Sunday, June 29, 2008

Accountability for cover-ups

Last week, the Episcopal Church held a bishop accountable for having covered-up his brother’s sexual abuse of a teen girl in the 1970s. The bishop, Charles Bennison, was a church rector at the time. His brother, John Bennison, was a lay minister.

Bishop Bennison was charged with having failed to investigate information about the abuse and with having failed to halt his brother’s ordination a couple years later.

Even though the accused perpetrator was the bishop’s own brother, the Episcopal Church didn’t let Bishop Bennison off the hook. The Episcopal Church demands a higher standard for its clerical leaders and it pursued a process of accountability.

Meanwhile, Southern Baptist officials won’t even hold clergy-perpetrators themselves accountable. Southern Baptist officials won’t look into reports of clergy abuse and won’t keep records on reports of clergy abuse.

Given that Southern Baptist officials won’t even do anything about clergy who are reported as actual perpetrators, it seems fantasy to imagine that they might ever do anything about those who keep quiet and cover-up.

Can you even imagine it? Think of all the men who might be called to task if there were actually some system that demanded accountability for church and denominational leaders who keep quiet about abuse.

I think it would be quite a lot of them.

But of course, I’m dreaming.

Southern Baptists are light-years behind in establishing systems to protect against clergy abuse and to promote clergy accountability. As compared to other major faith groups in this country, Southern Baptists are still in the dark ages.

And notice that former Episcopal minister John Bennison never faced any criminal charges. That’s typical. Yet, even though John Bennison was never criminally charged or convicted, Bishop Bennison was nevertheless held accountable for having failed to take responsible action when confronted with information about his minister-brother’s abuse of a kid.

Kudos to the Episcopal Church on this one!

How I pray that there will come a day when Southern Baptists will also provide effective systems of accountability for their own clergy. They need accountability systems, not only for accused perpetrators, but also for those who cover-up.

When that day finally comes – when Southern Baptist leaders lift their blinders and move this denomination out of the dark ages – kids will be a great deal safer in Southern Baptist churches.

3 comments:

Renae C said...

I've given up hope that they will ever change anything. When they are all the time delving deeper into a patriarchal theology that they use as an excuse for abuse - physical, sexual, psychological - and promoting it as a stand against the immorality of popular culture, I just don't think there is any hope. Southern Baptist Scholar Links Spouse Abuse to Wives' Refusal to Submit to Their Husbands

Women and children are second class citizens in their eyes, and any abuse heaped on them must be deserved because they have sinned in some way.

They are now working on a resolution to dissolve fellowship with any SBC church that ordains a woman. However you feel about that issue - it's easy to see the discrepancy in their argument that autonomy prevents them from doing anything to a church that would hire an abusive minister.

My only hope is that in keeping the heat on, in continuing to make the noise, slowly ordinary people will begin to see and turn a different direction.

Keep up the pressure. It helps highlight the arrogance and ignorance that just seem to grow worse with every passing day.

Phyllis Gregory said...

They are going to never, ever, ever change. Renae, I agree with you whole heartedly. They live in LaLa Land where everything is black and white and where all secrets, that could prove they are not as good as they pretend to be, are swept under the carpet. Everyone pretends that all life in the church is glorious and all church members are going to heaven and no one does anything wrong. That all evil is outside the doors of the church -- while in reality most of it is within the church.

I'm afraid I have lost all hope in church as I once knew it -- Baptist and otherwise. I still believe there are so many child predators in the pulpit, teaching Sunday School, working with the youth that they really are just protecting their own because they know what THEIR OWN are doing.

Phyllis Gregory

Christa Brown said...

Renae said: "My only hope is that in keeping the heat on, in continuing to make the noise, slowly ordinary people will begin to see and turn a different direction."

This is also my hope. It's sad, isn't it? Hope rests a great deal more on journalists and the pressure brought by media-glare than on Baptist leaders who might choose to do the right thing simply for the sake of doing the right thing.

Phyllis said: "I still believe there are so many child predators in the pulpit, teaching Sunday School, working with the youth that they really are just protecting their own..."

I believe this, too. Even worse, I believe that many Southern Baptist child predators have ALREADY been reported to denominational leaders... and no one did anything. Over and over and over again, SBC leaders choose inaction over the safety of kids and families. And then they have the almighty arrogance to talk about "moral values".