SBC Says No to Sex Predator Database

This article courtesy of

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.


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.


3 Responses

  1. All I can do is shake my head. It took the Catholic church a long time to acknowledge there was a problem (they’re still struggling with it). Why should the SBC be different? I have heard an attorney who specializes in these kind of cases say that the worst cases are in the Pentecostal churches. They won’t face it, either. I think many are more concerned about how the church may appear and can’t see that in trying to ignore/hide the issue, they are making themselves look far worse…

  2. No kidding! Any church where the leadership has no accountability is set up for abuse in every form. And the whole “touch not God’s anointed” excuse preserves abusers’ security. I think maybe I need to write about that one; I hear it frequently.

    There’s also a prevalent attitude that we should let God mete out justice in His time and meanwhile we’re supposed to “turn the other cheek” and we’re not supposed to judge each other — both misunderstandings of the Word.

    So we keep speaking out and hope that those who are ready to hear will hear.

    — Danni

  3. Danni~
    I have heard both excuses from my former pastor and I think writing about this would be great. One of his things was that he was called and anointed and God would protect him. Hmm… Really…

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