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Ohio Pastor Charged for Keeping Church Open to Unhoused People Amid Frigid Weather

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An Ohio pastor who opened his church to the homeless has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges for violating city zoning laws.

“No one wants to be treated like a criminal, but the Word of God makes it clear that it is a blessing to face trials for the cause of Christ,” said Pastor Chris Avell, who founded the church Dad’s Place in Bryan, Ohio, in 2018. “The church’s mission, my mission as a pastor, is to make disciples of the rich and the poor and to provide for the least of these. Criminal charges don’t change that mission.”

In March 2023, Avell decided the church would help with overflow from the local homeless shelter next door. He said the church has helped about 100 homeless people in the small city in northwestern Ohio.

“The ministry of the church is not confined to Sunday morning at 11 a.m.,” Avell told me in an email. “We welcome anyone to experience the love and truth of Jesus, regardless of the time of day.”

By opening his doors for overnight accommodations, Avell violated city zoning laws. Dad’s Place is in a C-3 Central Business District, which prohibits residential usage, Police Chief Gregory Ruskey said in a December statement. Ruskey said the city informed Avell about the zoning violations and notified him of several fire code infractions.

Continue reading at WNG

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