So they’re outraged. Or at least they say they are. But what will they actually do?
So far, they haven’t done anything, despite Debbie’s numerous letters and emails. Meanwhile, other kids remain at risk and Debbie continues to suffer.
So here’s what I propose for Southern Baptist leaders: “How about helping just this one person? Even if you aren’t ready to effectively address clergy abuse as a systemic problem, why can’t you help just this one Baptist abuse survivor? Perhaps if you helped just this one, it would begin to sensitize you to the anguish of all abuse survivors.”
As a teen, Debbie became pregnant with the child of pastor Dale “Dickie” Amyx, a man nearly twice her age. She obtained a paternity judgment against Amyx when the child was 8. Debbie also has a 2003 tape-recording of a conversation in which Amyx talked about high school girls who were telling him “about their sexual exploits.” He talked about a girl who was said to be “in love with him,” and when Debbie expressed concern, Amyx said, “If something happens between me and these kids, I doubt she would be telling anybody.”
With that sort of evidence, a paternity judgment and a tape recording, Debbie tried repeatedly to get help from the Baptist General Convention of Texas. She was desperately worried that Amyx would abuse other kids.
The Baptist General Convention of Texas didn’t do diddly-squat.
So finally, with great reluctance, Debbie filed a lawsuit against Bolivar Baptist Church and pastor Dickie Amyx. It seemed like the only way to bring some attention to the matter. She didn’t want money. She just wanted to protect others.
In his deposition, pastor Amyx admitted to having had sex with Debbie between 20 and 40 times, but said this: “I didn’t have sex with her when she was 16 or under.”
When Debbie was a kid, the age of consent in Texas was 17, not 18. So Amyx was defending himself by claiming that Debbie was at the age of consent. (Nowadays, it’s a felony in Texas for a clergy person to use a position of spiritual trust to sexually exploit another, regardless of age, but that’s another posting for another day.)
Debbie says the abuse began when she was 14 and that Amyx raped her when she was 15. For myself, there isn’t the slightest doubt in my mind. I believe Debbie.
But suppose Southern Baptist leaders prefer to believe Amyx. Fine. Take pastor Dickie Amyx at his own word. This is a minister who rationalizes the abuse of a church kid by saying, “I didn’t have sex with her when she was 16 or under.”
Southern Baptist leaders, I ask you: “Is this the sort of minister you’re willing to have carry forth the ‘Southern Baptist’ brand into the world?”
Since you aren’t doing anything about it, the answer to that question appears to be “yes.”
Oh but you’re outraged, you say?
Then, DO SOMETHING!
The Nashville Scene reported that Debbie’s lawsuit against the church is over because of the statute of limitations. That’s what happens in most clergy abuse cases. “By the time victims are capable of coming forward, the law lets predators escape through the statute of limitations – again and again.”
But Debbie did enormous good just by bringing that lawsuit. It allowed her to get Amyx’s sworn testimony and it afforded the opportunity for press coverage. Amyx is still a pastor, but at least some people in the community may have been able to see the truth about him.
The good that Debbie did came at a cost. She had to give her own deposition and relive the horror of what Amyx did to her under hostile questioning from the church’s lawyer. She has continued daily to worry desperately about the safety of other kids during these past two years. And she has received no counseling for herself.
Shouldn’t there have been some better way that wouldn’t have required such hell for the victim and such an extended period of leaving other kids at risk?
Now, here’s the kicker. Because her suit against the church was dismissed, Amyx’s church is claiming that it’s entitled to collect $20,000 in court costs from Debbie with 7.75 % interest. (Yes, you read that right. I’ve got a copy of the February 19th letter from the church’s attorney, Brian T. Cartwright of Alagood & Cartwright in Dallas.)
Can you possibly imagine the additional anguish and worry this causes to Debbie, especially after all that she’s already been through? Hasn’t she suffered enough?
If this is what Baptist abuse survivors have to go through to try to expose clergy-perpetrators, then most survivors will remain silent. And if abuse survivors remain silent, people in the pews will not find out who the perpetrators are. This means kids in Baptist churches will remain at risk.
So how about it, Southern Baptist leaders? Isn’t your help overdue on this? Why don’t you begin addressing the clergy abuse problem by starting with this one person? Help Debbie.
Tell the deacons how egregiously immoral it is for their church to seek $20,000 from a clergy abuse survivor who tried to bring the abuse to light.
Suggest to the deacons that they might do better to take up a collection for Amyx’s kid so as to make up for the fact that he didn’t pay child support for the kid’s first 8 years.
You say you’re outraged. If you really are, how about issuing a press release, publicly expressing your outrage and publicly denouncing the church’s continued retention of Amyx? In fact, why don’t you publish your outrage in the Baptist Press and the Baptist Standard as well?
What about telling the church that it will be disfellowshipped from the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptist Convention if it continues to retain Amyx?
Baptist General Convention of Texas: You had the chance almost 2 years ago to step into this situation and protect other kids. You did nothing. How about doing something now? By published policy, you have long provided counseling for clergy perpetrators. How about providing a counseling stipend for Debbie? Provide it with no strings attached so that she can choose her own independent counselor.
SBC Executive Committee: For your next meeting, why don’t all 81 of you stay at a moderate hotel instead of a luxury hotel? With the extra $100 per night in savings of SBC dollars, you could direct those dollars to instead provide a counseling stipend for Debbie. After all, do you really need that fancy lobby?
If you guys really wanted to effectively address the Baptist clergy abuse problem, surely you could find a way. Why don’t you start by helping just this one abuse survivor? Help Debbie.