Some of you will recall that FBC Farmersville unearthed a sexual predator in our midst in February 2007. A few weeks ago I received a subpoena calling for me to testify for the state at his trial in October. Then, two weeks ago, plea negotiations resulted in a deal. At a soon-upcoming sentencing hearing, James Souder will (if all goes as anticipated) receive a sentence of seven years to be served in state prison, followed by ten years of probation, and all accompanied by registration as a sexual offender for the remainder of his life.
It is a good deal. The victims will not have to testify at trial, but they will receive some justice for the way that they were violated in the way of actual time spent in prison. The sexual offender label provides some hope that James Souder will not find it quite so easy to find victims at another church in another town someday later.
Might I say something controversial: James Souder is a sinful man, but he is not beyond redemption. In our last meeting, when he confessed his guilt to me in my office after being confronted with the evidence, I told him that someday he would have finished serving his sentence for these offenses. Presuming that I'm still living and able, I told him that I wanted to go with him to his next pastor at his next church, somewhere away from here. Once there, I want to sit down with his next pastor and say, "James Souder has some good qualities about him, but he has this problem. He needs a church full of people who will hold him accountable and make certain that he is never, ever, ever alone with another young teenaged boy."
I figure that's a better plan than him just surfacing somewhere without any warning or accountability in a new church. It gives Jim a way to bring up the subject and get it right out into the open before anybody "finds out." It gives the new church full warning about the special ways that they need to beware Jim's temptations. And it reminds everyone that God's objective for us all is our conversion and then our sanctification through the action of His Holy Spirit and the mutual relationships of the church.
I'll be sure to report back seven years from now on how it all went. :-)
But I and my church are so thankful to see some sort of resolution on this case that has hung over our heads for so long and has occupied so much of my thought and energy lately.
In the same week, one of our precious members was shot in the stomach by a shotgun-wielding prowler on his property. This took place in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. Later in the week, on the same day that James Souder formally entered his plea, this man's wife—a faithful church member and a friend to so many in our congregation—was arrested for "hindering apprehension or prosecution." As it turns out, the shooter was her partner in an adulterous affair that had been ongoing for many months. She had sent him a text message while the police were looking for him, and that text message was the reason for her arrest. You'll find the sermon that I preached that next Sunday here.
I invite you to pray for the Cox family as they wade through turbulent waters. And I invite you to pray for me as, day-by-day, I try to shepherd a flock with not nearly the wisdom to do so.