A Statement by Georgia Church Leaders about HB 1059, Georgia's Sex Offender Legislation, and the impact both on and of the Church. Please only sign if you are a Christian Leader in Georgia (Pastor, Prayer Group Leader, Ministry Member, or other Christian Leader).
As Christian leaders in Georgia, we are deeply troubled by the implementation of HB 1059, Georgia’s Sex Offender Legislation. We believe that HB 1059 runs counter to the Church’s mission of inclusion and hospitality, of sharing God’s love and grace and message of redemption.
We believe “God shows no partiality.” Acts 10:34. If we are a community, it is because of our one Lord, in whom we are one body. “We were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free …. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you.’” 1 Cor. 12:13, 21. In line with this passage, we believe that we must refrain from casting stones ourselves, and instead are called to live out Christ’s command to love.Throughout the gospels he reiterates, “love your neighbor as yourself” Luke 10:27, and even further to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5:44.
We believe we were not brought into this community because of our righteousness, rather we came as sinners. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8. This welcome extends to sexual sins. “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” Mat. 21:31. When the law commanded that the woman caught in adultery be stoned, Jesus answered, “let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” and declined to condemn her himself. John 8:3-11.
We believe that the Church lives out our community by offering that same love offered to us. We welcome the stranger and “the least of these.” Mat. 25: 38-40. If they can’t come to church and be welcomed, where can they go? The church was founded by outcasts.
It is with great concern, then, that we watch the implementation of HB 1059:
We are concerned for our church communities.We reaffirm our dedication to the vision of the Church as an inclusive community of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation, committed to the restoration of broken people and communities. We know that the Church must be responsive to the feelings and needs of existing and potential victims and survivors of sexual assault. We also understand that in order to be a truly welcoming Christian community, a Church must embrace every sinner, even those subject to HB 1059. This legislation leaves us uncertain about how we may truly welcome all members of our community.
In spite of this uncertainty, the Church must become a place of safety and healing for all. We must implement safety measures for the children of the Church and community. We must offer pastoral care, counseling, and healing to those who have been grievously harmed by persons on the registry. And we must help people who have committed sexual offenses rebuild their lives and strive to reduce the likelihood of re-offending.
We rejoice that we are part of the living Christian tradition -- a tradition that promotes the common good, expresses a consistent moral framework for life, and highlights the need to provide a collective safety net to those individuals in society who are most in need.
HB 1059 hinders the Church’s mission of inclusion, of love and grace and healing. Our mission takes balance and care on the part of the Church. It is not a mission we may neglect. It is not a mission we can leave solely to the blunt edge of HB 1059, which seeks public safety solely through the method of exclusion.
We are convinced that our faith tradition offers better alternatives than those contained in HB 1059, alternatives that can hold offenders accountable and challenge them to change their lives; reach out to victims and reject vengeance; restore a sense of community and resist the violence that has engulfed so much of our culture.
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