure you of that nasty christianity habit you have - it's just wicked and goes against the foundations of what we believe"?

On a more philosophical note, this is a dilema where ther is always a cost - allow the sex offender in, you have the opportunity to "force" yourself to love them (is that for your benefit or theirs BTW?) However, you risk letting a fox loose amongst the chickens. Conversely, you deny access and protect your regulars, you dont offer the benefits that you believe the offender may be exposed to. Assuming god exists for the sake of argument, that person may not become "saved". However, they may damage someone else and prevent them being "saved". Then, if you believe in predestination, do nothing.
Anyway, it would appear that you have two conflicting moral imperatives - that tends to suggest there is no absolute rights or wrongs.

For the record, my choice would be to not allow them in and deal with them privately if you feel so compelled to get involved.


>>Church is full of vulnerable people - some possibly even like the "dangerous type" wouldn't you be endangering them?

Billy, surely if the sex offender is a full blown paedo, then the vulnerable people would be children -who, by law, wouldn't and shouldn't be allowed to make decisions that endanger themselves? I'm not sure if it's fair to say that the principle danger in GV's scenario is to other adults. GV visits prisons, so I'm guessing that there may have been situations where he has given communion to repentent paedos or murderers - surely realising that the Church's mission shouldn't stop when such people are released is a good thing and more important than church politics? And - although I can conceive of people saying 'I was forced to leave the church and abandon God because it started accepting the wrong kind of people', such a spirit seems wholly contrary to Christ. After-all, who's the dodgy mass-murdering singer-songwriter that St.Silas has welcomed to the 'Men's Room' - Gary Botherstone or something? I'm sure that decision ruffled some fathers, but is one that GV believes was the right thing to do. And the US religious right loves reformed criminals, c.f. the elevation of the Nixon cheerleader Colson to the status of Great Christian Writer, as if he was Philip Yancey or Ann Coulter or something.


Evening David
I was a bit concerned by your last post:
Most 'sex offenders' don't actually have criminal convictions.
You could currently have several 'sex offenders' in your congregation and not be aware of this... ???
I've worked with some known 'sex offenders' in the past - it isn't easy,it isn't easily resolved.
Please David - don't make 'sex offenders' your next 'project'. (Well it isn't my business) - just welcome folk as they come and ensure your child protection policies and proceedures and 'A1' and your 'child protection' office is up to the job?? Why single out 'sex offenders'.

Regarding 'transgender' meeting - sounds like the 'I'm a pastor' label got in the way a bit there:(



Cathy, I'm exercised about this because it's real world stuff and real people who are crossing my path. Not projects in any way. Clearly, it's impossible to do anything on an organised basis because of the necessary restrictions placed on such offenders and the care with which we'd need to approach the needs of everyone in the church. In many ways it's not something I'd want to get involved in, yet I'm wondering if it's something we might be called to do, if only for one person? And oh yes, there may well be unconvicted sex offenders around that we know nothing about. I've had people come and tell me about past crimes for which they've done time, and even one who denied their guilt(only to hear from their victim about his crimes). If we know about it, we have to put protection in place and restrict individual's involvement. We are very careful and clear about that.

I know that this whole area is a minefield.....and I certainly would not want anyone to be hurt by our involvement.


Hugely brave and controversial - even sounding out for other views, so I applaud your (but not suprised by) courage, David.

A couple of immediate thoughts on reading your post and ALL the responses so far:

1. Child safety is paramount - and is specifally said so in the Gospels ('suffer the little children to come to me') and is one of the major strenghts of St Silas. Any change that would create anxiety in parents/responsible adults and therefore inevitable changes in childrens behaviour during services etc would threaten that imperative.....

2. Sex offenders are far more numerous and diverse (as the first post says) than we know about . any person convicted of a single such offence is likely to have committed many more (I have heard > 40 offences ) that never come to light. 'Treatment' in prison has poor outcomes - the clever ones can present a veneer of improvement but the underlying perversion of sexual drive (as with any fully -formed adult sexual orientation) will be unchanged...therefore it si impossible to quanitfy and manage the furture risk BASED ON WHAT THAT INDIVIDUAL SAYS....it woudl have to be as part of a multi-agency transparent follow-up package of 'risk minimisation' ....so MAY be possible....but you should have your eyes open wide..............

3. I agree that we are called to love the unloveable - and would NOT want to see these ideas throttled at inception --please follow through gestation and even birth --but remain open to the prior and primary needs of the unloved children who are NOW in need ....to prevent them growing up to live out future careers in cirme and degradation ----NB - this is not my prediciton for any of the children who are regular attenders in loving fmailies, but arises because of my knwoledge of the lives of many such children in North GLasgow and possibly those in the environs of St Silas that we do NOT yet know about.....


The best practical, clear and brief advice to anyone working with anyone with a criminal record is the short booklet "Caring for Ex-Offenders: Guidance for Churches" available here http://caringforexoffenders.org/gettinginvolved/resources/default.htm and one which I have worked with in two churches.

The other commentors are absolutely right that all sorts of crimes may be represented within a church congregation, they are not in plain sight, after all, a church service is a truly public meeting and anyone can come in and go out as they please.

Regarding monitoring etc - when some people are released into their community the terms of their license requires that they are "monitored" in ALL of their actiivities and police/probation services do get in touch and work quite closely with churches and ministers as needs be. This is for the purposes of safeguarding ALL concerned - the ex-offender from finger-pointing and accusation, the church members from stuff they don't need to know and judgments they might make, and of course children, young people and vulnerable adults themselves. This is done by means of a contract which is signed between the church and the individual e.g welcome at services but not permitted to use certain rooms or toilets. This is all contained within the Home Office approved Caring for ex-offenders booklet. The charity itself is highly commended for its practical advice and real difference it is making to the lives of ex-offenders in a UK church that is sometimes as broken as the people themselves who have committed crimes.

Hope this might be a helpful contribution to the points David raises.


I wonder who the general population think sex offenders actually *are*? The single, weedy, trench-coated man is a stereotype that puts our kids, young people and vulnerable adults at risk.

If we're speaking about paedophiles, they are statistically likely to have kids themselves, and be very good at getting on with kids. If you know someone sexually attracted to kids, they're likely to be the guy running the record shop, or the lovely wee guy who doesn't see his family any more...

Jesus welcomed all truly repentant sinners. We should do the same.

Bold and unpopular, I know, but it would be very unlikely for there not to be at least one in our existing congregation.

We need to be real about who the sex offender is likely to be, otherwise we put everyone at greater risk, the offender included.

A sex offender can also be someone convicted of statutory rape - does anyone *not* know a 17 or 18 year old boy who had sex with his 14 or 15 year old girlfriend?

I think this is something best done quietly, and confidentially. With first aid you wear gloves to treat everyone, although the minority will have HIV or hepatitis. With child protection everyone with regular contact has to have a disclosure, although the minority require it. Parents know their kids are in contact with people in the general congregation, but wouldn't leave their kids with every single one of them. Our young people are educated and taught what to look for.

The church population is no more safe than the general population.

Personally, I'd prefer to throw furniture at them, but it's not the right way to love one of God's kids. All things considered, I'll continue to take the appropriate precautions with *all* adults on behalf of kids in my care, regardless of their background or life experience.

But if, GV, there is someone who is an ex-offender who is building a relationship with you, then I for one would welcome them the same as the next stranger off the street that comes looking to see what St Silas is all about.

And continue to look out for our vulnerable people.



has something technical messed up here?
there is a long copy of early comments following my first ever entry on 'gadget-vicar' blog........... feeling a tad anxious that I have broken the thing.....??

I am keen for other views to continue this debate


No, it's always like this - messages,weirdly, go bottom to top! :)


Speaking as a parent I would be very nervous about welcoming a sex offender in this church that has so many children. In the same way that we don't serve alcohol in the church because we don't want to tempt those who have difficulty with alcohol. It would be appropriate in the mens room or on a mens weekend but in most of our services I think there are too many children or youths that could be vunerable.


Cheers David:)

Glad you've clarified things a bit.



Hi David, I don't normally get involved with web discussions, but given that I work trying to protect vulnerable children on a daily basis, and also with many parents who have themselves been abused, I am interested in this topic. How do I as a Christian go about being compassionate to the pertrators of such crimes, whether they are convicted or not? It's not exclusive , but that difficulty also applies to other crimes, drug dealing, domestic abuse etc..
As a church, like any organisation, we need to take the statistics seriously and recognise that there will be abuse going on, and it is most likely to be by a trusted adult (family member or friend). As Jen said, we need to protect our kids with the policies that Lorraine has worked v hard to set up and implement them. All members of the congregation are responsible for this.
It is a reality that abuse can happen in the church, as in any place where people are gathered, and I have out investigations in other churches and organisations in relation to this.

Thanks, Kellie



That's entirely the point. It's extremely likely that sex offenders already come to St Silas, and you probably know at least one.

Re alcohol- I was under the (possible misapprehension) that love for those who've had problems with alcohol is a by product of the no-alcohol at St Silas decision. As I understood it, it was 'revealed' during a church event long long ago that people(subset "who don't know when to stop") + alcohol = very bad behaviour + subsequent staggering out of church, leading to very poor representation of Body of Christ. We all benefit from the no-alcohol stance- as we would all benefit from being realistic about who sex offenders are.

At least the ones who've been caught, convicted, served the penalty of the sentence and are now seeking Christ are making an effort to live differently.


Having had a few Christians explain to me that the church
should welcome Travelling People because Christ welcomed and associated with criminals and drunkards, makes me feel a sense of unease for - 'A' a transgender person - being part of a post about sex offenders.
I'm also concerned about these irresponsible projections of 'fifth column paedofillia' in St Silas. This has damaged the church and it will take a long time to heal.


thanks for this reply Ryan - it seemed a bit weird at the time, but I know that other blogs do mess up the timeline as well (or as confusingly??) .....

I am still keen to hear about other people's views on the core principle of 'loving thine enemies' that Daivd has posed.........of course there are current safety-orientated management directives, but my view is that --
- to polarise it: the adult offeners are mainly a lost cause ---lets put our efforts as the Body of Christ in this part of Glasgow into loving and caring for the lost children - who will probably otherwise grow up to be the sex offenders and perpetrators of the next generation...............



Hi Simon,
"It would be appropriate in the mens room or on a mens weekend but in most of our services I think there are too many children or youths that could be vulnerable"
1 -Sex offenders aren't necessarily paedophiles so separating them from children or young people doesn't solve anything

2 -if you are assuming that taking away what the individual is attracted to does this also mean that
- women should only meet with other women
- men should only meet with other men
- homosexual men should only go to the women's meetings provided none of the women are distracted by them, ohh but that wouldn't work if there was more than one of guy because they might be attracted to each other...

In other words, I don't think trying to segregate a congregation according to sexuality is a workable plan.

I think we should accept others, work with them if need be, on any areas of their life that needs 'fixed' - we all have them and protect the vulnerable.



In fairness, I took it that GV was merely "grouping" people that the Western church are not generally welcoming to, or approachable by, or have excluded.

Whilst there MAY be in link in SPECIFIC circumstances, I did not assume that there was a permanent link.

...and I don't take offence at the church being mentioned in the same post,

Oversensitivity is kind of the point.



not convinced this has moved forward at all---instead of geting bogged down in the detail , can we try to think about what may be the best way forward? ie is it God's Will for us that we at St Silas develop a ministry for currently known adult paedophies and assist their rehabiltation?


as I would prefer, we act with Grace to any individual in the sitauition above, but do not actively seek to find them........ becuase our purpose is to prevent the children and young people we ARE involved with in our locality (and seek out those we do need to know) from growing into such perverse criminal ways of living?



I'll take B please :-D Good call.



Hi Dave

The Kirk produced a very helpful report last year on Forgiveness and Proportionality - with a very strong Safeguarding emphasis. You can find it here http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/extranet/xga/downloads/gareports09wgforgive.pdf - well worth a read, and possibly even for giving to other members of the leadership team





I think you've made an important distinction between paedophiles and sex offenders. Thank-you.

I personally try not to be too friendly with women other than my wife, especially those who aren't friends with my wife too, because of the risk of temptation. I know other husbands who do the same. However .. I do have some gay pals. Perhaps I should reconsider this ;) [that was a joke .. incase anyone takes that seriously]. I think there is an argument for some self-segragation?

I don't have so much of an issue if sex offence is not to do with children, however I would struggle if it were.

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