For Americans who go to church, the person leading the service is supposed to be the one you trust the most with your spiritual life. But could you trust a pastor who once murdered a toddler?
A church in western Virginia is split down the middle right now over the preacher who parishioners have learned once spent time in prison for beating his girlfriend's 14-month-old son to death in 1970. That's just the tip of the iceberg of Pastor William Drumheller's crimes, but it's a particular sticking point for members of the church who would like to see him unable to pastor. On the other side are the members of the church who believes their pastor is "of repentant heart?" But can anybody sufficiently repent for killing a child in cold blood?
Take the responses to the request of a woman who killed her infant in 1987 will suffering from a verified case of post partum psychosis. She heard voices telling her to kill, and 23 years on she is still under legal restrictions despite being declared "not guilty by reason of insanity." When The Stir pondered whether she should be classified as "sane" all these years later, comments ranged from "she should have gotten the death penalty" to "if she is sane now then she needs to go to jail."
But William Drumheller wasn't insane. And he got out of a 70 to 125 year prison sentence even though he admitted to having abused the toddler over a period of time before delivering the killing blows. And now years later he's standing up as a role model for the members of a church. He's the one people are to go for counseling -- a standard job for members of the clergy. He's the one who stands at the front of a room where people bring their families; ostensibly their kids.
I was raised in the Catholic church, and even after a decade riddled with scandal, I'd still leave my daughter with my family's priest. But taking her anywhere near William Drumheller makes me shudder. And asking him for advice on family life is out of the question.
There are situations where someone with experience can serve you best as a counselor. Former drug addicts often make the best members of a rehab team because they know where you've been, and they can recognize when you've hit rock bottom. But a convicted murderer and child abuser counseling families reeks of throwing open the henhouse door and whistling for the foxes.
Would you be comfortable with a man who murdered a child stepping into the role of clergy?
Editor's Note: Although parishioners are still in disagreement and discussing their issues with the press, William Drumheller has already left the church in question. He retains his ability to pastor, although not at this church.
Image via Balaji.B/Flickr