updated 3/4/2007 1:00:45 AM ET 2007-03-04T06:00:45

A Lutheran congregation is grappling with how to deal with a convicted sex offender who says his church attendance is an important step toward rehabilitation.

Clergy and members at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd say they’re in a quandary over how to protect their children while following in Christ’s footsteps and welcoming a stranger.

“Clearly, we are called to love,” said the Rev. Rebecca Schlatter, associate pastor. “But is it safe to love this particular person up close?”

The church has offered a covenant of 17 conditions to Calvin Brugge, who says he will sign it. Among other restrictions, he can only attend the 7:30 a.m. Sunday service, and he’s barred from using the restroom or attending church-sponsored functions that include children.

Plans call for a support team to meet with him regularly and an accountability team to observe him while he’s on church property.

“I have enjoyed church community before, and I feel that it’s been something that has been lacking in my life, something that I grieve that I don’t have in my life,” Brugge said. He began attending church services in December.

“My only saving grace is to be open, honest and ask for assistance,” he added.

Brugge, 60, is on parole for five more months after serving eight months in a California prison for violating his parole in 2005.

He was convicted in California in 1989 and 1997 for sex offenses involving children, according to the state’s sex offender registry. Brugge has been identified as a tier three sex offender who poses a high risk of recidivism and threat to public safety.

Mary Carlson, a single mother of an 8-year-old girl, has fears despite the covenant. “He is a pedophile, and this pedophile might be fantasizing about this little girl across the aisle,” she said.

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