The last item concerns a young man that many of you know — Steven Sitler.
He was in our community last year, although not as a member of our church. He was recently sentenced (justly) to jail for sexual molestation of young children, including some in our congregation. One of the victim families involved was that of ——. We don’t know for certain, but now it appears likely Steven will spend about six months incarcerated, after which time he will be a registered sex offender for life. Along with this, his home church in Colville, Washington (OPC) has suspended him from the Lord’s Table indefinitely, a determination which we are honoring. It is possible that within a year or so, he will be in our community again. These are the simple facts of the case, but it leaves out some of the more important considerations, which I need to address with you now.
This situation obviously has a number of pastoral ramifications. The spiritual and covenantal facts are just as important as the legal issues. I saw Steven a number of times before his sentencing, and he has confessed his sin and repented of it. I believe this repentance is genuine, but, given the nature of the case, the repentance obviously needs to be ongoing and monitored. I believe that Steven is seeking out the spiritual accountability he clearly needs, and his family is fully supportive of him in this. He has sought forgiveness from the victims’ families, and, as far as the families in our congregation are concerned, it has been extended. At the same time, these families have every right and responsibility to protect their children from undesired contact with Steven in the future, a desire which Steven understands and agrees with fully. The elders also concur with this desire, and do not believe that it represents any lack of forgiveness on the part of these parents.
They are conscientious and godly parents and are simply doing what any of us would do. Add to all this the complicating factor that the church of Jesus Christ does not have the privilege of turning away any repentant sinner, regardless of how heinous the offense was. Jesus did not come for those who are healthy, but rather for the diseased. So if Steven returns here and this circumstance arises (although we do not yet know that it will), we have every intention of balancing all these factors, while pastoring both the offender and the victims. Given the nature of the case, however, we want everyone to know that the burden of any inconveniences, worries, or sacrifices should fall on Steven, or on the elders, and not on the victims’ families. They come first. If you have any questions about this, please do not hesitate to ask me.