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Sandusky’s pastor addresses conviction from pulpit
Jerry Sandusky leaves court on Friday morning. His church wrestled on Sunday with how to respond.
June 25th, 2012
11:58 AM ET

Sandusky’s pastor addresses conviction from pulpit

By Dana Garrett, CNN

State College, Pennsylvania (CNN)– Jerry Sandusky sits in a county jail cell in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, but his presence and the weight of the 45 guilty verdicts rendered against the former Penn State football coach on Friday night hung in the air Sunday morning at the State College church where he and his wife are longtime members.

Ed Zeiders, the senior pastor at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, did not shy away from addressing the conviction of his congregant and friend on child sex abuse charges, asking his congregation to “pray for all of those who are victims and for all of those who are predators.”

Zeiders began his sermon with a question.

“In light of the misery, sorrow and suffering we see, affecting every aspect of our life, within us, in the midst of us, and around us – what are we to do,” he asked. “The world needs an answer, our community deserves an answer, and we need to answer together what is the most efficacious way to move forward from here.”

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Saying that the eyes of the nation are fixed on the State College community and, to some degree, on the community of St Paul’s, Zeiders said that “in the midst of the raging storms around us” the church had an opportunity.

“If ever a local congregation has been given a moment to…..reveal what it means to be Christian,” Zeiders said, “this is that congregation in this moment in history.”

Zeiders spoke to what he said was the transformative power and saving grace of God, making a connection between faith and ethical behavior. “If we are to claim Jesus as savior,” he said, “we must, without fail, come face-to-face with our own morality.”

St. Paul's United Methodist Church in State College, Pennsylvania where Jerry Sandusky was a member.

That morality, Zeiders said, should not succumb to the idea that “my faith and my morality are solely my business.”

“We have seen the evidence of what that means, again and again, and we are feeling the pain of such a thing today,” he said.

Zeiders’ message of morality extended to institutions, including, by inference, Penn State. “This is a turning point when evidence is everywhere that our leaders have failed,” he said.

Speaking after the service, Zeiders said he has maintained his pastoral relationship with the Sanduskys throughout the trial, and that he was in the courtroom last Monday when the defense began its case. He hasn’t talked to Jerry Sandusky since the former assistant coach’s Friday incarceration, but he is making arrangements to do so. He continues to see Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, who he says is “holding up.”

Most congregants at St. Paul’s did not want to talk about the verdict.

“You have no idea how difficult this has been for our congregation,” said one female church member who did not want to be identified. “We are like a family, and the allegations were stunning. I didn’t want to believe them, but there was too much evidence not to.”

Another congregant, who said she chose not to read any news coverage of the trial, struggled with her own internal conflict, saying she trusted that the jury had made the right decision while holding out hope that Sandusky did not really abuse the boys who testified against him.

The late morning service on Sunday included a baptism. Afterward, Zeiders called on his flock to take an oath to “guard and protect” children, reminding them they were the stewards of their safety.

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The Gospel lesson on Sunday recounted the story of Jesus sleeping on a boat while a storm rages all around. His disciples awaken him, and Jesus rebukes the wind and the waves: “Peace! Be still!”

Zeiders drew from those words to help his congregants through what had been a difficult week.

“Sure, the darkness is deep and the waves are powerful, but this is the time to engage the world, not run from it,” he said from the pulpit. “This is the day of our saving. God always speaks the loudest when the waves are the highest. Peace! Be still!”

CNN's Kiran Khalid contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Church • Courts

soundoff (481 Responses)
  1. long tinh new version

    I'm now not certain where you are getting your info, but good topic. I needs to spend a while finding out more or working out more. Thank you for excellent information I used to be looking for this info for my mission.

    November 7, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  2. i haz a pregunta

    jerry sandusky likes 8===D

    November 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  3. suplementos alimenticios

    You recognize thus considerably on the subject of this matter, made me for my part imagine it from a lot of varied angles. Its like women and men are not involved unless it is one thing to do with Woman gaga! Your own stuffs nice. All the time maintain it up!

    September 20, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  4. Roneiglesias

    / I have often thought the same thing about that preyar. Although I have never like recited preyars like that, it doesn't teach children to pray, it teaches them a ritual that can very quickly lose it's meaning.

    August 1, 2012 at 2:52 am |
  5. SoldierOfConscience

    S@dusky was a closet g@y

    end of argument.

    July 9, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I think you're the one in the closet, honey.

      July 9, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  6. Voice of wisdom

    For the ignorant of jesus on the above posting. Jesus left us a great example of prayer as he did it various times in mount Olive. The fact that we believe in prayer does not mean we will not pay the consequences for our mistakes. If we killed someone we still have to pay for our mistake here on earth, but prayer gets us right with God. Through prayer we basically are allow God to do his will. We hope for the best but in the end God will do whats best for everyone. The fact that someone we prayed for to be healed was not healed does not mean God did not listen to us but it means God made the best decision. Learn before you speak .

    July 2, 2012 at 1:22 am |
  7. topgunairspace

    Reblogged this on topgunairspace.

    July 1, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  8. Ramone DeAnd

    I find it rather distasteful that these congregants are posturing themselves as victims here. They should remember the abuse their friend and fellow parishioner heaped upon children and thank their god of their own good fortune.

    July 1, 2012 at 5:05 am |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    June 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      June 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Pelegrim

      The idea of god, and prayer for that matter, is based on fear alone. We don't like the thought of being in this universe all alone, but based on my observations, we are alone. Deal.

      July 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.