What the Word Says to SBC Inaction on Clergy Sex Abuse

I have been thinking about the SBC decision not to create a clergy offender database ever since I first heard the news. The thing that has been nagging at me is that the only thing the SBC did was publish an article about child abuse. They say they are not turning a blind eye to the issue of clergy abuse. They say clergy sex abuse is terrible and intolerable. The article was well-written and emotionally moving. BUT – it struck me as “let’s do this spiffy article, pull some heart-strings, and say all the right things. That way we will have done something about this issue and we will placate all the voices asking about what we’re doing about clergy sex abuse.”

The article was their single action; and that action was a collection of mere words. Their response was passive, not active.

As I considered this, these words came to mind,

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

I John 3:16-18

God’s model of love is not to throw words at the needy and afflicted. God’s model demands that we get in there and do everything that is in our power to do. Is it in the power of the SBC to build an offender database? Absolutely. None of the reasons they gave for not creating the database were reasons that made it impossible to do. In fact, here’s an analogy of what they said…

A woman in the church has lost her job and now she has no more food in the house for her children. So she goes to her church for help. The pastor says he will bring her need to the elders for consideration.

The next week, the elders send back a message to the woman via the pastor. Their printed statement reads as follows,

“Dear Jane,

Thank you so much for bringing your need to the attention of the elders. We, as your local body of Christ, are committed to serving the needs of those within our church. Our mission is to help the afflicted and needy, and we make sure we offer regular sermons to that effect during Sunday services.

In fact, just the other day, we heard a touching story of a family who had lost everything in a tornado. They were desperate for help and the children were in tears. It gripped us strongly. We are so committed to being God’s church!

We believe that all churches should reach out to the needy. We support all the missions offerings for the convention and regularly promote the SBC disaster relief program. We even showed a video in church two weeks ago about the great work they did during Hurricane Katrina. The issue of needy families in our country is just appalling. We will do everything in our power to support this issue.

At this time we will not be writing you a check for your groceries, though we are still completely committed to serving the needy. We feel this would not be a helpful thing for us to do because we can’t possibly make sure every person in the country has food for the rest of the year. We also cannot force everyone in the church to donate to the benevolence fund. Besides, if we give help to a Baptist, what about all those people in other denominations out there that we can’t help?

But please be assured, as your church elders, we are completely dedicated to meeting your needs.

We are praying for you.

Blessings!

Your Church Elders

Sound familiar? Making excuses – none of which really prohibit the SBC from creating a sex-offender database – is inexcusable. And it is in stark contrast to the plain teaching of the Word.

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SBC Says No to Sex Predator Database

This article courtesy of NewsOK.com.

My thoughts on the article:

Why reject building an offender database because it might not get every predator? At least we can protect churches from the ones we know about in the meantime!

Churches are more likely to report to a denominational central body than to the authorities (which is a sad commentary, but we need to be aware of the fact) – making a denominational database more likely to be comprehensive than the US Justice Department list. Churches still need to check both because it would not be outside the realm of possibility for a predator to change denominations if it was getting to hot for him in another. In fact, if both organizations maintain a list, they are each likely to catch some the other is missing, thereby providing more comprehensive information than either one separately.

No list will ever be comprehensive, so instead of doing nothing because it can’t be perfect, let’s do what we can do!

The fact that the SBC cannot require churches report abuse allegations is entirely a different matter than turning a blind eye to doing what it can do. To say they can’t make a list because they can’t require churches to report is looking at the issue backwards. It also appears to be a weak excuse for inaction. Here are a few things they could do:

• They could easily include their database contact information into materials like those recently published. It can be an additional tool to protect church members. It provides a little more meat and says the denominational leadership are literally going to be active in addressing the issue. It’s easy to write a nifty little article. What action is the SBC going to take to put some feet to their words?

• They can publically and consistently reinforce the message that churches should report allegations to the central denominational list to protect everyone in the denomination.

• They can dedicate staff to keeping the list as updated as possible.

• They can also allow alleged victims with credible allegations to add to the list, rather than only accepting information from church bodies – which almost invariably support the pastor rather than the victims when allegations are made.

• They can establish a policy to put a church out of the SBC if they hire a known predator. This gives churches a bigger motivation to exercise due diligence in screening their prospective pastors, including checking the denomination’s database AND the DOJ list.

Here’s part of the reason this is important. When churches are considering hiring someone as church staff, they look first and foremost at that man’s ability to preach, and his sincerity and believability in their interactions with him. If he can preach a stirring sermon, pray a powerful prayer, and appears to genuinely care about people, pulpit committees tend to believe what they see and they will shortcut the diligence process because they are sure this one is OK. But predators will look exactly like that! They are almost always 100% believable.


• Having a central denominational database also enables the SBC to have an enforceable policy of intolerance rather than just sitting on the sidelines wringing their hands helplessly while the people in the pews who pay their salaries are having their lives destroyed by predators.

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By Carla Hinton

Vowing that they will not turn a “blind eye” to sexual predators in their midst, Southern Baptist Convention leaders nonetheless said Tuesday they are not creating a database tracking sexually abusive ministers.

Morris Chapman, the convention’s executive committee president, reported on the matter during the opening session of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Indianapolis. Chapman’s remarks came in response to Enid pastor Wade Burleson’s 2007 request that the executive committee explore the possibility of developing a database of Southern Baptist ministers and staff involved in sexual abuse or harassment.

At the time, Burleson said such a database would help prevent such predators from going from church to church victimizing those in different congregations.

What are the reasons?

Tuesday, Chapman told more than 7,000 messengers gathered for the national meeting that such a database is not feasible for several reasons:

•Chapman and his committee said it would be impossible to ensure that all convicted sexual predators who ever had a connection with a Baptist church would be included in such a database.


•The committee reported that creating a database of “Baptist only” convicted sexual offenders would exclude predators previously identified in other faith groups, thus committee members recommended that Baptist churches screen potential volunteers and employees through the U.S. Justice Department’s national database.

•The committee said due to the autonomy of Southern Baptist churches, the convention does not have any authority to require local churches to report instances of alleged sexual abuse to their local association, the state Baptist convention or the national convention.

Chapman emphasized the convention’s commitment to eradicating sexual predators from Baptist ministry even though the database concept was not deemed viable.

“Never let it be said that we are anemic in the fight against sexual abuse. To say so is a false accusation,” Chapman said.

What’s the reaction?

•Burleson, pastor of Enid’s Emmanuel Baptist Church, said the committee appeared to do as he requested in investigating the possibility of a database.

•David Clohessy, national director of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the decision is discouraging.