Another Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting came and went this week, and Southern Baptists still remain the all-time-biggest do-nothing denomination on clergy sex abuse. Nothing has changed.
But in my inbox today, there is still another reminder of how big the problem is. With the permission of Jay Thompson, I’m reprinting his email below.
I am nearly finished reading your book. I am so thankful my girlfriend found it online and bought it for me. It is chilling to read your story as it mirrors my own save the obvious gender differences. Now 52, I was forcibly sodomized DURING the Southern Baptist Convention back in the mid 70s (I was 16) at a Best Western Motel in Oak Cliff, TX. I was abused from ages 15-18. I was an "evangelist" with a "maturity well beyond my years" (as was written about me then), and my life has never been solidly back on track, though I am still trying.
Oh, the truths I could express... many of the Baptist leaders mentioned in your book I have met and "sat under," awed by "their wisdom." Makes me want to puke. Paige Patterson is as self-absorbed as was my perpetrator who took me to hear him!
Thanks again for your book.
Tragically, but not surprisingly, Jay also said this in a subsequent email:
“The perpetrator is currently the minister of a church in the same town in which these acts occurred (just up the street from the church he had been pastor of when using ‘God language’ to violate me.”
I know many of you who follow this blog will read Jay’s words and weep. But among Baptists, who will actually give a hoot? Who will actually do anything to help Jay. . . or the countless others who have been abused by Baptist clergy?
We’ve already seen what would likely happen if Jay tried to report this preacher-predator to the statewide Baptist General Convention of Texas. They don’t even have any system for receiving abuse reports from individuals, and so they wouldn’t do diddly-squat.
And though the BGCT has a system to provide counseling, or counseling stipends, for Baptist clergy who commit what they so euphemistically refer to as “sexual misconduct,” they have no system whatsoever for providing counseling to those who have been the most grievously wounded –- those who have survived Baptist clergy sex abuse.
On a good day, leaders at the BGCT might choose to simply ignore Jay, but it’s also possible that the BGCT would send out its own longtime attorney to “help” the church of the accused perpetrator. And the way the attorney “helps” is by threatening to sue the victim.
BGCT honchos know that this is what the attorney does – threatening people who try to report abuse – but they send him out to “help” anyway. It usually works to re-silence the victims – but it sure as heck doesn’t work to keep any other kids any safer.
Or maybe, now that Sonny Spurger is gone from the BGCT, Jay might simply encounter the dangerously naive Emily Prevost, who would likely tell Jay to report the preacher’s abuse to the preacher’s current church. It’s the standard line of idiocy in Baptistland, and it's the line Prevost has used in the past. It’s like telling bloody sheep to go back to the den of the wolf who savaged them. But hey... I’m sure Emily Prevost would say it with a smile. She would pray for Jay.
So then imagine that Jay tries to report this preacher-predator to honchos in Nashville. He’d likely be met with some of that Ephesians 4 sermonizing on forgiveness that other abuse survivors have gotten from Executive Committee members. Or maybe he’d just get some of that insipid God-bless-we’ll-pray-for-you sort of talk. Or if Jay actually tried to talk to top-dog honcho Frank Page, Jay might get told how “mean-spirited” he is for pursuing this or maybe he’d get told that he’s “nothing more than an opportunistic person.”
Those honcho guys in Nashville sure know how to be good shepherds, don’t they? (Please pardon my sarcasm.)
I can imagine all sorts of possibilities for what Jay would likely encounter if he stepped into the Kafkaesque hell of trying to report the preacher-predator to Baptist officials. None of the possibilities are good.
The one thing we can know almost for certain is that no one in Baptistland will actually help Jay.
Unlike other major faith groups, Southern Baptists have no denominational system for accepting or assessing survivors’ reports of clergy sex abuse. They have no system for warning people in the pews. They don’t even have any system of record-keeping on reports of clergy sex abuse.
It’s possible that someone else may have already attempted to report the very same preacher-predator, but since no one is keeping records, how would anyone know?
In Baptistland, a preacher can have multiple reports of abuse, and he’ll simply be allowed to move on, with few in the pews being told.
That’s how it works in Baptistland. No records - no trace - no trouble.
Except that it sure wreaks long-lasting trouble in the lives of kids.
As Jay so plainly stated – and his words speak for many – “My life has never been solidly back on track, though I am still trying.”
Keep trying, Jay. Keep trying. Though it’s certainly true that there is virtually no one in this power-purposed, do-nothing denomination who will actually give a hoot, there are a great many of us other clergy-abuse-survivor-lepers who are pulling for you. And in the very act of allowing your email to be printed, you yourself have already pulled others along -- others who will see your words and take courage and will begin the slow, quiet process of struggling toward the water's surface.