The Baptist General Convention of Texas claims to be “cracking down” on clergy sex abuse. Rev. Ben Cole praised them and ethicist Joe Trull described the changes as a “giant step.” So what exactly did the BGCT do?
They say they’re making it easier to report “sexual misconduct.” Easier for whom? Easier for churches. But for a clergy abuse victim to try to report abuse, he or she must still get past the very high hurdle of convincing the church to report its own minister. Most of the time that just doesn’t happen. Churches typically stand by their much-trusted minister, no matter what, and reject the outsider who brings unwelcome news.
The BGCT says that, in the future, it will simply accept whatever churches tell them about a minister, and that the BGCT will no longer review the churches’ reports to assure that there is “substantial evidence.” Who does this help? As best I can tell, it’s the sort of change that appears designed to attempt protection for the BGCT against potential legal liability rather than to provide protection for kids against clergy molesters. In effect, the BGCT is now trying to simply wash its hands of what goes on the list. Perhaps this makes for a nice public relations ploy, but I don’t see how it will have much impact on making kids safer, particularly since what the churches tell the BGCT still stays in a confidential file (unless there’s an actual conviction).
The BGCT has released the names of 8 convicted perps who were previously ministers in BGCT-affiliated churches (and it says it will release new convictions as it finds out about them). Typically, convicted perps already appear on sex-offender registries, and so most of the time, this information was already in the public light. While listing convicted perps on the BGCT's site may be helpful, it doesn’t address the biggest part of the problem, and to act as though it does may serve only to lull people into a false sense of security. Most active sex offenders have never been convicted of anything, and they typically have numerous victims, and by the time a victim speaks up, it is often too late for criminal prosecution. So, if the denomination tells congregations only about perps who have been criminally convicted, most clergy child molesters will stay in their pulpits.
The BGCT now says that there are about 100 names on its confidential list. It has given the public 8 names of convicted perps, and those names were already in the public arena anyway. There are approximately 92 other names on that list. The BGCT might want people to believe that these other 92 are ministers who have committed merely “sexually inappropriate” behavior such as adultery...or engaged in “consensual adult relationships”." But WE KNOW IT'S MORE THAN THIS.
I have written confirmation from a BGCT director that my perp’s name is on that list. I was abused as a kid. My perp is not one of the 8 revealed names, and so he’s one of the 92 remaining names. How many other names on that list are men who abused kids?
The BGCT’s previously published standard was that a minister’s name went on the list only if information was submitted BY A CHURCH (i.e., not by a mere victim), and only if there was a conviction, a confession, or “substantial evidence that the abuse took place” as determined by the BGCT itself.
How many more of the approximate 92 names on that list are ministers for whom there is a confession or “substantial evidence” of having sexually abused a kid? Why aren’t parents in Baptist pews entitled to know who those ministers are? If you learned that the children’s minister at your church was in that file at the BGCT based on “substantial evidence” of having sexually abused a kid, wouldn’t you want to know about it?
And as for the BGCT's characterization of the others as involving "consensual adult relationships"? Who tags that label on it? Who decides whether or not it should be called "consensual"? Just because the sexual contact involved an adult doesn't make it "consensual." In Texas, it is a felony for a clergyman to use his position of spiritual trust to sexually exploit another -- even another adult. Felony conduct should certainly be considered abusive conduct. And for anyone who doubts how horrific a minister's spiritual exploitation and sexual abuse of an adult congregant can be, you need only look at the reports made about pentecostal Rev. Sherman Allen in Fort Worth.
And what about all the individual victims who, through the years, have attempted to report abuse to the BGCT? What became of their letters, emails, phone calls and reports? Were they just trashed? Those 100 names are only ministers reported by CHURCHES, not victims. How do people imagine that they will ever find out about clergy child molesters if there is no one to hear the victims when they try to report the molesters and no one to determine anything or tell other congregations about it? The BGCT hasn’t remedied that problem at all, and it's why so many Baptist clergy child molesters are still able to move from church to church.
It’s troubling that a Baptist ethicist would characterize the BGCT’s small move as a “giant step.” It’s more like a foot into the mud of their own swampy, mosquito-infested yard. As long as that yard still has so much mud and vermin, the BGCT doesn’t deserve any bragging rights.