This was what SNAP asked for two years ago, in its letter of September 26, 2006 to Southern Baptist officials.
Look at that request. Was it so unreasonable?
- A review board where people could report clergy abuse to trained, independent professionals.
- A review board that would responsibly assess the allegations in an objective manner.
- A review board that would provide information about credible allegations to people in the pews.
No one said anything about Nashville telling local churches what to do. No one said anything about Nashville exercising authority over local churches.
The request we made was nothing radical. It was a request for action similar to what’s already being done in other major faith groups.
So why can’t Southern Baptists provide the same sorts of protective processes as other faith groups?
Because their leaders have planted their feet in cement.
It’s not because Southern Baptist leaders can’t. It’s because they won’t.
Oh sure, we’ve heard Southern Baptist officials talk about how powerless they are. We’ve heard their claim that it’s a “bottom-up” organization and that national leaders can only do what local churches tell them to do via their “messenger” votes at the convention.
And after the do-nothing debacle of the 2008 convention, I bet some of you are thinking that the SBC Executive Committee can’t even try to do anything more on this issue until someone gets still another motion passed at still another convention.
If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re wrong. The SBC Executive Committee has the power. They could take action if they wanted to.
In real life, they don’t actually sit back waiting for local churches to tell them what to do.
Remember how pastor Wade Burleson made a motion at the 2007 convention, asking that the Executive Committee study the creation of a denominational database of ministers who have been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse?
For all the fanfare that motion got, the Executive Committee itself didn’t seem to think it mattered much. They claimed they were studying the clergy sex abuse issue even BEFORE Burleson’s motion.
In other words, they claimed that they were acting on their own power.
In the first sentence of their own June 2008 report, the Executive Committee made this very clear. Here’s what they said:
“… the Bylaws Workgroup of the Convention’s Executive Committee in 2006 began studying how best to address the challenge of clergy sexual abuse in the local church. The work of the Bylaws Workgroup took on higher visibility after receiving the referral of the 2007 Wade Burleson motion relating to the issue, coupled with heightened interest by the press and special interest advocacy groups.”
So according to their own statement, they were studying the issue in 2006 -- i.e., before Burleson’s 2007 motion and without the benefit of any “marching orders” from the local churches.
Augie Boto said something similar in a 2007 email to Debbie Vasquez. Boto is vice-president for convention policy and general counsel for the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. When Debbie expressed her great concern about the issue of clergy sex abuse, Boto told Debbie that the Executive Committee was "currently" assessing the issue. Later, when Debbie read about Wade Burleson’s planned motion, she wrote back to Boto and asked “Did you lie to me?” She couldn’t understand why Burleson would be making a motion on the subject if the Executive Committee was already addressing it.
But Boto wrote back and reconfirmed that “The Bylaws Workgroup of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention is already looking into the issue.”
Then he went on to be completely dismissive of Burleson’s motion. Here’s how Boto explained the fact that Burleson was making a motion even though the Executive Committee was already addressing the matter: “It often happens that those who make motions are unaware of occurrences. Since anyone can make a motion about anything, we cannot account for their reasons or knowledge.”
In other words, as far as Boto was concerned, Burleson’s motion was irrelevant and immaterial.
So… if the Executive Committee could claim to be addressing the clergy abuse issue BEFORE Burleson’s motion, why can’t they still address it even now?
The answer is obvious: They can. They have the power. They always did, and they still do.
Their whole “we are powerless” bit has never been anything more than a ruse for institutionalized irresponsibility.
It’s just phony baloney, folks.