December 13th, 2011
07:46 AM ET

Sandusky's pastor stands by him through sex abuse crisis

By Dana Garrett, CNN

State College, Pennsylvania (CNN)–
As former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky faced his accusers on Tuesday for the first time since he was indicted on child sex abuse charges, his pastor of 20 years was at the courthouse.

Senior Pastor Edwin Zeiders of St. Paul's Methodist Church in State College says he speaks to Sandusky every day, and will Tuesday, when Sandusky appeared for a preliminary hearing at the Centre County Courthouse and waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

It was the first chance Sandusky's alleged victims could begin to publicly tell their stories.

Zeiders says Sandusky and his wife Dottie have been members of his church for about 30 years.

He has refused interview requests, but offered thoughts to CNN in an e-mail on Monday, a day before the hearing, and followed up by email on Tuesday confirming he had attended.

The pastor was careful not to take sides in the emotive case.

"All of our attention and energy is focused on those who are in need, those who are struggling to understand their circumstances and find their way through the wilderness of feelings, opinions, and hope," he said.

"These are difficult times for our community," he continued, "and for all of us who care deeply about the safety, health, and the suffering of others."

Zeiders said that pastors at St. Paul's "are providing care for anyone who has been sexually assaulted or abused, and do all we can to help them work through their pain and the reliving of those dreadful experiences."

"We continue to define the local congregation as a people of love and restoration, while giving witness and endless stream of mercy from our Lord and the forgiveness the opens the doorway to new life."

At a recent service, Zeiders preached a similar message of love and forgiveness, urging his parish to be "authentic Christians" in the wake of the sex abuse allegations against Sandusky.

"We are entrusted with the light of the world," Zeiders told his congregation. "We are the bearer of each others' burdens... (called) to care for each other as deeply as we can."

Neither Sandusky nor his wife Dottie have been to church since the charges were filed last month, parishioners said.

Asked after the service if Sandusky should be forgiven, even if the allegations against him are proved true, Zeiders said yes.

He quickly added that forgiving does not mean forgetting, nor that people should not be held accountable.

Zeiders declined to say who initiated his daily contact with Sandusky and would not describe the content of their conversations.

A grand jury report says Sandusky molested young boys after developing close relationships with them through a charity he founded for at-risk youths.

Pennsylvania's attorney general charged Sandusky, 67, with 40 counts in what authorities allege was the sexual abuse of eight young boys over several years.

Some churchgoers said they were still in a state of shock about the accusations against Sandusky, which he has denied, and some said the charges don't jibe with the Sandusky they know.

They seemed mixed on the question of whether the congregation would welcome Sandusky back.

Before leaving the church on a recent Sunday, a member of the congregation gave a CNN reporter a coffee mug emblazoned with the name St. Paul's.

Inside was a card with the service schedule on one side and a message on the other: "Do you know that God's love can and does achieve great things, even amid the turmoil of today's world?"

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Courts • Crime

soundoff (161 Responses)
  1. Patricksday

    Jerry is a big tall man, I could only imagine the horror from Kids he took advantage of and abused and scarred their lives forever. He was too big to fail, and those who protected him should also stand trial.

    December 13, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  2. ????

    I can just see this, pray, repent and all is forgiven. Doubt that will hold up in court though.

    December 13, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  3. aon

    I'm running out of Ewws! Sandusky, his wife Dotie, his creepy lawyer and now his Pastor. Eww, Eww, Eww, and Eww! God is not happy.

    December 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Ken

      What did the pastor do or say to condone the accusations? The article I read spoke of his and the church's support for victims. Is it you contention the pastor should condemn Sandusky because of the accusations in order to be perceived by the public as "righteous" or "authentic"?

      December 13, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  4. Emperor Vadik, CA

    Well, it is not like we didn't know that organized religion was a sickness...

    December 13, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  5. captain america

    Last night I dreamt I was a beautiful woman picking flowers in a meadow. I saw a handsome man walking by, and I called out to him; "Yoo hoo, handsome man! I am all alone here picking flowers. Someone could easily have their way with me!' And then the handsome man gave me a banana to eat, and I ate it with pleasure. And then I woke up. What did the dream mean?

    December 13, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Emperor Vadik, CA

      it means that you are freaking retard*d rainman...

      ...a normal person does not remember his/her dreams for more than a few seconds after waking up....

      December 13, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • captain america

      captain america deals in truth, justice and the American way. He does not deal in fantasy or dreams.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • zzz

      Captain the dream simply means that your handle will stolen for the pleasure of someone else.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Emperor Vadik, CA

      LOL, good one Cpt A

      December 13, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • captain america

      The name thief is a canadian qu eer who goes by the handle tom tom. canadians have a real problem keeping their useless opinions on American issue to themselves .

      December 13, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • toadears

      it means you are a monkey and have not evolved? how clever of the handsome man to know this.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • PhantomoftheOpera

      There are at least three, maybe four, separate people who go around stealing names here. I know this because I have been one of them in the past. This is just an observation to educate and wake people up to the folly of making foolish assumptions about anonymous posters in here. I am not Tom. I am also not Uncouth Swain who steals the names of atheists. There is a fourth I think, but I am not sure. I'm not so sure Tom is one either, but some youth sure shows up and walks that walk.
      So that's three for sure. When you assume about namestealing you look the fool for there is no way outside of the CNN web management staff that would know for sure – unless you want to pretend your from the FBI or other gvot agency?

      December 13, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • PhantomoftheOpera

      I should add for the record that I am not the one who did the captain america skit above. That is **** who shows up fairly regularly here. I only take names once in a blue moon for punitive purposes. Such is also the justification given by Uncouth Swain who calls himself that because he hates the 'arrogant rudeness' of atheists so much he changed his name to Uncouth.
      But Uncouth does it pretty often. I don't like taking names after having my own taken from me so often I am now nameless in self-defense, so i know how you all feel to say the least.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • fua

      hey captan stupid fvck u r the dumbest fvck i have ever seen u must be fred george nobody else is that stupid

      December 13, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • fua

      hey fandom ur a wuss go whine somewhere else

      December 13, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  6. Joe

    He probably touches little boys too.

    December 13, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Jonathan

      I bet you do too.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  7. jerry

    So what? The guy likes kids...a lot...a whole lot.

    December 13, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  8. brad

    There are just as many PEDOs in the Methodist Church as there are in the Catholic Church!

    December 13, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  9. captain america

    captain america would never capitalize canada.

    December 13, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • captain america

      ...but he does love the feeling of a freshly exercised prostate during a Pokemon marathon.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • captain america

      captain america never indulges in canadian pursuits.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  10. Vortex

    A true wise man...stand beside Sandusky instead of in front of him.

    December 13, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  11. NoJailForSandusky

    At age 67, Sandusky's legal wows are just starting. but how long will he live?? His legal plan is to stall the courts till he dies a free man.
    Yes you heard it hear first! Sandusky will die before being brought to justis. Sandusky will die from natural causes. The courts are too slow and full of stall tactics. This tactic was taught in my High school class by a very old Doctor who challenged his classes to take him to court. the Doctor was a very smart man.....

    December 13, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Vortex

      That tactic was designed by the legal system not for accused but for lawyers...the longer the case the greater the reward. Lawyers bill by the hour right? Nuff said.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  12. captain america

    I'm out of the closet and struttin' my stuff, girlfriend!

    December 13, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • captain america

      Waitress.... I'll have the Sandusky Sampler.... with a side of young boy-scent.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • captain america

      Spoken like a canadian tom tom .

      December 13, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • captain america

      Oh, no you didn't! Next!

      December 13, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • captain america

      Young boys in Canada don't taste the same. Just ask Jerry!

      December 13, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • captain america

      canadians speak fluent qu eer.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • captain america

      Hit the showers, kids! Bring your towels.... you'll need to clean up the shame afterwards!

      December 13, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • captain america

      captain america has riled up a canadian qu eer who goes by the handle tom tom.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • fua

      only fa.ggots hate fa.ggots that means captan dipfvck is a fa.ggot

      December 13, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  13. Ben Dover

    It would be funnier if his pastor was standing behind him instead of by him.

    December 13, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  14. scoto

    Well... its not like an established church could ever condone child abuse. Right? I mean Right?

    December 13, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  15. tony

    this board is a great source for my standup comedy act... love it 🙂

    December 13, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Sit down...

      December 13, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • toadears

      We work for scale.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  16. captain america

    captain america supports giving young boys oral pleasure.

    December 13, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • captain america

      captain america never speaks of himself. He is a true hero of the American empire.Bull sh it canadians attempt to undermine the good captain but he really doesn't give a sh it about them.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  17. irma1957

    Maybe the pastor was one of those that was moved from parish to parish!!

    December 13, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  18. Squally

    Well of course he would, pastors like little boys too!

    December 13, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  19. Nancy M. B.

    He buggers 10-year-old boys and the pastor stands by him? Pastor, you are just as guilty.

    December 13, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • captain america

      Cast the first stone then, cow!

      December 13, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • captain america

      captain america never says cow.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Ken

      Did you notice the article never stated the pastor stood by Sandusky? Neither did it even imply so? Only the headline, which is an editorial inclusion, not a statement of fact.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  20. captain america


    December 13, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • captain america

      captain america doesn't shout.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • fua

      captan dumbfvck always yells when we fvck him in the ass way to go captan dumbfvck

      December 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
1 2 3 4
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.