Saturday, November 3, 2007

What would accountability look like?

Last week, an Episcopal bishop was suspended from ministry for failing to report the 1973 abuse of a 14-year old girl by a lay-minister.

The bishop, who was a rector at the time, is not accused of having committed any abuse himself. Nevertheless, the Episcopals are taking action because he kept quiet about another minister’s abuse.

They’re holding him accountable.

What would THAT be like in Southern Baptist circles? Can you even imagine it?

Southern Baptist leaders typically don’t take any action even against reported perpetrators, and they sure aren’t doing anything to hold accountable all the ministers who have kept quiet about clergy sex abuse.

Here are the allegations against the Episcopal bishop: (1) He didn’t provide pastoral care to the 14-year old; (2) He didn’t inform the girl’s parents (until several years later); (3) He didn’t report the abuse to anyone else; (4) He didn’t investigate whether there might be other victims. He is accused of having reacted “passively and self-protectively.”

If Southern Baptists held their leaders accountable for this kind of “passive, self-protective” conduct, a whole lot of church and denominational leaders would face consequences.

For starters, the most obvious one would be Steve Gaines. He kept quiet about a known, confessed clergy child-molester, and to this day, Gaines stands in the pulpit at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis. He has NOT been held accountable.

Then there’s Jim Moore, the music minister who kept quiet about my own clergy perpetrator, even after the perpetrator himself talked about the abuse, and even after I talked about it. Moore allowed that man to go right on working in children’s ministry at other churches. And like the Episcopal minister, he didn’t provide any pastoral care, didn’t inform my parents, didn’t report the abuse, and didn’t investigate whether there might be other victims. Yet, Moore is still the music minister at FBC-Farmers Branch. He has NOT been held accountable.

And remember James Crittenden? He’s the Denton minister who knew about Pastor Larry Reynolds’ reported abuse of a kid and tried to keep it quiet. Crittenden has NOT been held accountable. Of course, Crittenden’s congregation is about as blind as they get. After extensive media coverage prompted Reynold’s resignation, the congregation gave him a $50,000 “love-offering” as a send-off and named a building after him.

And let’s not forget that leaders at the Baptist General Convention of Texas knew there was “substantial evidence” a minister had abused a kid, and yet they didn’t bother to tell people in the pews where the minister was currently working. They kept that information quiet…along with the names of all the other ministers who are in their secret file of clergy sex abusers. Accountability? I don’t think the BGCT knows the meaning of the word.

Accountability isn’t exactly Southern Baptists’ strong suit, is it?

In fact, “passive and self-protective” seems to be the generally accepted norm of behavior for Southern Baptist leaders when it comes to clergy sex abuse. Compare the Episcopals’ action with the typical Baptist “hush-it-up” pattern.

What would it be like if Southern Baptist president Frank Page showed the same sort of moral courage and commitment that was shown by the Episcopals’ highest leader?

Even if Page can’t actually discipline ministers, what would it be like if he used the Baptist Press to publicly denounce ministers for their conduct of keeping quiet about sexual abuse?

Don’t Southern Baptist kids deserve the same kind of protection that Episcopal kids have? It’s the sort of protection that’s provided by a faith community that actually holds its leaders accountable when they turn a blind eye to sexual abuse.


Anonymous said...

My husband and I officially joined a Methodist church tonight. We have been visiting off and on for the past two years. Until now I just could not bring myself to join any church. I realize this church is not perfect, they have their own set of problems, child abusers could be members, but it is a place I can go and worship and I have not been able to do that in a very long time.

The Southern Baptist Church sucks! That is the best way to put it. I want to shout it from the roof tops. Even after leaving the Baptist church several years ago, I still had all my guilt feelings wondering if I was going to go to Hell because I wasn't worshiping in the right church or the right way anymore. All my old SBC hang ups and paranoia rose to the top and tried to take control.

But, Christa, thanks to you and your website and blog, and thanks to Dee Miller and some things I learned from her, I realized that there were a lot of people out there like me who had church issues, rightfully so, who felt that pastors were many times more power hungry than spiritual, more full of themselves than full of the spirit, and not always the spiritual giants that people made them to be.

I always had a bad taste in my mouth about the whole SBC we-are-the-best attitude, even though I did believe that the first 35 years of my life. The whole church do-good-do-good, memorize scripture, pray without ceasing, live the PERFECT LIFE mind set really started to get on my last nerve. And when I started remembering that my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Baptist church had sexually abused me, my gosh! All my life I had been taught that drinking was wrong, that cussing was wrong, that everything was wrong, yet the same people telling me this were doing something evil to me day in and day out.

All this to say, to hell with the SBC. The denomination is so full of better than thou, pseudo-Christian Pharisees, who truly believe denial is a river in Egypt, I do not know if there is any hope for them.

Thank God you have allowed a place for those who have been damaged to come and talk and share and know that they are not alone. This is a lifesaver for those whose lives have been destroyed by these people.

Thank you Christa. I know you must get very discouraged when all the crap continues and does not seem to get any better. Just know that all you do is appreciated. The SBC might not ever come around and probably won't, but you are making a difference and that is what matters.

Christa Brown said...

Thank you Phyllis. Your words mean a lot to me...because I DO get discouraged sometimes.

Congratulations on finding a church you wanted to join! I wish you peace, the hope of a renewed and meaningful faith, and a community of people who authentically care. For myself, I can't even imagine the possibility of being part of a "church" anymore. So, in some ways, I envy you. But I do still search for connections with communities of caring people - and you're a part of one of those communities here on this blog. So thanks again!

gmommy said...

I am glad for you too!
I hope you will come to feel safe there.

Maybe 08 will be the year we both do alot of healing.

Christa...I also thank you for your relentless courage to protect the innocent!!