Serving the Church While Serving Time


In an unusual move, Hanford (Calif.) Christian Reformed Church ordained Tom Mathis as an elder, even though he is currently incarcerated in the Delano (Calif.) State Prison.

Mathis became a confessing member of Hanford CRC after making profession of faith while incarcerated (see Banner, June 2006).

Mathis has continued to grow in his faith and conducts several Bible studies, participates in worship activities, and studies at the fairly extensive religious library at the prison.

The issue of ordaining Mathis surfaced when the prison’s chaplain displayed unusual views regarding the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of communion. Mathis contacted Rev. Lambert Sikkema, pastor of Hanford CRC, about proper supervision of the Lord’s table. As it has become increasingly difficult for pastors and elders to get into prisons to minister to the inmates, a new solution needed to be considered.

Sikkema said, “We decided that the best way to handle this was to ordain Tom as an elder in our congregation whose district would be the Delano Prison.”

Classis Central California (the regional group of churches) granted its permission. Mathis was ordained on April 19 and will be authorized to administer the sacraments in prison until he is released in about two-and-a-half years.

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