Friday, April 20, 2007

Are these guys for real?

Have you followed Southern Baptist leaders’ responses to the 20/20 report on clergy sex abuse? I couldn’t make this kinda stuff up if I tried. Are any of you good at political cartoons? Send me one. This stuff is well-worthy of caricature.

First, SBC official Augie Boto defends and justifies the inclusion of convicted child molesters on the SBC’s registry of Southern Baptist ministers. Huh? What planet are these guys from? (In any event, it looks like Boto was wrong about it being a local church issue. After still more media - an EthicsDaily article and a SNAP press release - the convicted perps were finally removed from the list.)

Next, SBC president Frank Page whines about “yellow journalism” and says 20/20 was “an intentional slice-and-dice effort” to portray them as “uncaring and uninformed.” Well...duhhh...when you keep convicted child molesters on your registry of ministers, it just doesn’t look very caring or informed to most ordinary people. (And a few Lifeway brochures aren’t gonna change that.)

Then, Page complains that he didn’t get enough air-time given that he had “a two hour interview.” Uhhh....that’s how these shows work. In a 16-minute segment, you can’t expect to monopolize it. You only get to do that in your own pulpit and in the Baptist Press. (Must be nice...I guess people get used to such deferential treatment and come to expect it...) I was interviewed for a couple hours as well, but you don’t hear me whining about short air-time.

But hey...Frank Page isn’t done yet. On Thursday, he talks a bit more about the 20/20 thing and publicly trashes the “advocacy” groups, calling them “opportunistic persons who are seeking...personal gain.” Huh? It’s pretty sad when the leader of the largest Protestant denomination in the land chooses to publicly attack a self-help support group for victims of child-rape and sexual assault. We’re crime victims, not opportunists. I think many good Baptist people would be appalled by such a mean-spirited kick-the-messenger statement.

And finally, just when I thought these guys couldn’t possibly dish out any more weirdness, one of the Baptist bloggers accused me personally, Christa Brown, of putting him on my email list and sending him such a flood of email that he had to block me. Yet, before yesterday when his blog posting came up on a google alert, I had never heard of the guy. Neither his name nor his email address are anywhere on my system. When I posed this mystery on his blog, he did a little side-shuffle and said he was “receiving SNAP email.” Well....geewhiz...that’s a little different, isn’t it? I have no clue who he’s getting such a flood of email from or why, but I know this. I get heaps of vitriolic emails from people who claim to be Southern Baptist ministers, and I don’t go around blaming Frank Page individually...or Art Rogers individually...for all those “Southern Baptist” emails.

What’s with these guys? When will they stop kicking the messengers and start actually doing something about the problem?

With over 101,000 Southern Baptist ministers in this country, there’s likely a kid somewhere right now who’s being groomed for abuse.

Every day, I hear the weeping of people wounded by clergy sex abuse. Why don’t Southern Baptist leaders hear that weeping? Maybe it’s because they’re too busy being politicians instead of good shepherds.

10 comments:

art rogers said...

Christa,

1. My email, listed on my blog, has changed since last year. You assumed that the email address listed was the same, and never asked other wise.

2. I have never side shuffled. I remember getting email from you and from the "reply all" emails that the other recipients received. I only regret that I didn't save them, but I had no idea that we would need them.

3. I think the issue is very real. I only want practical suggestions that will actually work with the SBC structure.

4. Will you please answer my question, posed to you twice on my blog and now posed to you here: "Did you inform the SBC leadership of the names of the 6 predators on this website or did you leave them unnamed to the SBC?" It seems to me that if your primary interest is the safety of the kids, this information would have been the first words out of your mouth.

5. I have not accused you of anything. I have only encouraged you to bring ideas to the table that will function within the structure of the SBC. This is a real problem. Railing at the structure that is not going to change is not going to help.

I wish you the best. I hope that you are able to bring real, needed change to churches that are not protecting children under their care. I think, though, that the solution for all of us is to address the churches, as they are independent and the place where the problem and the solution lies.

Christa Brown said...

Art,
Welcome.
1. What you said on your blog was that you received such a flood of email that you had to block me. Whether you had a different address then or not, the most I’ve ever done was to include a very few Baptist blogger email addresses on the short announcement I sent out about my first trip to Nashville in September 2006. I did it at the suggestion of a friend and without even looking at any of the blogs or keeping track of the addresses. At that point, it seemed reasonable to imagine that maybe, just maybe, a few Baptist ministers might be interested. Contrary to what you said, I never put any of them on any kind of list. So, to suggest that I sent you a flood is just flat-out wrong. And to blame me for other emails you may have gotten about clergy abuse...when I don’t even have a clue who you’re talking about..is unfair. It would be the same as if I were to blame you individually for the countless hostile emails I get that start with “I’m a Southern Baptist minister.” I always cringe nowadays when I see those words.

2. In SNAP’s letter of 9/26, we not only included 5 specific suggestions, but we also asked that, if Southern Baptist officials didn’t like those suggestions, that they immediately come up with feasible tactics of their own to address the problem. That hasn’t happened. Why do you blame me for not presenting a suggestion you happen to like? Why don’t you blame your own leadership for not having put together a task force to comprehensively study the problem and come up with effective solutions of their own much, much sooner? This isn’t something new from out of the blue. Why weren’t real and effective measures implemented back in 2002? People in leadership have long known there’s a serious problem, and every day that goes by, kids remain at serious risk. Why does it take mustering media before anyone musters the will to treat the problem seriously? In any event, despite the rather knee-jerk railings about autonomy, I simply do not believe that SNAP’s suggestions require any abandonment of Southern Baptist structure...and I think details could be hammered out if there were a task force...and I don’t think I’m totally alone in that belief.

3. Anyone who thinks local churches can handle the problem all on their own should read this posting. They can’t. And the Southmont story is just one example among a great many.

4. As for answering your question...well...maybe when Baptist men start answering my questions, I’ll feel some obligation to answer theirs. You say you’ve posed your question twice. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve posed my questions. How long is it going to take before someone answers them? Will you please answer them? How is it possible that 18 Southern Baptist leaders in 4 different states and at national headquarters could receive written substantiated information about a minister who sexually abused a kid, and yet the man could continue in children’s ministry without people in the pews being told? How is it possible that Baptist leaders could receive written information about the fact that the Baptist General Convention of Texas had placed a child-molesting minister in its file of “known offenders” based on information received from a church (i.e., not from me) and based on either a confession or “substantial evidence” (as determined by them)...and that the man could still continue in children’s ministry? How can I possibly believe that kids are safe when I see that so many people can be put on notice...and yet the man continues in children’s ministry? How can I possibly believe kids are safe when I realize that most other abuse survivors would not be able to expend the extraordinary emotional energy, time and resources that I did in tracking down their perpetrator and in trying to contact so many Baptist leaders...and that as a result of that enormous difficulty in getting anything done...most perpetrators will stay easily hidden? How can I possibly believe kids are safe when I constantly get emails from other clergy abuse survivors who tell me of their efforts to report abuse to churches, to local associations, and to various state conventions....without receiving any help...and with their alleged perpetrators still standing in pulpits? Most of what people tell me about...even more so than the horror of the abuse itself...is the agony of their efforts to report the abuse and of the unChristian, uncaring ways in which they are treated...and of their ultimate realization that no one in the denomination cares. It’s so easy to look at the perpetrators and think that’s the problem. But the even greater problem lies in the lack of care on the part of church and denominational leaders. Lack of care for effectively assuring the protection of others and lack of care for reaching out to the wounded.

And now, although I feel no obligation, I’ll respond to your question with still more questions of my own. Why are you so anxious to think that I should have done something more when, even after 20/20 aired, SBC official Augie Boto STILL publicly defended and justified keeping convicted child molesters on the SBC’s list. Why do you imagine that the SBC would have done anything to remove those names when Augie Boto himself is saying that the names should stay there? Why are you so anxious to accept exactly what Boto says about me in the Baptist Press (however negative it may be and despite the fact that it’s a publication in which Baptist leaders can say pretty much whatever they want without worrying about basic principles of balanced journalism) but then you don’t choose to believe what Boto says when he himself defends the SBC’s keeping of the convicted perpetrators on the list? If you believe all that negative Baptist Press spin about me and SNAP, then you have to also believe that Boto thought keeping convicted perps on the SBC’s list was the right thing to do. Given the extensive publicity for some of the cases with convictions...e.g. Neathery and Myers...why don’t you think that SBC officials, or church officials, should have been proactive in getting those names off the list? Why aren’t you complaining about the fact that SBC officials aren’t reaching out to try to help clergy abuse survivors instead of complaining that clergy abuse survivors should do more to help the SBC keep up appearances? I’ve heard from people who tried to contact SBC officials about names on that registry, and nothing happened. So why do you think survivors should bear still more of a burden to repeatedly plead with SBC officials to get names off the registry...particularly given that the SBC has zero track record of listening to survivors...and when, even after the 20/20 show actually aired, Boto is still publicly defending keeping the names on the list? And why do you imagine that SBC officials will listen to me if I tell them about convicted names on their registry when they won’t listen to me when I tell them about a perpetrator who is still actually working in children’s ministry? Given that EthicsDaily published the McKay name twice..and both times specifically pointed out that it was still on the SBC’s list...and still no one did anything...why don’t you blame the SBC for not getting that name off the list when it was twice pointed out? Why didn’t Frank Page himself ask 20/20 what the names of the convicted perps on their list were? And why don’t you blame Frank Page for not asking and for not following up? Did I personally tell SBC officials those 6 names on the list? No. Under the circumstances, and given the extent of my prior communication efforts, I think I would have to be an idiot to believe that anyone at the SBC would even take my calls, much less respond in a serious manner. I gave you that answer voluntarily, without recognizing any obligation, and it’s a great deal more of an answer than any Baptist leader has ever given to my questions. In any event, I have no interest in simply helping the SBC keep up appearances. What I want is for the SBC to put systems in place so that this doesn’t happen again. What’s it gonna take for THAT to happen? Maybe there will be some progress whenever Baptist leaders start heaving the moats out of their own eyes instead of looking for ways to kick the survivors.

art rogers said...

Christa,

Thanks for the welcome.

1. What I said here and what I said on my blog are the same. Both in the article and in the comments I got emails and then "reply all" responses that took it over the top. Feel free to reread what I wrote.

2. If you will again read what I wrote, I have said that we can and should do more. Slap autonomy around all you want, but churches in the SBC are fiercely independent for great reasons. Is this a downside to it? Yes. Unequivocally, the inability, and even the unwillingness of some, to track people who should not only be tracked but incarcerated, is a downside to autonomy. Still, autonomy is the way it is and no one is going to change it. In my article I stated that if it were undone, the individual churches that make up the SBC would just leave.

3. I never said that local churches can handle the problem all on their own. I said that it starts and ends there. The problem and the solution are both in the local church. The actual power to effect change is in the local church.

4. I have emails already sent to Frank Page and Augie Boto asking them. I asked Dr. Page specifically if he was informed and if not did he ask about the names. Dr. Chapman has responded that he was never informed of any names there.

Thank you for answering my question. I don't think that presumption that you won't be listened to is an acceptable reason to not divulge the names of actual predators. Honestly, it rings hollow.

--

SBC leaders aren't trying to "kick the survivors" of clergy sexual abuse. Saying things like that only builds walls. If really helping children is your goal, the less walls you build the more you will accomplish.

Merely disagreeing with you about how to address this issue in SBC life does not mean we are trying to "kick the messenger," either. This kind of statement puts people in the situation where we will either agree with everything you say (which really doesn't take into account the autonomy issues at hand) or we don't care about kids' safety and are intentionally trying to protect child molesters. That just isn't happening. Again, I want the issue dealt with, but I believe the solution lies with the local church. Is that a much bigger problem than poking at the leadership in Nashville? Yes, but it is a problem that has real solutions that work.

Christa Brown said...

Art,
1. I did reread what you wrote, and anyone else who wants to can find a link in the original post.
2. You can reread things I've written. I've never suggested that Baptist churches should give up autonomy.
3. Augie Boto publicly justified keeping the names of convicted perps on the SBC's list. (See link in original post) That's already a done-deal in the Baptist Press - a place where he can say pretty much whatever he wants...and that's what he chose to say post-20/20.
4. "Rings hollow?" Can you even begin to imagine how hollow the words of Baptist leaders ring to me and other abuse survivors when, over and over again, we see that our perpetrators are left in their pulpits and no one does anything? I DID disclose the name of an actual predator...to 18 Southern Baptist leaders...spent over a year trying to get someone to do something...and nothing happened. I'm done with trying to beg Baptist leaders to do something. Others have also divulged names...and nothing happens. I think I'm wise to put my energies elsewhere. To the best of my ability and time, I publicly post Baptist perpetrators on my website...those names are there...anyone who cares can see them there. I'm probably doing more to divulge Baptist perpetrators than just about anyone else. Why did it take Frank Page 19 days after having 20/20 tell him to his face about convicted perps on the list to get those names removed? Why didn't he just look at my website? Why did it take the actual airing of the 20/20 show, the public listing of all the names in an EthicsDaily article, and a SNAP news release again listing the names to finally get the SBC to remove the names?
5. I answered your question, but neither you nor anyone else has answered mine.
6. Yes...for Frank Page to say that we're "opportunists seeking personal gain" is indeed kicking the survivors. And that's just one example. On Baptist blogs and in the Baptist press, Baptist leaders and Baptist ministers have kicked SNAP and me plenty enough. (And some of the stuff that arrives in my emails is even worse.) I'm done with it. See Kevin Bussey's wonderful youtube posting here.
7. When I see real solutions that are working, maybe then I'll be quiet. I would really, really like that.

And to the rest of you out there...for the most part, I feel like the time I've spent trying to reach out to Baptist ministers on the blogs has been a huge waste (with a few exceptions, of course). I've still got about a dozen emails from survivors who wrote me right after the 20/20 show, and I haven't even gotten around to responding. To you, I'm sorry - please be patient with me. I think I haven't allocated my time in the best way possible. When Baptist leaders start answering some of MY questions, then maybe it will be worth it to try to have a dialogue. Until then...well...I think Kevin Bussey's youtube post really says it all...and besides, it makes me grin. Survivors: Keep on healing, and raise heck when you can!

art rogers said...

Christa,

I really thought that you were asking rhetorical questions in an attempt to make a point.

How long and why and all those other questions are easily answered by me. "I don't know."

I wasn't part of those decisions and I don't know the answers.

I am not in charge of a thing.

I am one vote at convention level. If you want to accomplish anything, you are going to have to convince the rest of the voting members to do what you think needs to happen. Morris Chapman, Augie Boto and Frank Page together equal three votes. They can't decide anything on behalf of the SBC.

That's what I am trying to say to you. They can't create a thing. Only the convention can do that.

operation perfume said...

Christa, the Southern Baptist Convention did not used to be like this. I've never been a Southern Baptist, and I've never really been an advocate for them, but I remember an SBC conference taking place in Jacksonville with Coretta Scott King, possibly Jimmy Carter or one of his relatives, and others.

Well, if you followed the Sword of the Lord, they began attacking the SBC for the same ole' same ole' (liberals, evolution, etc) and very slowly began a campaign that brought the Southern Baptists to the point that they now are.

The independents who helped shaped the SBC really thirsted for it, and now that some have attained positions of control, they're not going to let go.

It's going to take some other group, or collection of churches, to do to the SBC what the independents (i.e. fundamentalists) began doing to the SBC in the seventies.

That's going to be tough considering there's not really an alternative voice that has the tenacity the seventies-era fundamentalists had who cheerleaded a fundy takeover of the SBC.

Most liberals are very comfortable in their own churches (unlike independents who never seem to be), so I'm not looking for any 'takeover' there.

They're not even listening to committed Christians. It's sad to say, but I think the only solution is lawsuits.

The good news? The more they waffle, the more material 20/20 has for future broadcasts! Will he get it right this time? Or, will the SBC refuse comment and make themselves look even more shadier?

Won't these people ever learn?

Christa Brown said...

I think Art's last comment really sums up the problem. He's not in charge of anything, and neither is Boto, Page or Chapman...or anyone. Zero accountability in this denomination.

Art: Why didn't YOU tell SBC officials that there were convicted perps still on their registry? YOU could look at newspaper articles just as easily as me. And then YOU could cross check them against the SBC's registry. And then YOU could tell SBC officials about convicted perps on their registry. (You'd probably have a lot easier time of it than me since you obviously have an open line of communication with them, whereas the SBC has made clear it doesn't want to talk to us in SNAP - remember? That letter that they claim showed they had responded to SNAP is the same letter that really said "continued discourse between us will not be positive or fruitful.")

But instead of taking on this responsibility for yourself...and instead of realizing that Page should have done something pronto as soon as he was told about it by the 20/20 people, you want to put the burden on me to maintain the SBC's website for them. I'm not in charge of that.

I post on my website media reports relating to Baptist clergy sex abuse. I've got lots of Baptist perps on my website. Have a look. Anyone who wanted to could look at all the people on my website and cross check it against the SBC registry. You could have done that. Page could have done that. Someone in that big building in Nashville could have done that. But I'm not in charge of that. I barely have time to maintain my own website, and I sure don't have time to maintain the SBC's website. I don't even get around to posting on MY website all the articles I see.

It's just amazing to me. Rather than acknowledging that his denomination's leaders dropped the ball...and rather than placing accountability for the SBC's website registry where it belongs...i.e., on the SBC's own shoulders...Art here wants to kick me because I don't do still more and cross-check all the media reports on my website against the SBC's registry and then make sure the SBC gets names removed. It's ludicrous.

And what makes it particularly ludicrous is that he's just kicking for the sake of kicking. 1. Even after 20/20 actually aired, SBC official Augie Boto publicly defended the fact that the SBC had those names on the ministerial registry. 2. Even after EthicsDaily got the convicted perps' names from 20/20 and published them, the names STILL remained on the SBC's list for a several more days, until after SNAP made a press release that AGAIN published the names. Yet, Art here wants to imagine that, if only I had done the SBC's job for it, and if only I had cross-checked all the media reports on my website against the SBC's registry, and if only I had given the SBC those names, then the SBC would have done something.

And how can Art even imagine that the SBC would have done something when Art himself just got through saying that he's not in charge of anything for the SBC and neither is Boto, Page or Chapman? Each of them is just one vote.

This is Alice in Wonderland, folks. Travel down the rabbit-hole to the SBC...where nobody is in charge of anything.

Anonymous said...

The problem of registered sex offenders having their ordination reconsidered is serious. It is a simple matter for the ordaining church or Association to call in the individual and question him as to why he has become a registered sex offender.

I believe the integrity of the SBC and the local church is a stake. I am confident that failure to do the above would qualify as a "sin of omission." Since the new SBC leadership is talking of purity and theological perfection, they would get serious about such reviews.

Abortion, homosexuality, etc. which have been on the front burner pale in importance compared to protecting children and teens as well as church members from anyone using a position of trust to commitl sin!

Put your money where your mouth is. Get this horror stopped!

art rogers said...

Wow, Christa. Your characterizations of my motives (which you don't know) and mischarecterizations of my actions are simply libelous.

Christa Brown said...

You obviously don't know my motivations either, Art, and your mischaracterizations on your own blog were highly offensive to me. You even called me "dishonest." Of course, coming on the tail of Frank Page saying that we were "opportunists..seeking personal gain," and coming on the tail of all the twisted spin in the Baptist Press, your remark didn't much surprise me.