Friday, June 6, 2008

Words and deeds

By now, many of you have seen the Southern Baptist Convention’s recently released special report called “Protecting our Children.” Take a look. They put some nice words on paper.

But the question remains: What will they actually DO?

Deeds are what’s needed for the protection of kids against clergy abuse.

If you ask almost anyone, they will tell you that child molestation is terribly wrong. Heck - lots of perpetrators would say that. Words are easy.

But if Southern Baptist leaders want to actually move the ball forward toward reducing clergy child molestation, they must take action to help the victims who already exist.

The only way clergy-predators are exposed is if victims speak up. But victims will speak only when they are psychologically capable of doing so and, for most, only if they feel safe in doing so.

Few clergy abuse victims feel safe in trying to report their perpetrator to his own church, the place where he rules the roost and is the most beloved person in the congregation. Victims are wary and for good reason.

For those who do try to report to the church, what they fear will happen almost invariably does happen. The church circles the wagons around the pastor and effectively stones the victim who brings such unwelcome news. The victim winds up being re-wounded and re-silenced.

This tribal pattern, of protecting the leader and stoning the outsider, occurs with such consistency that it should be considered normal human behavior. The very normalcy of this human reaction is why there must be systems in place to compensate for it. It is why other faith groups have put in place systems for independent review of clergy abuse allegations. But not Southern Baptists.

Most people will tell you that, if they knew about a minister who molested a kid, they would do something about it. But again, words are easy. In the real world, most people don’t actually see a minister molesting a kid and so they don’t know about it with their own eyes. Knowledge isn’t immediately certain and so they stay in their comfort zone of trusting their minister.

The most important question isn’t about what people will do if they know a minister molested a kid. The most important question is about what people will do if they don’t know. Action is needed even when full knowledge is absent.

The average age of a sexual abuse victim is 12. The average age of disclosure is 42.

This means that the typical reporting scenario is a 42 year old who says he was molested by the minister when he was 12. That 42 year old has probably been long-gone from the church and is a stranger to them. If the victim had to track the perpetrator to a new church, or a different state, he may be even more of an outsider.

Do you see the difficulty?

In Southern Baptist circles, who will take responsibility for conscientiously considering these more typical sorts of clergy abuse reports? Who will take responsibility for objectively looking into such allegations with the grave seriousness they deserve? And who will take responsibility for informing people in the pews?

In Southern Baptist circles, the answer is almost invariably, “No one.”

Southern Baptist officials must take action to counteract that reality. Nice words and glossy brochures won’t do the job.

Most child molesters have multiple victims, and many victims never, ever speak of it. That’s a reflection of how great the trauma is. And contrary to what many might think, studies show that the more severe the abuse, the less likely the victim is to disclose it. And older victims, such as teens and preteens, are less likely to disclose than younger ones, who sometimes disclose accidentally.

The best way to prevent more clergy molestation victims is to provide a safe and welcoming place where those already abused may report their perpetrators with some reasonable expectation of being objectively heard. Until that exists, there should be no peace of mind for families in Southern Baptist churches. You won’t find out about the perpetrators unless the victims feel safe in reporting them.

Southern Baptist officials must stop feigning powerlessness and must put in place systems for independent review of clergy abuse allegations.

They must put the safety and well-being of kids first… in words AND deeds.

35 comments:

Junkster said...

There's no doubt that the "Protecting our Children" report is a well-written and potentially valuable document, and that it is a positive step, worthy of commendation and a wide distribution. But the timing is interesting ... just before the annual SBC meeting. I predict that the report will be pointed to as evidence that the Convention is already making efforts to address the issue of ministerial abuse within the existing autonomous structure, and that it indicates that a proposed offender database is not needed.

We will probably also hear of other similar "actions" already done or upcoming. And if anyone dare say a database and review board is still needed, they will be painted as unreasonable, ignorant of Baptist church doctrine and polity, and generally impossible to please.

I take no pleasure in this prediction, but the more I learn about this issue, the way it has been handled by SBC leadership thus far, and other tactics of those in power within the denomination on various other issues, the more my hopes for real, positive action are diminished. I do trust that God will change things at some point, and I know He uses people to accomplish His purposes; thus I believe that the actions of Christa and others are vital and must continue and even increase. But it appears to me that it may take a while before we see more actions from the SBC to back up the talk.

Anonymous said...

Christa,

Obviously you will never be happy with anything that the SBC does or inacts so I would recommend that you get in an SBC church, get elected as a messenger, hopefully get put on a committee and then do something from the inside. Your shrill narratives are basically going to get you nowhere as you have already seen. Trust me, they can act like they are listening when they could actually care less about what you are saying.

Christa Brown said...

Junkster: Looks like Anon has ALREADY fulfilled your prediction about how we would be painted as "impossible to please."

Anonymous said...

Words do have power but when it comes to clergy sexual abuse and making children safer, those words must be accompanied by action in order to incorporate change. Words without action mean nothing. They are dead.

Christa Brown said...

Anon 9:00 says: "Trust me, they can act like they are listening when they could actually care less about what you are saying."

It's not a matter of trusting you, Anon. I and many others have encountered for ourselves far too many in Southern Baptist leadership who have shown us by their deeds that they could "care less."

Anonymous said...

You missed the whole point of what I was saying. Standing outside the gate and hollering and condemning pastors and churches isn't going to get it done.

I don't know if you are a Southern Baptist or not but if you aren't, you need to become one, get elected, then get put on a committee and then get something accomplished. It can be done--and they aren't going to listen to you until you do.

I'm not condemning what you do--I'm just suggesting some ways that might actually accomplish something.

Grace said...

After all Christa has been through I could understand why she may never want to be associated with any type of church entity again, especially the Southern Baptists. The SBC needs to step up to the plate and actually do something about this problem. I believe organizations like this tend to yield to OUTSIDE pressure more than from internal pressure. Thank you Christa for having a strong voice and more effective ministry than you would have if you were in some church on a little committee. Keep hammering the message regardless of the snarky comments from anonymous posters. It's more effective than is immediately evident.
Thank you again, Christa.

Anonymous said...

How could anyone who has experienced clergy sexual abuse be satisfied with a pamphlet? I have read it cover to cover. Church members will think it is wonderful but they don't know of the tears and pain that is kept hidden by the victim that may be at the other end of their pew, or somewhere within the church. Some are no longer able to enter the doors of the church and some are no longer able to pray. If the spiritual and emotional destruction to victims' lives could be understood, I would hope that there is nothing that the Executive Board and the SBC would not do to help remedy the travesty that is taking place within our churches. I have felt all along that until it happens to you or your child, one has blinders on. I know I did. The tears that I shed are for other victims because I know their pain. When we all stand before God one day and give an account, if He asked what we did to save His children, I won't say, "I made a pamphlet."

kem

Christa Brown said...

If being a Southern Baptist would get the job done of imposing clergy accountability, then why aren't the 16.2 million Southern Baptists in this country getting that job done? And Anon 9:40, if you're so certain that you know "ways that might actually accomplish something," then why don't you yourself get busy and get something accomplished?

Thanks for the kind words, Grace.

Christa Brown said...

Kem - You gave us a great way of thinking about it - thank you:

"When we all stand before God one day and give an account, if He asked what we did to save His children, I won't say, "I made a pamphlet."

Anonymous said...

Just another "snarky" comment...

I am doing something. You just don't know what it is and I sure am not going to tell you and go through all the criticism. You will not be heard effectively as long as you do it from the outside.

I agree totally with you about a database for the convicted and confessed abusers. You just lose me on the sexual harrassment.

But then, I am a Southern Baptist and I'm in there working for effective change.

gmommy said...

"Trust me, they can act like they are listening when they could actually care less about what you are saying."

my reply to that profound statement is...Duh.

also, it's been my experience when anyone says "trust me"...
I don't.

"shrill"??
"hollering"??
Not Christa...

but she IS relentless!!
and we love and respect her for that,anon.
Christa DOES go thru the criticism for the stand she takes for the wounded.

gmommy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
oc said...

Junk said that "the timing is interesting". I will go further and say that the timing is more than interesting, it's down right suspicious. It's a smoke-screen meant cover the SBC's behind while they scramble to come up with an excuse as to why they haven't cared nor done anything about the issue. Yeah, it's well written. So was Mein Kampf. This just seems to be so time sensitive, and not sincere. It's a temporary CYA attempt.

Christa Brown said...

"Trust me, they can act like they are listening when they could actually care less about what you are saying."

Gmommy replied "Duh"..... and in doing so, she gave voice to what is really a rolling thunder of "Duhs" from Southern Baptist clergy abuse survivors all across the country.

Christa Brown said...

Anon 10:54 - I will hope and pray that whatever it is you say you are doing may indeed be something that works for clergy accountability within the Southern Baptist denomination. I will ALSO hope and pray that outside pressure may provide an effective motivational force to encourage diligence in those who work for change in this denomination.

Anonymous said...

Its not hard to offend gmommy... But then, I'm not too worried about that.

I do appreciate Christa's efforts even though I do not fully agree with her methods. I am working withing the SBC structure to get most of what she wants implemented but its a long hard road. Dealing with deaf morons isn't easy...

oc said...

"Its not hard to offend gmommy... But then, I'm not too worried about that."


What exactly is that supposed to mean? If you are offended by her, then you offend me. Go ahead and explain why you don't care about a sister in Christ's feelings. I'm waiting to hear a reasonable and biblical defense on why you dismiss her.


"Dealing with deaf morons isn't easy..."

Yep.

Anonymous said...

OC,

There's sure no reason for you to take up another's offense and be offended because gmommy is so easily offended. All you have to do is read her posts on the anti-BBC site and you will know that most everyone and everything offends her.

Besides that, she was offended before you were so guess she has the upper hand.

Too many Christians are way too easily offended over someone who disagrees with them when they take no offense over ripping someone to shreds on a blog.

Anonymous said...

I do appreciate Christa's efforts even though I do not fully agree with her methods. I am working withing the SBC structure to get most of what she wants implemented but its a long hard road. Dealing with deaf morons isn't easy...

June 7, 2008 7:05 PM

I think that is great but history shows us that true lasting change almost always comes from outside pressure or a crisis because the organization and it's systems are so entrenched real change is hard.

What is the motivation for change? My goodness, if protecting children from predator ministers is not motivation enough for professing Christian leaders, then what would be? Negative publicity? A possible job loss? A public rebuke by some of our leaders?

You don't like Christa's methods? That is ok, I don't like the SBC's methods to date on this issue. I am trying to figure out how professing Christian leaders can ignore so much scripture so as not to even rebuke some of these churches...as a matter of fact, pastors like Gaines, who protected a pedophile, are invited out to speak for them! Perhaps you can explain that METHOD to me. Or, perhaps not. Perhaps you could teach these theologians some scriptural truths while you are at it.

Jess

gmommy said...

Your name for the blog speaks volumes about you.

I'm actually amused by you anon...same ol,same ol

but always offended by those who minimize and deflect away from the victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Christa Brown said...

oc: I too am troubled that Anon is so dismissive of gmommy. Anon winds up sounding a lot like one of those SBC guys who "acts like they are listening when they could actually care less."

I for one am always grateful for gmommy's wise words, funny words, and even occasional strong words. I am grateful for her cyber-support, concern, and understanding. Anon could certainly benefit from the wisdom of gmommy... if only he would open his ears.

oc said...

Anon June 7, 10:20...

Learn to read people's hearts. She is probably the most wise and loving person you will ever find. And the sweet part about her is... she doesn't even know it! Don't you just love the caring and the expressive and the sensitive heart that just gives without expecting reciprocation? Open to love, and also open to ridicule and hurt. She is one brave woman. I sure admire her.


And to be perfectly honest. If you war on her, you war on me. Why don't you just love her instead? I think that would be the best course.

gmommy said...

Christa,
Thanks you...today was a good day to be encouraged.
Glad if I'm funny sometimes...thought I was always serious :)

OC,
No wars,friend. We've got too much important and productive ways to use our energy:)
You are such a Texan:)

oc said...

Gmommy,
Yeah, I'm a Texan. Mr Bravado, ride into the scene with my six guns out and blazing. But even more important, I am a Christian. And I will still fight for your pure heart, in the name of the Lord. And while I've been studying the Beatitudes, I saw you there...

oc.

New BBC Open Forum said...

"Trust me, they can act like they are listening when they could actually care less about what you are saying."

Small detail, but the phrase is "they couldn't care less." If they could care less, it would mean they care at least a little, and it's obvious from their words and (in)actions they do not. So they couldn't care less.

I don't know about at your churches, but at Bellevue if you aren't the pastor, his wife, or among the handful of rich "Who's Who" elite, you are never going to be "elected" as a messenger to the SBC. Hell will freeze over first.

Anonymous said...

Well, its good to see that OC, gmommy, and now the infamous (and anonymous) anti-BBC leader are now here. What a crew!

By the way, for those who doubt what gmommy is like--just read her posts on the anti-BBC site. They speak for themselves.

I'm gone for now dear sweet ladies. All three of you together is more than I care to deal with.

Good luck with changing the SBC ship--it ain't gonna happen with radicals like you demanding it. I'll be sure to be there to vote against whatever you propose...

New BBC Open Forum said...

From one "anonymous" to another...

Who said anything about "changing" the SBC or Bellevue ship recently? That would be like, as Dr. Rogers used to say, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We may be a "crew," and a ragtag one to be sure, but we're no longer on that sinking ship!

Oh, and for the record, "oc" isn't a lady... or even female for that matter.

Sorry, Christa. Unlike "Anon 12:45" it wasn't my intent to hijack your blog. It never ceases to amaze me how when people can't address the message, they make it all about the messengers.

gmommy said...

I'm part of a "rebel crew"???!!!
How exciting!!

I thought I was just a mom and grandmother ...
revealing the scars and wounds caused by childhood sexual abuse in hopes that my children and other children might be protected from them.

Isn't it interesting how people whose intent is to harm you, actually empower you???

Yep...
Ragtag Rebel Crew....yes!

and since we joined forces with Christa....
we are the
Relentless Ragtag Rebel crew!!!!!!

Thank you for the inspiration today, anon!!

Christa Brown said...

Yeah! What we need now is a flag! I propose something with "RRR" - for relentless, ragtag rebels!

Anon shows us something very sad, doesn't he? Based on what he says, it appears this guy will be a voting messenger at the convention. And he's already decided to vote against anything we might be connected to (which could only have to do with child protection since that's what we're about) and he decides this for no good reason other than the inanity of labeling us as "radicals." As you point out, NewBBC, it is the sad, sad, sad, utterly ignorant, and all-too-frequently-seen method of kicking the messengers instead of conscientiously considering the message.

gmommy said...

Working on our flag/banner!!

proud member of the
RRR :)

oc said...

Sign me up for the RRR. I will be proud of that.

And anon. Why are you so against protecting children? Do you have something to hide? Why would you try to crusade against those who want to protect children against sick demented perverts who masquerade as ministers? Apparently you have something to hide. By your objection, you have made yourself an object in question. Why do you object to protecting people against Baptist Predators?
Are you "one of them"?

PS. Yeah. I'm no lady. I'm not even dainty in the least.

oc.

oc said...

Guess what? Jesus is a "radical" too!

So thank you Anon, for reinforcing to us that we are on the "narrow" path. I pray that before it all ends that you will understand that your wide and easy "highway" leads
only to destruction.

Praying for you.
oc.

Lin said...

"Good luck with changing the SBC ship--it ain't gonna happen with radicals like you demanding it."

Radicals? It is radical to think that ignoring sexual abuse by ministers is abhorent? If that is your definition of a radical, then count me in!

Why, we can't even get a personal public rebuke for ministers or even churches who ignore it and think it is no big deal! Oh yes, they make blanket statments that it is bad but NOT ONE OF the leaders will come out and rebuke a minister publicly for ignoring scripture on this issue. And they want us to believe they love the Word?

gmommy of the "RRR" said...

Love the Word???
It appears many don't even know the Word!

As expected...no progress from the SBC to expose and deal with the sexual predators in the ministry.
sad.