Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ministering requires deeds - so does protecting kids against abuse

Dr. Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, tells the Commercial Appeal, "We are committed to protecting our children and ministering to those who have been hurt by abuse."

To minister: to give aid or service / to attend to the wants or needs of others. By definition, "ministering" requires deeds, not merely words. I have seen no "ministering" on the part of the SBC to those hurt by clergy sex abuse.

And as for Dr. Page's suggestion that SNAP should let SBC leaders know about reports of abuse that SNAP receives. Why??? What track record does the SBC have for responsibly dealing with such reports? What did SBC leaders do with the substantiated report they got from me? They wrote that they had no record the man was still in ministry. Yet, I myself found him at a prominent mega-church in Florida. I wrote the SBC a second time. Still no help. Months after my report, the man was delivering a sermon talking from the pulpit about his children's ministry, and not until 15 months later was he finally made to resign....only after I myself took action. Contrary to Dr. Page's words, this doesn't show any genuine effort on the part of the SBC "to prevent our precious children from ever being hurt." What it shows is institutionalized blindness.

Until the SBC shows that it has a legitimate and effective system for independently, objectively and professionally investigating and considering clergy abuse reports, I have no reason to think that any clergy abuse victim would be well-served by talking to any SBC official. I myself wasted way too much time believing that there would be someone at the SBC who would indeed want to take action to prevent other kids from being hurt. I was very, very mistaken in that belief. And for every minute of that mistaken belief, other kids remained at risk. It's not a mistake I'll choose to make again.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Words of my mouth and meditations of my heart

For those of you who know how averse I can be to Bible verses - they were so often used as weapons against me - this will seem out of character. Yet, in recent days, from morning to night, my mind is flooded with a single thought. It is the first thought in my mind on awakening and the last thought before sleeping (on those precious nights when sleep actually arrives). Is it a prayer? I don't know. I don't know if what I do even constitutes prayer. I think it would be more true to simply say that I feel prayerful. It's Psalms 19:14....

"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart,
be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer."

"Recois favorablement les paroles de ma bouche, et les sentiments de mon coeur, O Eternel, mon rocher et mon liberateur!"
Friends....please keep me in your thoughts, prayers, and/or incantations in the days to come. Thank you.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

BGCT: Shame of a sham

Off to Nashville again to try to get the attention of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee.

I haven’t seen any indication that they actually care about Baptist clergy sex abuse, but in some ways, the SBC’s pure simple coldness is a relief. On this issue, I definitely prefer the SBC to the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Oh....the so-called moderates there at the BGCT like to think they’re more enlightened than those fundamentalists at the SBC. And the BGCT brags about its booklet “Broken Trust,” which talks about clergy sex abuse. They trot that booklet out whenever the subject comes up and pat themselves on the back for it, as though mere words on paper should be enough. Like the so-called policies in some Catholic dioceses, “it’s a shame of a sham.”

That’s why I prefer the SBC. At least there’s no pretend games there. With the BGCT, that smooth pastoral talk only lulls clergy abuse victims into a further betrayal. If you don’t meekly accept your pastoral pat on the head and move on, they sucker-punch you. And the hit hurts all the worse.

I prefer to get hit with my guard up rather than being sucker-punched.

I’m particularly sour right now since I just talked with a couple more people who were sexually abused as kids by Baptist ministers in Texas and who recently made the sad mistake of trying to get help from Sonny Spurger at the BGCT. They emailed him and phoned him, but they got no help. No help in trying to inform the congregation. No help in getting the perp out of the pulpit. No help with counseling - not even so much as a referral. And one of the victims was particularly distraught. It’s unconscionable that she wasn’t given some assistance. I’m thankful she found some caring people at SNAP, because the so-called good Christians at the BGCT did absolutely nothing.

“Broken Trust” is broken, and probably was from the start. The BGCT itself is broken.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Excuses and Rationalizations

Why do Baptist leaders fail to take action to protect kids against clergy sex abuse? These are the excuses and rationalizations I've heard: (a) They tell themselves "it's not my responsibility"; (b) They recite the trance-inducing mantra of "congregational autonomy"; (c) They act as though if they close their eyes long enough the problem will go away - and it usually does because victims trying to report abuse are pretty easily worn down; and (d) They wash their hands of it by saying they acted consistent with the advice of legal counsel.

Taking any kind of action involves some measure of risk. Will an individual take that risk voluntarily? Too often, the answer is no. It's much easier for an individual to do one of the above - a, b, c or d. But none of those choices serve to make other kids safer, and nor do they help the already-wounded. This is why there must be a system for accountability, so that the system itself will nudge individuals to do the right thing for the protection of others.

The worst of the horror rests not in the individuals who molest and rape kids, because as beastly as their deeds may be, they are the deeds of individuals. The worst of the horror is in an institutionalized system that ALLOWS countless other church and denominational leaders to turn a blind eye. The silent complicity of the many is where the evil really resides.

And for those of you who are pondering d and wondering why the advice of legal counsel isn't a good excuse, let me say this. That seems to be the favorite excuse of leaders at the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and it's an excuse I find particularly repugnant. It's an all-too-easy cop-out of moral responsibility and a way to evade difficult questions. An attorney can advise all manner of things that are within the bounds of the law, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the right thing to do or the best thing to do. Other questions need to be asked. Is it the best course of conduct ethically? Is it morally right? Is the attorney's tactic consistent with the mission of the organization? And perhaps most importantly for this issue, is it the course of action that will best serve to protect other kids? Those are the sorts of questions you might reasonably expect religious leaders to ask, and yet they are the very questions that they shirk.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Blaming the child-victim

In Tennessee, Southern Baptist pastor Vern Daugherty trashed a 14-year-old victim while speaking on behalf of a minister who pled guilty to child molestation charges: "I know that girl...she has caused problems."

She was 14! The guilty child-molesting minister was 28, married and a father to kids of his own. And there were other reported victims: three girls' parents complained about his inappropriate contact with their daughters.

Daugherty's comments reflect a dangerously ignorant attitude. Southern Baptist leaders should not stand silent but should denounce such comments and insist on educational training for any pastor who would give voice to such hateful ignorance.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Office of Ministerial Accountability

In response to one of my comments on the bbcopenforum blog, junk99mail suggested an SBC "Office of Ministerial Accountability and Integrity." Bravo! Great name and a much-needed office. The rest of junk99mail's 1/26/07 remarks are also insightful - so here they are again:
"I am so sorry to hear of the abuse you suffered, and the continual compounding of it by those in SBC leadership who would hide behind the doctrine of local church autonomy as an excuse for not helping prevent abusive ministers from continuing in ministry. I believe in the doctrine of local church autonomy, but I also think part of the intent of it is supposed to be to increase (not decrease) accountability, by ensuring that members and leaders are closely and connected to a local body of believers. So that doctrine is being abused each time it is given as an excuse for not doing the right thing. The autonomous SB churches cooperate to support their seminaries, publishing agencies, missions organizations, public policy organizations, etc. -- so there is no reason at all that a means could not be established to keep track of ministers with a record of abuse, or of any other form of misconduct. It's true that any office or agency set up for this purpose would not be able to prohibit any given local church from hiring someone with a bad record, but at least the information would be accessible to members and churches, as part of a routine background check. Just the opportunity to have the information would be an extremely positive step. SB churches give so much to the Cooperative Program -- I'm sure the safety of congregations, families, and children would be considered by SB church members to be well worth the relatively minimal funds it would take to establish a denominational "Office of Ministerial Accountability and Integrity." I got the impression from one of your posts that you have communicated with Richard Land on this need without success ... which disappoints me, as I would have expected that a man so committed to the protection of innocent unborn children to also desire to protect innocent born children as well."