A small American town has dropped all criminal charges against a pastor who was helping care for the community’s homeless people, while allegedly violating council zoning laws.
Pastor Chris Avell runs the Dad’s Place church in the town of Bryan, Ohio. About a year ago, he opened its doors around-the-clock because the town’s official homeless shelter was often full.
The council then produced a 42-page document, listing at least 18 local ordnance and code violations by the church in its efforts to help provide shelter, food and washing facilities for the homeless. They included a lack of proper kitchen and laundry facilities, having unsafe exits, and using improper ventilation. The alleged breaches made it illegal to allow people to eat, wash clothes and sleep on the property.
After the pastor’s lawyers from Christian legal advocate First Liberty Institute filed a motion for a restraining order, the council agreed to drop all charges. In return, Chris Avell agreed to temporarily cease residential operations, until he acquires all the required certifications and permits, and ensures mandatory safety measures are in place. The Christian Post reports both sides committed to work together to allow the church to keep serving those in need.
“I am thankful to God, the city, and for everyone who has been praying for this day to come. Bryan is my home. I am eager to continue to serve God, my community, and the people I love,” Pastor Avell said in response to the mutual agreement.
First Liberty senior counsel Jeremy Dys said: “We are grateful that the city of Bryan has dropped the criminal charges against Pastor Avell. Ministries like Dad’s Place provide vital public services to their communities. We will continue our conversations with city officials in hopes that we can find a final resolution where Dad’s Place can continue to serve those in need in its community.”
Bryan Mayor Carrie Schlade also praised the agreement, saying the city “appreciates the willingness of Dad’s Place to work with the city to resolve the parties’ differences amicably and to ensure that the services provided by Dad’s Place are delivered in a safe manner.”
Pastor Avell founded Dad’s Place in 2018, and offers services to members of the community such as free haircuts and Bible studies. “I was spiritually homeless, and God put a burden on my heart for them [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, who will? This is what we’re called to do,” the pastor told Fox News.
“I believe this is the mission of the church: to make disciples. And this is how we do it, by showing the love of Christ, preaching the truth, and laying down our lives in service and humility, as Christ laid down His life for us. That’s what I believe,” he added.