By Douglas Wilson
One of the things I learned about the profound nature of the redemptive work of the gospel was something I learned from my father. And he taught me this when he once said, “God takes you from where you are, not from where you should have been.”
I was grateful for the opportunity to respond to the attack launched on us by The American Conservative, and in turn Rod Dreher was glad for certain aspects of my response. But for a handful of reasons he remains personally unconvinced. One of his reasons was the fact that I agreed to perform the wedding for Steven Sitler.
“And yet, Pastor Wilson married them, knowing that Steven Sitler, by the confession he made to the police at Wilson’s urging, was a serial pedophile. This is [what] I do not understand.”
So let me say a few more things about it. If you need a big picture review, you can look here. In this post, I am just addressing the questions related to performing the marriage.
First, I am a pastor and I base our counseling and pastoral care on the Bible. That is the realm where I operate. That is what I do. For those who think that this means all you have to do is say something like “sorry, oops, Jesus, God, Bible” and it is therefore “all good,” with the penitent getting back into the club in no time, they need to look again at the timeline I provided describing the care we provide to Steven. And for those who think that it means that we just do our little thing here in Bibleland, and it is necessarily antithetical to what treatment professionals might recommend, here is a scholarly article on sexual offenders and recidivism rates.
Rod Dreher was upset that we differed with the recommendation of the probation officer. But we agreed with the judge, who made the determination to let the marriage proceed. Judge Stegner approved the wedding, and he said that ‘an age-appropriate relationship with a member of the opposite sex from Mr. Sitler is one of the best things that can happen to him and to society” (emphasis added). In addition to this, we also were in agreement with the treatment professionals that Steven was seeing. His pastoral counselor agreed, his professional counselors agreed, the judge agreed. Now where is the scandal in this?
Now I can fully understand why someone might differ with this. Disagreeing over complicated subjects is to be expected. But there was nothing whatever scandalous about it.
As a pastor, I do not believe that a lawful sexual outlet through marriage is an automatic fix for anything. There are too many miserable married people for anybody to think that. But I do believe that an age-appropriate sexual relationship that is set apart and blessed by God (and His people) can be a major part of a possible restoration. In a caring community, with close friends, careful accountability demonstrated over years, and true responsibility for the offender, good things can happen. That is what we offered to Steven, and that is what Steven has received. God takes us from where we are, not from where we should have been.
And this leads to the next thing. What precisely would Rod have wanted me to do? Would he want me to refuse to conduct the wedding, or would he want me to simply prohibit the wedding flat out? If I just refused to officiate, and Steven got married by a justice of the peace, what then? Would I have to excommunicate him for marrying? There is no biblical case for that. If his wife is fully apprised of all the facts, and she was, and she wanted to marry him, should I excommunicate them both for marrying? Don’t I need a verse or something?
Many of the questions of this sort boil down to this: why didn’t you cover your butt better than that? And the only answer I know how to give is that covering your butt is not gospel ministry.