Ohio pastor facing criminal charges every day to house homeless: ‘This is what we’re called to do’

Fox News | by Kristine Parks | January 9, 2024

Source: Ohio pastor facing criminal charges every day to house homeless: ‘This is what we’re called to do’ (foxnews.com)

theNational.buzz Summary:

  • ‘We’re here to be the church, not to play church,’ Pastor Chris Avell said.
  • Ohio pastor Chris Avell faces criminal charges for keeping his church open 24/7 to help the homeless.
  • City officials warned Avell to evict the homeless or face prosecution for zoning violations.
  • Avell’s attorney and community support hope the charges will be dropped, allowing the church to continue its mission.

Ohio pastor Chris Avell is risking it all to follow his conscience and serve his church’s mission.

Avell, who heads “Dad’s Place,” a church in Bryan, Ohio, said his ministry had always planned to have its doors open 24 hours to the homeless and anyone who needed a place to rest since it was founded in 2018. Last March, they followed through on that mission, but trouble began a few months later.

City officials warned the church in November to kick the homeless out or face criminal prosecution due to zoning violations.

Avell’s attorney, First Liberty’s Ryan Gardner, said the pastor just “couldn’t do that.”

Pastor Chris Avell opened up “Dad’s Place” church to the homeless earlier this year. (First Liberty Institute)

“He loved these people and cared for them. And quite frankly, these people have nowhere else to go,” Gardner told Fox News Digital.

Located next door to the Sanctuary of Williams County Homeless Shelter, Dad’s Place often takes in those the shelter can not care for, while the city is dealing with a “significant housing crisis,” the attorney said.

“So rather than put these people out in the cold and out in the street, the pastor chose to keep his doors open. And then in December, that’s when the criminal charges were filed,” he explained.

Avell said he was “humiliated” and “embarrassed” to learn about the charges from a friend who read the news in the local newspaper. 

On New Year’s Eve, law enforcement served the pastor 18 criminal charges for zoning violations in front of his congregation, First Liberty said.

“And it hurts because, from my perspective, I’m being treated like a criminal for showing the love of Jesus, and it’s something I’m commanded to do,” he explained to Fox News Digital. 

Despite charges racking up every day, the pastor said he continues to keep the church’s doors open.

“The core of our beliefis, I love my God and I want to give him everything I can. And this is how we can give to God,” Avell said. “We’re here to be the church, not to play church. And so we’ve got to do everything God’s commanded us to do.”

“I was spiritually homeless and [God] provided a home for me. He’s put a burden on my heart for the homeless. Many of these people have been rejected by their families and cast aside by their communities. So, if the church isn’t willing to lay down her life for them, then who will? This is what we’re called to do,” he previously told Fox News.

Avell said he’s received support from community members and the homeless shelter for his ministry. Most people just want to see the church and city come to some sort of reconciliation, he believes.

“It’s unfortunate that there seems to be no other way to sit at the table and accomplish God’s good will,” he said.

Avell’s arraignment hearing is scheduled for January 11. First Liberty says they hope the city will “do the right thing” and drop the charges and support Dad’s Place to care for “the most vulnerable in the community.”

“The city has been very uncooperative on every front, and in fact, seems to have made it its mission to harass and humiliate the pastor throughout this process,” Gardner claimed.

The Chief of Bryan Police told ABC13 Action News, “A reasonable amount of time was given for both the tenant and property owner to fix the issues. Due to the safety of all involved the city moved forward with filing charges.”

The Bryan Police Department and city council members did not return requests for comment by Fox News Digital.

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