Tuesday, September 8, 2009

BaptistLife review of "This Little Light"

Some of you will remember William Thornton, a minister who is a discussion moderator on the BaptistLife site. At the end of 2006, some of you shared pieces of your clergy abuse stories on this site and engaged a lengthy dialogue with other Baptist ministers. I think it was the first big blog discussion ever had on Baptist clergy sex abuse, and I suspect it may have been one of the longest threads ever pursued on the BaptistLife forums.

I know it was painful for many of you at the time. The callous harshness of some of the posted responses was very hurtful. Yet, for many of us, we made that painful effort to engage Baptists in a dialogue on clergy sex abuse because we held the vague hope that it might help to open hearts and to eventually bring about change within the denomination.

So far, I can’t see that there has been much change in the denomination. Baptists are entrenched in mass-scale denial, and compared to other major faith groups, Baptists seem determined to be “lasteth with the leasteth” in addressing clergy sex abuse.

But perhaps there has been some small bit of opening in some few hearts.

Rev. William Thornton just posted his review of my book on the BaptistLife forums.
It’s under the Baptist Life & Practice forum (as opposed to the SBC News forum), and he posted it Monday, June 7, under the thread “Christa Brown’s book on clergy sexual abuse.” I have cut and pasted it below. Thanks, William.

Christa Brown’s book on clergy sexual abuse

Christa Brown was kind enough to send me a copy of her book This Little LIght: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang. She is known from her website Stop Baptist Predators and has blogged about the book on her blog, here .

You are a 16 year-old girl as active in your Southern Baptist, Baptist General Convention of Texas affiliated church as a kid can be; a kid who doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, never been on a date, never been kissed, never even held hands with a boy, when your married youth minister zeros in on you with sexual innuendo and physical horseplay, finds ways to isolate you from the rest of the church kids, and who uses perverted spiritual talk and Bible quotes to call evil good and wrong right and eventually end up with you doing pretty much anything he wanted you to do sexually - 16 year-old kid, married adult clergy staff minister. Along the way, you are forced to apologize for seducing him. You finally spill things to another staff minister in the church who already has some knowledge about it, and eventually come to understand that perhaps others in the church and community knew something was going on if not exactly what was going on. Your minister/abuser eventually moves on to a larger churches and years of high level positions in his field in some of the largest churches in the SBC. You are left with the emotional and spiritual wreckage of the abuse out of which pretty much every church memory is soiled, but decide three decades later that this wasn't right and isn't right and someone should do something about it.

And you decide to do it.

You expect at least some level of apology, compassion, and at least some degree of justice from the church, the abuser, the BGCT, and the SBC, any or all of them.

What you get is: a lot of people wishing you would go away, a lot of people just ignoring you, some people in the BGCT making promises and then silently letting them slide by; you get hardball tactics from church and BGCT attorneys, melifluous words from some Baptist leaders in private but never in public; encouraging words from SBC executive Committee members in private, but followed by "you can't ever tell anyone I said that"; you get a lecture from the clergy sex abuse expert in the denomination; you get snubbed by some denominational leaders and rudeness from others. You get called a liar and a long list of other things, none good. You learn that there is BGCT money to help abusers return to ministry but none for victims. You learn that the BGCT accepts reports of abuse by clergy, but only from churches and not abused individuals. You get to hear SBC pronounce that there were 40 cases of abuse in 15 years, at about the same time you have difficulty in managing your email inbox from other abused individuals telling you their story.

You eventually spend a lot of your own money and time and wrest an apology from the church but no church leader then or now ever looks you in the eyes and says, "I'm sorry."

You finally conclude that any person or entity with the name "Baptist" will be of no help.

Aren't there any good guy Baptists in this sordid tale? Bob Allen in a big way, Wade Burleson in a smaller way. That's about it for the Baptist bruthus.

Update 9/9/09: See Baptist Planet's review on William Thornton's review: “This Little Light of hers outshines the abusers.” (Incidentally, I'm glad to see you back in the saddle, Baptist Planet.)


Ramesh said...

Baptist Life Forums > Baptist Faith & Practice Forum > Christa Brown's book on clergy sexual abuse.

Christa Brown said...

Many thanks for the link, Thy Peace. I just revised the posting so as to insert the link.

Lin said...

Wow, thanks to William Thorton!

gmommy said...

Wow...I like this guy. But is he seriously asking if things would be different today? Could he possibly not be informed about the many more recent "incidences" (I so hate that word)of clergy sexual abuse and the cover ups???

Christa Brown said...

"But is he seriously asking if things would be different today?"

I know, gmommy. Given the number of cases that have been in the news, how could anyone imagine that things would be handled any differently today??? Over and over again, we see that they aren't.

Every good person likes to think that they would do the right thing if confronted with information about clergy abuse. But in reality, the human instinct for denial in the face of evil is too strong -- particularly when that evil involves someone you know and trust -- and who is more trusted than a clergyman? It's why an outside, objective, and professionally-trained review board is so desperately needed for the assessment of clergy abuse reports. (But of course, I know you know this, gmommy -- guess I'm just preaching to the choir.)

William said...

I do appreciate Christa sending me her book and, consistent with my interest for several years in her case and similar, I was pleased to start a topic on it at BaptistLife.

From her book, I recognized the names of some of her collegues who contributed to previous discussions on BLife and I regret that in the discussions these people weren't always treated properly, a point Christa made in the book.

Christa Brown said...

William: Welcome here, and thank you for your efforts to bring about discussion on this issue. My recollection is that your forum is indeed where the first real discussion was had. I also appreciate your expression of "regret," though of course it was really other individuals who said ugly things. And I should point out that, though I specifically mentioned BaptistLife in my book, there were also many other Baptist blogs on which ugly things were said.

And thinking of ugly words and the possibility of "regret," do you think Frank Page ever feels any regret for having publicly called us "nothing more than opportunistic persons"?

gmommy said...

Thank you for your interest and for having the courage to discuss what so many choose to ignore.

Frank Page accomplished what he intended with his cold and untrue remarks. Remember a few years back when I was in the North for Easter and found myself in the home of a Baptist? I really don't remember how the subject was brought up b/c I was not wanting to be controversial while in the home of people I didn't know well.The first thing a man said was...the whole thing with the Baptist abuse issue is that someone thought they could make some money off telling stories about a pastor.
My daughter's eyes were pleading with me to keep my cool. I told him instead of believing what he was told he should check the facts concerning the many cases of clergy sexual abuse AND the cover up!
I expect to hear lies and denial in the South but was completely surprised that Baptist not associated with the SBC and Page and Patterson could be so easily fooled.
None of this is "uncharted waters" and there is no excuse for the ignorance and cruelty shown to victims. This was going on 30 years ago and it continues today...along with the same excuses and manipulation!
It's a good thing God doesn't need these self anointed guys to still be God. They know and live so little scripture!

Christa Brown said...

"This was going on 30 years ago and it continues today...along with the same excuses and manipulation!"

Amen, gmommy!
And what I want to know is when will Baptists wake up and make things better for the future? When will Baptists institute clergy accountability mechanisms so that kids in Baptist churches can be made safer and so that those who have been wounded will be assured of decent and responsible concern when they attempt to report abuse? And when will Baptist leaders address the information gap so that Baptist congregants can be assured of knowing whether their ministers have been credibly accused of sexual abuse?

gmommy said...

Just a wild guess or two...
when they actually have their hearts changed and are compelled by love and compassion...which usually includes some major suffering and loss.
Or when they are forced to...either because of a major law suit, or enough people get tired of their man centered godless show and stop supporting their celebrity life styles.
Or never.