Saturday, April 17, 2010
And just think... a lot of people in London are reading about it, too, and are learning about Baptists' denominational do-nothingness on clergy sex abuse. Thanks to Patrick Lindsay Bowles!
Suffering and the Children
by Patrick Lindsay Bowles
"The current crisis for the Catholic Church over decades of child sexual abuse has further obscured a similar but less reported story. One of Time magazine’s “Top Ten Underreported Stories of 2008” was the refusal by America’s largest Protestant church, the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), to create a database of those among its 101,000 clergymen who have been convicted or credibly accused of sexually abusing children. That refusal is one of the practices that make the 44,000 churches of the SBC, says Christa Brown, “a perfect paradise for predators”. The shocking evidence, expertly marshalled by Ms Brown, a successful appellate lawyer in Austin, in this riveting account of her own victimization, suggests that in the case of the SBC the distinction between predator and clergyman is all too often diaphanous.
In powerful descriptions of her abuse and its aftermath of madness, tainted relationships and loss of faith (years later, writes Brown, “I would sometimes go out alone on moonless nights and scream into the ocean . . . . I didn’t have a clue why I was screaming”), the author demonstrates how her own descent into hell corresponds to a typical scenario for Southern Baptist victims. Under the guise of counselling a child, she says, a pastor rapes her, quoting scripture all the while, but insists that she is the guilty party and enlists his church and the SBC to successfully cover up his crime. Three decades after the incidents, Brown was finally able to put a name to what had happened to her; having become a mother made it urgent to her to file a complaint. Although the SBC claimed to have no record of her aggressor, he was serving in a well-known church when Brown located him in 2004. On January 18, 2006, her former church produced a letter acknowledging the facts of the case, for which Brown agreed to suspend legal proceedings.
The SBC gives two reasons for its refusal to maintain a list of predators: 1) Each of the churches belonging to the SBC is autonomous, so it is powerless to intervene. 2) We can, they claim, simply check to see if our ministers have criminal records. Rebuttals: 1) While the SBC has yet to sever ties with any of the thousands of its churches in which paedophiles are or have been known to occupy the pulpit, its Nashville headquarters keeps very close tabs on what is going on and where. On June 23, 2009, the SBC “disfellowshipped” the Broadway Baptist church of Fort Worth, Texas, because it has one openly gay member. 2) Over 90 per cent of sex offenders have no criminal record.
Data from American insurance companies suggests that Protestant clergy lead Catholics in the sexual abuse of children, with the SBC the worst offender. A combination of suprajudicial procedures (e.g. victims, who are warned not to contact police, may not address the SBC with complaints, which must come to it from the church, in other words, from the pastor or person who committed the crime about which the complaint is being made); hillbilly pilpulism (the SBC’s resident quack “expert” distinguishes between sexual predators, who are first degree felons facing potential life sentences in prison if caught, and who simply, says he, don’t exist in the Baptist clergy, and mere “wanderers”); and systematic persecution of victims who complain means that most of the SBC’s predatory activities remain unprosecuted. The former President of the SBC, Paige Patterson, whose hobbies include “hunting dangerous game” (his website shows him kneeling behind the much-dreaded zebra) shocked other faith group leaders, including Catholics, when he referred to Brown and other victims of confessed rapists as “evil-doers” and “just as reprehensible as sex criminals”.
The SBC’s lawyers place their faith in the statute of limitations, which requires that complaints be made by the age of twenty-eight (average age of childhood sex abuse victims: twelve; that of the complainants: forty-two), in the fact that fewer than 10 per cent of clergy sex abuse cases are ever reported, and in the high suicide rate of victims. Alone among faith groups, the tax-exempt SBC, with $10 billion in assets, offers no counselling to victims, yet provides free counselling to clergymen who have been caught raping children.
Both Brown’s story and the data she has gathered on other victims of the SBC in This Little Light and on her website (stopbaptistpredators.org) and blog (stopbaptistpredators.blogspot.com) suggest that legal reform is urgently needed. When the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse disappears, as it inevitably will, the resulting class action will probably spell the end of the SBC.
The SBC has refused to keep a list of its criminal clergymen; Brown has kindly begun to keep one for them, pro bono. They have clearly bullied the wrong woman, and in so doing have awakened both a whistleblower of historic proportions and a writer."
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
When people “collude,” they cooperate with something that is absurdly inept, false or foolish.
That’s how I think about collusion. It’s a charade of a pretense that is so phony as to be ludicrous.
When people collude, they are usually making themselves complicit in the cover-up of some sort of unethical conduct or in the protection of others who engage in unethical conduct.
Sometimes, people collude to cover-up for prior collusion -- their own or that of others. Collusion feeds on itself.
We see the manifestations of collusion with clergy sex abuse through minimizations, denial, rationalizing, victim-silencing, victim-blaming, and keep-it-quiet tactics.
Collusion can be accomplished both consciously and unconsciously, intentionally and unintentionally. So even if someone says they didn’t intend to collude, their conduct may have still been collusive.
Many collude through silence and inaction. So you won’t see the collusion in what they do; you’ll see it in what they don’t do.
Collusion often occurs behind closed doors. It’s a secretive sort of thing. So most of the time, you aren’t going to see any news articles about it.
But here’s one possible example:
Morris Chapman. Remember him? He’s the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. Despite the vote of 8600 Southern Baptist “messengers,” directing the Executive Committee to conduct a study on Baptist clergy sex abuse, Chapman never even took it seriously enough to set aside a budget for the study. The Nashville Scene provided this summary of the Executive Committee’s response to abuse victims’ calls for help:
“Abuse is sad. But because of that pesky matter of church autonomy, we can’t remove predatory pastors from the pulpit. Please stop calling and emailing about your suffering. Our hands are tied, but we hear prayer heals all wounds. God bless.”
Think that sounds ludicrous? That’s the point.
For more possible examples of conduct that many might say constitutes collusion with Baptist clergy sex abuse, check the links below:
Every one of those people and organizations would probably say they think clergy sex abuse is a terrible thing. But take a look and decide for yourself whether that’s the message their deeds reflect.
What do you think?
Do those constitute examples of Baptist leaders’ collusion with clergy sex abuse?
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Remember Pilate? He was the powerful Roman leader who thought he could simply wash his hands of an innocent’s blood by shoving responsibility onto others.
“I find no fault in this man.” That’s what Pilate said when he spoke the truth of his heart.
But as he worried more and more about his own power, he violated the voice of his conscience.
Pilate had the power to release Jesus. But instead he washed his hands and allowed others to crucify Jesus.
Perhaps Pilate didn’t dictate that Jesus should be crucified, but he allowed it.
He made a choice.
Pilate could choose to risk his career and let Jesus go free; or he could choose to protect his power at the cost of Jesus’ life.
We know what Pilate decided. He protected his power and turned Jesus over to the crowd.
But before he did it, Pilate made a show. He had a wash basin brought out, and he stood before the crowd washing his hands.
Nowadays, that’s what we remember him for -- the show. He made a big display of not liking what the crowd wanted, but then he washed his hands, turned his back, and allowed it to happen.
Southern Baptist leaders make a big display as well. They preach against clergy sex abuse, but ultimately, they allow it to happen.
They bring out a big wash basin.
They hold power, but they shove responsibility onto others.
It’s as though they all have Pontius Pilate syndrome.
Rather than use their power for the protection of innocent kids -- a power they have surely shown when other issues troubled them -- Baptist leaders choose to do nothing. They wash their hands of clergy sex abuse and leave the problem up to the crowd.
They turn the safety of innocents over to the 44,000 local churches to deal with on their own. . . as if each of those 44,000 churches could even begin to have the resources to effectively fight this internal terrorism.
Then Baptist leaders try to scrub their hands even cleaner by saying that law enforcement is “the proper investigatory body for Baptists.” But in their hearts, they know the truth -- that law enforcement cannot possibly deal with most cases.
By washing their hands and shirking responsibility, Baptist leaders allow clergy-predators to roam among their churches. They avoid putting themselves at risk, but their self-protection comes at the cost of kids’ safety.
Of course they don’t listen to the cries of the wounded. They listen to lawyers and public relations people whose advice on how to handle clergy sex abuse has transformed the Southern Baptist Convention into a corporation focused on protecting its assets rather than protecting its flock.
I wonder if Pilate also had lawyers and PR people whispering in his ear.
Make no mistake about it: Southern Baptist leaders have a choice. And so far, they have chosen to protect themselves over protecting kids.
They may wash their hands of this, but they cannot cleanse their hearts.
These are men who hold the power to make kids in Baptist churches a great deal safer. But they remain passive.
They have no denominational system at all for defrocking clergy. They refuse any denominational system for reviewing clergy abuse reports. And they won’t even institute any denominational system of record-keeping on clergy.
They simply wash their hands of all of it.
Among Catholics and other faith groups, we have seen leaders who failed miserably in the exercise of their designated responsibilities. When the lines of responsibility are clear, the blame is easier to assign.
But is it any better to have leaders who utterly refuse responsibility?
Did “washing his hands” purge Pilate of his guilt for allowing the crucifixion of Jesus?
By refusing to even keep records on credibly-accused clergy, Southern Baptist leaders allow the clergy-predators to easily find new prey.
By washing their hands of it, Baptist leaders allow that many more kids will have their bodies and souls rendered asunder by those they trust the most.
I don’t think there’s a wash basin in the world that’s big enough to take away their guilt.
Friday, April 9, 2010
When the girl’s mother showed up for the April 8th sentencing hearing, she encountered a courtroom packed with church members who were there to support the pastor.
The mother had been an active member of the church for nine years. Yet, once she went to the police, only two church members had ever even called to see how she and her family were doing.
This was a case in which the pastor’s DNA evidence was on the girl’s bedsheets.
Yet, even with such irrefutable evidence, and even with the pastor’s guilty plea, rather than reaching out to help the girl and her family, church members supported the pastor. It’s a sad pattern that we’ve seen in many, many cases.
Here are some excerpts from the victim’s impact statement that the mother made at the sentencing hearing:
“As time went on, I could see that he lied to me by using God and the Bible, to make me believe him and trust him, just as he did with my daughter. He brainwashed her into trusting him and I can understand how easy it was for him to do that to a child, because he had me believing his lies as well. …
I felt physically and emotionally sick that evening when the detective came to my house to remove the bed sheet off of my daughter’s bed and that is when I began having nightmares. . . .
I had a complete breakdown after reading the Probable Cause Affidavit. I could not believe the mental hold he had over my daughter. He came into my house when I was not there, which I have to be reminded of on a daily basis every time I walk into my house and more so when I go into my daughter’s bedroom. Knowing that he had been there and what he had her do. The cleaning day at the church, while I was upstairs cleaning the baptistery, he was in the basement kissing my daughter.
I have had several things that have really thrown me back during all of this, but most of all was then results of the DNA testing from the bed sheet. It was hard to remain in control of myself when I was told that the sperm found on the bed sheet was an exact match to the Defendant’s DNA.
I feel so betrayed by this person who was supposed to be a preacher, OUR preacher for the past several years. I feel that he kept me so busy at the church that it caused me to be there on several occasions and my children as well and that because of being so active I did not fully see what was going on behind my back, the lies, the manipulation the deceit.”
Thank God this wise mother ultimately did see those lies, manipulation and deceit. Let’s imagine what this case would have been like in the more typical scenario.
What if the parents of this 15-year-old had NOT intervened? What if they simply never found out? (That’s the usual case.) Or what if they couldn’t bring themselves to fully believe something so awful? (That’s also common.) Or what if they accepted the faulty forgiveness theology that so many Baptist leaders preach -- as if forgiveness meant no consequences?
Then that 15-year-old girl would have been on her own to deal with the impossible. So she likely wouldn’t have dealt with it at all. And pastor Moore wouldn’t have been prosecuted. And he wouldn’t have a record. And he could have gone on to some other Baptist church where he could have easily found new prey.
Then, a couple decades later, that girl may have started thinking about it. And perhaps she would have eventually reached the point when she understood the harm of what was done to her and when she wanted to try to report the pastor so as to protect others.
That’s the typical scenario. Almost all experts recognize that, without parental intervention, most clergy sex abuse victims don’t speak of it for many years -- often not for decades.
But who would that girl be able to tell a couple decades later?
By then, it would likely be too late for criminal prosecution. And there would be no one in denominational authority who would give a hoot -- no one would take responsibility for looking into her allegations -- no one would even keep a record of her allegations.
She will be lucky if she can even locate the pastor at that point. No one in the denomination is likely to help her and the pastor may have moved several times by then.
But assuming she can locate him, what then?
Denominational leaders will wash their hands of it and say “not our problem.” They’ll tell her to “go to the church” to report him.
They know this doesn’t work, but it’s what they say anyway, and it’s flat-out cruel. It’s like sending bloody sheep to the den of the wolf who savaged them.
In this case, the victim’s family had been a part of the church for nine years. There was overwhelming evidence and a guilty plea. Yet, church members still supported the pastor and ostracized the victim.
Given this common pattern, can you imagine how much more hostile a church’s reaction might be if some outsider -- someone they didn’t even know -- brought to them an abuse report about their pastor? And if it involved abuse that happened twenty years ago?
For Baptist leaders to tell abuse survivors to “go to the church” is unrealistic and always has been. It’s a side-stepping system that fails to acknowledge the reality of human nature, that refuses any accountability for clergy, and that betrays the safety of kids.
Church letter of support for pastor, 4/1/10
Thursday, April 8, 2010
I’m grateful for all three of them.
It may not seem like much, but this is what the slow process of institutional change looks like.
We’re still far from the point of any actual action in Baptistland -- of anything even resembling what other major faith groups are already doing -- but at least we now have a few people who are openly acknowledging the extent of the problem in Baptistland and who are publicly seeking to open the eyes of others.
David Gushee got the ball rolling when, on March 31st, he revised an op-ed that was primarily addressed to the Catholic crisis so as to include this statement:
“The Baptist situation may be no better than the Catholic, only shielded more deeply from view. This situation demands reform, immediately, for the sake of the vulnerable and abused children among us -- not to mention for the sake of the gospel witness, so desecrated by the abuse behind our stained-glass windows.”
Gushee is a distinguished professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University. His publicly-stated recognition of the Baptist problem, and of the fact that it is “shielded more deeply from view” is significant.
Next up came Robert Parham’s column on Easter Sunday. Parham is the executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics. (That’s Parham in the photo.)
From beginning to end, Robert Parham’s words were strong. His piece was titled, “Catholics and Baptists have different sacraments but similar child abuse scandals.”
Parham pointed out that, if media people are not yet informed about the Baptist child-abuse scandal, it is not because of the absence of scandal, but because “Baptist denominational leaders have successfully kept the shameful, systemic problem off the national media’s radar.”
Parham explained: “Protecting the Baptist denomination and churches from public humiliation and discrediting has been a higher priority for many Baptist leaders than protecting children from the predatory ministers – ministers who move from church to church, state to state, without punishment, only to harm again.”
In continuing, Parham quoted from a commentator on the Catholic Church who called for accountability and said “a formal investigation should be conducted which exempts no one.”
“The same recommendation should be applied in Baptist life,” emphasized Parham . . . to which I say “Amen.”
“While Baptist church polity is messier and more confusing that Catholic polity,” explained Parham, “Catholic and Baptist leaders have more similarities than differences on the child-abuse front. . . . Both have covered up predatory behavior until those outside the male-dominated system of preachers/priests rang the alarm bell.”
Finally, in his comparison of Baptists and Catholics, Parham’s conclusion doesn’t mince words: “The systems, secrecy and spin are similar -- and shameful.”
Norman Jameson chimed in on April 4th. Jameson is the editor of the Biblical Recorder, the newspaper of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Here are his words, comparing the Catholic handling of clergy sex abuse to what’s going on in Baptistland.
“American Catholics have instituted rules that immediately and forever remove a man from the priesthood who is shown to be guilty of abuse. The pope apologized for the sexual abuse of minors . . . . “
“Sex abuse cases also rock Baptist churches. Individually they are just as bad, and collectively we are doing a lot less than the Catholics about resolution.”
(Again, I say “Amen.”)
“Southern Baptists as a national entity have nothing in place to prevent abusers from carrying their satchels of pain to another church or to yank credentials from an abusive clergyman.”
Jameson concluded by stating, “Catholics in America took specific steps. We can do the same.”
Jameson doesn’t say what those “specific steps” should be, but let’s just ponder a few possibilities.
For starters, what if Baptists cared enough to denominationally commission a million-dollar study on the extent of the clergy-sex-abuse problem, similar to what U.S. Catholic bishops did with the study that was done by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice?
What if Baptists instituted a denominational review board to responsibly assess credible accusations against their clergy -- similar to what most U.S. Catholic dioceses have been doing since 2002?
And what if Baptists started providing independent counseling for clergy abuse survivors in the way that some U.S. Catholic dioceses now do? Indeed, what if state-wide Baptist bodies set aside merely the same amount of funding to provide counseling for clergy abuse survivors as what some of them have been funding for a couple decades to provide counseling for clergy-perpetrators? Why shouldn’t Baptist bodies provide at least matching funds for the abuse victims as for the clergy-perpetrators?
And what if the national Southern Baptist Convention set up a hotline for clergy sex abuse victims like the Catholic Church in Germany has done?
And what if Baptist leaders began keeping denominational records on allegations of clergy sex abuse in the way that Catholic leaders have done for decades upon decades? Those records have certainly come back to haunt many Catholic leaders. But make no mistake about it . . . While Baptists’ lack of record-keeping may help to keep the media at bay, it doesn’t mean Baptist leaders are any better at addressing clergy sex abuse. To the contrary, it means they’re worse.
As Norman Jameson said, Baptists “are doing a lot less than the Catholics.”
Monday, April 5, 2010
David Darr was one of the participants in the film, All God’s Children. It’s a documentary about missionary kids who, when they grew up, sought to have the truth told about abuse at the Mamou Academy, which was run by the Christian and Missionary Alliance, an evangelical group that shares a lot in common with Baptists.
I feel a sense of identification with the Mamou survivors. People like David Darr are my heroes.
With David’s permission, I’m sharing his email below. I know many of you will likely feel some connection to his words.
“Before I was sent to Mamou Academy, I was sexually abused by a missionary man whom I’ll call ‘Don Smith’. Years later, I filed a lawsuit, but not surprisingly, it was thrown out because of the statute of limitations and the fact that the abuse occurred overseas.
As soon as our parents learned of the sexual abuse, they immediately tried to have the man defrocked. When the missionary board refused, my parents resigned and joined a new missionary sending agency - Gospel Missionary Union.
My parents were routinely accused of being 'non-forgiving' therefore less spiritual because my father made it a stipulation to GMU that this man would be barred from the GMU compound -- he did not want my siblings and I to have to see him. We have all the correspondence from my parents concerning our abuse.
I also have the letter that Don Smith signed admitting to the fact that he 'had touched the son of Mr. Darr.' All the council members signed this document which included these words: 'I have been forgiven by God for my actions, which are now 'under the blood', and are never to be brought up again.'
I call that 'sweeping it under the blood rug!'
In correspondence with GMU years later, I made it clear that those signatures show that GMU was in collusion/collaboration with the perpetrator. There are reports that this man abused again, and was promptly forgiven by the parents. He also ran an orphanage in Senegal. YIKES! Makes one want to scream.
Anyway, I had to get that all off my chest (which I realize is only a temporary state - I can never fully 'get it all off my chest'). Here is the comment I wanted to make about your book. I loved your Chapters 46 and 47, titled 'The Hurt of 'God's Love' and 'Heart of a Missionary.' I too cringe at all the platitudes, verses and spiritual advice thrown my way. Just can't go there anymore.
In addition to my being a chemist, I am also a musician/pianist. As part of my healing, I made a piano arrangement of pieces that captured my journey. I included in that medley an arrangement by Fred Bock of 'Jesus Loves Me' based on 'Clair de Lune'. It starts out hauntingly lovely, innocent, childlike but then there is the middle section that is discordant and agitated. I put my whole body and soul into that part -- it's visceral the way I attack the piano -- the physicality of playing that part exhausts me physically, mentally and spiritually. I HATE IT THAT 'JESUS LOVES ME'. What is THAT about?
Don't tell me that ‘Jesus Loves Me’!”
For more on David Darr’s lawsuit, see the Charleston Gazette. Note that the accused is described as “a Baptist minister.”
For more on abuse of missionary kids in the Gospel Missionary Union, see this April 4, 2001 article from the Christian Century, “No Longer Silent.”
For more on abuse of missionary kids in the Christian & Missionary Alliance, see “All God’s Children.”
For more on the faulty forgiveness theology of evangelicals, see “The F-word.”
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Daniel Moore, shown in the photo, was the pastor of New Whiteland Baptist Church in Franklin, Indiana. He was arrested about a year ago, but to this day, the church website still lists him as “pastor.”
However, since his arrest, he has actually been attending Calvary Baptist Church, which is in nearby Greenwood, Indiana.
The two churches are both affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Now, in anticipation of Moore’s April 8th hearing, the pastor, ministers and deacons of Calvary Baptist have written a letter to the judge, apparently in the hope that it might influence the judge to impose a lesser sentence on Moore.
The letter is signed by Dr. Ernest E. James (senior pastor), Rev. Andy Rardin (minister of students), Rev. David Tripp (minister of music), an interim ministerial staff-person, and eight other men who are apparently deacons.
The letter in its entirety is set out below, and you can see the original of it on church letterhead with the court’s file-stamp here.
When Moore was first arrested, a woman in Franklin was quoted in the news report as saying, “I think it’s really scary to live across the street from a church with a reverend there that’s doing anything like that.”
But I imagine it might also be “scary” for the people of Greenwood if they realized that, despite the serious charges against Daniel Moore in Franklin and despite his guilty plea on March 4th, he was nevertheless allowed to move among them “anonymously.”
Yet, this is what the leaders of Calvary Baptist Church clearly state in their letter to the judge. They declare that, at their invitation, Daniel Moore worshipped among them “quietly, humbly and essentially anonymously.”
Weren’t the parents at Calvary Baptist entitled to at least be told?
That’s the part I think is the most “scary” of all. Twelve leaders of Calvary Baptist Church decided that they knew what was best for everyone else there, and they invited Daniel Moore to join among them “anonymously.”
Now those same twelve leaders have all signed off on a letter to the judge, expressing their support for Moore after his guilty plea on child sex charges.
Perhaps they intended their letter to be a secret. Maybe they hoped it would remain private with the judge. But don’t you think the people of Greenwood are entitled to at least know that this is what the leadership of Calvary Baptist Church chooses to do?
And how do you imagine the victim and her family might feel when they see such a letter from other Southern Baptist church officials?
One thing for sure, I don’t imagine any Southern Baptist officials have extended any support for them.
The Letter of Calvary Baptist Church officials
"Honorable Judge Loyd:
We, the staff and deacons of Calvary Baptist Church, Greenwood, Indiana, are writing regarding Daniel J. Moore, whom you have scheduled for sentencing April 8, 2010. Neither Dan nor his attorney is aware of this correspondence.
For the past ten months Dan has, at our invitation, worshipped among us. He has done this quietly, humbly and essentially anonymously as it is his desire to avoid drawing attention to himself and for his fear of embarrassment to the church.
Dan has been broken and is tearfully repentant, remorseful, regretful and ashamed. Daily, he has spent hours in Bible study, soul searching and spiritual regrowth.
We as staff and deacons stand ready and eager to help Dan in his continued healing and restoration in any way possible. We are writing to inform you of our availability as a support and accountability group for Dan both during and after his incarceration. If you desire or require any communication with us prior to your passing sentence we are certainly available for that also.
Our faith is about God’s forgiveness and restoration. It is certainly not about condoning the transgression but we are seeking to restore the person. If our responsibilities in helping Dan can in any way work hand in hand with your duties, it would be our privilege."
Update 4/2/10: Check out Ed Pettibone's victim-blaming, "two to tango" comments about this case on the BaptistLife forum. Tragically, we have seen similar comments from Ed Pettibone over the course of several years, and his ignorant mind-set is far from unusual in Baptist life.