Saturday, June 14, 2008

Your voices

Thanks to EVERYONE who sent in comments and letters to newspapers and blogs about clergy sex abuse, the SBC’s rejection of a database for credibly accused clergy, and Morris Chapman’s rationalizations. (The Associated Press article was in over 200 newspapers!) Newspapers cannot publish every letter, but every letter makes a difference. With each letter and comment received, reporters and editors learn how much people care about this and they become more inclined to cover the issue again. So, kudos to ALL of you for making your voices heard! Here is a small sampling of published comments.

"Anemic? Formaldahydic!" (Percy, obviously in reaction to Chapman’s statement: “Never let it be said that we are anemic in the fight against sexual abuse”)

"The refusal of the Southern Baptist Convention to acknowledge the scope of the Southern Baptist leadership abuse problem… is driving me away from my Baptist roots. I don’t like being a member of a church and denomination where only “leadership roosters” at the local church level can protect the “hen house membership” from abusive leadership roosters that prey, not pray, upon our membership." (Brenda)

"I believe that this just goes to show that the Baptist church is more concerned about protecting its image than about protecting it’s children." (lee)

"This is surprising? People point fingers at the Catholic Church (rightfully so), but other denominations are no better, and really could care less about victims. They are more likely to blame them." (Bad Malanga)

"If a person in authority wants to sexually abuse, he will find a way. Even when windows with blinds are installed on the office doors…the blinds will be closed, the door will be closed and locked, but not without first telling the secretary that he is not to be disturbed for an hour. How do I know? I was the secretary. I myself was put in some terribly uncomfortable situations where I felt threatened and fearful because of inappropriate sexual behavior from the minister that I worked for. I tried to report it but ended up turning in my resignation, even though I loved my work. My complaints were ignored by some, laughed at by others, and blatantly denied. I was asked if I could have imagined it or dreamed it. My spouse was asked how many times I had lied. We were told not to tell what happened. I was fired… I was called divisive…" (treadwell)

"Blaming the victims anew is to re-abuse, and it does not cleanse the church. It also does not change the facts of the abuse nor protect future victims… To put a denomination and its authority, including the ones who teach to that authority, above the tenets of the God who is worshiped is, I believe, called idolatry." (Sandra)

"Not so surprising for those of us who have been through the horror of our children being molested by Baptist pastors and then having our families abused and spat upon by the church for having the audacity of reporting and requesting restitution from the churches that knowingly brought the molesters into our communities." (A Dad)

"The data base is a great idea. That being said, there are many people in churches…those in leadership, those in the pews, that don’t want to know. If they think Brother So-and-So is a great guy, they will hire him regardless of what kind of person he may be." (Suzy)

"The message of Jesus is lost on these people. They should be forced to carry the shame, guilt, fear and emptiness of every victim, who at the hands of BAPTIST ministers, have suffered greatly." (David)

"My home church in South Carolina once had a Pastor with a habit of inappropriate touching and talking with women church members. When the Deacons investigated his past, they learned that he had been dismissed from overseas mission work, although the Mission Board could not disclose the reason. The man resigned our church rather than face a business meeting in which several accusers were ready to speak. Now he has a doctoral degree and is a part time religion professor at two colleges. The girls at these colleges are now his prey…." (Ronald Anders)

"So because the list could be incomplete it is better to have no list at all? Based on that logic, we should do away with the Department of Corrections Sex Offender Registration list because it is incomplete. I say it is better to have a partial list than no list at all. Sounds hypocritical and a rationalization to me." (Trent)

"The SBC has forever lost it's right to criticize the Catholic church for this sin. Our Pope has instituted measures that will hopefully expell these predators from our pulpits. I would have hoped that our Baptist brothers and sisters would have taken comparable action." (James)

"Does anybody else get the feeling we will need dateline 'To Catch a Predator' to start targeting Baptist Churches ? … Why should this even require any debate at all… How can the Baptist Churches look us in the eye and tell us they are serious about sexual abuse… They are more inclined to pass the buck on the issue… They would rather avoid the problem rather than face it… At this point and time, I cannot even trust anything coming out of any Southern Baptist Ministers mouth after reading this story." (Zoe1980)

"Of COURSE the Baptists don't want a national database...that would admit a problem and hold them accountable! They'd rather pray the problem away. That's their answer for everything. Fools. Hypocrites." (Goddalmighty)

"How, in the name of God, in this 21st century, can ANYONE live with themselves while ignoring sexual abuse? Unless they are a perpetrator? Those who turn a blind eye are guilty by association. PEOPLE, please think about this, think about your children, your nieces and nephews. Would you turn a blind eye if they were the victims? Traumatized for life by a trusted clergyperson? Think again about what this debate means and how your actions will impact future generations…." (Anonymous)

"I am still shocked at how we sweep this stuff under the rug.............but we’ll have a Church war over the type of music we sing. Anyone got that figured out?" (Bruce Gerencser)

"During Chapman’s speech, the audience stood six times by audience applause. We rally around words, when will we rally around reality?... Once again, we resolve to do nothing. God help us. (Alyce)

"I think its spineless of the SBC to not develop such a list. There are literally ministers and volunteers that have hopped from church to church getting away with the same violations time and again (this is for real, not just an urban legend)." (Chad Smith)

"It appears that those who made this decision for the SBC are a spineless bunch. Maybe if the sex offenders were also alcoholics they would take action more quickly." (Jim in NJ)

"Unbelievable!!! I do not understand why the Baptists are so against doing anything that will help protect lives and churches from certain people who need not be in leadership. As an individual who has been abused as a child I am completely disgusted by this move and the political crap within this denomination… All of the details could have been defined and kinks worked out once they decided to do it… They did not even want to begin the process. IGNORANT! … I am sure the world looks at this and once again thinks that another church organization is covering up for its own." (Jimmy “the church pirate”)

"In the corporate world, often the only way to get rid of a really bad employee is to give him or her good reviews so that you can get them promoted out of your department. Churches without a spine do the same thing." (Melody)

"I think it is just an excuse by the SBC to avoid doing anything… The SBC’s track record is dismal on this entire subject. The shocking lack of moral courage is truly sad." (John)

"If Baptist churches cannot coordinate on a shared, national strategy in favor of children at risk, they rightly lose a great deal of moral capital." (Pam)

"This is a mistake - a very big mistake! The Southern Baptist Convention has just unwittingly sent a loud message to every sexual predator in the country. "COME TO OUR CHURCH! WE WON'T WORK TOGETHER TO SCREEN YOU." Effectively, the convention has just absolved itself of ANY and ALL responsibility over the protection of minors from sexual predators in pastoral positions. If ever there was a time for the Southern Baptists to step up to the plate, and put some teeth into their denomination, this was it. They could have simply ruled that any local church wanting to participate in the convention would have to participate in a sexual predator database, or else drop out of the convention." (the Catholic Knight)

"Sounds like they just don’t want to reveal their true numbers." (Jennifer)


J. Davidson said...

If they can throw churches out of the SBC because of equal treatment granted to persons of all sexual orientations then why can not they do the same for churches that would not fall in line with protecting children in this and other ways? What does that message say to people?

Anonymous said...

That they think homosexuality is worse than child molestation? I think both are wrong, but in most cases "sexual orientation" implies consenting adults. Child molestation involves innocent victims.

In the meantime, women and children are being preyed upon while the SBC hotly debates who baptized whom, whether or not someone who practices a private prayer language (key word: private) can be a missionary, and telling women they can't possibly be called by God to the ministry.

In the infamous words of Algore (with the appropriate arm gestures), "Everything that should be down is up, and everything that should be up is down!" Aaaaaaargh!

Unknown said...

It's wierd, the selective way the "autonomy" clause is played. On the one hand, they have kicked churches out of the convention because of things like allowing full membership to open homosexuals, ordaining women, etc. On the other hand, they say they "can't do anything except publish guidelines for their churches to follow" for this because of "church autonomy."

Anonymous said...

As a lifelong Southern Baptist and staff member in an SBC church for 16 years, I am well versed in the autonomous structure of our denomination. What I have come to observe is that the structure of autonomy within the SBC has become a matter of convenience for much of the leadership. When it is expedient to do so, the principle of autonomy is invoked. If convention agencies are capable of producing a new translation of the Bible, then they can surely create a national database to protect children in Southern Baptist churches. If they can then place quotations from the convention sanctioned translation into Bible study literature as the sole citation, then surely the largest protestant denomination in the world can cooperate with its own agencies and member churches to gather names of convicted and credibly accused pedophiles. If the IMB, an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, can require missionaries serving in its employ to sign a copy of the man made Baptist Faith and Message and renounce certain private practices that the leadership finds objectionable, then surely a denomination of global influence can gather the names of men and women who have perpetrated sexual abuse against children in Southern Baptist churches. I have observed the conduct of convention leadership over the past decade and can only conclude that the decisions made, in many cases, serve the personal agendas of those elected to positions of prominence. The fact remains that if the Executive Committee, the convention, or its agencies believed that this issue was important, the decision regarding the national database would have been different.

Reasonable men and women are capable of devising sensible solutions to difficult issues. The issue is not one of legality and logistics, but rather of motivation and moral understanding.

Christa Brown said...

"The issue is not one of legality and logistics, but rather of motivation and moral understanding."

Powerful words, texaspastor! How I wish someone in Nashville were listening.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Christa, what I am finding is that the more that I attempt to have any type of constructive dialogue, the more that I am talked down to and made to look like the enemy. It is a very disheartening experience, as I know you are aware.

Lin said...

texaspastor, you have nailed it and you see it for what it is.

These leaders will not even publicly rebuke a pastor who kept a confessed pedophile minister on staff. As a matter of fact, they invite him to speak at their big fancy functions!

It goes way beyond a database. They really do not see this sin as that bad. How do I know this? Because of the silence when another perp is found out that was in an SBC pulpit. Silence. They say it is none of their business and the local church will handle it. Yet, they turn down local church proposed missionaries because they were not baptized in an SBC church when they were saved! Their 'local church' defense is a sham.

Maybe it is because most victims are just kids or teens who don't give money or vote at meetings.

Unknown said...

"Maybe it is because most victims are just kids or teens who don't give money or vote at meetings."

Sadly, I think that has something to do with it. I also think that "the man is head" mentality and this is a "women and children" issue has a lot to do with it. I also think the SBC is still trying to ignore the problem in hopes it will go away.

Anonymous said...

Don't lose hope. As a result, I will be encouraging many pastors and churches to use your site as a database.