Sunday, December 30, 2007

Shining Lights & Black Holes of 2007

Shining Lights of 2007

EthicsDaily and Bob Allen: “This controversial and explosive issue would not be receiving the attention it is now without the relentless coverage of” That’s a plain statement of truth. With over 58 articles and columns on Baptist clergy sex abuse in 2007, EthicsDaily continued to chronicle this story… and it didn’t back down.

ABC’s 20/20: They focused a national spotlight on the problem of Baptist clergy sex abuse. In addition to the trailer, you can see three excerpts of the 20/20 show here.

Baptist abuse survivors who contributed to the 20/20 program without being shown in the final product: Two additional Southern Baptist abuse survivors were interviewed on camera for the 20/20 program, but no part of their interviews made the final cut. Other Baptist abuse survivors spoke with a 20/20 producer by phone. These people engaged extremely painful conversations and went through the very difficult process of considering whether they were capable of speaking on camera. Some went to extra counseling to grapple with it. They got absolutely nothing for it, but they made a difference in helping the 20/20 producers see the extent of the problem and the need for shining a spotlight on it.

Rose French of the Associated Press: She uncovered the data: sexual abuse is as big a problem for Protestants as it is for Catholics. Of the Protestant churches whose data was included, Southern Baptists were the largest number.

8600 Southern Baptist messengers: They voted to instruct the SBC Executive Committee to study the feasibility of creating a database of convicted, confessed and credibly accused clergy. People in the pews have spoken; if only SBC officials would listen.

Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship: It provided a model for how faith groups with autonomous churches can still work together to protect against clergy-predators. It adopted a policy that allows for individuals to report abuse, creates a review committee, and keeps a file of credibly accused clergy.

SNAP leader Tim Fischer: He set up a new website for and he did it with lightning speed. Need a website? Tim is amazing! He’s also a dad, husband, hockey fan, artist and a courageous clergy abuse survivor.

Black Holes of 2007

Roger “Sing” Oldham, vice-president of Southern Baptist Convention Relations: He told the press: “We’re looking at…how we can best, first of all, protect the autonomy of the local church, and second, protect the children, too.” In a single sentence, this paid SBC spokesperson revealed volumes about the tragically misplaced priorities of Southern Baptist leadership.

Frank Page, Southern Baptist president: He publicly labeled clergy rape and molestation victims as “opportunists.” Do you think he’ll ever have the decency to publicly apologize for such a “salt-in-the-wound” statement? This is the same guy who whined about how 20/20 didn’t show enough of his interview. I guess he figured 20/20 was supposed to provide him a pulpit. You didn’t hear any whining from the survivors who had no part at all of their painful interviews shown, did you?

D. August (“Augie”) Boto, general counsel for the SBC’s Executive Committee and vice-president for convention policy: After the 20/20 show, Boto defended and justified KEEPING the names of convicted clergy child molesters on the SBC’s online registry of ministers. This demonstrates a level of denial and blindness that’s impossible to exaggerate; yet, Boto is the man who advises the SBC committee that’s supposedly addressing clergy abuse. Is it any mystery why not much seems to get done? Only after still MORE media attention – an EthicsDaily article and a SNAP press release – did the SBC finally remove the convicted perps from its registry of ministers.

Will Hall, vice-president for news services of the SBC Executive Committee: He publicly suggested there had been only 40 incidents of Southern Baptist clergy sex abuse in the past 15 years. This was a bald distortion of SNAP’s statement that it had been contacted by 40 Baptist abuse survivors in just 6 months time. And it’s shocking that a paid SBC spokesperson would publicly downplay the problem to such an extent. Which kids’ abuse just wasn’t important enough to even count? Hall owes a public apology.

Baptist General Convention of Texas: It did a masterful spin job in claiming it was making it easier for churches to report abuse. But lawyers could readily see that what the BGCT was really doing was minimizing its own risk of potential liability. The BGCT was protecting itself, not protecting kids. It’s bad enough that the BGCT does diddly-squat to effectively address clergy sex abuse, but for the BGCT to spin that diddly-squat into braggadocio is pure illusion. And…the BGCT’s secret file of ministers reported for sex abuse is still kept secret; people in the pews aren’t told.

Doug Devore, executive director of Illinois Baptist Children’s Home services: He used “Baptist Children’s Home” letterhead to write a letter to a judge, urging no prison time for a convicted clergy child molester, and to this day, he stands by that decision and can’t even acknowledge that it was a mistake. With role models like this in Illinois Southern Baptist leadership, is it any wonder that churches like First Baptist of Romeoville think it’s OK to have a convicted child molester in the pulpit?

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, former Southern Baptist president, and former president of Criswell College: He mentored pastor Darrell Gilyard, who has recently been accused of sending obscene text messages to an underage teen. Now we learn that numerous college students say they previously tried to report Gilyard’s sexually abusive conduct but Patterson told them “to refrain from speaking” about it. The Dallas News reported that over 25 women in 4 different churches complained about Gilyard. How many women would it take before a Southern Baptist president would treat their complaints seriously?


Anonymous said...

Paige Patterson, how interesting. I never did trust him. I believe the whole liberal/conservative split in the SBC church was nothing but politics. Patterson was at the top, along with a few other people, of the super-conservative-narrow-minded group who single-handedly were able to rid all the SBC seminaries of all "normal" professors, presidents, etc.

Now look at what this conservative "man of God" is involved. Such hypocrisy, such deceit, such arrogance. Because THIS group of people now lead the SBC, I do not believe there is much hope for their future.

Christa, thank you for your website and blog. Thank you for all you are doing to expose the religious SBC liars who dress in sheep's clothing but who are doing bad things to innocent children behind closed doors.

You have helped save lives and sanity of many of us who had no idea the problem was as bad as it is, who have thought many times that maybe we really are making too big a deal out of it, who blamed ourselves because these perfect godly people could not be held accountable for what they were doing -- surely we were BAD, or EVIL, and we were SLUTS because it would not have happened if we were not. Thank you for helping us all know that we are, were, and will continue to be innocent and guiltless.

Thank you Christa.


Christa Brown said...

It's what almost all of us do, I think. We find an infinite number of ways to blame and shame and hate ourselves and to think that we were somehow responsible. I think that part of what happens is that the perpetrators transmit all of their own self-loathing into their victims. The abuse is how they unload all their own bad feelings about themselves...and we wind up absorbing it and mistakenly thinking it's our own. But you've summed it up beautifully, Phyllis: "We are, were, and will continue to be innocent and guiltless." It's sad that it takes us so long to realize that, huh? Of course, it doesn't help victims heal when, year-in and year-out, they continue to see SBC leaders who act like it's no big deal and who perpetuate the pattern of placing appearances over reality.

Unknown said...

Sam Huckabee, ex-Governor of Arkansas and Baptist minister is running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. I wish someone on one of these major TV shows like CNN would ask him if his church has a problem with sexual abuse similar to other churches.

Christa Brown said...

Yes...I'd like to see some media person ask Huckabee why his faith group - Southern Baptists - isn't taking the same sorts of proactive steps to protect against predators as other major faith groups are taking. And does Huckabee support the creation of a database of confessed and credibly accused Baptist clergy, with an independent review board for determining credible accusations...such as was proposed via the motion at last years' Southern Baptist annual meeting?

Welcome to the blog mmprats! I'm thinking you're probably the same person who I named as one of StopBaptistPredators' "shining lights" for 2006 and also who stood with me in the sun at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in San Antonio. Yes?

Anonymous said...

mmprats, that is a good question to ask of Mike Huckabee. I read that during his governorship in Arkansas, Huckabee met with the parole board and there was a convicted rapist paroled 5 months after being rejected for parole. Following parole the convict moved to another state and subsequently sexually assaulted and murdered a woman who lived near him. The convict was also a suspect in a murder of a pregnant woman. The Prosecuting Attorney argued that Huckabee granted too many clemencies. Huckabee was questioned about pressuring parole board members and has denied it.