Nearly 80 percent of churchgoers surveyed by Christianity Today International (CTI) said they believe sex offenders belong in the church under appropriate supervision.
When asked, however, how they would respond if a known offender expressed a desire to serve in a ministry at church, almost half of the survey's 2,500 respondents said they would be opposed.
"One-fourth (26 percent) of respondents think a known ex-offender should be allowed to serve in a leadership position in church. One and a half times more respondents (38 percent) think they should not be allowed to lead," added Cynia Solver of Solver Solutions, who crafted the report on the "Sex Offenders in the Church" survey.
For the survey, invitations to participate were sent to subscribers of 11 CTI e-newsletters, including the newsletters for Leadership Journal, CT Connection, and Church Office Today Update.
After the surveys were conducted between Apr. 9 and May 3, the results were compiled and published Thursday in a 28-page report.
The report revealed, among other things, the opinion of churchgoers about the issue of sex offenders in the church, the realities in the church with regard to sex offenders, and the response of churches when it comes to offenders in the church.
The survey found, for example, that only 29 percent of respondents think church leaders should talk with the police when becoming aware that someone in their church is a former sex offender.
Most said church leaders should pray about it (82 percent), talk to elders (76 percent), and/or talk to staff (76 percent). Churchgoers where divided on whether or not the offender's probation officer should be contacted or a conditional attendance agreement should be drafted – for both responses, 57 percent of respondents agreed.
The survey also found that nearly 4 in 10 respondents (37 percent) think sex offenders can be completely rehabilitated to the point where they no longer pose a threat to others. A nearly equal number (38 percent) are not sure whether an offender can be rehabilitated or they are not sure about it. One-fourth, meanwhile, said they do not believe offenders can be completely rehabilitated.
Another notable finding of the survey was that more than half of respondents said they are aware that their church actively attempts to determine if there are sex offenders in the church. However, 39 percent said they are aware of these attempts occurring only when an individual is being considered for a position of leadership, teaching or working with children or other vulnerable individuals.
The survey also found that 18 percent of respondents are aware of someone who attends their church that is a spouse or family member of a known sex offender.