July 17th, 2005
Confidential: For members of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, OPC, in Colville. The session requests that at this time the following information not be shared with people who are not members of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, OPC.
On March 20, 2005, your session announced that Steven Sitler had confessed to breaking the seventh commandment in an egregious manner and that the session had proceeded with a censure of indefinite suspension from the privileges of church membership, prohibiting Steven from attending or being involved with any of the ministries of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, OPC, including worship services and any other sponsored event for an undetermined period of time.
The session now deems it necessary to further inform you, the members of the body of Christ at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, OPC, concerning the nature of the offenses Steven has committed. Ten days ago, in Latah County, Idaho, Steven entered a plea of “guilty” to the charge of lewd conduct with a minor under sixteen years of age, which is a felony. The date of sentencing is currently set for September 12th and Steven will remain at home until that time.
We know that you will continue to be supportive of the Sitler family during this most difficult time. They remain in need of our continued prayers and support. Please pray that Steven would continue to show the fruit of repentance through both the ecclesiastical process of restorative discipline and the civil process of just punishment. We are reminded, especially through the life and words of David, that there can, in time, be true restoration. Through the biblical process of restorative discipline, please pray with us that Steven may say with the psalmist, “He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
The question of Steven being granted the privilege of attending worship here at Emmanuel, or of having his censure reduced, will most likely not be considered until Steven has served his anticipated time of incarceration with the state. Romans 13 is clear that the civil magistrate is a God-ordained vehicle for justice, and the session will take that into consideration in this matter. This does not mean that we are seeking to prohibit you from having fellowship with Steven, or that we are obligating you to have fellowship with Steven. Now that the nature of Steven’s offenses has been made public, each of you is free in Christ to make this decision for yourselves.
You are also free, if necessary, to state that Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, OPC has sought to follow the Bible’s instructions concerning church discipline: that Steven has been suspended from the privileges of church membership, that the elders have prohibited him from attending or being involved with any of the ministries of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, OPC, including worship services and any other sponsored event, for an undetermined period of time. You can say that our church has not, nor will it ever, seek to cover up the sins of one of our members. You can also say that we hate the sin but still love the sinner. And you can say that we will not abandon a member who has fallen into grievous sin, but will do all we can to help see that member forgiven and restored.
Parents, please explain this announcement to your covenant children as is appropriate to their age. If you have any questions or concerns, or if we can be of assistance in any way, please feel free to speak privately with one of the elders.
Randy Bergquist, Jack Bradley, Roy Van Gorkom