Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Where's the study?

At last year’s Southern Baptist annual meeting, 8600 “messengers” directed the SBC Executive Committee to conduct a study on creating a database of “Southern Baptist ministers who have been credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harassment or abuse.”

At this year’s annual meeting, the Executive Committee reported back. It declined to create a database “to help churches identify predators or establish an office to field abuse claims.”

So it issued a decision. But where’s the study?

Southern Baptist officials made it clear from the get-go that they didn’t like the idea of a database and didn’t want to help churches with outside assistance for determining credible accusations. But does it constitute a “study” if a group of guys do little more than churn out a document that supports a position they’ve already taken?

In the ordinary world, if someone plans to conduct a legitimate study, you expect to see a budget for the study.

Where was the budget?

In the ordinary world, if someone plans to conduct a legitimate study, you expect to see a proposal on how the research will proceed and who the sources will be.

Where was the proposal?

In the ordinary world, if someone conducts a legitimate study, you might expect to see transcripts of hearings with testimony from experts.

When were the hearings? Who were the experts? What was their testimony?

In the ordinary world, if someone conducts a legitimate study, you expect to see data, charts or graphs. For example, in this case, you might have expected to see data on what other denominations do.

Where is the data?

The sub-committee that was charged with conducting the study met 3 times. At the first meeting, they took an adversarial tone toward clergy abuse survivors. David Clohessy, SNAP’s National Director, was at that meeting, but they didn’t invite him to speak. What a missed opportunity to hear from an expert! Just two days later, David was at the podium of the Institute on Violence, Abuse & Trauma, where he was publicly recognized with a lifetime achievement award for his extraordinary contributions in the field.

At the second meeting, “there wasn’t much news to report,” and “the whole meeting was a lot of talk about why the SBC’s hands are tied.”

At the third meeting, according to their own account, “much of the discussion centered on whether it would be reasonable for a child sex offender – after accepting Christ – to be employed again in a Southern Baptist church.” So they were focused on the offenders rather than on how to help the wounded or prevent future victims.

So if that’s what they did for those 3 meetings, when was the study done? And where is the actual study?

It’s not as if these guys just don’t like studies. They’ve done recent studies and surveys on Calvinism, pastoral terminations, attendance at SBC annual meetings, unchurched Americans, and private prayer language. They even did a survey on how Southern Baptist pastors plan to vote in the presidential race.

And just last year, Southern Baptists managed to conduct a survey and compile data for a study designed to provide churches with accessible online information about how to adequately compensate their ministers. They thought it was important for denominational entities to “work together to serve our churches with information to help them adequately compensate our ministers.”

So why isn’t it equally important for denominational entities to work together to provide churches with information about credibly accused clergy child molesters? Isn’t that sort of data even MORE important than data on ministers’ salaries?

Where is the study on Baptist clergy-predators and the database of credibly accused?


Anonymous said...

Morris Chapman, head of the Executive Committee, said sexual predators should be on notice that the Southern Baptists are not a harvest field for their devious deeds.

Predators have no reason to be worried or concerned in the least. Nothing has changed. M. Chapman says that the SBC has no authority to bar known perpetrators from ministry. SBC leaders have not done anything about it in the past and have just told everyone that things will gone on the same. Predators are cheering for the committee's decision and there may be a few that are slapping their pals on the back!

gmommy said...

"Southern Baptists have taken strong stands in the past against the sexual abuse of children and will continue taking strong action to protect children and bring sexual predators in the church to justice"

"The Southern Baptist Convention is on record for having stood strongly against sexual abuse," Chapman said.
"We have long condemned those who would use our churches as a hunting ground for their sick and selfish pleasure.

Those are the words of Morris Chapman....met with applause
by the blind and ignorant.

Did he site examples of how they have taken a strong stand????

Did he site examples of what strong action will be taken in the future????

Did anyone stand and challenge the truth to his statements???

Did one person speak for the victims??

I believe the Baptists living blissfully in their little bubbles of non reality will read those words spoken and feel all warm and fuzzy about the great SBC....even tho they were lies...
Wonder how many of those applauding those empty words were sexual predator ministers???

God sees their hearts.
I will continue to pray but in the mean time....no grand child or family member of mine will go near a Baptist church and not one dollar of my money will support the SBC.

David Brown said...

Christa: After seeing how the leaders of the SBC have decided to stick their heads in the sand again, it makes one wonder why go to church. As victims of clergy abuse this latest news is heart wrenching. Let alone to any victim of child sexual abuse. Where does a victim turn? Certainly it is not the Church.

And seeing how they have elected Johnny Hunt as president I really have to wonder who the head of their church is. I don’t think they even consider Scripture for one minute. Hunt is the same one that promoted his prodigy, Steve Flockhart and we all have seen how he flopped (sinned with blatant lies and fraud) only to be resurrected to the office of pastor once more with Hunt’s full blessings. Do I dare say that Paul Williams will be restored to the ministry? Just wait.

Notice they say use the “convicted” sexual predator database. Are they really serious? They know the facts. Usually victims wait for many years to report their abuse, often more than 30 years. By that time the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution has long run out.

This is a very sad day for the SBC. I urge members that are as mad as I am to withhold tithing to the SBC and let their pastor know why. I told mine yesterday and he was sadden but understood. I have contacted my Sunday School class members and urged them to do the same. Seems the only thing the SBC fears is money or lack of. For the record I am a long time SBC member that is sick of the posturing our leaders have taken. They are so worried about baptisms they water down sin and even allow very sick ministers to remain in a position of power. Shame on them, starting with Page, Patterson and Hunt. Morris Chapman is in a league of his on. How much more arrogant can they get?

I used to hear my pastor tell us that on the day of the rapture the pews of the Baptist churches will be full, well the pulpits will be too.

I am out of answers.

David Brown
SNAP director for Memphis and West Tennessee

Christa Brown said...

David: I feel the grief in your words. You might find common ground with another Southern Baptist, Alyce, who blogged here about how troubled she is. "We rally around words," she says, but "when will we rally around reality....Once again, we resolve to do nothing. God help us."

You're right, of course, that any dollars you give through tithes will have some portion go for support of the Nashville-based structure that seems sadly determined to place institutional protection over kid-protection. Some portion also goes to support the state conventions, which do no better.

Southern Baptist people might want to consider setting aside their tithe money for designated giving, such as for the Lottie Moon fund. Alternatively, SNAP could certainly use your donations, and it's doing good work to reach out and minister to the wounded - to clergy abuse survivors that churches have turned their backs on - and to shine light on this grave problem. As you know, SNAP is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and it has received the seal of excellence from Independent Charities of America, certifying it as one of the best charities in the country for accountability, program effectiveness and cost effectiveness. For those of you who choose to give to SNAP, I hope you will consider designating your donation specifically for "Baptist" work (in the comment field online or on the memo line of your check).

And I think you're right on this as well, David: "They know the facts." Most clergy child molestation cases CANNOT be criminally prosecuted, and I believe SBC leaders know this.

gmommy said...

Taken from Ethics Daily...
"But never let it be said, never let it be said that we are anemic in the fight against sexual abuse. To say so is a false accusation."

"Southern Baptists do and shall always turn on the spotlight when danger is lurking in the shadows," he said. "We shall protect the weak and vulnerable. We shall preserve the integrity of our witness. We shall provide safe havens for our people. We shall point out the inevitable consequences of sin. We shall not allow predators to infiltrate our ministries. We shall not allow uncertainty to hinder a strong, rapid response. We shall not allow fear of reprisal to stifle the stories of those who have been abused. "

Lets see now...how many examples can we give showing these statements to be just a lot of hot air???
Where to begin....?

gmommy said...

We shall not allow fear of reprisal to stifle the stories of those who have been abused. "

Would that be anything like the letter Christa received from the attorney representing some aspect of the SBC....telling her to stop telling her story or they would sue her???

J. Davidson said...

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

It seems to me that the SBC has clearly chosen the side of the oppressors. In fact I would say they have gone beyond "neutral" and openly and purposely decided to take the side of the oppressor and their actions demonstrate it.

gmommy said...

We shall point out the inevitable consequences of sin.

Just using BBC in Memphis as an example.....
the sexual predator was absolved by the senior pastor for molesting a child.
He was told his moral failure was under the blood...even tho the perp was in the ministry at the time of the abuse.

We shall not allow predators to infiltrate our ministries.


gmommy said...

We shall provide safe havens for our people.

If that's true...it will be filled to capacity by all those who have carried the scars of clergy sexual abuse for years.
Wonder who would trust those "safe havens"...not me!!

gmommy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I went to Indianapolis and spoke with the Executive Committe of the SBC -- I brought them proof showing why they needed to do a database -- Local Churches obviously cannot handle this issue -- Just because one church Prestonwood did the right thing -- How many did not and do not
I hear only words and no action
The way they talked to me and I heard them vote yes == I thought they were going to pass this -- Apparently want they voted on was not what I thought
I think these so called leaders should be ashamed
I have seen no real action -- they are hiding and justifying their lack of action
Debbie V

Christa Brown said...

gmommy: For anyone who has seen the reality of this nightmare, Morrison's remarks are mighty hard to stomach, aren't they? And the worst of it is imagining the applause from the crowd.

"We shall not allow fear of reprisal to stifle the stories of those who have been abused."

Yeah? And what about the people who, while depressed and desperate, have been thrown a few thousand bucks for counseling and pushed into signing a confidentiality contract, saying they'll never speak of it again? Still another way Southern Baptist churches "stifle the stories of those who have been abused."

Jeri said...

You can still go to church; just don't go to a Southern Baptist Church or an Independent Baptist Church. But there are denominations that do a better job of policing their officers and expelling wolves. Both the PCA and the PC(USA) defrock sexual offenders and put them under discipline. And I don't know about the PC(USA), but in the PCA any elder removed from office is announced from the pulpit, with grief, in the regional pulpits where he was removed.

Rebuking, disciplining, announcing, and tracking errant elders is actually not that burdensome, unless a denomination wants to make it sound like an impossible task. Certainly, whatever its trouble, discipline and accountability are worth it in spared lives and in upholding Christ as Lord in both word and deed.

Christa Brown said...

David said: "They know the facts."

He's right. Augie Boto is general counsel for the SBC Executive Committee and he was a primary adviser and SBC staff person on this. Boto is a former prosecutor. It's impossible to imagine that he doesn't know the reality of the fact that most clergy child molestation cases CANNOT be criminally prosecuted.

It would be so much easier to imagine that SBC leaders are ignorant... that they don't actually know and understand this reality. But I believe they do. And once you believe that, then what word should be used to describe the Executive Committee's report?? Disingenuous...duplicitous...devious?
One thing for sure. It's not a report that actually does much of anything to make kids any safer now than they were before.

Lin said...

Let's put the database aside for a moment and focus on something that is even more telling. Most of these men are well known in Baptist circles like Morris Chapman and have the baptist media and blogs are their disposal and are quoted quite a bit.

How many times have any of these men publicly rebuked a minster who was a sexual predator or even a minister who protected one? That tells us everything we need to know about them. They refuse to rebuke their peers for ignoring scripture and for their behavior.

Not only that but they share platforms with them and act as if it is none of their business. Even though they make sure other church issues are their business.

If there were public rebukes loud and clear, a data base may not even be needed because these guys could not get jobs in the ministry anywhere.

My prayer and the work now needs to be to encourage and educate people and victims to call the civil authorities in asap and get them to investigate. They can be trusted more than the so-called 'Christians'.

BTW: I am a bit stunned at the revelations about Hunt's resume and his protege'. Not a good start. These folks are so enamoured by titles and position.

Lin said...

"Most clergy child molestation cases CANNOT be criminally prosecuted, and I believe SBC leaders know this"

I do not understand this...can someone explain?

Christa Brown said...

Sexual abuse in childhood and adolescence causes such trauma that victims are often psychologically incapable of reporting it until many years later. This is what's normal. By the time most victims are capable of reporting the abuse, statutes of limitation have usually run. There are exceptions, of course. For example, sometimes younger children will essentially disclose the abuse accidentally, and then the parents find out, and sometimes the parents will pursue prosecution.

Prosecutors recognize this dilemma. Last summer, the National District Attorneys Association adopted an express resolution urging state legislatures to adopt longer statutes of limitation for both criminal and civil actions related to child sex abuse. (Another aspect of SNAP's work is in speaking to state legislators toward this goal.)

In connection with their resolution, the National District Attorneys Association (and speakers there) said: "Recognizing that it is often much later in life when victims equate the injuries they suffer with the sexual abuse they experienced as a child, national prosecutors are acutely aware of why most of these crimes go unreported for many years, and as a result, offenders often escape responsibility for their criminal actions.... It is obvious that the criminal justice system cannot solve this enormous problem on its own... It is imperative that we explore a multitude of ways to expose the perpetrators."

Lin said...

Does every state have a different statute of limitation for making charges? Most kids are not even sure exactly what is happening and are scared into silence. Especially if they are seeing how people react to victims and protect the abusers.

Christa Brown said...

Yes, Lin, it's a state-law thing, and so limitation periods can vary from state to state - but mostly they're way too short. California and Delaware passed "windows" legislation, which was an enormous help for allowing child molestation victims to bring civil suits, even many years later, and to publicly expose their perpetrators through that process.