By Danni Moss
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I found a good blog/article regarding clergy sex abuse in the SBC that really got to me. The full piece can be found at MondayMorningInsight.com. But I wanted to just excerpt a bit and comment.
EthicsDaily.com reported 11 arrests, three convictions, two lawsuits and one suicide involving alleged sexual abuse by clergy in 2007. They also cite another story that included a church that allowed a convicted sex offender to preach from its pulpit while knowing about his past and comments by the president of the Southern Baptist Convention denying clergy predators are a “systemic” problem and accusing victim advocates of using the issue for personal gain…
SBC President Frank Page told a Tennessee newspaper in May there are instances of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches, just like there are in all public institutions. “I do not believe we have a systemic problem,” the pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., told The Tennessean…
“Please realize that there are groups who claim to be one thing when in reality they are another,” Page said in a commentary article in the Florida Baptist Witness. “It would be great if the many groups who are claiming to be groups of advocacy and encouragement in ministry were that which they claim. Please be aware that there are groups that are nothing more than opportunistic persons who are seeking to raise opportunities for personal gain…”
Former SBC President Jerry Vines denied the denomination’s leaders are soft on sexual abuse by clergy but said their hands are tied. “The denomination has no authority over local churches but can provide resources to help us face this problem and deal with it,” the former pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., told Agape Press. “As a denomination, we do make resources available.”
First of all, for a leader in the SBC to deny there is a systemic problem is a big problem all on its own. Anyone who is willing to look at the issue without choosing deliberate denial can see there is a systemic problem. No, clergy sex abuse is not happening in every other church. But I will tell you what is happening. Because the entire denomination refuses to acknowledge the seriousness of sexual abuse in the church, abusers and pedophiles know they are generally safe to prey in churches. If the leadership isn’t responsible at the highest and most foundational level, they’re not being responsible below the head either. And there are even more people involved in youth group and children’s ministry leadership who are predators than there are pastors who are predators. This problem does affect a high percentage of churches.
Also, when the issue of sexual abuse at the top is denied, there is no hope whatsoever for church members who are experiencing abuse in their own homes where it’s not even happening within the church building. Denial is denial is denial. You can’t deny it at the very most critical point – the top of the ladder – and expect the church to do anything about the rest of the monster lurking in the church.
Regarding the statement that groups and individuals are using the issue for personal gain – what kind of lame excuse is that? We’re going to let church members, mostly small children, be scarred for life and possible turned against God forever because some people might be using the issue for personal gain? This is outrageous! And by making this statement, the SBC president is implying that the issue is not only irrelevant but one created primarily for satisfaction of the greed of a few bottom-feeders. It is a classic “politicians” spin – to make an issue go away, tar it with a brush that makes it’s advocates look like quasi-criminals in their own right. I’m not just outraged – there are no words to describe how cruel, and even wicked, this insulting statement by the SBC president is.
Then there is the former SBC president’s pitiful hand-wringing. He says there is nothing they can do because local churches are autonomous. This is another patently lame excuse. Most (but not all) local churches contribute to the convention. Most (but not all) local churches benefit from the convention in some way. That is the very foundational principle of the SBC co-operative program. Their entire missions and other outreach programs are centered in the basic fact that all those local churches are banded together and work together. Don’t try to say there’s nothing we can do because local churches are autonomous! At the very least, churches who are in the convention can be required to list their staff for the safety and well-being of members and any church foolish and irresponsible enough to insist on employing staff who have been reported to the convention for sexual, or other, abuse can be expelled from the convention. This one possible option does not require excessive thought, and I’m sure if they even try they can come up with other options as well.
Bottom line, the SBC leadership just doesn’t care. It would cost them too much, either in time, potential loss of position or power for daring, or whatever. It is a very sad day when these “costs” could outweight the price of a life. And not just one life – the lives of all those affected by clergy sexual abuse.