A Secular Media Viewpoint on SBC Predator Database Issue

This article is from The Tennessean.

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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.

Bruce Ware and Paige Patterson See Eye-to-Eye On Domestic Abuse

I’ve posted about Bruce Ware’s sermon blaming abuse on women for being unsubmissive. Just in case anyone is under the mistaken impression this man’s perspective is his own and not reflective of a larger trend in the Southern Baptist Church as a whole, I would like to point out an earlier piece I wrote on Paige Patterson’s teaching on the same subject. Paige Patterson is also a leader in the SBC and seminary president. Patterson has expressed the same grossly unbiblical viewpoint on domestic abuse, but did it even more graphically.

Another Excellent Perspective on Bruce Ware Abuse Pandering

I’d like to highly recommend the perspective of this article by “Hannah” at Emotional Abuse and Your Faith as she addresses Bruce Ware’s sermon which blames an unsubmissive wife for her husband’s abuse. She points out that an abusive husband does not require lack of submission as an excuse – though that is probably his most commonly used cop-out. As anyone who has lived with an abusive partner knows, any reason, and no reason at all, is reason enough. If there is not a handy semi-justifiable excuse, an abuser will manufacture one from thin air.

But if a pastor believes lack of submission can motivate a husband to abuse his wife, you can bet that pastor will believe every word of that abuser as he excuses himself and blames his wife. This SBC seminary professor, and all the others who share his beliefs (for he is definitely not alone in his perspective) are as guilty as the abusers they protect with their error and bumbling. When a woman goes to her pastor for help and he puts her in further danger by going to her husband “for the other side of the story” that pastor bears the weight of guilt because he has a responsibility to those he is shepherding. A shepherd who throws his sheep to the wolves is deserving of the discipline of the sheep owner – or God, in this case.

SBC Professor Bruce Ware Blames Wives for Husbands’ Abuse

This article is courtesy of Ethics Daily. My thanks to the author, Bob Allen, for bringing this to everyone’s attention.

This article is such an appalling and revealing glimpse inside the mindset of Southern Baptist Church theology. The SBC certainly doesn’t hold the corner on the market with this viewpoint, however. There is a reason why I feel this article warrants particular attention. We are in a time when domestic abuse is becoming an epidemic in the church. The average pastor is completely unequipped to address the problem. In fact, the secret horror is that the pastor’s wife, in fact, is often one of the abused wives in the church – and there’s definitely no one available to help her. Not only is the pastor unequipped to address the issue of abuse professionally, the pastor applies erroneous theology when teaching from the pulpit and in private counseling. Bruce Ware is a professor of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is one of the men who is teaching these pastors the theology they are using to support abuse in Christian homes.

How will things in the pulpit ever change, when the pastors remain unchanged, because the seminary professors remain unchanged? When a student goes to seminary he is told he will be studying the Word to learn for himself what it teaches. However, the reality is quite different. Students are led to reach the theological conclusions of their denomination through the very deliberate slant in the teaching of their professors. I know this is true because I have seen it in action. In fact, if a student in seminary were to study the Word for himself and reach a conclusion contradictory to his professor, at the least he would receive a reduced grade and at the worst he would be expelled from school. This is the reality of seminary.

I have already written an article which thoroughly addresses the theology used by this speaker, in my article Theology of an Abusive Marriage. This article specifically addresses the misuse of the word “desire” in Genesis 3, the pattern of excusing the husband’s abuse because of his wife’s behavior (whatever happened to personal responsibility?), and the erroneous ideas that males were created before females and that females were created to complete males.

A couple of Ware’s points which I don’t address in the article above I will briefly address here. First, is his idea that woman sinned first but God held the man responsible because he was in authority. That interpretation reads into the text extensively. Adam blamed his wife. But God held the man responsible for using his wife as an excuse for his own choice. Using God’s standard for Adam, God would never accept the excuse that men abuse their wives because their wives don’t submit. God held each party responsible for their own sin and gave them each consequences in accordance with their actions. He did not buy in to their blame game.

Another misuse of Scripture in Ware’s argument is the eternal submission of Jesus to God the Father. In Philippians 2, the Word says that Jesus is equal with the Father. He voluntarily laid that equality down to become a man and interact with the Father as a man, rather than claim his rightful equality with the Father as God. In fact, using the model of the Trinity, we would have to come to the conclusion that husband and wife are equal, with differing roles, which, in fact, agrees with the Genesis record, as I explore in more depth in the Theology of an Abusive Marriage article. While Jesus was on earth living as fully man, he said he was under the authority of God the Father. This was while he was voluntarily laying aside his deity and functioning as a man. In fact, this is a HUGE theological point for us to understand. The authority Jesus had on this earth was no different than what He has given to us through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Jesus went out of His way to make it clear this authority was his as a man in submission to God the Father, and then made it clear this same authority was passed on to his followers. As humans, we are in eternal submission to the Father.

At the same time, in the relationship of the Trinity we see modeled equal authority and equal submission – which, indeed, should be a parallel for the human relationship of marriage. Each part of the Trinity has a different role and each submits to the other in His role.

That said, I leave you to read the words of Bruce Ware, and be amazed.

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One reason that men abuse their wives is because women rebel against their husband’s God-given authority, a Southern Baptist scholar said Sunday in a Texas church.

Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said women desire to have their own way instead of submitting to their husbands because of sin.

“And husbands on their parts, because they’re sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged–or, more commonly, to become passive, acquiescent, and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and in churches,” Ware said from the pulpit of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas.

In North Texas for a series of sermons at the church on “Biblical Manhood & Womanhood,” Ware described his “complementarian” view as what “Southern Seminary as a whole represents.”

Commenting on selected passages from the first three chapters of Genesis, Ware said Eve’s curse in the Garden of Eden meant “her desire will be to have her way” instead of her obeying her husband, “because she’s a sinner.”

What that means to the man, Ware said, is: “He will have to rule, and because he’s a sinner, this can happen in one of two ways. It can happen either through ruling that is abusive and oppressive–and of course we all know the horrors of that and the ugliness of that–but here’s the other way in which he can respond when his authority is threatened. He can acquiesce. He can become passive. He can give up any responsibility that he thought he had to the leader in the relationship and just say ‘OK dear,’ ‘Whatever you say dear,’ ‘Fine dear’ and become a passive husband, because of sin.”

Ware said God created men and women equally in God’s image but for different roles.

“He has primary responsibility for the work and the labor and the toil that will provide for the family, that will sustain their family,” he said. “He’s the one in charge of leadership in the family, and that will become difficult, because of sin.”

Ware also touched on a verse from First Timothy saying that women “shall be saved in childbearing,” by noting that the word translated as “saved” always refers to eternal salvation.

“It means that a woman will demonstrate that she is in fact a Christian, that she has submitted to God’s ways by affirming and embracing her God-designed identity as–for the most part, generally this is true–as wife and mother, rather than chafing against it, rather than bucking against it, rather than wanting to be a man, wanting to be in a man’s position, wanting to teach and exercise authority over men,” Ware said. “Rather than wanting that, she accepts and embraces who she is as woman, because she knows God and she knows his ways are right and good, so she is marked as a Christian by her submission to God and in that her acceptance of God’s design for her as a woman.”

Ware cited gender roles as one example of churches compromising and reforming doctrines to accommodate to culture.

“It really has been happening for about the past 30 years, ever since the force of the feminist movement was felt in our churches,” Ware said.

He said one place the “egalitarian” view–the notion that males and females were created equal not only in essence but also in function–crops up is in churches that allow women to be ordained and become pastors.

Ware said gender is not theologically the most important issue facing the church, but it is one where Christians are most likely to compromise, because of pressure from the culture.

“The calling to be biblically faithful will mean upholding some truths in our culture that they despise,” he said. “How are we going to respond to that? We are faced with a huge question at that point. Will we fear men and compromise our faith to be men-pleasers, or will we fear God and be faithful to his word–whatever other people think or do?”

Ware offered 10 reasons “for affirming male headship in the created order.” They include that man was created first and that woman was created “out of” Adam in order to be his “helper.” Even though the woman sinned first, Ware said, God came to Adam and held him primarily responsible for failure to exercise his God-given authority.

Ware also said male/female relationships are modeled in the Trinity, where in the Godhead the Son “eternally submits” to the Father.

“If it’s true that in the Trinity itself–in the eternal relationships of Father, Son and Spirit, there is authority and submission, and the Son eternally submits to the will of the Father–if that’s true, then this follows: It is as Godlike to submit to rightful authority with joy and gladness as it is Godlike to exert wise and beneficial rightful authority.”