Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lackadaisical leadership and faulty forgiveness

“We believe in forgiveness” said one of the deacons who hired the convicted sex offender at First Baptist Church of Romeoville.

Outsiders seem perplexed and ponder how any church could be so foolish as to keep a convicted sex offender in the pulpit for 3 years. The Chicago Sun-Times published an editorial about how “lackadaisical” some churches can be.

But here’s what’s really scary. It’s not just local churches. The highest levels of Southern Baptist leadership have demonstrated a lackadaisical blindness to clergy child molesters.

Just a month ago, a clergy abuse survivor wrote to a member of the SBC committee that’s supposedly studying the clergy sex abuse issue. He courageously spilled a profoundly painful report about the Southern Baptist minister who sexually abused him and another boy when they were kids.

You might imagine that a high-level Southern Baptist official would be better-educated than those Romeoville deacons, and would immediately want to look into such a report so as to assure the safety of others. You might imagine that he would extend a voice of compassion to the victim. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, the Southern Baptist official wrote this back to the victim:

“I would like to direct your attention to Ephesians 4:31-32: Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and evil-speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind one to another, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Did you get that? Rather than doing anything about the reported perpetrator, who is still in ministry, he told the victim to be “forgiving.” Looks a lot like the Romeoville notion of forgiveness, doesn’t it? It's the kind of forgiveness that leaves kids at risk.

And remember when ABC's 20/20 correspondent told Southern Baptist president Frank Page that 20/20 found convicted child molesters on the SBC’s registry of ministers? What happened? Nothing….at least not until still more media coverage was mustered.

In fact, rather than immediately getting those convicted child molesters off the SBC’s registry, still another high-level Southern Baptist official, Augie Boto, publicly justified and defended the fact that the SBC kept them on!

Is it any wonder that churches like Romeoville get confused when their own national leaders spout such inanity in the Baptist Press?

And what about the state Southern Baptist leaders in Illinois? Did they know about Romeoville? Why didn’t they do anything?

Well…let’s not forget that the Illinois Baptist State Association is the same Southern Baptist group that fired its Illinois Press editor when he published news that a prominent minister had been charged with multiple counts of sexually assaulting teen girls. It appears the Illinois Baptist leadership thought it was something people didn’t need to know.

Is it any wonder Baptist churches keep quiet about clergy sex abusers? Look at the example set by their leaders. It’s an example that says “Keep your mouths shut.”

Churches like Romeoville get the message.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Christa...
It is hard for a minister to see and understand the harm done by Satan in expressing a world view. Hamby's lack of concern regarding looking into other's past is directly tied to his adultery that led to his divorce. The new Mrs. Hamby is/was his "mistress" while he was married and ministering in Morocco, IN. That church turned a blind eye and so he can only expect to receive the same treatment.
It is not only the "KNOWN SEX OFFENDERS' that cause the shame in our church families, but those who ALLOW this to go on for fear of losing face or publicity. Thank you for your tenacity.

HolyToledo said...

I think that anonymous is touching on an important issue that causes a "strangle-hold" on the issue of actually doing something.

In the catholic church, you saw priests who ignored their brother priests tendency to always have a young boy/girl "on their arm." They ignored the priest having repeated private appointments with the "young boy/girl."

Why?

Because so many of them have sexual skeletons hanging in the their closets. Maybe they aren't criminal like child sexual abuse, but they are infidelities, deviancies like pornography addiction, etc.

I knew a priest who kept a mistress for 20 plus years who actually articulated that he could not say anything about a priest perping a kid because he was "not without sin himself."

Wowza!

Christa Brown said...

Holytoledo and anonymous - welcome to the blog! My own perpetrator was a minister in churches, both in Texas and Florida, where other staff ministers had been reported for sexual abuse, assault, and harassment of adult congregants. People turned a blind-eye or covered up those accounts, and then when my report of having been sexually assaulted as a kid came along, no one did anything about that either. So, I think you're right that others often stay quiet because they don't want they're worried about their own skeletons getting loose. But I also believe this pattern not only extends to other staff ministers who stay quiet about sexual abuse committed by colleagues, but also to state and national denominational leaders who find every excuse imaginable for turning a blind-eye and lump it all under the label of "local church autonomy" and meanwhile, the real world practical effect is that clergy child molesters stay in their pulpits and no one actually does anything.