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. John


    December 14, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • .....

      TRASH ALERT – don't bother viewing this garbage, click the report abuse link to get rid of the pathetic TROLL!

      December 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  2. Somewhat Amused

    He learned it from watching you, Padre!

    December 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  3. Meaghan

    What a glowing endorsement of organized religion. [/sarcasm]

    December 14, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  4. AvdBerg

    For a better understanding of the revelations of se_ual abuse throughout the world we invite you to read the articles ‘Se_ual Abuse in the Churches’, ‘Se_ual Abuse ~ Vatican Involvement’ and ‘Pope’s envoy to run discredited Catholic order’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how this whole world has been deceived as confirmed by the Word of God in Revelation 12:9. The Bible is true in all things and is the discerner of every thought and the intent of the heart (Hebrews 5:12). The truth is that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). This is why we call all of mankind to repentance.

    Seek, and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7).

    December 14, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Observer

      Still peddling your hypocritical website? Waste of time.

      December 14, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • AvdBerg

      Still reaching out to people everywhere we can, including members of the gay community, like yourself, in the hope that people will come to the acknowledging of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:4,5).

      December 14, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • Nonimus

      Even if God exists, why should he have any say in what consenting people do in their bedrooms?

      December 14, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  5. Dot8

    Pastors are no longer role models, they are just as bad as Sandusky.

    December 13, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  6. HeavenSent

    Funny, Tom Tom Tommie Tantrum is posting on another article at the same time, pretending like it's not here trolling.

    December 13, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Observer


      What does the Bible say about child molesters? Does it say more than about abortion, which is NOTHING?

      December 13, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Racist Bigot

      Observer, Are you a member of NAMBLA? Are you condoning molestation?

      December 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  7. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    It's a shame that Presidents are limited two only two terms. President Bush did a lot for this country and most people are too stupid to realize just how good of a man he was. Look at the mess Clinton left him with, and look at the trash job Obama has done over the past few years. If Bush had been in the White House for one more term, we'd see some serious improvements.

    December 13, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • KP

      I wonder whether he'd have won a third term?
      Regardless, there's a whole lot about our political system that's broken 🙁

      December 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • fua

      hey tom look out for the dumbfvcks they think u r me sorry they r so stupid

      December 13, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • Herbie

      As if you care for America, GO BACK TO KOREA! You Koreans!

      December 13, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • captain america

      You are both tom tom ass hole.

      December 13, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • fua

      hey captan dumbfvck how can anyone be that stupid as u maybe because yo mammas dick got stuck

      December 13, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • fua

      oho i see i got fooled by a fake tom good joke captan dumbfvck no one else is that stupid but u fred

      December 13, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  8. KP

    It's a shame our country has forgotten the principle of "innocent until proven guilty"

    December 13, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  9. captain america

    As president of Gay American Muslims, I invite all of our gay brothers and sisters to share their stories. If you're good, I'll discuss my superhero fetish.

    December 13, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Keith

      The muslims killed all the gays in Iran. Hanged em.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • captain america

      captain america does not say gay he says qu eer.

      December 13, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  10. tony

    Actually it's peoples' love that does great things in this world. And their faults and greed, all the damage. God hasn't lifted a single almighty finger to do anything for even the most needy of this world.

    December 13, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  11. Call_The_Bluff

    OK. FBI you hear that?

    December 13, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • FaceBookIdiot

      I hear you I hear you!

      December 13, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  12. tony

    But that's what churches are for. Transmitting the beliefs of religious adults into susceptible children's minds. All babies are born atheists. It's only adults that want others to copy their own beliefs who alter that.

    Where's an all-powerful god when we need one, to protect our children from such adults?

    December 13, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  13. Keith

    If Sandusky is guilty the h0m0 should be gut shot.

    December 13, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Keith

      And don't even bother trying to say the acts he's accused of aren't h0m0s^xual in nature, because they are.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:28 pm |

      Whatever. Haven't you ever been to camp? Haven't you ever had a mentor? Jerry hasn't been convicted of anything.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Observer

      He's a church-going Republican "family values" hetero with a wife and kids.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Keith

      Notice I said "If". If he is innocent and is being maliciously and falsely accused then the false witnesses should be punished. But if he's guilty of molesting children, give him capital punishment.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Keith

      Observer, Male + young male = G A Y. Any questions?

      December 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Poor Keith. Doesn't your wife let you do it any more?

      December 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • Keith

      Captain America's right. You are a qu eer aren't you?

      December 15, 2011 at 6:35 pm |


    December 13, 2011 at 8:22 pm |

      Oh no. Someone has stolen my name. What ever am I to do?

      Correct answer: I don't care. This is just a throw-away name I use on occasion to troll.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • captain america

      Gosh, Cloud, if you really don't care, why did you respond?

      December 13, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • captain america

      captain america would never reply with such a lame ass statement.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:44 pm |

      Just to afford you the opportunity of awareness. Naturally, you provided a predictable scripted retort, classic of horrible AOL chat room dialogue circa 1995.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  15. Malavaina

    That pastor shoud be investigated also.

    December 13, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Krishnahatesallfanatics

      That is what I was thinking

      December 13, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  16. toadears

    Admirable of the pastor as it is truly the Christian thing to do and judge not. I just hope Sandusky doesn't play the hallelujah card in hopes of a shorter sentence.

    December 13, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      toadears, actually, not judging is not the Christian thing to do.

      Judging Is Believing.

      Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right? (Luke 12:57)

      What is right?

      The statutes of the Lord are right (Psalm 19:8).


      December 13, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • toadears

      You're right, heavensent. Let's kill them all including Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. Christians forgave those two immediately. Jimmy Swaggart is even back on the air with an evangelism show. See what cronyism and money can do. Believe me, most Christians judge all the time. They are NOTHING like Jesus at all.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Keith

      HeavenSent is correct.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Observer


      What does the Bible say about child molesters? Does it say more than about abortion, which is zero?

      December 13, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  17. the Pope

    Those child molesters have to stick together. Figures that Sandusky was a church going man.

    December 13, 2011 at 8:17 pm |

    Whoever keeps using captain america's name, the garbage you keep posting just plain sucks. It's not clever, witty, or remotely edgy. It looks like you're straining to come up with something and you can't even get any of us to chuckle. It's pretty sad and lame, actually. You should probably just give up this moronic attention starved wannabe comedy troll routine as it has failed you, and go get a job at Penn State.

    December 13, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • captain america

      Thank you for defending me, Cloud. I suspect there's more than one person impersonating me, though.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • captain america

      captain america never thanks anyone for anything. He like America is self sufficient.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Keith

      probably tom tom the pipers son

      December 13, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Big Bubba

      Captain America is gay

      December 13, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • captain america

      The impostor is indeed tom tom, that frustrated canadian qu eer. He/she gave himself/herself away in a previous post. I would tell him/her to go to hell but it's already in canada.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • Keith

      tom tom did the same (giving himself/herself/itself away) in a fit of seething rage. Couldn't help it, I guess. Not real brilliant. Would NOT recommend a career as an intelligence agent.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • fua

      tomtom did not give herself away u guys thot tom was me u are such stupid fvcks when will u ever learn

      December 13, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • fua

      hey captan dickwipe why dont u suck yo mammas dick punk

      December 13, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  19. beau

    did the pastor actually say he stood by Sandusky? I don't see it in the article. If not then very poor choice of headline by CNN

    December 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • Rafesh Kalumauakunda

      He stood behind him.

      Just the tip.

      December 13, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  20. Alice

    Pastor Edwin Zeiders may have started out in the Catholic Church...and we know where that goes.

    December 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • Ayelen

      She's so cute!!!I've got goals, not resolutions. Goals seem hredar to break, right? :DSO: open my online art shop, learn to knit, do more weekly yoga, visit three states I've never seen. They all sound do-able to me!Happy New Year![]

      April 4, 2012 at 12:06 am |
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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.