Friday, October 10, 2008

What they CAN do

Haven’t we all grown weary of hearing Southern Baptist officials tell us what they CAN’T do?

Haven’t we grown sick of all their tired talk about how they’re powerless and lack authority?

Haven’t we had enough of their mindless mouthing of “autonomy” as though it were a mantra to relieve moral obligation?

All their words of “we can’t” have become an incessant buzzing drone of unaccountability for this denomination’s leaders.

So, it was refreshing the other day when Junkster did a super-succinct job of summarizing what the Southern Baptist Convention CAN do.

In a comment under the prior posting, Junkster pointed out what the SBC is capable of doing if only it would choose to. His words are well-worth a reprint. Thanks for the clarity, Junkster!

“With a review board, the SBC could make a determination concerning an accusation and then publicly declare any church that continues to employ a guilty minister to be outside the SBC. They could then refuse to accept the church's financial contributions, refuse to allow their members to participate in the annual convention, refuse to appoint any of their members/ministers to any of their missions boards or denominational positions, etc. (just as they would refuse these things to a church of another denomination). They could also publicize on their denominational website that the church is no longer in the SBC and why.

None of this would prevent a local church from continuing to employ an abusive minister if they so chose, but it would provide a means for potential members to be informed before choosing to join that church. And people looking for a church could have confidence that one with the SBC label was at least not apathetic or complicit toward abusers.”


Elisabeth said...

I just googled "SBC disfellowshipping churches" and I found out that they had no problem disfellowshipping some churches that were too pro-homosexual for their liking, and some churches that (gasp) ordained women deacons.

Christa Brown said...

And here's some more info on how Southern Baptists have disfellowshipped churches for other reasons. In Missouri, for example, they even disaffiliated 19 churches for the reason that the churches were dually aligned with moderate Baptist groups rather than solely with the SBC. So.... they show more concern for ousting churches with "moderate" theological tendencies than for doing anything at all about churches with clergy-predators in the pulpit.

Thy Peace said...

Disfellowshipping may not do much.

Disfellowshipping. What does it accomplish??

But this will accomplish much: shaming and bad publicity. gmommy comments in the earlier posts, whereby we take the abuse in baptists to the Media and Internet Blogging. The one thing that will do the trick, is to speak constantly, consistently ... and it will make a difference. It's like water drops falling slowly, one by one, will wear down the most stubborn stone.

In this day and age, people are very, very sensitive to media publicity. So, bringing up these issues to Talk Show Hosts and other programs is VERY GOOD. Also constant blogging and referencing the perps. with Names or if not Names, atleast their associations ... so they will be forced to defend themselves, and this will lead to more light being shown in the dark places.

Christa Brown said...

Thy Peace: I agree that disfellowshipping is often dysfunctional when done for the reasons that Southern Baptists have in the past. My point is this: The fact that Southern Baptist denominational entities have disfellowshipped churches for OTHER reasons shows that their whole autonomy explanation is nothing but a self-serving excuse. They have the power to do something about Baptist clergy predators and colluders if only they would choose to.

As for speaking out - obviously I'm all in favor of that - but let me also point out how much easier it is for the media to report on clergy predators in other faith groups precisely because those other faith groups have review boards that make determinations about credible allegations of abuse. Generally speaking, the media isn't likely to report on a clergy abuse allegation if all they've got is a he said/he said or he said/she said situation. But when they have an assessment done by a denominational review board, it gives the media a basis for reporting on it, and thereby informing the public. There are many, many, many Baptist clergy abuse survivors who would like desperately to expose their perpetrators, and who worry constantly about the safety of others, and who have tried to expose their perpetrators by contacting local, state, and national Baptist leaders... but no one even looks into their allegations. It's not that Baptist abuse survivors aren't trying to speak up - they are. But no one in Baptist circles is listening. If they were in some other faith group, they would likely be able to report to a denominational review board, and would at least have the possibility of encountering some trained personnel who might look into the matter and render an assessment. And then that denominational assessment is something that the media could report on (even while leaving the victim anonymous). In effect, by refusing to institute a denominational review board such as other faith groups have, Baptist leaders help to assure that Baptist clergy perpetrators can more easily stay hidden. This is a big part of the reason why Baptist churches are a near-perfect paradise for predators.

Christa Brown said...

Thanks, Thy Peace, for reminding everyone of Gmommy's prior comment. Gmommy issued the call to all to write in to Oprah, urging her to do a show on Baptist clergy sex abuse and on the failure of this faith group to institute the sorts of measures that other faith groups have.

Gmommy's prior comment is here, and an excerpt from it is below:

"It may sound silly but that's the kind of coverage and support it would take to really get things changed.... No matter what some think of Oprahs politics or "spirituality" she has done more to open eyes about sexual abuse then any other personality or celebrity.

I'm grateful to the newspaper writers and others who have supported our cause but if we really rallied together... we could feasibly get Christa and this well documented crime on the Oprah show. That could shut down the SBC (and the other Baptist organization)and all those powerful little men who have sacrificed so many innocent men, women, and children for their own agenda. We could do this...."

Here's where you can email your show suggestion to Oprah, if you want.

gmommy said...

Lets make this happen!!!!!
I have 3 different friends in Chicago we can stay with when we get Christa on the Oprah show.

I'd actually LOVE to see PP or some of the other good ol boys try and explain their lack of action...and lack of compassion to Oprah!! :)

I told my daughter what we want to do and she is writing!! Ask your family and friends to join us!!

We can make this happen!!!

If the victims who we have read about, known, and "met" here on Christa's blog can have the courage they have shown ....the least we can do is write and appeal to Oprah to expose this dirty little Baptist secret!

This is the platform Christa needs.
Lets be RELENTLESS!!!!

Christa Brown said...

"I'd actually LOVE to see PP... try and explain their lack of action...and lack of compassion to Oprah!!"

Me too! What a great picture to imagine! All of who PP really is would be there on full display on national television, and I haven't the slightest doubt but that Oprah would see through PP in about a milli-second.

oc said...

Well, to be honest, I do not like Oprah at all.

And I don't expect PP to show up.
Let's just say that I don't think his manhood would stand the scrutiny. And he knows it.
He won't be there for the challenge.

But even so, I have written.

Just sayin'.

gmommy said...

It's fine if you don't like Oprah!
Thanks for writing what I know was a passionate plea for Oprah to expose Baptist sexual predators!!!

No matter what direction she goes in now...there is no other celebrity who has done more for abuse victims on a national level than Oprah!!!
Time for Oprah to meet a courageous Texas woman.

Think how many innocent people will be saved from sexual abuse in their church!
Think how many victims will feel validated and cared for.

Phyllis Gregory said...

Can you believe that -- the state convention can kick a church out of the local association for ordaining a woman deacon. And, as you Memphis folks remember, Prescott Baptist was kicked out because they called a woman pastor. Oh sin of all sins!

So where is the AUTONOMY there? It is all so convoluted and crazy. The SBC on the national and state level write the rules as they go to make everyone jump through their hoops and bow down at their feet. So AUTONOMY is used only when it suits them and gets them off some moral hook.

And sexual abuse by church leaders is a prime example of that hook. So, they choose to close their self-righteous, holier-than-thou eyes and pretend the emperor is clothed.

I wrote Oprah, too, and I encourage all of you to do that. I don't agree with her on all issues, but I do agree with gmommy, "No matter what direction she goes in now...there is no other celebrity who has done more for abuse victims on a national level than Oprah!!!
Time for Oprah to meet a courageous Texas woman."

john said...

Just to clear up a minor point;
1. The SBC can only disfellowship from the SBC. It cannot kick a church out of a state convention nor a local association.
2. The same is true of the other two groups.
The "reason" given for this is because a church volutarily app;ies for membership in each of the three groups therefore, each group can disfellowship a church if the violate their individual rules.
This is a well oiled and successful plan if you want to run a smoke-and-mirrors plan. Now, if each association would take the abuse problem serious and disfellowship offending churches that would send a message on the local level that would have a greater affect on warning parents than an SBC plan.
All of these groups have the ability to regulate there members and should do so more faithfully than they pretend to do now.
Inspite of the confusion this appears to portray, theses "christian" groups do whatever their little leaders feel is most important at the time.

Elisabeth said...

John, thanks for your point. And it is true. If we could get the local associations, or at least the states behind us, the assinine ways the national convention behaves would not have nearly as much impact. I know that the state missionary here in Arizona, Steve Bass, does have a heart for abused children; he has blogged about it, he has held workshops for churches, and he has made available literature about clergy sexual abuse for churches. I also know of a few cases in Tucson and Phoenix where clergy perpetrators were fired and arrested. Not that this state is perfect, I was abused as an adult who went to a pastor for counsel and he remained in the pulpit for years, but it does seem like we've done more than some other states.

Christa Brown said...

"... a smoke-and-mirrors plan."

Good description, John. Whatever the original design, intent and reasoning behind the Southern Baptist network of affiliations, the actual running of it has been twisted into a "smoke-and-mirrors" plan. And the impact of that dysfunctional reality has been devastating to clergy abuse survivors and to the ability of Baptist churches to rid their ranks of clergy-predators.

Anonymous said...

I don't get the logic... they disfellowshipped churches that were too pro-homosexuals??....around 76% of homosexuals are the result abuse by an authority figure. I wonder what the stats are for those who were by clergy abuse.

Anonymous said...

I am still scratching my head on this news of disfellowshipping. This is nuts...

Christa Brown said...

Yes, anon, it's all "nuts."

Another recent example: Rather than concerning themselves with the psychological maiming caused by clergy sex abuse, they busy themselves with assuring that people aren't influenced by the appearance of women pastors on the cover of a magazine.

They've displayed some diabolically dreadful misplaced priorities.

Anonymous said...

Futher thoughts, this is why I don't understanf the conservatives got rid of some social work programs in the seminaries as well and streamlining women from theological programs. You'd think that they would work hard to to oust clergy predators as a result. This is totally counterintuitive. I guess they really want "the state" to meddle in their affairs and establish datebases for them and enforce possibly more.

Phyllis Gregory said...

No, they just don't care. They are evil; they LOOK good on the outside, but they are anything but good on the inside. We go round and round with thoughts and ideas of how they could help, how they should change, how, how, how. But a wolf is a wolf; a snake is a snake; an evil person is an evil person.

Anonymous said...

But if they are confronted with the reality that "the state" will run and appoint clergy because the failure to govern their own, they will indeed be forced to change. Look at what Sen Grassley did to deal with the false profits on television. Sadly, there are those who will defend relgious liberty over governing ethics, but you can't have it both ways.

Anonymous said...

But, the SBC does not fear the Gov. Because, they both share a common point and that is power and money. The SBC loves to send their paid lobbiests to state governments and DC with the claim that they "speak for 16+ million southern baptists. And, beleive it or not, the gov people believe them and listen. Besides, since when has a state or fed gov. really been serious about solving a problem like perversion when so many of their own number are guilty.
It is going to take a serious revolution of thought or force to change things on either level. I think people are getting fed up with the corruption and inconsistancy on all levels of authority.
Until the SBC refuses to "play ball" with power brokers they will be left alone.

Anonymous said...

I don't entirely agree with that last statement. On the contrary they are involved with certain officials because they do have a fear of certain men and women which Solomon says is a snare. These civic arrangements will not last forever.

Elisabeth said...

The whole damn system (SBC) in some ways seems close to imploding; I am thinking that would be a good thing. Then maybe we can get back to God's business! Unfortunately, I do think more of the average people in the pews need to know of the junk before it will implode.

Anonymous said...

Not necessarily, don't give up, you never know who may be reading this site that may challenge the status quo either.

Anonymous said...

Dee Ann Miller's letter caught my eye before leaving the site. Hopiing to see it posted in the blog in the next week.

Christa Brown said...

Dee Ann Miller's open letter to Morris Chapman is here. There's also a link to it at the top of the main website - so people may also find it that way.

Anonymous said...

Phyllis is right: "they just don't care." They don't care at the SBC and they don't care at any of the state conventions either. Anyone who has tried to report a Baptist perpetrator knows this. They just don't care.

The WORSE the crime, the harder they try to cover it up and protect their image. This means that anyone unlucky enough to be molested by a Baptist preacher becomes a hated and reviled leper because you're the evidence that spoils the image.

Christa, if you're thinking that you'll convince some of these Baptist good old boys to show compassion and care for you - or for any of the rest of us - you're just wrong. It will never happen. Give up. None of them will ever care. They will always show far more compassion for the preachers who molest children than they ever will for the people who were molested. The preacher-child-molesters are no trouble. They're happy to keep things quiet, and so they don't upset the all-important image.

It's YOU who are nothing but a troublemaker, Christa. The same is true for anyone else who dares to upset their image with truth. YOU are the hated ones.

It may be "nuts" but it's the way they are and they won't change. As Phyllis says: "A wolf is a wolf; a snake is a snake; an evil person is a evil person."

gmommy said...

Give up?????
Not a chance!
Rather than be discouraged....why don't you write a letter to Oprah. Ask her to use her influence to expose the corruption of the Baptist sexual predators and the ones who protect them!

We can't change the heart of a person....especially a power crazed good ol boy.
BUT we can put all our efforts into exposing as to protect others!!
Never surrender!

gmommy said...

Give up?????
Not a chance!
Rather than be discouraged....why don't you write a letter to Oprah. Ask her to use her influence to expose the corruption of the Baptist sexual predators and the ones who protect them!

We can't change the heart of a person....especially a power crazed good ol boy.
BUT we can put all our efforts into exposing as to protect others!!
Never surrender!

Elisabeth said...

I have become really interested in denominational politics; read Wade Burleson's blog, read the SBC outpost until they stopped doing that, etc. I have become convinced that the problem with women / children getting abused and the response from the denomination is a symptom of a much deeper problem. It's a problem of power, and a problem of subjugation of women in general.

Christa Brown said...

Anon 11:22 – It took me a very long time, but I finally quit believing that Baptist leaders could be persuaded to genuinely care about clergy abuse survivors. They are too blinded by their own power and, as you say, by their determination to maintain the image at all costs (even if the cost means that countless more kids may be hurt). What I now believe is that they may ultimately be persuaded to at least ACT as though they care (1) when enough media pressure is mustered to seriously dent their image (that’s the reason for writing to Oprah!), or (2) when people in the pews finally rise up and demand action, or (3) when enough people in the pews shift their “brand” loyalty to other denominations that have systematic measures for imposing clergy accountability and ferreting out predators. In other words, I think it will still be the whole image thing and/or the economics of it that will ultimately drive Baptist leaders to take action. I don’t figure they’re gonna institute changes based on mere ethics, decency, or Christian goodness. That’s a sad statement… I know… and as I said, it took me a very long time to reach that conclusion.

“YOU are the hated ones.” Yes, Anon, you’re right about this. In the few years that I have been dealing with this issue (on my own behalf and as an activist) I have encountered more hatefulness than I would have ever imagined possible. And I’m not talking at all about the hatefulness of the minister who molested and raped me as a kid. I’m talking about the hatefulness of the many -- of the many Baptist preachers and leaders who have spewed forth venom and hate toward myself and others, who have turned their backs on terrible wrongs, and who have worked to bully, intimidate and silence abuse survivors.

Don’t get me wrong - I KNOW that all Baptists are not filled with hate for clergy abuse survivors. I know this for sure, and I hold hope that the goodness of ordinary people in the pews will eventually compel action. But I also know that the biggest sea of hatefulness that I have encountered in my entire adult life is a sea surrounded by a border that says “Baptist.”