Saturday, March 20, 2010

Keeping Faith with the "Baptist Faith"

This story comes straight from the “Do as I say not as I do” department. In Baptistland, that department is well-staffed.

Article XV of the Baptist Faith and Message says this:

“We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick.”

So there it is: Southern Baptists’ own statement of faith says they “should work to provide for…the abused.”

It’s a nice thing to say, but where is the doing of it?

When “the abused” are people who were sexually violated by Baptists’ own clergymen, Baptists want nothing to do with “doing.” Denominational deeds are non-existent.

Baptists aren’t working “to provide for…the abused;” they’re working to ensure that “the abused” remain invisible. They’re choosing callousness over compassion.

For those unfortunate enough to be abused by Baptist clergy, there exists only an institutionalized lack of care in Baptistland. The denomination does not seek "to provide for the abused;" it seeks to silence them.

Yet, the Baptist Faith and Message is more than mere words on paper. It is the exact same statement of faith -- or what many call a “creed” -- that Southern Baptist leaders invoke when they want to oust a church for having a woman pastor.

In fact, just last week, when Georgia Baptist officials voted to oust a church for having a woman pastor, their executive director, Robert White, justified it by saying, “We are keeping faith with the Baptist Faith and Message.”

Yet, as a person who was sexually abused as a kid by a longtime Georgia Baptist minister, I can certainly say that Robert White did absolutely nothing “to provide for the abused” when I contacted him. He did not help me in any way.

Given how little he cared about “keeping faith” when it would have involved providing for the abused, I can’t help but wonder why he’s so focused on “keeping faith” when it involves ousting a church with a female pastor.

Obviously, the Baptist Faith and Message is a statement that Baptist leaders treat quite seriously when it suits them.

So why doesn’t it suit them “to provide for the abused”?

It’s bad enough that so many Baptist leaders have covered up for clergy abuse in the past and have failed to protect against clergy abuse in the future. They contravene both civil law and moral law with their cover-ups and do-nothingness.

But now we see that Baptist leaders also contravene even their own self-professed statement of faith by failing “to provide for the abused.”

It is certainly too late for Baptists to claim any honor in having acted quickly for the protection of kids against clergy predators. However, it is not too late for Baptists to avoid the unconscionable denominational disgrace of never having acted at all.

Baptist leaders should keep faith with the Baptist Faith and “should work to provide for the abused.”


BaptistPlanet said...

It seems clear then that a denomination which is as serious about the protection of children as it is about keeping women out of the pulpit will disfellowship churches which through silence, omission or action contribute scandalously to the victimization of children and to the continued predatory careers of abusive clergy.

Junkster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Junkster said...

I think this is an important point for you to keep raising as you deal with Baptist leaders and churches. The current climate in the SBC is such that many churches are afraid of being seen as out of line with the Baptist Faith and Message, especially since the preface to the 2000 version refers to it as an "instrument of doctrinal accountability".

Continue to point out the phrase "We should work to provide for ... the abused" and that churches who do nothing about clergy abuse are in clear violation of the BFM. It's a concise and effective way to communicate the need and basis for change.

Jim said...

One issue of supreme importance in SBC life is the perpetuation of male dominance. Whether it is male clergy exercising dominance over women and children through criminal sexual acts, or denominational organizations exercising male dominance by keeping women out of the pulpits of SBC churches, it is fruit from the same diseased tree. If there were a rash of female SBC members charged with abusing children, the denominational leaders would be tripping over themselves to deal with the issue. Since that is not the case, each day is just another day in Baptistland.

Christa Brown said...

"...the preface to the 2000 version refers to it as an 'instrument of doctrinal accountability'."

Wow. I totally missed that part. (The preface to the BFM is here.) And not only does it refer to the BFM as an instrument of accountability, but it also states that the BFM is affirming "our accountability to each other."

So where's the accountability?

And amazingly, keep-it-quiet pastor Steve Gaines was on that committee for the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Who's holding HIM accountable??? Last I saw, other SBC leaders were still holding Gaines up as an example of pastoral leadership at pastors' conferences.

Anonymous said...

"One issue of supreme importance in SBC life is the perpetuation of male dominance."

It's because so many Southern Baptist men are so insecure in their manhood. And their excuse for all their evil and oppression? "It's biblical." What cowardly nonsense.

Anonymous said...

And the KKK said they were Biblical too!! It's amazing how much scripture is twisted to meet someone's twisted agenda!!

No one has THE answers about how the Bible is to be interpreted and understood. If a person doesn't live out and look like love, compassion,humility,kindness,
servanthood(Jesus)...if they don't truly care for orphans, widows(the wounded and the needy)in their own back yard...they are frauds.

Christa Brown said...

And, in all likelihood, a whole lot of those men under those KKK white hoods were Southern Baptist deacons and preachers -- leaders in their churches and communities.