How a Church Can Care for Former Prisoners

The Aquila Report | 1/20/2019 | Staff
newusr01 (Posted by) Level 3
We ought to accept a person’s conversion as real until and unless he shows us something different. If a person comes into our congregation and he came from prison, we ought not to make him “prove himself” to us. Rather, we must trust that he is converted and wants to worship in a church that teaches the truth.

On February 29, 2004, I walked into Sierra View Presbyterian Church in Fresno, Calif. This was ten days after I walked out of the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, Calif. I had never been in a Reformed/Presbyterian church before, and I didn’t know what to expect. After the service, I asked the pastor if I could call him that evening. I called him that night and the conversation went something like this:

Pastor - Peterson - Name - Mark - Casson

“Pastor Peterson, my name is Mark Casson and I just got out of prison after more than fifteen years of incarceration. Is it OK if I come to your church for worship?” Pastor Peterson took a few seconds (which seemed like a few minutes to me), and his reply shocked me: “Sure; why are you asking?” I explained that perhaps people in his congregation wouldn’t want someone like me, someone who had been convicted of a violent crime, in their congregation. Again, Pastor Peterson’s reply shocked me. He said: “Keep coming back. If people in this church have a problem with it and leave, then they really don’t understand grace and it will be a better place without them.”

I continued attending Sierra View, and my wife and I became members there that fall. In...
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