Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tip of the iceberg for Baptist sex abuse

Recent Episcopal news has me still pondering Marv Knox’s editorial. He said the Baptist General Convention of Texas has been “appropriately reticent to publicize names of accused perpetrators unless the charges have been substantiated.”

But this begs a couple questions.

What about the cases in which clergy child molestation charges HAVE been substantiated? What about cases like mine in which the BGCT determined there was “substantial evidence that the abuse took place”? Why hasn’t the BGCT been informing people about clergy-perpetrators such as that? If a man with a claim having "substantial evidence" was a children’s minister in your church, wouldn’t you want to know?

And whose job is it to look for evidence on whether an accusation can be substantiated? The BGCT puts the entire burden on the back of the victim, who has already been plenty burdened enough in dealing with the fall-out from the abuse. Shouldn’t the faith community itself have some interest in determining whether an accusation of clergy child molestation can be substantiated?

Compare the lack of action by Texas Baptist leaders with recent action by Texas Episcopal leaders on a clergy child molestation accusation. (1) Episcopal leaders hired an outside organization to investigate, and in doing so, they found three more persons who made similar abuse accusations. By contrast, Baptist leaders don't even help a victim in finding the perpetrator’s current church, much less in finding any other possible victims. (2) Episcopal leaders sent out a letter to people in the church where the priest had worked, informing them that the claims of abuse “have substance.” By contrast, Baptist leaders leave the information sitting in a confidential file even when they have determined there is “substantial evidence that the abuse took place.” (3) Episcopal leaders made a PUBLIC statement about the abuse claims, and in this way, reached out to the larger community and also acknowledged the wounds of the victims. By contrast, even when a claim is so readily substantiated that it requires no investigation, and even when it's been determined there is “substantial evidence that the abuse took place,” Baptist leaders still don't warn people in the pews of the perpetrator’s church, and they certainly don’t make any public statement acknowledging the claims.

A Baptist leader recently disclosed that the BGCT’s confidential file contains “about 11 cases involving clergy abuse with minors.” These are “just the tip of the iceberg,” he said, “because churches don’t have to report cases” to the BGCT (and the BGCT doesn’t accept abuse reports from mere victims). But even this substantiated “tip of the iceberg” remains secret. Who are the Baptist clergy-perpetrators in those 11 cases? Why aren’t the parents of kids in Baptist churches entitled to know? And why doesn’t anyone in Baptist leadership care enough to peer beneath the water line at the biggest part of the iceberg and to find out whether all those other clergy abuse allegations may be substantiated?

Finally, having stated my disagreement with Marv Knox, I want to also state my thanks. With the Baptist Standard, Knox has often sought to shine light on the clergy abuse problem. Just a month ago, the Baptist Standard, along with the Associated Baptist Press and the Biblical Recorder News jointly published an extraordinary series of articles on clergy sex abuse. Kudos to all three of these publications for working to raise the level of dialogue on this issue!

6 comments:

kaye said...

Many thanks to the Baptist Standard, Associated Baptist Press and the Biblical Recorder News for their publications that have helped to illuminate the problem of clergy sexual abuse. It is also encouraging to see the recent action taken by the Texas Episcopal leaders on a clergy molestation accusation. Just today I was contacted by a Methodist staff person who acknowledged that in the Baptist denomination, accusations are covered up due to the churches being autonomous. He said if the Methodist now receive a sexual complaint against a staff person, they immediately "get the staff person out of there" and begin an investigation. Interesting. One would think that the SBC would be leading the way in appropriately and responsibly handling clergy sexual abuse. Hopefully, the time will come when, like the state of Delaware, sexual predators who victimize innocent children and teens will learn that the SBC will not stand for it.

Lin said...

Christa, this problem is even worse than I previously thought. It really boils down to how pastors view this crime. There is one right now on the BBC blog who is demanding proof beyond what has been published about the BBC minister of prayer scandel.

What a slap in the face to the victim. Is it any wonder people do not speak out when this is how pastors behave in defending other pastors?

Christa Brown said...

Lin...you're right, of course. It's a slap in the face to the victim, and that sort of thing helps to keep others quiet.

I often think it's a real miracle that so many abuse survivors speak out anyway, even when they can readily foresee how things will likely be handled and even when they can see that the consequence of speaking will likely be greater pain. I often laugh when I see blog-postings and writings that characterize abuse survivors who speak out as being unforgiving and bitter, etc. I sometimes think the real truth is that abuse survivors often display a rather amazingly relentless optimism about human beings. Despite everything, they still hold hope that people will do the right thing.

WatchingHISstory said...

lin

This victim lived with face slapping for 17 years because he could not bear to go to his pastor and tarnish Bellevue's image. His pastor's death was his opportunity to go to a new pastor and confront his father's crime.

Other women knew that there was something that was wrong with Paul Williams but they could not go to their pastor.

The followers of this pastor created an aura around him that made him unreachable by a young man that needed help.

Christa Brown said...

Watching: I don't have a clue who you are, but I question how you can possibly purport to know why that particular victim did or didn't go to his pastor over the course of 17 years. It's perfectly normal for people who have been sexually abused as kids to keep quiet for a great many years. Normal. So...for you to imagine that he wanted to speak of it with his pastor sooner and couldn't is, I suspect, simply imposing your own thoughts onto him. Many sexual abuse victims go for years without speaking of it, and they aren't usually engaged in a process of weighing "can I speak of it or can't I?" during that time. They simply presume that they will NEVER speak of it. I'm not saying that's how it was for that particular victim, and I don't want to presume one way or the other. But unless you're someone mighty close, I don't think you should presume either.

WatchingHISstory said...
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