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. Keith

    Wonder how that Gay Pride month is workin' out for the Air Force Academy. Oh, what's that you say? They evacuated?
    Jud 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

    June 27, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  2. Code

    The pastor was angry because he believes that the young boys are the property of the bishops.

    June 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  3. lolreligionsisuseless

    What a useless "speech"

    June 27, 2012 at 5:38 am |
  4. Chris

    There are natural and appropriate consequences for crimes/sin. A jury of his peers essentially put him away for life. And life in prison is where he belongs. What he did is clearly wrong, and people who do these sorts of things should pay a heavy price. And he will pay that price. All the faith in the world won't sidestep the natural consequences of our actions. All the faith in the world should not and will not restore his freedom. On this earth, in the body, he's finished. The rest is left to God.

    June 27, 2012 at 12:05 am |
  5. dcmortimer

    He was an evil man who knew what he was doing harming vulnerable boys for his own sick pleasure , he was a married man surely this kind of behavior should have made him sick , he still went to church what a fraud , he should have spoke to a therapist and gotten help, instead he abused his position and gave in to temptation and ruined lives , only God can forgive but how can he forgive some one who still Denys publicly what he did to those young men .

    June 26, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Diana

      The Bible says that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". The word "confess" is a public confession. Unless and until Mr Sandusky admits his evil and repents of it publicly, he will not be able to be forgiven. How sad for his victims that he refuses to admit what he did. They are the only ones who deserve our prayers and any support that they can receive.

      June 27, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • nottolate


      "The word "confess" is a public confession. "

      That is completely inaccurate:

      If we confess our sins,.... Not to one other; for though it is our duty to confess our faults to our fellow creatures and fellow Christians which are committed against them, yet are under no obligation to confess such as are more immediately against God, and which lie between him and ourselves; or at least it is sufficient to confess and acknowledge in general what sinful creatures we are, without entering into particulars; for confession of sin is to be made to God, against whom it is committed, and who only can pardon: and a man that truly confesses his sin is one that the Spirit of God has convinced of it, and has shown him its exceeding sinfulness, and filled him with a godly sorrow for it, and given him repentance unto salvation, that needeth not to be repented of; and who, under such a sight and sense of sin, and concern for it, comes and acknowledges it before the Lord, humbly imploring, for Christ's sake, his pardoning grace and mercy; and such obtain it:

      June 27, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  6. Brother Maynard

    “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 ( Pastor Zeiders ) asked.
    Simple answer – don't 'do' anything. Let the civil /secular world do what is does best. Investigate/ arrest/ charge/ try/ convict ( when guilty ) / punish and protect the community. No god needed.

    June 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  7. ricksta@hotmail.co.jp

    That fact that he's a child molester wins a lot of empathy from the church, because they can really relate.

    June 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  8. clown question bro

    I bet they just wanted to attract the atheists...I mean this is "proof" for them religion is dangerous.

    Strong delusion.

    June 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  9. kindness

    My story.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    Accept Jesus christ as your lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from som other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved

    June 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Kevin Kaleidoscope

      Why does the psycho-dung you post here have to be so prolix?

      June 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  10. Atheist Hunter

    Just sharing...

    June 26, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  11. riamb60

    I don't think that Jesus can forgive people that do evil. Murder and pedophilia should never be forgiven.

    June 26, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Leaping Larry

      Funny how God's characteristics change to fit the ideas of the believer.

      June 26, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Answer

      That's why it is always a "personal god".

      June 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Omar

      Then you don't know Jesus or what He stands for. You know Jesus just like I know the peope I ride the train with. I know what stops they get off on, I know where they like to sit, I know they read books, but I don't KNOW them.

      June 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • sam stone

      People see god the way they want to see god. Omar here apparently sees god as a petty, vindictive punk.

      June 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Kevin Kaleidoscope

      You ride the train with non-existent figments of your imagination?

      June 26, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • TR6

      “I don't think that Jesus can forgive people that do evil. Murder and pedophilia should never be forgiven.”

      Everything evil is a sin. All sins are equally bad. Skimp on the collection plate or murder 6 million Jews it’s all the same to god and as long as you believe you get a “get into heaven” card no matter how bad you are

      Invent the cure for cancer, feed a million people, give up your life to save a child, if you don’t believe you’re going to fry no matter how good you are

      June 26, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  12. Chris

    What Christ did for us: Isaiah 53

    4 Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
    yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
    5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
    6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

    What happens between Sandusky and God, is their business, not ours. Through Christ we have hope for renewal. I invite you to watch "The Passion of the Christ". See what Christ has done for us.

    June 26, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • sally

      Shameless snuff flick. Disgusting, sickening movie. What sort of sadistic for would do that?

      June 26, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Shepherds, Inc.

      Yea, Oh Yea, come little lambs, back to the flock, so that we may keep you and fleece you and eventually slaughter you and eat you!

      June 26, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • sam stone

      No, Chris, it is more like what Mel Gibson has done for us

      June 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • howart Dao

      NOTHING happened between GOD and sandusky that is the sad thing ; it is a lot of things happened between sanjusky and boys that is the problem

      June 26, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  13. Really Jersey

    It would be wrong to bash the reverend Zeiders or the church the Sanduskys attended for Jerry Sandusky's disgusting pedophilia. This criminal crafted a public image designed to make people believe he was a great humanitarian. These people only saw him in public for an hour a week. Unlike the college staff, they had no knowledge of his locker room abuse of boys. Jerry Sandusky is still attempting to pretend he is innocent. That kind of abuser would not confess to his pastor.
    I feel very sorry for the people at his church. It is hard to find out that someone you think you know in any type of community has done all these horrible things. It is also hard to have your religion blamed as well as the criminal. The Methodist faith does not advocate sodomizing little boys any more than it is approved by anyone who actually follows the instructions of the Catholic church. These criminals are deviants from their church teachings.
    Just as we cannot blame the members of the Penn State staff or student body who never had any contact with Sandusky for his perversions, we cannot blame members of his church who had no idea just what went on at his house.

    June 26, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • BobofEM

      "Methodist faith does not advocate sodomizing little boys any more than it is approved by anyone who actually follows the instructions of the Catholic Church." While the Catholic Church may not "advocate sodomizing little boys" they certainly have advocated even demanded through Canon Law that their clergy who sodomize children be protected from exposure, protected from the law, and protected from the justice that their victims so desperately need to heal.

      June 26, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  14. PeacefulEasyFeelinz

    Whenever we become able to cure insanity, religion will vanish in the light of truth....or maybe we'll just have to kill everyone.

    June 26, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Susan

      You need to get help, soon. Your comment leaves me sad.

      June 26, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  15. Atheist Hunter

    just sharing.....

    June 26, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Skep Rep

      spambot go away

      June 26, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  16. lastofall

    We as believers ought to pray always that we be not found guilty with secret sins, and it is us who must take heed of ourselves for this; because again, these sins are secret, and must be repented of, before they can progress.

    June 26, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Sadie Boyd

      secrets are what has torn up that community...a little less secrecy and public confession may do all a great deal of good...there is a big problem in Pennsylvania...if I had a child there, I would not go to Penn State or to any Catholic Church. For God's sake, please protect your children and forget this secret nonsense!

      June 26, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Skep Rep

      It is secrecy that causes the damage, makes it worse, makes more of it, and keeps people from being able to deal with it.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  17. Ana


    June 26, 2012 at 3:44 am |
  18. frank

    re the "transformative power and saving grace of God".. since a vast majority of criminals doing time are or come from christian families in the US.. i sincerely doubt that if "God" exists that this being has the slightest interest or ability to transform those who wear his name. clearly too his 'saving grace' did nothing for the victims of this child abuse. i guess that's what he meant by 'suffer the children to come unto him' eh?

    June 26, 2012 at 3:31 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      It makes perfect sense that a majority of criminals come from Christian families since a majority of people in the U.S. claim to be Christian.

      June 26, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • Jimmy G.

      It is just one more proof that Christianity has zero affect on a person's morals and ethics, that there is no such thing as a "moral absolute", and also proof of the non-existence of the Christian god and proof of the worthlessness of their delusional and imaginary propaganda.

      June 26, 2012 at 6:06 am |
    • Melanie

      No, actually, it's just more proof the Bible is true. Mt 7:22 MANY will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
      Mt 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

      Lots of professors, very few possessors! "The fool saith in his heart there is no God".

      June 26, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Madtown

      No, actually, it's just more proof the Bible is true.
      The bible is most certainly true, but only to the perspective of the men that authored it.

      June 26, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • sam stone

      Melanie: If fools say there is no god, what of those who feel that they speak for god?

      June 26, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  19. Moi

    'you have no idea how difficult this has been for our congregation'. how selfish of a statement was THAT? what do you think about those poor boys that were stripped of their innocence? no wonder i detest organized religion.

    June 26, 2012 at 3:10 am |
    • Really Jersey

      He is saying it has been difficult for them because their trust in someone they thought they knew has been violated. It has been difficult for Penn State staff, students, & alumni too for the same reason. How would you feel if you found out a friend you trusted had done this? Something like this sends a shock wave through any community whether it is spiritual or secular.

      June 26, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  20. YeahRight

    You know I might even join the church where the pastor giving the sermon says

    "This man's acts were deplorable, cruel, disgusting and prolific and I will not discuss them here with you suffice to say I hope this pervert never breaths free air again. However, let's figure out ways to keep our kids safe from harm and never give these disgusting pedophiles a chance to get at them. That's what Jesus would want!"

    June 26, 2012 at 2:07 am |
    • derp

      Except that jesus would actually want something very different.

      Jesus would forgive and love Jerry Sandusky. He would welcome him into his flock with open arms.

      Jesus forgives sinners.

      Jesus loves sinners.

      Love the sinner, hate the sin.

      If you are christian, you are obligated to forgive Sandusky, and love him unconditionally.

      June 26, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • matt314hew

      Never can you forgive a man who attacked children and took away their innocence. Yes God may be able to forgive him for having sinned, if Sandusky is truly sorry and wants to repent that is. But he will never be able to be forgiven by me. Neither will any of the members of PSU that kept this a hush hush secret.

      June 26, 2012 at 11:11 am |
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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.