Sorry sinners looking for forgiveness can now get more than just words of wisdom from their pastors, rabbis or imams.

They can get a ride to the police station to turn themselves in.

City officials launched the "Peaceful Surrender" program yesterday, in which they exhorted city clergy members to help authorities bring in nearly 68,000 people who have outstanding warrants.

"We want you to utilize the respect that you have in the community and your powers of persuasion to allow us to access folks in a different way," Mayor Nutter told about 150 clergy members who gathered at a breakfast in West Philadelphia to learn about the initiative.

Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison suggested that their goal during the next year should be "a tithe" - 10 percent, or about 6,800, of those wanted.

Some clergy worried that the initiative might interfere with their role as spiritual advisers and their responsibility to guard their confessors' privacy.

But most applauded the initiative's intent. Many warmed to an "amnesty period" suggested by Judge Ronald B. Merriweather, a speaker at the breakfast. A majority - 38,000 - of warrants are for misdemeanor offenses.

"I got a van parked right outside; I can bring you 15 or 20 [wanted people] today," said the Rev. Jeffrey Pennington, of Bethyah Ministries, in Germantown. "But a great number of men in our ministry and homeless shelters are trying to turn their lives around, and they are afraid [of the criminal-justice system]."

Nutter and Gillison agreed to look into the amnesty suggestion. Still, they emphasized that the program's goal is not incarceration, especially in a city with woefully overcrowded prisons. Rather, some offenders can be better helped through job training and other rehabilitation services, Nutter said.

And the amnesty idea seemed at odds with one of Nutter's primary goals: Getting repeat offenders off the street.

"The recidivism rate in Philadelphia is 72 percent - it's the same small population committing the majority of the crimes," Nutter said. "Philadelphia must be a safer city. We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way, but we're going to do this."

Supporters praised the initiative as a surefire way to reduce violence for all involved.

"This will eliminate a potentially dangerous situation, not only for the suspect but for the suspect's family, the neighborhood and the police," said Paul Conway of the Defenders Association. "The clergy sometimes are the first responders when it comes to people in trouble, and when you're charged with a serious crime, you're in trouble."

Judges, police officials and representatives from the District Attorney's Office and the Defenders' Association also attended the breakfast.

The clergy presented former Daily News columnist Chuck Stone, to whom 74 thugs turned themselves in in the 1970s, with an award to thank him for being a "catalyst" and the inspiration for the "Peaceful Surrender" program.

Nutter and Police Commissioner Ramsey are expected today to announce details of a back-to-basics crime-fighting plan that will reassign more of the city's 6,600 officers from specialized units to general policing. *