Monday, October 29, 2007

BGCT provides counseling for clergy perpetrators

Since about 1990, the Baptist General Convention of Texas has provided counseling for clergy “to help them put their lives back together after sexual misconduct.” And the BGCT has repeatedly defined “sexual misconduct” as “including child molestation.”

So the BGCT provides readily available counseling for clergy perpetrators but it doesn’t provide counseling for the clergy’s victims. Instead, it insists that clergy abuse victims should ask for help from the church where the abuse took place, even though it knows full well that most churches “just try to keep it secret” and don’t help the victims.

This BGCT duality drives me nuts: counseling for clergy perpetrators but none for clergy victims. I could go on and on about it, but for now, I’ve actually got a different dichotomy to talk about.

A while back, I had a lengthy email exchange with a prominent Texas Baptist who is considered by many to be one of the most knowledgeable Baptists in the country on the subject of clergy abuse. The BGCT frequently consults with him.

This man views clergy who commit “sexual misconduct” as falling into two categories: “predators” and “wanderers.” So I began by telling him that I thought this academic dichotomy was being misused as a rationalization for denominational inaction. In effect, denominational leaders seem to avoid taking action against “predators” on the theory that they all may be mere “wanderers.”

I reminded this man that I had been abused as a kid, as have many others, and I told him that the “wanderer” label could not ever be appropriate for clergy who abuse kids. For a minister to molest a kid is predatory. Period. To allow that such a minister might be considered a mere “wanderer” is to minimize a terrible crime, I said.

In response, this prominent Texas Baptist persisted in defending the predator/wanderer distinction. My point about clergy child molesters seemed to completely elude him.

Then he told me about a man “who for years counseled ministers for the BGCT” and who “indicated he had NEVER had a ‘predator’ come for help, but he had worked with numerous persons who fit the category we describe as a ‘wanderer’.”

I suppose he thought this bit of information might comfort me, as though it would prove how few in number the “predators” are because ALL the ministers who go through the BGCT’s ministerial counseling service are mere “wanderers.”

But I didn’t see it that way. I saw that bit of information as another horrifying piece of the puzzle. It makes the BGCT’s ministerial counseling service sound a lot like the sort of counseling that many Catholic bishops sent child molesting priests to. The bishops provided blind-eyed counselors who quietly treated the priests and then sent them back out for restoration to ministry.

Is that what has been happening for the past two decades with abusive Baptist ministers who got counseling provided by the BGCT? Was every single one of them a mere “wanderer” who got restored to ministry?

In the course of the same email, this prominent Texas Baptist repeatedly referred to clergy sex abuse as “moral failure,” “moral trangression,” “sexual immorality,” and “sexual misconduct.” Then he ended by saying “I have NEVER known anyone to excuse or minimize the sexual misconduct of a person.”

I feel as though I should hold up a mirror for this prominent Texas Baptist.

The reason he has “NEVER known anyone” to minimize it is because he simply doesn’t see the minimization when it happens. He doesn’t see the minimization even when he himself does it with his own language.

It’s no wonder Texas Baptists are so far off the mark in how they address clergy sex abuse. Their most prominent leaders and advisers just don’t get it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One who considers himself knowledgeable on clergy abuse and thinks that a person in a position of power, authority and trust can take advantage of another human being in sexual ways, calling it misconduct, is misinformed. I prefer not to have a "wanderer" minister to me. How long before he pulls me into that dark pit with him?