Thursday, March 11, 2010

What's really in the closet?

A Dallas church made a small change to its website and, already, there’s talk that the Baptist General Convention of Texas might oust the church.

“Royal Lane Baptist Church is an inclusive, multi-generational congregation joined in Christian community. We are a vibrant mosaic of varied racial identities, ethnicities, sexual orientations and denominational backgrounds.”

With this additional statement on its website, the church winds up at odds with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

“The convention has been clear in its belief that the Bible teaches homosexual behavior is sinful,” said Randel Everett, the BGCT’s executive director, who is shown in the photo.

So Everett is going to go talk with the church’s leadership. Sounds like a trip to the woodshed.

After all, the BGCT previously excluded an Austin church for similar action. And it placed the threat of exclusion on the table for a Fort Worth church.

For Broadway Baptist in Fort Worth, what began as an internal church dispute over whether to include gay couples in the church directory escalated into a denominational controversy when the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee decided to investigate the church.

Those Nashville high-honchos wouldn’t accept the church’s statement that it had “never taken any church action to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.” Instead, they took it upon themselves to independently assess the church’s actions. Then, based on their own assessment about the church’s perceived toleration of gay members, the Nashville boys recommended that the Fort Worth church be ousted from affiliation . . . and it was.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas followed suit with a proposal that, if the church sent messengers to its convention, the BGCT would refer “the matter of Broadway’s position on sexual ethics to the BGCT Executive Board for study.” Broadway opted not to send any messengers.

Now, with nothing more than a sentence on its website, Royal Lane is set to be the next church that the BGCT takes to the woodshed.

Thank God there are at least a few in Baptistland who see the hypocrisy of this.

Nathan Barnes commented on the Associated Baptist Press article and asked "what's really in the closet?"

“The leadership of the SBC and apparently the BGCT are not willing to sacrifice church autonomy to catalog and track sex offending clergy but are willing to sacrifice it to keep [gay/lesbian] folks from serving the Lord. The extremely tight fundamentalist control over the SBC actually has helped sexual predators to continually harm children, and now we even have one pastor who killed his wife rather than confess and repent from adultery for fear of losing his career.”

When another person suggested that if homosexuality is deemed acceptable, then pedophilia and bestiality will come next, Mr. Barnes responded with this:

“BUT pedophilia is already accepted. No church has been disassociated from the SBC or BGCT for passing on sex offending clergy to other churches. It’s not a double standard. It’s the standard.”

Mr. Barnes got it exactly right. Baptist leaders have so twisted the doctrine of local church autonomy as to make it little more than an easily manipulated excuse to serve their own ends. It’s pure contrivance for Baptist leaders to say they can’t do anything about clergy predators because of local church autonomy. After all, look at how quick they are to interfere with churches that admit to having gay members.

And let’s also look at what the BGCT keeps in its own closet.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas keeps a confidential file of ministers reported by churches for clergy sex abuse, “including child molestation,” and for whom there is an admission, “substantial evidence that the abuse took place,” or a “confirmed” report from a church.

That’s what’s in the BGCT’s closet. Literally. In a closed file cabinet.

It’s bad enough that the BGCT doesn’t do diddly-squat about abuse reports brought by individuals, but even on the rare occasion when a church itself reports a minister, the BGCT just puts the information in a closet. They don’t warn people in the pews of the man’s current church. They just shrug their shoulders and chant “autonomy.” And if more kids get molested . . . well . . . too bad for the kids.

BGCT officials are so stuck in their closet that they’ve deluded themselves into thinking this is ethical.

And that case about the “pastor who killed his wife”? The BGCT sure tried to keep that one in the closet. Despite multiple reports of sexual abuse and assault, Baptist pastor Matt Baker continued to move with ease through schools, churches and organizations affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and no one stopped him until he was finally brought up on murder charges. But rather than talking about its own connection to that tragedy, the BGCT takes a church to the woodshed over a sentence on its website.

And as Mr. Barnes pointed out, we haven’t yet seen a single case in which the BGCT even attempted to disfellowship a church for allowing a predatory pastor to move on to other churches . . . or for covering up for clergy sex abusers. For example, why has the BGCT remained quiet while pastor Dickie Amyx stands in the pulpit at Bolivar Baptist in Sanger? And why didn’t the BGCT speak up when Southmont Baptist in Denton gave a $50,000 “love offering” to a pastor who resigned amid allegations he sexually abused a 14-year old . . . and who admitted that “proper boundaries were not kept”? And why doesn’t the BGCT take First Baptist of Farmers Branch to the woodshed? It retains a music minister who kept quiet about another minister’s sexual abuse of a kid, while allowing him to move on to children’s ministry in other churches, and it also retains a senior pastor who was reported for sexual abuse of an adult congregant . . . but the church decided to characterize it as mere “misconduct.”

For these things, the BGCT can't bring itself to interfere. Local church autonomy, you know?

And how about Randel Everett, the BGCT’s executive director? Let’s not forget that one of Everett’s own prior churches harbored a serial child sex predator as a staff minister while Everett was senior pastor. But I haven’t heard Everett say a single word about THAT. Not one word of compassionate outreach to the victims -- nothing but silence.

Obviously, the BGCT is in such a dark closet of its own that it cannot possibly see clearly enough to even attempt to remove any speck from someone else’s eye.

Related posts:
Kicking out gays but keeping clergy-perps
Autonomy Schmonomy
Baptist autonomy ignored in investigating gays but not clergy child molesters

Baptist Planet: Implicit SBC clerical sexual predator policy [Neglect?]

Update 3/18/10:
BGCT takes action against church suspected of affirming gays,” Associated Baptist Press, 3/17/10.

Statement of the BGCT: The Baptist General Convention of Texas asks Royal Lane to remove mention of its affiliation with the BGCT from any of its church's publications. It prays that Royal Lane will take action to return to "Texas Baptist values." Uhhhhh .... that would be the sort of "values" demonstrated by the BGCT's action of keeping a confidential file of ministers reported by churches for clergy sex abuse, while leaving the ministers in the pulpit and without warning people in the pews? And that would be the sort of "values" demonstrated by the BGCT sending its attorney out to "help" a church with a report of clergy sex abuse, even though the way the attorney "helps" is by threatening to sue the victim and seeking secrecy agreements? A lot of kids could be a lot safer if the BGCT would take a good look at the reality of its own demonstrated "values."

More on the Baptist Planet.

Update 5/26/10: With a 63-4 vote, the BGCT Executive Board voted to oust Royal Lane from affiliation. Given the BGCT's long history of turning a blind eye to clergy sex abuse, how do they imagine that they have any moral credibility at all to even speak of "sexual ethics"? They don't. See the 5/25/10 story in the Associated Baptist Press: “Board distances BGCT from gay-affirming Dallas church.”


Jim said...

Great post. Please don't let-up or slow-down. Keep holding this mirror before the faces of SBC leadership and perhaps just one can be shamed into facing the reality of the circular reasoning that has created such stupid decision making. Of course, we all know these guys are getting their marching orders from "counsel." They are advised that any diversion from the "script" will result in massive lawsuits. It isn't about doctrine, it's about dollars. However, sooner or later, if you keep holding up this mirror, one of the stone faces will blink.

Anonymous said...

Shrugging of shoulders...blank stares...sealed files...locked file cabinets. Absolutely sick, twisted, horrifying!! How can they be so blind? These men must have can they not look into those precious, innocent faces and put themselves in their shoes...or the parents shoes if their child was raped...molested. I don't understand.

They march in so quickly wielding their Bible verses against homosexuality etc. Are you kidding? If you harm a child...a millstone should be hung around your neck and you should be drowned! That punishment is too good for these pedophiles and for those that turn a blind eye to them EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!

I second Jim. Don't give up indeed!I just read your book again. Keep going...never matters.


My word verification was fitting. these men are an insult to humanity!

Anonymous said...

The irony is that they are already endorsing a form of homosexuality. The SBC did not oust BBC/ Gaines for keeping a pedophile minister on staff who molested another young MALE.

Note, I said they are ENDORSING IT by their NON actions toward BBC and their subsequent promotion of Gaines speaking at many SBC related events AFTER the scandal which basically sends the message: His actions were OK.

Christa Brown said...

Yes... the unmistakeable message sent by Bellevue Baptist mega-church in Cordova, Tennessee is this: "Clergy sex abuse? No big deal. Clergy sex abuse cover-up? No big deal."

And the Southern Baptist Convention sends a similar message by its non-action toward Bellevue and by its shameless continued promotion of Steve Gaines, the pastor who was at the head of the keep-it-quiet cover-up at Bellevue.

Michelle said...

Hi Christa,

I want to let you know I'm still here, watching and cheering you on. I'm just sad right now, so can't contribute as much as I'd like.

I'm with all of you 100 percent. I respect you, Christa, and all the survivors who are here. Thanks for being here.


Anonymous said...

Nathan Barnes is right. For the Baptist General Convention of Texas, letting churches "pass on sex offending clergy to other churches" is "the standard." Shame on them. They have hurt hundreds of people and they don't care.

John said...

Thanks for the great post. This foolishness has been a problem for me for years. You are giving hope to many.