How far would you publicly support an imprisoned church member?

Pastor Ryan Budde from Croswell Wesleyan Church in Michigan has a small problem on his hands.  A member of his church has recently been arrested for hosting a cancer fundraising benefit to help pay her medical bills.  Problem is… she doesn’t have cancer.

The 38 year-old woman is facing eight charges in a couple different investigations (in 2001, the woman said a man raped her in a Meijer parking lot and that she received a sexually transmitted disease from the rape.  That, she said, is what caused her cancer).  And last September, she claimed she was sexually assaulted again.  The police report says she had some signs of bruising, but that that ‘bruising’ was later determined to be make up.

Here is the response of her pastor:

“We always want her to know we love her, and if we could help her in any way, we would… Whatever may come from this, we’re not going to turn our back on her, we want to help her. As Americans and as a church, we want to stay with innocent until proven guilty.”

I do appreciate that stand that the church is being supporting and wanting to not turn their back on the gal.  But there’s something about the last sentence that I’m not quite sure about.

The mixing of the Americans/church and staying with the innocent until proven guilty seems like an odd stance for a church.

Most churches would, quite frankly, distance themselves from the lady.

Few would stand by her as this church is doing… offering support, and, as it sounds, believing her until she is found guilty.

What would YOU do in this situation?

Have you had a situation like this where a member is arrested and held for a very public crime?

How far would you publicly support an imprisoned church member?

Read more here…



  • Barry L. Nall May 9, 2013 Reply

    It’s a tough one. I experienced something like this, only the crime was far worse, and I knew pretty much from the outset that guilt was the conclusion. Having insight, but not being able to be express that in any public way put me in a “hot seat” position, and I received heat as a result, perceived as not showing enough support. Primarily I did all I could to help to undergird and minister to the family, they were my priority. As for the main party, I gave him my love as unconditionally as I could (as a human being), and I am still doing so to this day. I visited him in prison, spoke on his behalf at payroll hearings (though I knew he would not get it). Now that he is out, I serve as a counselor, and as a friend, and he has opened his heart to me regarding his crimes. He will never be able to come back to this community again, but I tried my best to handle this in a Christ like way. Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. I don’t know. Amazingly, our church grew during all of this.

  • Robert Barnes May 9, 2013 Reply

    I think the pastor should read Matthew 18 and associated passages on church discipline and use this means of grace to purify the church and open the doors of restoration to this broken person.

    I am grieved at the lack of biblical basis or reference in his comments.

  • Peter D May 9, 2013 Reply

    As Christians, we are admonished to pray for everyone, love everyone, forgive everyone AND let God take care of the rest. We are also told that the laws of our land are important. In this land, most do hold the belief that everyone who is accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. It is stated as such in our justice system. So I do not see the last statement as being totally unbiblical, but in support of the precedent set by the laws of our land in which we live. With that said, there are many in the church that have committed crimes, and have found restoration in the church, even leading into ministry and full time pastoral ministry. Remember, Moses was a murderer, Noah was a drunk, David was and adulterer (and murderer), the list goes on. Perhaps the pastor should have spoke of restoration for this woman if she is proven to be guilty, but he was not out of line in supporting her in the manner stated.

  • Neil Schori May 9, 2013 Reply

    Drew Peterson attended my church when he was arrested for the murder of his 3rd wife. His 4th wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing, as well.

    I publicly supported the family of the victim, as well as the family of Stacy Peterson (Drew’s 4th wife). I did not and do not stand with Drew Peterson.

    Never in scripture are we called to turn a blind-eye to sin, and we are not supposed to support people IN their sin.

    Drew was convicted of murder last summer. IF he repents, I’d be thrilled and would visit him in an instant, as he serves his 38 year sentence.

    I think the pastor is well-intentioned, but has an incredibly naive stance toward this woman in his church.


    Neil Schori

  • James May 9, 2013 Reply

    Wow, you know how to pick them. I’m glad you’re hitting us where the rubber really meets the road. Most things are theoretical. This one can hit a church very hard.

    I was in a church where a woman had an affair and the lover shot and killed the husband. She and the lover went to prison. She got out on a lesser charge and came back to our congregation. It took a while, but the church finally forgave her and loved her. As a result she repented and went on to regain the love of her children back.
    The question to me is do we guard the doors from sin, or do we wade into the messy, muddy waters of restoring broken, sick people?
    What’s the sense of a clean sinless church (which is an illusion) when the greatest sin is lack of compassion.
    Jesus, seems to me, had only one purpose to reconcile us. We were all murderers, rapists, pornaddicts, child molesters, people of unclean lips, liars etc. Since when did we get let off the hook and others don’t.
    I’m sure the legalist would say because we accepted Jesus. That answer only takes care of changing lanes on the freeway of life. It doesn’t answer the destination God wants for everyone.
    His intended destination that all, ALL come to know Him, His Love, and salvation. (Not talkinga about a get out of Hell free card). I’m talking about salvation from the day to day hell hole most people are caught in.
    If you saw that woman as person drowning in her own delusion, confusion, mixed up values, would you be the one to stick under the water further or give a helping hand?
    I’d like to believe I’d be willing to give a hand of help whether it be counseling, therapy, food, safety net of relationship, whatever it takes.
    I can’t stand behind the worn out notion that moral, doctrinal, or church purity is what God cares about.
    Jesus got dirty, messy, mingled with ugly people and they loved him.
    I think we have so few good models of what our Lord intended is why we have the diversity.
    I heard a preacher a long time ago say this about applying Matthew 18. That was intended “only” for the group who didn’t know how to Love and have relationship.
    Just like divorce, God hated it, but allowed it because of the hardness of our hearts.
    Let use Matt. 18 when our hearts are hard and we can justify the slipshawd way we can love with Jesus strength.
    It’s hard, I know it’s hard, but it seems to me this poor sick work doesn’t need more slick theological answers, it needs the blood and guts love of Jesus coursing through our veins.
    However, one little secret. I’m just as chicken as everyone else. I would just as soon stand behind the tenets, principles, holy-writ of scripture than really apply it to the needy and down trodden in this life.
    One last point. Since when is the church only supposed to draw the “well”. Aren’t we really about drawing the sick? Hospitals use well people to heal the sick. Or are our religious hospitals just as sick as everyone else?
    Tough one! Good discussion from everyone.

    • Michael Kern May 10, 2013 Reply

      Great response. I agree – this is the church being the church – being an agent for reconciliation. If we run from coming alongside people when they are sick we’re useless.

  • Dan Moore May 9, 2013 Reply

    In eighteen years with one church, I have had more than one member get arrested, charged, convicted, and jailed. As their pastor, I would confront them biblically (in grace and gentleness) about their sin. Then we would begin the healing process of reconciliation and restoration. I don’t see this as anything new. I thought all pastors and churches did this.

  • Michael Kern May 10, 2013 Reply

    To respond to Todd’s question – how public does our support need to be? Is it more or less effective to minister people behind the scenes. Billy Graham ministered to many Presidents, but he never gave any indication of what private details were shared.

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