Sick Pleasure

This is a public statement, made on behalf of the session of Christ Church:

On June 5, 2006, a disgruntled former member of our church took it upon himself to post an announcement on his web site about a former NSA student, Steven Sitler, who has been convicted of child molestation. This posting was done in the context of scurrilous speculation about our church and, given the history of that web site, was par for the course. Because of this posting, and how it has been picked up with glee at other irresponsible web sites, we have a pastoral need to comment on certain things which (for the sake of the victims and their families) we would have preferred not to discuss. But the salient facts which are now necessary to state are these:

1. The pastor and elders of Christ Church deeply regret that the enemies of our church have decided that additional pain to the families of the victims is worth the petty political points they think they can score with this.

2. When this criminal behavior was first discovered, the family of one of the victims came immediately to Douglas Wilson, who encouraged them in their responsibility to turn Steven Sitler into the civil authorities, which they were already intending to do, and immediately did. Our church immediately recognized the limits of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the lawful jurisdiction of the civil authorities in this, and turned it over to them. This entire process has been a textbook case of scriptural cooperation between church and legal authorities, with us providing spiritual counsel to those involved.

3. Information about the additional crimes came out in the course of pastoral counsel that was provided to Steven Sitler by us, and he was told to confess everything that he had done to the authorities, which he did. The goal throughout this process was to offer the grace of God in Christ to Steven without sacrificing what the Bible requires with regard to civil justice being done.

4. One slanderous claim on this attack web site was that the elders of our church withheld information from the parents of our church, information which they clearly needed to know. To quote that site: “This post is similar, except that it brings heavy tidings to the Palouse, providing information that the Kirk elders neglected to tell you” (emphasis ours). The problem for our enemies here is that we did inform the households of our congregation about the situation on at least several documented occasions last year. There is a detailed discussion of the issue (including Steven’s identity) in my minister’s report to the parish heads of households meeting on November 8, 2005. The minutes of the church-wide heads of households meeting for both Christ Church and Trinity Reformed (Dec. 13, 2005) also show that the situation was again discussed, with Steven Sitler again discussed by name. In addition, although Steven was not a member of Christ Church, his hometown church informed their congregation of what he had done, in the context of suspending him from the Lord’s Supper.

5. While Steven Sitler was engaged in his horrific behavior, he did not think of what his behavior would do to his victims because it was “all about him.” The pathetic individuals who are gleefully circulating this information now have the same problem. They pursue their own desires, and somebody else pays.

6. While this circumstance is particularly awful, there is always sin in the church: sins of predation, sins of parental neglect, sins of attitude, and sins in between all these. We are not called to live in a sinless environment; we are called to respond to the inevitable sin the way the Bible tells us to. We are called to minister to those maimed or hurt by it, to those crippled by inflicting it, and not to circle over any of them like vultures.

7. Steven is in the Latah County jail, where he belongs, and Douglas Wilson visits him there. The adversaries of our church who are behaving this way are in a different kind of prison, the kind that doesn’t have visiting hours.

This is the situation I anticipated a few weeks ago on this blog, and now here we are. When I said in the comments section of that post that any sex scandal would have to manufactured in the same way the so-called gambling scandal was, this obviously did not mean that there was no sin involved in it. It means that our accusers want these to be examples of pastoral scandal when they are actually examples of individuals sinning and pastors and elders then dealing with them accordingly. It takes a special kind of mind to take a situation where elders deal with sin in the way God requires and somehow turn it into an outrage.

In my earlier post, I said this:

As a pastor for almost thirty years, I have seen quite a number of people destroy their lives, marriages or both through sexual disobedience. Sometimes there is church discipline. Sometimes the cops need to be involved, along with the prosecutor. Sometimes lawyers help a couple divide up what they both threw away. Sometimes there are children who were abused, kids whose wounds won’t really bleed until they’ve grown. And so we can expect (at some point) the accusation that pastoring people who have wounded themselves this way is somehow a subsidy. But Jesus said that He came for the sick ones, not for the healthy. That is simply the grace and goodness of God.

As we contemplate the true destructiveness of sin, and we are sickened by what people can do, we always have to remember the undeserved grace of God. This grace has come to all of us, and it can therefore reach the most defiled. This includes people like Steven Sitler, but it also includes those people who take sick pleasure in scoring points with a human tragedy like this. For all concerned, please pray that God would mete out grace and justice according to His Word.

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