Saturday, August 21, 2010

Messy messy hornets' nest

The SBC Voices blog is trafficked largely by Southern Baptist pastors, ministers and denominational leaders. Recently, a couple postings got into the clergy sex abuse issue, and as usual, when these guys get going on this subject, some of the comments can be pretty depressing to read. But “Bill” provided a comment worth sharing here. He said this:

“I worked for a church that quickly and quietly got rid of a youth pastor mired in accusations of child abuse and he went to work for at least two other churches before he finally wound up in our court systems and is currently doing a lot of time. The pastor of my old church never personally recovered from this ordeal and personally feels responsible for the children who were proven right so many years later. He also feels that the children of these other churches are his responsibility too. However, he says that you don’t want to be the person to destroy a fellow minister, but he feels he destroyed the lives of at least a dozen boys/young men in trying to protect this one pastor. . . .

I do think something should be done but I think that there are so many areas to act on in order to address this issue head on, that no one will be courageous enough to stand the intense hatred pointed in their direction should they even suggest something to the SBC . . . . It’s a messy, messy hornets’ nest that everyone’s too afraid to stir up and the predators know it.”

Bill is right: “It’s a messy, messy hornets’ nest” and everyone is afraid. But it’s time the Southern Baptist Convention started providing leadership for responsibly dealing with that fear. Any fool can see that all their pretty pamphlets are little more than a pretense of dealing with it . . . and as Bill says . . . “the predators know it.”

Bill’s story is nothing unusual. Over a long period of time, countless Baptist ministers have been allowed to move on to other churches despite allegations of abuse. And as a result, many more kids have been dreadfully wounded within the faith community.

Oh sure . . . the ministers aren’t actually “assigned” to a new church. They’re simply allowed to move on. But whether “assigned” or “allowed,” the molested kids are no less wounded.

I don’t know the specifics of Bill’s particular story, but I know the usual and frequent pattern of many similar stories.

Imagine that a kid named “Joe” was one of that youth minister’s earlier victims. The pastor of the church suspected something, but decided it was better to let sleeping dogs lie and to let the youth minister go elsewhere.

Joe spent the next decade trying to figure out how to live with the trauma of having been molested and sodomized by a minister who wielded words of God as a weapon. He tried desperately to wall off any thought of what was, in any event, unthinkable.

Finally, Joe couldn’t keep it all inside anymore. As he began to deal with the reality of what the minister had done, he worried endlessly about others. But by then, it was too late for criminal prosecution (as most cases are). So a decade later, Joe went back to the church of his childhood to try to tell people and to try to get some help for protecting others.

Given that the pastor couldn’t muster the courage to take responsible action when the molesting youth minister was right there in his own church, do you imagine that he’s going to take action to help Joe now, when Joe hasn’t set foot in the church in over 10 years and when the youth minister is long gone?

No. That’s not what typically happens. The pastor shrugs his shoulders and says something like this, “Not my problem. That minister isn’t even at our church anymore. I don’t know where he is.”

So, on his own, Joe tries to find the minister who molested him. Maybe he’ll be able to, and maybe he won’t. A lot of Southern Baptist ministers aren’t listed on the SBC’s registry of ministers. (For example, here’s a church in which not one man in their 17-member ministerial staff was listed on the SBC’s registry of ministers.)

But imagine that Joe gets lucky and finds the man. When Joe sees that he’s still a Southern Baptist minister working in a position of trust with kids, Joe feels all the more desperate.

Joe contacts the chairman of the deacons at the man’s current church. But the deacon says, “Not my problem. What you’re talking about involves some other church. We haven’t had any complaints and our ministers are men of God.”

So, Joe turns to people at the local association, at the state convention, and finally at national Southern Baptist headquarters.

Every step of the way, the response he gets is some version of “Not my problem. Local church autonomy.”

Joe gives up, and for many years more, the man continues working as a Southern Baptist minister whom kids and their parents trust almost completely.

Finally, one kid’s parents suspect something and report it to the police in time for prosecution. The man is criminally convicted and, because he’s sitting in prison, he’s no longer working as a Baptist minister.

But between the time when Joe first started trying to talk to people and the time when the minister was criminally convicted, at least a dozen more boys were molested and sodomized by that same Baptist minister who wielded words of God as a weapon.

Those are the kids whose nightmares might have been spared if Baptists would do what other major faith groups have done by creating a safe place where victims could report clergy abuse -- a place where victims’ reports would be responsibly assessed and where records of credible allegations would be kept.

Furthermore, it sure would have helped to ease Joe's mind.

But as Bill says, “everyone’s too afraid.”

“Everyone’s too afraid” to even hear people like Joe.


Anonymous said...

Great article Christa.
sent an email to you tonight.

Anonymous said...

I glanced thru some of their comments. What do you say to their complaint that they've tried to help on a state level or whatever and you don't seem interested in those avenues?

I just want to understand your thinking on this.

Anonymous said...

I skimmed through the comments and came away with the following thoughts considering most of the commenters are pastors or those making their living in ministry of some sort:

-They are more concerned with false accusations than they are with victims. And made sure to share stories showing a Jezebel who ruined a wonderful minister's life.

-"Education" and background checks are more for insurance purposes than preventing abuse. Most abusers are rarely caught before they have tons of victims

-Any detective will tell you that Pedophiles love churches. The church tries to hide things because of image and such things do not 'grow churches" AND because the church is more apt to promote "instant forgiveness" of sexual perversion to show how compassionate they are to perverts. But not the victims

-The ministers on the thread went to great pains to never mention the SBC leaders who have protected and even promoted those who have protected sexual perverts. They never mentioned Gaines at BBC who kept a confessed pedophile minister of prayer on staff UNTIL it becamwe public knowledge. Nor, did they mention Paige Patterson who protected Darrell Gilyard who is now in prison and who had some very nasty things to say about those who ARE concerned for victims.

Nor did they mention Frank Page who said the victims were opportunists.

And of course, they love Louis who is more concerned about Trial Lawyers than he is little children.

Yet, they really do think of themselves as great men of God. The arrogance was appalling. I suppose they are quite concerned about their incomes from ministry being affected.

Christa Brown said...

I've never, ever said that only a national database would do. To the contrary, I have been very publicly vocal, have made press statements, and have written a lot on this blog, about trying to get the largest of the Baptist statewide conventions to do something. I also talked about the state-level problem quite a lot in my book, and about my communications with statewide Baptist officials. Given how public I've been on this, it's amazing to me that anyone would suggest that I'm not interested in state-level possibilities. It's simply not true.

And even outside of Southern Baptist affiliated statewide conventions, I also gave a very big chunk of time to the statewide Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to help them in developing a procedure to allow for the reporting of clergy sex abuse by the victims themselves. I got absolutely nothing for it. I did it because, contrary to what some people say, I'm interested in trying to find effective solutions, and that includes solutions at the state level.

I also communicated with local and statewide Baptist officials in Georgia and Florida. And of course, I've talked with and many clergy abuse survivors who have attempted to communicate with statewide Baptist officials in many other states. The patterns are almost invariably the same. No one will do anything.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas claims to do more than any other Southern Baptist affiliated statewide convention with respect to clergy sex abuse. But they don't even have any system for considering clergy abuse reports from the victims themselves. There is literally nowhere for the victims to turn.

The reason the BGCT claims that it is doing more than any other statewide Southern-Baptist-affiliated convention is because it keeps a confidential file of ministers reported by churches. (From what I hear, some of the other statewide conventions probably also keep such files, but they simply don't brag about it the way the Texas convention does.) In any event, the Texas file is a sort of Catch-22 deal because they receive abuse reports only from churches, and because everyone knows that, the vast majority of the time, the churches don't report their own ministers. They just let them move on. And the irony is that, even in the extremely rare case of a church that actually does report a minister to the BGCT, the minister's name simply sits in a file cabinet. No one does anything to get the man removed from ministry or to warn people in the pews of his current church. My own perpetrator had his name sitting in their confidential file in their TX state Baptist Building in Dallas, and yet he was still working in children's ministry in Florida, and no one would do diddly-squat to even warn people, much less to remove him from ministry.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your reply. It made me angry-not at you-but at those who would just plain lie about you not trying to do anything at the state level.

I, reading what the pastors were saying, started to feel a little doubt toward you. And I'm not a pastor. Imagine what effect someone telling a lie like that has on their peers in the ministry. It would likely be easily believed and accepted. It would make you look like someone with a hidden agenda-in other words, it would make you and your motives suspect, and thereby, discredit your message. Ugly.

Plus there's bound to be many more people who've read that column than have read your book. It must be very frustrating to go up against all this and to be misrepresented. I admire you for not giving up. You and other victims of the perpetrators and this ugly system deserve so much better.

I cannot imagine how it must feel to be a victim, then finally actually tell what happened to people who supposedly are to be known for their love of others (love your neighbor as yourself)and to then find that that phrase sounds nice but is not acually practiced in reality. I can see where coming up against that brick wall would be even more hurtful and embittering.

I agree, there MUST be SOMEONE victims can turn to who actually give a ####. AND there must be a way to STOP having MORE victims in the future.

Valarie said...

People are SO stupid to be sucked into the tactics used by these bullies. WHAT hidden agenda would Christa have? Christa isn't one of the "grand standers" like these guys.
I dare them to read her book and get the facts before coming to their evil conclusions.

They don't have the guts to read the book. The facts are too well documented. Christa's nightmare of abuse by this minister (who went on to work in the children's dept. at Charles Stanley's church) is too GRAPHIC for them to stomach.
I support Christa Brown and her mission to stop Baptist clergy abuse. I have been sexually abused.
I carry scars from the Bellevue Baptist minister predator scandal... but I could not read the section about Christa's abuse. It was too sadistic and evil for me to read in completion. My heart screamed for what she endured.
But here she stands...speaking the truth, laboring for what is right and what we should all want. These bully ministers continue to try and inflict harm and damage to get her to shut up. But she stands....because she must...b/c it is RIGHT.

They accuse those who support Christa's mission of "worshiping" this courageous lady. How lame and stupid.
The people pointing their evil fingers have put the SBC and it's marketing programs before everything that resembles anything "Christian".
They care nothing for the damage their arrogance, lies, and meanness does to the true gospel of Christ.
Watch their accusations. That's what they are guilty of....that's what their hearts look like.