Thursday, June 17, 2010

During a Southern Baptist Convention

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.

“Dear Christa,

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.

Respectfully,
Jay Thompson”

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.

Keep trying.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

He was sodomized by a man at the convention who is IN A CHURCH RIGHT NOW AS PASTOR!!!

The pew sitters must be warned even if they refuse to believe it.

Christa Brown said...

"The pew sitters must be warned..."

Go tell it to those leaders at the Baptist General Convention of Texas in Dallas. Go tell it to the SBC men in Nashville. The reality: No one in Baptistland gives a hoot.

No one gives a hoot about any of these, either... and many more.

If Southern Baptists want to find out about the preacher-predators in their midst, then the denomination must provide abuse survivors with a SAFE place to report clergy abuse. That is what most other major faith groups in this country now do (in addition to providing review boards that will more objectively assess reports of abuse). It is flat-out cruel to expect that clergy abuse survivors should have to subject themselves to the meanness, brutishness, and barbarism of what they almost invariably encounter when they try to warn people about a Baptist preacher-predator.

Dozens of Baptist abuse survivors have told me that they never imagined anything could be worse than the abuse that was inflicted on them ... until they tried to report it... and only then realized that hell could become even more hellish.

Thy Peace said...

Off Topic:

BECAUSE IT MATTERS ~ FREEDOM FROM ABUSE IN CHRISTIANITY [Danni Moss] > Farewell.

From the siblings of Danni Moss:

On June 13, 2010, following a prolonged battle with cancer, Danni departed this life and stepped into the presence of the Lord.


SUZANNE'S BOOKSHELF > Because it matters.

Dan Vojir said...

Dear Christa:

I just came across your blog (almost by accident). I have a blog on religion and politics (http://thedevilanddanvojir.blogspot.com

I have been studying the Christian Right for many years now and have written many articles and blog posts(some with the bent of the LGBT community wrestling with organized religion).

I always knew that there was sexual abuse of teenagers outside of the Catholic clergy, but I never knew the extent of it. Does your book cite any numbers or even approximations? I'd really like to know.

BTW: Have you seen the latest about Texas? The Republican Platform is so virulently anti-gay, anti-immigration, anti-UN, and pro-corporal punishment in public schools that it boggles the mind. Surely the Southern Baptist convention had something to do with it!

Hope to hear from you.
Thanks again for a great blog!
Dan Vojir
dan-vojir@sbcglobal.net

Christa Brown said...

"Does your book cite any numbers or even approximations?"

Outside of the Catholic context, numbers are very hard to come by. Catholic canon law requires record-keeping on priests. Essentially, it's part of their religion. And their records have repeatedly come back to bite them -- big time and rightfully so. But unlike Catholics, the largest Protestant denomination in the land - Southern Baptists - don't even bother with any sort of denominational record-keeping on clergy abuse allegations or on credibly-accused clergy. Basically, Baptists claim their LACK of record-keeping is dictated by their religion. But of course, no data doesn't mean no problem.

So, for the most part, what the public winds up seeing on Baptist clergy abuse are those cases that involve criminal prosecution (which are the bare tip of the iceberg), while in the Catholic context, there is much more media coverage of what essentially amount to news about administrative types of review (i.e., ecclesiastical review processes) and of the records on priests that derive from those sorts of review processes.

Bottom line: there is no really good comparative data because Baptists make sure the data doesn't exist.

Nevertheless, the Associated Press gleaned some data from the major insurance companies that insure Protestant churches. That data showed that Protestant churches reported an average of 260 cases per year to their insurance carriers for cases involving sexual abuse of minors. That compares with an average of 228 cases per year of "credible accusations" reported within the Catholic Church. The largest of the Protestant groups that are reflected by the insurance data are Baptists (which is understandable if for no other reason than because Baptists are the biggest).

This is not a perfect comparison. Far from it. But I nevertheless find it pretty disturbing. In the Catholic context, if we had data only on those cases that reached the verge of litigation such that they were reported to insurance companies, I can't help but wonder if the 228 per year number would be a lot smaller. By the same token, if we had data from the largest Protestant denomination on mere "credible accusations" (instead of only on those cases that reached the verge of litigation), I can't help but think that the 260 per year number for Protestants would likely be a lot bigger.

Some links for the Associated Press article and and data and analysis (with embedded links to a Catholic priest/FOX commentator's analysis).

Anonymous said...

Christa:

THANK YOU!!! Your input is golden! I really want to do an article to submit to OpEdNews (which publishes most of my blog articles, but gets a thousand times more exposure). I'll use the sources you've given me. However, can I use any material you might have written on the subject? I think this information really needs a BIG audience!

Another thing: there are probably a number of reasons why men and women have not come out as far as abuse: the shame (and, in some cases, the guilt) and the family belonging to the church, etc. But couldn't there be an organization that would provide support as well as legal services? Although I can't do it, someone should!

Just saying...
Thanks again,

Dan Vojir
dan-vojir@sbcglobal.net

Christa Brown said...

"Can I use any material you might have written on the subject?"

Yes, and thanks for wanting to spread the word about the extent of this problem among Baptists. If you use material written by me, please give attribution to either my name or to Stop Baptist Predators. Thank you.

A couple years ago, I myself wrote several pieces for OpEd News. (If you search my author name, you'll probably still be able to find them.) OpEd News is a valuable resource for getting information out that often doesn't see much light in mainstream media.

Anonymous said...

The Denton paper ran 2 articles and he is still to my knowledge the head pastor of this Baptist Church. When I asked who in the church heard all of the tape they acted like they did not know what I was talking about. I wonder how much do they really know. Have they read his deposition my deposition or listen to the tape or read the transcript from the tape.

I am nobody but there are too many lives hurt by men like him and rules need to be in place to help protect other young lives. We need a database to track people who abuse children so they are not allowed back in a position to hurt more young lives.

By the way this man, who says he is a man of God, put a gun to my head when I was 15

He raped me many times and is the father of my child

On page 133 of Amyx deposition he states "Well, I regretted it. I had gotten her pregnant. She was a teenager, young woman."

He continued to abuse me for many years so I tend to doubt he regretted anything too much or he would have stopped. By the way he was sent to therapy when they found about my pregnancy - which he continued to abuse during and after that therapy. Again he went to therapy when I got a lawyer. So when he told me that he had the best job as he could do whatever he wanted and then confess and they would have to forgive him, appears to be true as other than therapy and some money he has the same position. What he paid did not even cover all of my medical by the way. When I asked his church to get him out of the ministry and to do background screens before putting anyone else in that position this was the response I received. " I cannot advise my client to agree to the non-monetary condition in your offer. "

I have many documents to back up what I am saying

I know too many people who are victims of abuse and so it is not just me

I spent my money - to go to the SBC Executive Committee to try to get them to start a database in June 2008. I flew from Texas to Indianapolis by myself to a strange city and state to talk to these men who I already had negative dealings trying to get them to take steps to protect children. If I had known that this was just for show, I would not of spent so much money to go to talk to them ( I have proof of this stuff too ) I have problems trusting so I tend to keep evidence and documents. I guess when a minister rapes you and says no one would believe you - you tend to want to have proof at hand.

People need to speak up and get these leaders to take active steps to address this issue of ministers who abuse and rape children and just go church to church.

Thanks to Christa and others who have tried to bring this issue to light

Thanks for listening
Debbie V