An Example of Proactive Church Direction On Clergy Sex Abuse

At this point, it appears that most denominations on the U.S. are taking the head-in-the-sand approach to dealing with clergy sex abuse. Not the least of these is the largest Protestant denomination in the country, the Southern Baptist Convention.

However, there is another way – actually several – and it can be done. Here’s an example of how the Church in Wales is taking proactive measures to address the issue of clergy sex abuse – both providing for the aid of victims and accepting responsibility.

Now, why would US churches not want to do something like this? There are only two reasons which make any sense to me, since our mandate from God to stand up for the afflicted and oppressed is very clear and often repeated in the Word. One reason is simple pride in keeping the public image polished to a high gloss. The other reason is money – what would happen if all those people sued the church? That could put entire denominations out of business.

So what is more important? Image and money, or healing for the afflicted and oppressed? I can’t see Jesus having a single pause over that question. And His answer would be the opposite of the one US churches are choosing. That should be such an indictment that anyone with the Holy Spirit in residence would be overwhelmed by conviction.

Why is reality different from this? And what does that say about the denominational leadership of churches that persist in avoiding this very serious problem?

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Southern Baptist Churches Establish Database

After the Southern Baptist Convention’s appalling decision last year against building a database of Baptist clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse, the Baptist General Convention of Texas has completed a $2.4 million database.

Can it be? Did a state convention override the national convention and build a sex-abuser database anyway? Did the largest SBC state organization realize the church’s complicity in crime and their abandonment of God’s basic requirement that His people – and especially the leaders – stand up for the afflicted and oppressed?

Well, no. Christa Brown with Stop Baptist Predators said it best:

Instead, the largest state-wide Baptist convention in the country implemented a “customer-relations management system.” It tracks church giving records and other church statistics. Eventually, it will also track product sales to churches.

They created this “customer-relations” database at a cost of $2.14 million.

Did you catch that? In tough times, the Baptist General Convention of Texas took $2.14 million of offering plate dollars and used it to create a database that would track the “giving records” of churches.

Christa goes on to put this in further context:

I’m reminded of the conversation I once had with a BGCT official who kept tossing out the phrase “good stewardship” as an explanation for why the BGCT couldn’t do anything more about clergy sex abuse.

I was pleading with him: “Even if you can’t do anything to rout out the clergy-predators, can’t you at least minister to the wounded?”

He answered that they had a responsibility to make the best possible use of God’s money. “Good stewardship,” he said.

It is all about priorities. Money (and tracking our “giving units” – otherwise known as church members) matters more than lives – that is the very clear and unmistakeable message here.

Time Magazine Ranks SBC Pedophile Issue #6 Under-reported Story in 2008

Time Magazine featured the Southern Baptist Church’s refusal to consider a database of convicted clergy pedophiles as the 6th most under-reported news story of 2008. It is hardly any wonder that this issue garnered a bit of attention in a major news magazine. Any thinking person has to wonder when the largest U.S. Protestant religious organization deliberately refuses to do something they could do to help protect their members from an obvious problem existing within their churches.

If there is no evil intention, the denomination should be acting in a manner above reproach. Since they are not acting in a manner above reproach, all the world is able to look on in judgment – with just cause. There is no explanation for the SBC executive committee’s decision that does not have holes in it you can drive a loaded semi-truck through. And the world is not that dumb. Many christians are unfortunately naive enough to believe what their leaders tell them without question. Those outside the church are not blinded by blind faith. More and more people inside the church are not either.

You can bet this is just the beginning of a very big problem for the SBC. This is not going away. And by being cowardly and failing to act in a godly manner and standing for righteousness as God commands in His Word, they will reap much more painful consequences down the road. That is the way God’s economy and His justice work. The SBC must address this issue thoroughly or the government and the legal system will end up addressing it as it has been addressed in the Catholic church. And that will be the end of the Southern Baptist Convention because the SBC doesn’t have that much money.

Frankly, that would be a sad state of affairs – and a battle won for Satan. All because of the pride of some who want to cling to… what? Save a little face now? Fear of lawsuits? They’re going to happen sooner or later. It is always better to deal with sin now and not later. The crop of consequences only grows bigger the longer it waits for harvest. The law of sowing and reaping never fails.

A Secular Media Viewpoint on SBC Predator Database Issue

This article is from The Tennessean.

~~~

When changing times call for society to change, it is often the largest institutions that struggle the most.

This tendency is evident in the 16.2 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, which has done much soul-searching of late about its future. For years, the group’s politics have swung from moderate to conservative and back again, but more recently the signs of declining membership have stirred some of its leaders to speak more vociferously about how they can change to embrace diversity and improve its image with the general public.

More pressing among its challenges is how the SBC handles wrongdoing in its midst, and so far, the convention has a mixed record at best.

Last year, the ABC newsmagazine 20/20 reported on inaction by the church regarding a number of Baptist ministers found to be sexual predators. The show drew some parallels with how the Catholic Church had been slow to address sexual offenders in the priesthood.

A proposal to create a national database of Baptist ministers accused or convicted of sexual abuse was rejected last month by the SBC executive committee at the convention’s annual meeting. They instead urged that individual churches consult the federal government’s sexual offender database as needed.

It was reported by The Tennessean a couple of weeks later that the convention still lists in its online ministers directory individuals who have been convicted of or indicted on charges of sex crimes against minors, including three in Tennessee.

Convention leaders responded by saying that the list is simply that — the names of Southern Baptist ministers — and does not endorse any of them. They also explain that Southern Baptist churches are autonomous and do not answer to the convention. “It is under the churches, not over them,” in the words of Greg Wills, professor of church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

Yet, this is where the SBC’s argument gets shaky. As the American Baptist Press noted last year, Catholic leaders also said they lacked authority to order dioceses to clean up their ranks, until 2002, when after the priest scandal threatened to shatter the church structure; only then were new rules for accountability imposed.

In any case, authority is only one part of the equation; knowledge, and the responsibility to share that knowledge, is the other part.

The Southern Baptist Convention has some of its foremost ministers among its leadership. They possess information that individual churches and average churchgoers may not.

Even if they cannot compel action, they can share information with members that would promote safety and simultaneously send the message that sexual abuse cannot hide within the church — all without unfairly condemning individuals who have been accused, but not convicted.

The very fact that Baptist churches are autonomous signals that they need the information that the convention could provide.

The SBC leadership’s stance suggests an unwillingness to change to meet contemporary challenges — and perhaps tells us one reason why the denomination is struggling to maintain its membership. It is not only about lower birth rates and changing demographics — it is about trust.

Setting up its own database of sexual predators may not be the best way for the Southern Baptist Church to proceed, but at least, it should not list convicted individuals in its ministers directory, implying that they are suitable candidates for church work.

And the Plot Thickens…

Is there a plot afoot? Well, I’m not much of one for conspiracy theories, so I will let you decide. But for the sake of being informed about issues in Christianity, I strongly recommend that you read this entire article by Wade Burleson about the SBC, Vision Forum and Patriarchy. I believe this is a very serious and profoundly significant issue in Christianity today, and has everything to do with recent posts regarding the SBC’s perspective on abuse, women, clergy abuse, etc. If nothing else, we all need to be aware so we can understand what people mean when they use various terminologies.

Floating in Pots of Sick Irony

Is the SBC bent on self-destruction?

Let’s put a bunch of recent incidents in relation to one another. It gets even better at the end, so follow the trail…

Awhile back it was revealed that SBC seminary president Paige Patterson has some rather barbaric perspectives on domestic violence, as I discussed in my post Paige Patterson On Domestic Violence

At its national convention this year, the SBC executive committee revealed its determination against the establishment of a database for SBC clergy sex abuse offenders. I have written or reposted other articles about this issue in several places:

SBC Says No to Sex Predator Database
What the Word Says to SBC Inaction on Clergy Sex Abuse
Princeton Professor Debunks SBC Excuses Against Predator Database
More Thoughts About SBC Clegy Sex Abuser Database

This past weekend it seems the entire world of Christendom (at least in the US) took offense to a sermon by SBC professor Bruce Ware in which he blames wives for the abuse they receive from their husbands – no matter how he might try to pretty it up and say it ain’t so. I added a couple follow-up posts to my first post with :

Another Excellent Perspective on Bruce Ware Abuse Pandering
People Speak Out About Bruce Ware Sermon

Today I have discovered that, not only did the SBC decide not to build an SBC clergy sex offender database, they also considered and deliberately rejected the suggestion that a rule be made to disfellowship a church which hired a sexual predator (para. 5 & 6). They touted church autonomy as the reason they could not do so, though they have a rule to disfellowship any church which hires a homosexual pastor.

At the same time, during this year’s convention, members proposed that the SBC executive committee consider adding a rule to disfellowship any church which hires a female senior pastor (last paragraph).

You can color me very confused. Domestic violence is OK. Stay and pray. In fact, Wife, your abuse is your fault because you’re rebellious and unsubmissive, since we believe women should most definitely be seen and not heard; just like children – who also have no rights. In fact, we could assume, based on the theology and examples given, that children are also to blame for their abuse. Is that a far stretch?

Churches are autonomous – unless they have a homosexual pastor. Then we can kick them out of the convention. But if they hire a sexual predator we can’t do a thing about it because local churches are autonomous. But if they hire a woman pastor we can kick them out of the convention (well, we want to be able to, so please say yes).

Excuse me? Obviously, autonomy is a sham, to be used as a convenience to avoid responsibility for an uncomfortable issue. And it is equally obvious that women and children are not only held in disrespect, but that “traditional” male superiority must be underscored and protected at all costs and at all times – even at the cost of the lives and well-being of women and children.

I know that every leader in the SBC would hotly deny this statement is true. But what are we to believe in light of their actions? The actions of SBC leadership are screaming pretty loud.

People Speak Out About Bruce Ware Sermon

Thanks to Suzanne’s Bookshelf for this list of blog posts in answer to Bruce Ware’s sermon. I’m adding to the list as I find them. These may not all be from Christian sites; I didn’t pick and choose on that basis.

Ruminations – Lutte contre l’injustice

Under Much Grace

Adventures in Mercy

Complegalitarian

Dr. Jim West

Very Important Stuff

A Wife’s Submission

Intellectuelle

Baptists Today Blog

Coffeetrader

The World According to Bruce

To the Ends of the Earth

Dungeon Diary

Fort Worth Feminism

CounterCulture

There are a lot more references to it out there, with people who merely link to another post, or on message boards where a variety of people cannot understand this level of ignorance.