Sunday, November 28, 2010

Another Eddie Long controversy

Gospel Today magazine is catching a lot of flak for its decision to feature the scandal-plagued pastor Eddie Long on the cover of its December issue. It has the appearance of being little more than a public-relations fluff piece for a prominent pastor who is currently embroiled in lawsuits alleging clergy sex abuse.

Long is the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta. Four young men have accused him of using spiritual authority to coerce them into sexual acts when they were teen church members.

Long is also Chairman of the Board of Advisors for Gospel Today magazine. Therein lies a big part of the problem. The conflict of interest seems obvious to a whole lot of people . . . but apparently not to the people at Gospel Today.

As reported by CNN, Gospel Today owner and editor Teresa Hairston went on the magazine’s website to defend the article, after readers complained. Personally, I applaud those astute Gospel Today readers who cared enough to voice their concern; it’s a shame Gospel Today didn’t take its readers’ criticisms to heart.

For those who have followed other Baptist clergy sex abuse cases, Hairston’s remarks will carry an eerie air of familiarity. She took aim at the press for how it has covered the Long scandal, and she claimed that Gospel Today had chosen to present a “biblical perspective.” She also said this:

“The Word of God teaches us that God is love; and far too many times we have been unbalanced and unloving — all in the name of a God who not only loves, but loves unconditionally and restores sinners — us included. Whether Bishop Long is guilty or not; whether the young men are guilty or not, the BODY OF CHRIST must handle this situation according to the Word of God! The mainstream press has painted a hideous picture; some have even called for Bishop Long’s resignation! They’re not even members!!”
My response: You don’t have to be a member of the church to know that power without accountability leads to abuse of power. You don’t have to be a member of the church to know that it’s wrong for faith groups to allow men into positions of high trust without also assuring that effective oversight systems are in place. You don’t have to be a member of the church to know that such a failure of oversight is a travesty that puts huge numbers of trusting kids and congregants at risk, not only in independent Baptist churches, but also in Southern Baptist churches and many other sorts of Baptist churches. You don’t have to be a member of the church to speak out about this sort of travesty. Indeed, it’s a shame that, so often, it is outsiders who must speak out, because, so often, it is the “members” who try to cover it up.

Related posts:
Eddie Long: The Real Scandal Is Even Bigger, 9/28/10
Denominational Double-talk, 9/29/10
Independent Baptist Eddie Long, 10/2/10
Our selective curiosity on sex scandals, 10/10/10
Where’s the Discipline? 10/13/10

News updates:
Bishop Eddie Long agrees to mediation, Huffington Post, 12/6/10
Another "I'm innocent" guilty case of sex abuse, Thoroughly Anderson Cooper blog, 12/8/10 (In video, expert says, "Mediation would be the last place you'd think he would wind up.")

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pastor told member to "keep his mouth shut"

In New Hampshire, Southern Baptist pastor Timothy Dillmuth and two church elders, Richard Eland and Robert Gagnon, were found guilty of failing to report child sex abuse. As reported yesterday in the Union Leader, the men will be sentenced on December 21st.

According to the judge’s written ruling, pastor Dillmuth “had met with the parents of a child who had been molested by a member of the church, which he later confirmed after talking to the child.”

“The information was shared with other members of the board of elders in September 2009,” and was discussed at some meetings of the church board.

A month later, when another member of the church urged the child’s parents to report the matter to authorities, pastor Dillmuth talked to the concerned church member and told him to “keep his mouth shut.”

“That church member subsequently left the church after belonging for over five years.”

Testimony showed that, at least into November 2009, the matter continued to be discussed at meetings of the board of elders, and “it became contentious.”

However, it was only in February 2010, after another church member heard about the abuse and threatened to go to the police, that pastor Dillmuth finally agreed the matter should be reported. Then, as stated in the judge’s ruling, church officials “put pressure on the parents… to do what the elders had a duty to do months before, report the child abuse to authorities.”

As police began to investigate, they turned their attention to the church officials’ conduct in failing to report the abuse. In a police interview, church elder Richard Eland justified their failure by saying that they “respond to a higher authority.” Thus, he used religion as a rationalization.

Because of this, the judge observed that “they would do it again.”

It was "deliberately attempted" to keep it within the church, wrote the judge.

The prosecutor described it as "a conspiracy" that was "not only unlawful, but shameful."

The church in which this shameful “conspiracy” took place is Valley Christian Church in Redstone, New Hampshire. According to its website, the church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Why should anyone be surprised at such keep-it-quiet conspiratorial conduct among the leaders of a local church when we have seen so much in the way of collusion, complicity and cover-ups extending even to the highest levels of Southern Baptist Convention leadership?

N.H. Baptist minister, elders found guilty of failing to report abuse, ABP, 11/30/10
Southern Baptist pastor told member to "keep his mouth shut," BaptistPlanet, 11/30/10

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving "Firsts" at Cornerstone

It’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving and my heart is filled with gratitude. At the invitation of Rev. Dwight McKissic, I spent the morning in a joy-filled worship service with the people of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.

This was the first time that any Baptist church has actually invited me to speak. So this 3,000 member congregation is something special, and they have a pastor who carries a genuine concern for the problem of clergy sex abuse.

For over 4 ½ years, I’ve been writing and talking about this subject that a whole lot of Baptist officials, Baptist pastors, and Baptist people seem to not want to hear about -- Baptist clergy sex abuse and cover-ups. It’s not a pleasant subject -- I know. But I also know that, if kids in Baptist churches are going to be made safer, we need to do a whole lot more talking about it.

That’s why I was both surprised and glad when I received Dr. McKissic’s letter of invitation. He also said that Cornerstone wanted to honor me with its “Phoebe Award.” It’s an award that Cornerstone gives out every 3 to 5 years “to a person who has made a difference in our world; someone who stands up for truth and right.”

For a moment, I confess I was flat-out dumbfounded. I looked again at the name on the letter. Sure enough – he was talking to me.

This was something dramatically different from all the ugly-talk that I’ve gotten from so many others who carry the “Baptist” name. So I decided to accept their gracious invitation and to go visit the people of Cornerstone.

They were warm and welcoming, attentive and caring.

Many people have told me that “Baptists are hopeless” when it comes to dealing with clergy sex abuse. I have had many moments of believing it. But when I meet Baptists like Dwight McKissic and the people of Cornerstone, it renews my hope.

I yearn for a future when kids in Baptist churches will be a great deal safer.

I yearn for a future when Baptist clergy abuse survivors will be received and heard with compassion and care.

I yearn for a future when clergy accountability systems will seem as "right as rain" in Baptistland.

I know that we still have a very long way to go before these dreams become reality. And perhaps it won’t happen in my lifetime. But like many others who have gone before and who will come after me, I feel as though we are working to plant seeds of change.

Today, I was very happy to be able to plant those seeds, standing side by side, with the people of Cornerstone. Someday, perhaps many years yet into the future, those seeds will grow into strong trees whose wide and sheltering branches will give safe sanctuary for the kids and congregants of Baptistland.

On a more personal note, today was a “first” in another way. Except for funerals, this was the first time I have set foot in a Baptist church in more than 30 years. I am grateful to the people of Cornerstone for welcoming me.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

In the top photo, that’s Dr. Dwight McKissic and I. The bottom photo shows the lovely award that Cornerstone presented to me. The plaque on the base reads: “A servant of the church … a helper of many.” Romans 16:1, 2.

Church honors advocate for abuse victims, ABP, 12/7/10
Positivity: Christa Brown rewarded for helping abuse victims, Ex Times, 12/22/10
Cornerstone's press release, 11/30/10

Update 3/5/11:
I packed away the award into a box and put it in storage. It became too sad to even look at it. I have come to the belief that, with only the rarest of exceptions, Southern Baptist pastors simply will not hold their own accountable. Cronies protect cronies. Why should anyone expect Southern Baptist pastors to hold other pastors accountable for sexual abuse when they won't even hold their highest denominational officials accountable for harsh, cruel written public rhetoric? On this issue, Baptist pastors are plagued by fawning tepidity. That's how it is in Baptistland.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"That's how you get a Jim Jones"

November 18th marked the 32nd anniversary of the Jonestown massacre. Over 900 people lost their lives when Rev. Jim Jones exhorted his followers to “die with dignity.”

By faith and by force, hundreds swallowed the cyanide-laced Kool-aid that was served up by the leaders of Jones’ church.

It was an event that left a permanent mark in our lexicon with the expression “drink the Kool-aid.”

Nowadays, people almost always describe Jim Jones’ church as a “cult.” Yet, what is often overlooked is that, for years, Rev. Jones was actually a very politically-connected preacher. It’s not as if he wore a sign saying “wacko.”

To the contrary, as reported by longtime religion writer Terry Mattingly, Jim Jones carried the credibility of being “a minister in good standing of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), an absolutely normal denomination….”

The Disciples of Christ are a denomination with congregational polity, similar to the polity of Baptists. But after Jonestown, the Disciples of Christ saw the importance of plugging the safety gaps in their polity, and they took action.

The people of Jim Jones’ congregation weren’t fools. Many were highly educated. Yet, when things turned terribly wrong, the sheep couldn’t rein in the shepherd. And no one in denominational leadership intervened.

It was only after 900 people died that Disciples of Christ leaders saw how their lack of clergy oversight made them vulnerable to horrific abuse perpetrated in the name of faith. So they created a process by which a regional body can consider the continued “standing” of ministers who carry the Disciples of Christ name.

One ordained Disciple explained the change this way: “In the dark light of Jonestown, it’s hard to argue that you can go back to an entirely decentralized structure with a general identity. That’s how you get a Jim Jones.”

Yet, that’s what Southern Baptists still have. Despite their shared general identity, they have a decentralized structure, and their leaders refuse to plug the safety gaps.

Baptist historian and religion scholar Bill Leonard describes Baptists as having a “radical congregationalism.” (Baptists in America, 2005, p. 153) I think those are apt words, not merely in theory, but also in practice.

When a faith group places the perfection of its man-interpreted polity above the protection of kids against clergy predators, then yes . . . they have stepped into the realm of being “radical.”

When a faith group fails to meet the standard of care that is now found in virtually every other major faith group in the country through the use of outside review on clergy abuse complaints, then yes . . . they have stepped into the realm of being “radical.”

Many people in the pews make the erroneous assumption that, because they share a “general identity” as Southern Baptists, the denomination provides a measure of safety. But with its “radical congregationalism,” Southern Baptists don’t prioritize safety. They afford no denominational system for effectively dealing with those who abuse the trust of the shared identity.

Thirty-two years ago, the congregationalist Disciples of Christ put in place an accountability process to try to plug the safety gaps in their own decentralized system. When over 900 people lost their lives, leaders saw the power of faith as a weapon, and they realized that the denomination itself carried a moral responsibility to intercede.

It’s a moral responsibility that Southern Baptist leaders still haven’t recognized.

For another account of what happened at Jonestown, read “Town without Pity,” by Charles A. Krause, a journalist who was shot while trying to cover the story there.

Note: Parts of this post were from a prior 12/1/08 column, "Jonestown Anniversary."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


How an organization spends its money can tell you a lot about what it thinks is important.

So I decided to take a look at the 2011 proposed budget for the largest statewide Baptist organization in the country, the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

It’s a budget that allocates a total of $38 million for net expenses.

How much of that do you imagine they allocated for addressing “clergy sexual misconduct”?


That’s three thousand five hundred and four dollars.

I’m guessing that amount is just enough to allow the BGCT to reprint some of its glossy brochures and put them on a table at the next annual meeting.

That’s it. Nothing more. That’s how little they care.

It's a tragic number that gives substance to the reality of the BGCT's institutionalized blindness to clergy sex abuse. (And the very fact that their budget labels it as “misconduct” only furthers the evidence of how the BGCT persists in minimizing this conduct. But I digress . . . this posting is about numbers.)

The Baptist General Convention of Texas once bragged that it was doing more than any other statewide Baptist organization in the country on the subject of clergy sex abuse. So there isn’t much reason to think the Baptist budgets in other states have allocated anything more.

A budget of $3,504 makes apparent that no one at the Baptist General Convention of Texas is even taking the first tiny baby step toward trying to responsibly address clergy sex abuse. And they sure aren't doing anything to minister to the wounded.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas should have allocated at least 10 times that amount for the sole purpose of conducting a study to assess their own institutional failure in the case of minister Matt Baker, who was convicted of murder last January. The BGCT needs to work toward understanding how and why a minister with multiple sexual abuse and assault reports was able to move so easily through so many of the BGCT’s affiliated churches and organizations, without anyone stopping him. They need to work toward understanding why it took a murder before those abuse and assault allegations were brought to light.

They need to work toward understanding how a Baptist minister with multiple abuse and assault reports was still able to get a job working as a chaplain at a residential treatment facility for emotionally troubled youth. Doesn’t the BGCT do credentialing for Texas Baptist chaplains?

They need to work toward understanding how, even at the end of his career, just before he was hauled up on a murder charge, a minister with multiple abuse and assault reports was still able to get a job working with college kids at a Baptist Student Union. It was a job funded by the BGCT. Didn’t anyone check his background? How could they have overlooked so much?

In most other organizations, an institutional failure of the Matt Baker magnitude would lead to a lot of questions. Leaders would try to understand how things went so wrong. They would try to figure out what they should do to assure that it wouldn’t happen again.

But at the Baptist General Convention of Texas, so-called “leaders” just hunkered down and stayed silent . . . as though it simply wasn’t their problem.

Kids and congregants in Texas Baptist churches are the ones who pay the price for the BGCT’s institutionalized blindness toward clergy sex abuse.

$3,504. That’s how little the BGCT cares.

The BGCT’s proposed budget is 177 pages long, and for me, it was an eye-numbing exercise to look at it. But if you’re someone who likes numbers, or if you just want to peruse it for yourself, here it is:

Meanwhile, I’ll point out just a few other items that caught my eye.

The “Ministers’ Wives Retreat” gets $9,000. The office of the Chief Financial Officer gets $61,882 for “Tax Seminars.”

Thinking about the fact that Matt Baker was able to work as a chaplain, I noticed that the BGCT’s budget allocates $2,248 to the “Chaplaincy Endorsement” program, and a total of $113,029 to “Chaplaincy Ministry.” But of course, that doesn’t count the salaries and benefits for the BGCT people who work in the program. (Once you start looking at some of the compensation packages for BGCT officials, you start to understand real fast about where a lot of the offering plate dollars go.)

"Counseling and Psychological Services" gets $115,148. (You can read more about that program here: “Therapy for perps but not victims.”)

Finally, the “Ministers’ Protection Plan” gets $1,300,000. I’m told that this is how the state conventions help to assure that Baptist ministers are provided with disability benefits. Of course, I’ve got no problem with ministers being able to get benefits when they become disabled. But here’s what I don’t understand: Why can denominational officials use the pooled money from autonomous churches to provide Baptist ministers with disability benefits, but they can’t use the pooled money from autonomous churches to provide Baptist congregants with the resource of a trained review board for objectively assessing clergy abuse reports and for informing people in the pews about credibly-accused clergy?

Kids and congregants would be a whole lot safer if the Baptist General Convention of Texas cared just as much about protecting them as it cares about protecting ministers.

But $3,504 is all they allocated.

Remember that number. That’s how little the BGCT cares.

Related post: "Once every two weeks for Texas Baptists"

See also: "How much do Southern Baptists budget for dealing with clerical sex abuse?" Baptist Planet, 11/17/2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

He was a Baptist pastor, not a priest

“Pervert priest faces 80 years in US jail.”

That was the headline in the November 5th Oxford Times.

One big problem: Robert Dando was a Baptist pastor, not a priest.

It’s bad enough that news reports sometimes don’t even mention the fact that a charged or convicted child molester is a Baptist pastor. Now we have a news story whose headline transforms the pastor into a priest.

The text of the story got it right, but of course, a whole lot of people just scan the headlines.

This is a dreadfully disturbing case, and in my view, it warranted a whole lot more media coverage than it got.

After all, consider these facts:
  • Dando was very closely connected to the highest levels of Baptists’ worldwide leadership. He previously served as executive assistant to the president of the Baptist World Alliance. This was a guy who ran with the big dogs.
  • Dando “was embroiled in another child sex abuse scandal when he was a minister at Orchard Baptist Fellowship” in the United Kingdom. In 2001, when the leader of the church, Dr. Anthony Gray, was convicted of serious sex offenses against a 14-year-old boy, Dando said this: “All our youth work is carried out within proper guidelines.” Yet, we now know that Dando too was sexually abusing kids, and had been since at least as far back as 1995. (Do these guys run in packs?)
  • At the time of his arrest, Dando was the prominent senior minister of Worcester Park Baptist Church in suburban London.
  • Dando pled guilty to repeatedly abusing 2 boys in Virginia, starting when they were 7 and 8 years old. Virginia prosecutors said that, under questioning, Dando also admitted to sexually abusing boys in the United Kingdom.
  • Dando had plenty of access to kids. His wife was a national vice-president of the Boys’ Brigade, a Christian youth organization with more than 500,000 members in 60 countries. Dando also worked for a children’s charity in India.
  • Dando previously worked as a magistrate on a family court panel, which dealt with child care and child access proceedings.
It’s awful to even think about how many kids this Baptist pastor may have wounded. Baptists ought to be making a far-ranging public outreach effort to try to reach those kids and help them. But I haven’t seen anything like that.

Meanwhile, in other news, a Baptist pastor in Missouri is charged with murdering the husband of a woman in his congregation with whom he had been having a sexual relationship. The pastor, David Love, even performed the man’s funeral.

According to the Kansas City Examiner, pastor Love had a longstanding "habit" of instituting sexual encounters with a female congregant. So this raises a question similar to the one raised with Southern Baptist pastor Matt Baker, who was convicted of murder last January: Why didn’t Baptists bust him sooner?

It shouldn’t take a murder for a pastor’s sexual abuse and assault reports to come to light. But tragically, that’s what it took with Baptist pastor Matt Baker.

Now we see yet another Baptist pastor charged with murder. And in the process, we learn that he reportedly had an ugly prior pattern for which no one held him accountable. Again . . . it shouldn’t take a murder charge to bring this stuff to light.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Why education isn't enough

Baptist leaders often say that, in order to prevent sexual abuse in churches, congregants should be educated to recognize the signs of potential abuse. But what do you do when you see the signs, and no one else wants to see them?

What do you do when what you see involves the minister, and everyone else just wants to ignore it?

That’s what happened to Nancy at her Southern Baptist church in Georgia. Her story is a good illustration of why educational efforts will never be enough. There must also be effective accountability systems that include a process by which clergy conduct can be reviewed by those outside the minister’s circle of influence.

Nancy is plenty educated. She’s a college psychology professor. In the past, she has worked as a counselor for sexual abuse survivors, and she herself is an abuse survivor. She’s also a mom. So when Nancy saw signs of potential abuse, she knew something needed to be done.

I have changed some of the details of Nancy’s story in order to protect the young girl’s sense of privacy. However, in reality, there is nothing unusual about this story. The elements are far too familiar. We’ve seen similar stories in countless other Baptist churches across the country – churches in which ministers with troubling allegations were simply allowed to move on.

For Nancy, it started about a year ago when she noticed on Facebook that one of their ministers, Steve, was being very flirtatious with a 15-year-old girl. He was also overly friendly with her at church.

Minister Steve is married and has kids of his own. He usually preached the sermon on Sunday evenings and Wednesdays. He also served as a Sunday School teacher.

As things progressed, minister Steve started posting more and more Facebook comments about the girl. He posted pictures of himself and the girl together on a church trip, and the pictures had inappropriate captions. Then he posted a comment about how she had given him a great massage.

Nancy recognized these things as “red flags.” She also knew that minister Steve had been accused of sexual harassment at a company he worked for previously. The accusations were corroborated by another employee who had witnessed some of Steve’s conduct; the company began an investigation; but Steve simply resigned in the middle of it.

Nancy went to talk to the girl’s mom. She’s a mom who is on her own with three kids, one of whom has special needs. Her only source of income is her part-time secretarial job at the church.

The mom immediately told Nancy that she had the same concerns, but was afraid to even think about it. The mom then told Nancy about still more of minister Steve’s disturbing conduct. He had been texting and calling the girl, having unsupervised workout sessions with her, giving her skin-tight workout clothes, asking for massages, and “accidentally” touching her during workouts. He had also given the girl a car.

After talking with Nancy, the mom sent minister Steve a short note asking that he not have further contact with her daughter. She said she felt uncomfortable. The note was honest and direct, but all it asked was for Steve to leave the girl alone.

Minister Steve responded by rallying his forces. He told people at the church that the girl’s mom was spreading lies about him. A deacon cornered the girl’s mom and told her that, if she were a better mother and had spent more time with her daughter, this wouldn’t have happened. (If this is the sort of thing a deacon says to the mom, I wonder what he may have said to the girl?)

After that, as Nancy describes it, “all hell broke loose.” Minister Steve started raging and retaliating in emails, on Facebook, in phone calls, and at the church. He figured out that Nancy had supported the mom, and so he also targeted Nancy and her husband. He cursed and yelled and threatened to sue people.

Ultimately, the deacons held a meeting, but they decided not to do anything.

So, for a while, minister Steve kept right on at that church, smiling and shaking hands as though nothing had happened. Meanwhile, Nancy and her husband became outcasts. Some church members won’t even look at them or speak to them. People say they are “gossips” and “trying to bring the church down.” All of this has affected Nancy’s own kids. This was, after all, their longtime church home.

The senior pastor and deacons have made it clear that the matter is not to be discussed. No one has tried to reach out to the girl. She seems “scared and ashamed,” says Nancy, who is understandably concerned that the girl has not told everything that happened.

But the mom has now gone back to her quiet ways. As Nancy says, she has learned that, if she doesn’t want to jeopardize her job, “she should simply keep her mouth shut.” So the mom isn’t interested in talking to the police or to an attorney.

Nancy says she knows there were originally other church members who had concerns, but in the face of such abysmal leadership, no one else was willing to stand up. So they just went back to their “singing, preaching, programs and donuts.”

It now appears that minister Steve has left the church. He just stopped showing up. So this one girl is now safe. But Nancy knows the pattern. Minister Steve will probably move on to some other church and other kids will be at risk.

That’s how it works in Baptistland. A single church can make a man a minister based on the lowest of possible standards, or based on virtually no standards. But once he’s a minister, he can easily migrate to other churches.

Nancy is deeply troubled, but she doesn’t know what more she can do. Here are her questions, in her own words.

1. “How do we let the next unsuspecting victims know? The girl’s mother isn’t going to do anything. Our Baptist Association won’t do anything. Our church won’t do anything. I don’t trust the leaders of the next church to do anything. So what can we do?”

2. “Do you stay in a church that refuses to hold people who hurt others, especially children, accountable? Do you stay in a church with poor, weak, and even ungodly leadership that is only concerned with covering things up and making the whole thing go away?”

3. “If you DO choose to leave the church, do you find ANOTHER Baptist church where leadership probably wouldn’t step up to the plate either? I am feeling so disillusioned about churches and their leadership in general. I have begun to feel that many of them are playing church and this isn’t real.”

4. “Everyone we know is happy with the status quo. If it doesn’t affect or concern them (or even if it does), they seem content to sweep it under the rug. We were very active in our church, along with our children, but this has caused us so much hurt, discouragement and disillusionment. I now have so many questions and concerns about things I’ve never questioned in my 41 years of being in Baptist churches.”

Monday, November 1, 2010

Autonomy doesn't trump kids' safety

“Anytime an SBC minister commits abuse, the denomination carries some level of blame for not creating a system to deal with abuse.”

Those are the words of Rev. Timothy Bonney, written today on the BaptistLife forum. Bonney is now a pastor at a United Methodist Church, but he spent many prior years as a pastor with the American Baptist Churches USA. So, Bonney knows about Baptists.

The American Baptists are a much smaller Baptist group, but like all Baptists, local church autonomy is central to their polity. However, for American Baptists, autonomy doesn’t preclude a system for clergy accountability.

The Southern Baptist Convention may be a lot bigger, but they could sure take a lesson from the American Baptist Churches.

Kudos to Rev. Timothy Bonney for his clear, true words! Here they are in context:

“The SBC could do as the ABC has done and create a clergy registry which would allow them to recognize clergy or blackball offenders when necessary. They are the largest non-Catholic denomination in the U.S. They could do it. They just won't do it. And so anytime an SBC minister commits abuse, the denomination carries some level of blame for not creating a system to deal with abuse.

I know local church autonomy is a very high value belief for Baptists. But I have a hard time seeing local church autonomy trumping the safety of children and the overall well being of the church.”


Related post with more words from Timothy Bonney and others: “Essence of the problem.”

See also "Iowa church illustrates low standards of Baptistland."