Abuse of Faith II
The Houston Chronicle will conclude it’s series on sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday and there will be hand wringing on Thursday and the matter will disappear sometime Friday.
Not a damn thing will change except the SBC leadership will be relieved that it doesn’t have to comment on the problem for a while…until the next round of articles a newspaper does.
How do I know this?
I knew the first time that I saw one of their ministers doing the math.
“We only have this many cases of convictions and we have this many churches so obviously, it’s not that big of an issue”.
The attitude by many is not shock over the reports, but self congratulatory about the relative number of incidents.
Pastors are good at the new math because they’ve been practicing for decades…
The problem with these calculations is that they only deal with cases that have been reported and processed through the legal system.
I lost count about ten years ago of how many times I was told by someone defending Calvary Chapel that unless it was a legal matter, there was no abuse.
We know however, that the vast majority of abuse cases never get reported and there are strong mechanisms used inside the institutions to keep them from ever being reported.
That… is simply a fact.
The other salient fact is that the abuse of one person affects more than one person.
It affects the entire family, those within the inner social system of the family, and the spiritual health of the entire local church.
It casts a shadow on God Himself in the eyes of all those affected and the world clucks it’s scornful tongue at every new report.
That’s how you really do the math…
The other reason I know that nothing will change is that the old guard of SBC leadership has been and is complicit in covering up cases of abuse and protecting abusers and that has become part of the DNA of the movement.
Real change won’t happen in these independent evangelical denominations (and non denominations) before a number of funerals streamed live so that all their fans can pray them home via the internet.
Finally, I know nothing will change because the victims are mainly women and children.
This piece of tweeting excrement does not represent the whole of the SBC, but neither is he an outlier.
These are intensely patriarchal groups and they take care of their own…the ones they’re sworn to protect…not so much.
Are there wonderful churches and pastors (and schools) in the Southern Baptist Convention?
Yes, there are.
However, until they have the will as a group to address these issues the articles will keep coming and the abuse will keep happening as well.
Considering that the vast majority of incidents are not reported (by the victims and/or their families), we can only assume that what has been reported is the “tip of the iceberg”. When the RC diocese of Boston opened its files, everyone thought that the revelations were over. That was in 2002. Since then, revelations emerge almost by the week. I’m afraid this may follow a similar pattern, even if the leadership of the SBC tries to withdraw behind their walls… Legal actions and loss of finance and market share is the only way in which those walls will come down.
The key here is that as I said yesterday these organizations eschew responsibility because it may incur liability…so the issues continue.
You are right Michael–their “math” (as is so many of our “Spiritual Leaders”) is from the CYB sensibilities of the corporate world–not the heart of God and certainly not from His Word.
I Corinthians 12:25-26 (NASB)
“that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it;…”
I count only one abused person for the whole body to suffer.
If these leaders are missing the fear of God over the suffering of the “least of these” and this is the leaven that has permeated all denominations, then we’re all in danger if we remain willfully ignorant.
This is “free market religion”… victims are collateral damage…
I wince because that sounds so awful; but I also wince because it’s true. 🙁
“unless it was a legal matter, there was no abuse.”
What does that mean??? If it means what I think it does, then that’s evil.
It sounds cynical…but it’s simply the voice of experience.
We have a business model, not a family model today…
It means that any form of abuse that doesn’t result in criminal proceedings doesn’t count in the minds of many.
I’ve been told that a hundred times if once…
I actually came across that disgusting tweet yesterday on Rachel Held Evan’s twitter feed. I know this isn’t the crux of the article here, but it just seems odd (or maybe it isn’t) how some in the church have chosen to make keeping women “in their place” a hill to die on.
That attitude runs deep in some of these organizations…and most of the damage is never reported because it doesn’t rise to the level of a crime…except in the eyes of God…
I don’t see cynicism. I see life experience. As to unrepentant groups (of which we have seen many), I would like to believe their days are numbered. However, I think of another verse which states that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. The inverse would be that a person who is satiated with mediocrity or open sin in the camp is not hungering and thirsting for righteousness and will be content to undergird much of the aforementioned slobber. We’ll see. To use your very appropriate phrase, “the market” may give us the answer to the real heart of the people.
(It’s been unusual for me to have ability to comment as much lately, but my time gift seems to be waning. Grateful as always for these exchanges, though. 🙂 )
I’ve only seen SBC leaders distraught over the high numbers. BD, not an SBC minister, did the math yesterday.
Seth Dunn is an outlier and has no position in the SBC at all.
perhaps the patriarchal characteristic is fundamentally the problem.
I saw a lot of folks online doing the math and I’ve had umpteen CC pastors do it for me too.
I’m not making a blanket condemnation of the SBC or CC…but I also have seen all of this before…many times…
I’m fine with condemning what is condemnable. I said yesterday, this is God’s work. I welcome it.
However, I do hope for accuracy and constructive dialogue to find ways to help. Many of the things that non-SBC’ers hope will happen either A. Couldn’t possibly happen, or B. wouldn’t actually help.
You could dissolve the entire SBC tomorrow, and nothing at all would change in regards to the subject at hand. You would still have 47,000 independent congregations who need to come up with some workable methods for keeping predators off the church staff.
The statistics on sexual assault are pretty stark. At least 75% of abuse cases go unreported. Of those reported to police, only about 15% will lead to an arrest. Of the 15% arrested, only 25% will be prosecuted… and on it goes.
This is simply to say (and the RCs have witnessed this) for every known report, multiply times four, at the least, and you might get close to the real number.
Statistics on this can be found on the Justice Dept. site or https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system a very reliable NGO.
As an addendum, I should say I know a little bit about this from some volunteer work I do, and one of my good friends was the spokesman for Cardinal Law during the Archdiocese of Boston debacle. They always knew that the reported incidents were only the tip of the iceberg. His opinion, after two years in the position, was that the only antidote was absolute transparency… He (and others) are still waiting…
I’m not interested in dissolving a historic tradition at all.
So my post doing the math was offensive. Noted, but it does seem to mean that we read selectively. In no way did my post call for hiding or refusing to abate the sin. Guilty as charged. Perhaps God is about to collapse this thing we call church. Then so be it. Let God be true and every man a liar.
My voice is consistent defending the church. It is my mandate as far as is in me to know it to wash the bride with water and the word. One who does that is not claiming purity.
The mantra of culture and frankly of within the covenant family of God is very hostile toward the visible church. So be it, I won’t leave my post. When you all reach a consensus on the punishment and the cure let me know. Some of us care and we carry the water and the towel. Peace to you.
As I noted, I’ve been doing the math now for decades.
What we see reflected in numbers is the tip of the iceberg…and we who speak that are considered to be the offense.
Some of us who do so believe that we’re defending the church as nothing creates enemies for it like the way these sins have been dealt with.
I man my post as well…unpaid, but costly as hell.
Dreadly, I read your math the same way in the other thread. It smacks of unaccountability in the broadest possible terms. It “passes the buck”.
Michael, another realistic article. I still seem to be on your side quite a bit around here. Literally nothing I can disagree with.
You sadly have seen what I’ve seen and the depth of the problem.
It almost took both of us out…
Good Michael, we’ll just keep calling bullshit on each other and get on with it. What I won’t do is become your enemy because you punch me in the mouth. I can swallow blood and keep going.
There was no intent to punch you in the mouth.
When I’m throwing down I call the target by name so they remember me.
As I stated, I’ve heard the same argument for years…and I saw it all over Twitter last night.
I believe it to be false reasoning and I said so.
I’m sorry you are offended, but I have thousands whose offense has not been noted.
Offended? At you? After all this time? Nonsense! If I was that soft I’d have been gone long ago. I knew when I posted it that there would be wrath. Chastened is not offended and neither bowed nor silenced. I meant it when I said peace to you.
To you as well, my friend…
If I can share… when my friend went to Boston (referred to above) the first Spotlight reports had just come out. The general feeling was “a few bad apples”. Then, both the paper and the church began to look further. Moreover, the newspaper coverage encouraged (or allowed) other victims of abuse to come out of the shadows. No one… no one at all expected the numbers who wrote, called, gave details, etc. The paper did not expect it and neither did the church. Even at that time, in 2002, if someone had said there are going to be thousands and 14 dioceses will have to file for bankruptcy owing to lawsuits and settlements, that someone would have been considered a lunatic. Yet, that’s what happened. Now it’s been discovered to have been a pattern world-wide.
I love the Church, but I think the only way forward is transparency.
I’ve received your wrath and judgments before. They too are noted. And my response to you is also to wish you peace. My accountability is to another, or as you imagine to nothing. Somehow, I don’t think we’d be enemies if we actually knew each other but that would take some work again, peace to you sir.
My call is not for covering sin. My call is for punishment and redemption without condemnation of groups of people. That reality is insisted upon everywhere except as it concerns the church. We are succeeding at making the whole world hate the church. That is not a salutary outcome.
“We are succeeding at making the whole world hate the church.”
i’m not sure who “we” is.
I started this site because the leadership I trusted would not discipline their own, but wanted to excommunicate me from the planet.
Almost everyone we’ve ever written about here an appeal was made first to authorities who turned a deaf ear.
There has been a blog about the SBC almost as old as this one.
No one responded.
Now that a secular source has blown the lid off, there is response.
It will be short lived…
I know the cost some have paid to love righteousness in the church…though none of them are viewed as such but are considered her enemy despite the sacrifice…
My best friend (aside from my wife as MLD likes to obnoxiously point out, because he doesn’t seem to get that IRL men and women can be friends) is a Muslim Woman. I can get along with almost anyone, religious or not religious, and I am sure we could break bread with the best of em. Absolutely sure.
But you said a thing that unbeknownst to you drives me up a wall, so I will clarify for future discussions, in the case that it should so be required. I am not an Atheist. Atheists simply believe that there is no evidence to support the existence of a god. I am not that. I am an anti-theist, which means something quite different. The question of gods or no gods is as irrelevant to me. Billions of people on this planet right this very minute believe in a god as much as they believe in the floor they walk on, the food they eat, the air they breathe. I would go so far as to say there very well could be a god or gods because so many religions have so many similarities in the nuts and bolts of the theologies. An anti-theist actively protests a god or gods. In my case, I actively oppose the Christian god more than the other ones, because it is the god I know the best, or worst, whatever you chose to think.
Peace to you, and I hope we break bread some day. It would be delightful.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) this is not about Baptists, or Catholics, or Anglicans, etc.. I do think it is about trying to insure that the Church does not provide cover for predatory behavior. As to making the whole world hate the Church, I think we have a number of self-inflicted wounds…
That is helpful, and I shall not drive you crazy with that again, unless my brain cells continue fail.
“Free Market Religion” , Michael posted. This has to be one of the saddest observations I have ever read here on this forum. I pray that God deals with these churches soon. In the meantime, why doesn’t everyone reading this take the time to ASK their church leaders exactly what they are doing to protect the women and children in their churches?
I often use the term “free market religion” but the Roman alternative has not proven a viable prophylactic for these crimes. If anything the free market will discipline these churches as thoroughly as it has privileged them, even more so.
What are we doing to protect
1 – Background checks on all people who work with children and women
2 – Actual security on the premises
3 – Training for every volunteer worker
4 – Reporting to the authorities of all accusations involving minors
5 – Multiple workers in children’s areas with no room supervised by one worker or one family
6 – Access to professional counselors for help as well as consultation
7 – Vet everyone through multiple endorsements as well as background checks
8 – Require leaders to have 4 kinds of in house training for approval as volunteers
9 – Pastoral counseling with open doors, witnesses and/or
10 – follow up on accusations no matter how unrealistic, which means email accusations
11 – zero tolerance policies on physical altercations, reporting, access to safe houses, privacy
Feel free to recommend more.
Those are off the top of my head without checking our policies which would be the purview of my associates.
Even with those things no one can prevent all harm, but we must care and give an account.
One of my associates in another locale had an in house crime that he found out about. The man personally shut down the ministry (it was church sponsored) for a year until the matter was adjudicated. He saw to the apprehension and conviction of the perpetrator, suffered the loss of income and reputation and in the end found favor with the courts had all restored and is completely trusted because of his honesty. These things go unreported for natural reasons.
I really don’t know what the SBC, as a national entity, should do.
I know that individual churches should be vigilant and transparent. Especially in the case children, err on the side of safety.
As I’m thinking, the only teeth the SBC could use is to only allow fellowship to churches that have those systems in place. Still, you are relying on the vigilance of the local church, the honesty of their reporting, and the effectiveness of the system they put in place.
I’d love to hear ideas.
(Alas. Only have a moment. Will check back.)
“As I’m thinking, the only teeth the SBC could use is to only allow fellowship to churches that have those systems in place. Still, you are relying on the vigilance of the local church, the honesty of their reporting, and the effectiveness of the system they put in place.
I’d love to hear ideas.”
I actually advocated all of this to an ODM ministry when I publicly rebuked one of their speakers for going to a CC church that had problems. I found out that a lot of plans work well in the hypothetical–but not in reality. Because people who knew people were involved and it ruined their narrative that CC only had doctrinal problems–not gross, unrepented of immorality in its ranks. I was rebuked and blocked.
These are all problems of the human heart. All is possible until it becomes personal and affects someone’s “favorite” person or narrative. The only time it becomes pressing is when it becomes personal in the worst possible way and one of their own family is shot with the arrow of abuse. Then they self-righteously proclaim that something should be done!
When trying to find a church/fellowship that was not a “respecter of persons”, but rather a respecter of God and His Word, we went to the trouble to interview a few pastors. Many of them became indignant at some of the questions and defensively said, “Well! There is no perfect church!” I always said, “I’m glad you said that!” Why don’t you get off your booty and act on that and operate on the Biblical premise that man is a sinner capable of all sort of things and have a plan for the inevitable. It benefits both perpetrator and victim. Actually have an in-house system to adjudicate these matters instead of constantly hiding them and allowing them to grow to nuclear proportions. Quit “washing your hands” and passing the buck. People don’t trust you anymore! The pew-warmers would absolutely have to be included in the whole process and made equally responsible so they would have a stake in the outcome. Maybe they would mature and get off their booties, too!
Surely, no system would solve all problems, but there are ways that are better than others with which to deal with the reality of abuse. No system will work, though, unless all responsible parties in the church are willing to take action when it is needed and quit rationalizing their disgusting laziness toward their duty.
It’s a problem. On the news this morning here in Indy was the story of a Catholic priest now accused of multiple offenses against children in several parishes. Here’s the kicker… he was ordained in 2014! That is, after all the systems had been put into place in a hierarchical, centralized church body. That being said, he was caught after just a few years because systems were in place.
Requiring churches in fellowship to have such systems might not be perfect, but it would be a start…
Josh, I obviously don’t know the ways and structure of the SBC anywhere close to as you do, but these would be some suggestions that come to mind at the moment:
– Yes, only allow fellowship into SBC for those churches who have documented systems and requirements to safeguard against abuse and to respond to allegations of abuse.
– Any church who is found to have allowed for or covered up abuse or failed to report to authorities as required, is removed from fellowship and they themselves are reported to the authorities when necessary.
– Whenever cases of abuse are found to occur involving leadership of the church, these cases must be reported to the SBC.
– A database is kept by the SBC of all leaders within SBC churches who have been convicted of abuse or have had substantially credible allegations of abuse against them. Whenever a new name is added to the database, this information is sent to all SBC churches.
– Any church who is found to have hired someone into a ministry position with a documented history of abuse is removed from fellowship.
The assumption is that none of these things would work anywhere near perfectly and there still would be those who would work to cover-up, dismiss, or work around things. But I would think it would still be worth it for whatever level of impact it would have in reducing the amount of cases and properly dealing with cases when they occur.
If the SBC is concerned about liability issues, would there be any benefit in requiring those churches in fellowship to carry a stated amount of liability insurance? Sometimes pocketbook issues drive the point home…
I would think the added requirement of liability insurance would be a good idea. I guess at least one concern with this, however, would be the small, financially strapped church that is just barely making it. It could be a real burden for them to add on a required amount of liability if they don’t already have it.
I think those are all reasonable ideas.
And I will add that I am confident *something* will be done at this year’s meeting. I don’t know how much, or how far reaching, but this will be addressed.
I wondered the same thing, but then again, it does focus the mind(s) of the folk in the church…
Our friend Matt Redmond pointed out today that SBC churches cooperate on missions…maybe they can cooperate on addressing this issue.
My guess would be that when the dust settles everyone will note that the dust has settled and go on as before.
I’m convinced that changes in these organizations will only come from the bottom up,not the top down.
I think our efforts here should be toward re-educating the pews about what a church is and the place of the clergy.
Michael @ 8:54 … Amen
Bottom up is the only way in the SBC. There is no “top” above the local church. Redmond is right that it would take cooperation to do anything about it, as nothing could be governed. “The SBC” only exists on July 11-12 this year, and I know that it will be addressed. There is already a motion to bring a vote to dis-fellowship any church that has sex-offenders on staff. That won’t be the only thing.
“I’m convinced that changes in these organizations will only come from the bottom up, not the top down.”
Correct. It will take an absolute overhaul of how people view god and the church.
Can anyone name any of the women Bill Cosby raped off the top of their head?
Exactly. But he is finished. PTL! 😀
Wow. I never imagined this day would come. The Lord is at work.
Oops didn’t see Josh had this covered
Something to note….
Right now there has been some discussion in various media reports, that federal prosecutors may look at using federal Mann Act or the RICO statutes in dealing with all the sexual abusive priests, cover-ups, etc in PA. If any of the higher ups at HQ at the SBC did the same thing in shuffling around (nor by omission not informing) about their sex abusers, then watch out.
If the church does not clean up its own act, God will use the state do so…..