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?

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.

It’s Not About Sex

Another fantastic blog post by Christa Brown can be found here. It is called “It’s Not About Sex,” dated January 12, 2008. I’ve excerpted part of it below — well said.

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Thinking that clergy sex abuse is about sex is like thinking the Bataan Death March was about marching.

Yet, over and over again, Southern Baptist leaders talk about clergy sex abuse as though it were just another form of “sexual sin.” Repeatedly, I’ve seen them list child molestation along with such things as pornography, adultery, and even lustful thoughts. They lump it all together and call it “sexual sin.”

This suggests that they think it’s about sex.

It’s not.

It’s about a predator’s need to have absolute power over another human being. It’s about control and dominance.

Sexual abuse and sexual assault are powerful tactics to dehumanize and degrade others.

When you combine the tactic of sexual assault with the authority of a pastor and the weapon of God’s word, the dehumanization of the victim is complete.

There is no weapon more powerful than the word of God in the hands of a perverse pastoral con-man who traps true-believers as prey…

In Their Own Words – Southern Baptist Leaders Speak

Christa Brown has written another exceptional blog post regarding Southern Baptist leadership and their statements about clergy sex abuse and abusers.  You can see the entire post here. It is the post entitled “Patterson & Vines: Their words raise questions,” dated Jan. 16, 2008. Christa points out the inconsistencies and gaping holes in the excuses offered by these SBC leaders.

I wanted to add a couple thoughts to one of these statements, so I’ve excerpted it below with my comments.

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Former Southern Baptist president Paige Patterson now says:

“Mr. Gilyard is very convincing and he always denied the accusations.”

This is one of the consistent huge problems I see in church leaders’ responses to accusations of abuse, whether against clergy or against church members. If the abuser is convincing the leaders give themselves an automatic “out” and the subject is closed. Do any of these people ever watch Law and Order or other cop shows? Doesn’t everyone know by now that guilty people almost always deny their guilt, usually with believable sincerity and often even in the face of obvious proof to the contrary???

If the accused is not guilty he will deny his guilt (not gender specific; can be male or female). If the accused is guilty he will deny his guilt. A denial of guilt does not conclude or decide anything. The belief that denial equals innocence is a profound bit of flawed reasoning church leaders continue to embrace!

One of the qualifications for church leadership is supposed to be an ability, “by reason of use,” to “discern good and evil.” If this excuse is actually the truth – in other words, if “he is very convincing” was convincing enough – this is glaring evidence that these leaders are not qualified for church leadership. I’m not saying this out of any personal angst; this is just a reasonable Biblical conclusion.

The church has completely abandoned its function of making right judgments within the church. Apparently the church doesn’t want to step up to the plate of this Biblical function of church leadership. But the fact that this has become common practice (or lack of practice) does not excuse those who have set themselves up to be leaders in God’s church.