Monday, March 23, 2009

When the going gets tough...

Clergy sex abuse presents to faith leaders one of the most difficult of all challenges.

How do Southern Baptist leaders use their faith to respond to this challenge?

Do they seek restorative justice for those traumatized by Baptist clergy?

Do they bind the wounds of clergy abuse survivors?

Do they seek to liberate the oppression of clergy abuse survivors?

Do they hear the cries of the wounded?

Do they seek to ascertain the truth?

You know the answers to these questions.

When the going gets tough… when called upon to confront clergy sex abuse… Southern Baptist leaders turn away. Rather than deal with the problem, they leave “the least of these” to the wolves.

Worst of all, they cloak their cowardice in words of religion. Baptist leaders claim they are powerless and they blame it on the Bible.

They claim the Bible tells them that all churches are autonomous. Then they twist it into such a radicalized version of church autonomy that it whitewashes their obligation to protect kids.

How convenient for them. They use the Bible itself as the towel on which they wipe their hands free from the horror inflicted by clergy predators.

How dare they?

How dare they use words of faith to propagate their own small-minded, self-serving power structure? And how dare they do so at the expense of kids?


Anonymous said...

I was married many years ago by a Baptist minister here in Michigan. I never attended any church services at that church, but we were married at that church all the same.
I've very glad as time moved on that my family never went back to that church to become full time members, based on what I've learned about this faith group from your site Christa.
It saddens me when a church is allowed to use one's faith as a weapon against a victim, and against other church members who are blinded by a false light.
In my humble opinion all preacher's should be held to the same minimal standards as our nation's teachers.
All clergy should be required and mandated by federal law to be subjected to an FBI criminal background check. Then be fingerprinted into a national data base, just like our teacher's are required to do.
I say if its the law for all of our nation's teachers, it most certainly is a must for all preachers. Plus teachers do not take their classes on overnight retreats like most churches do.
Christa keep up the great work and remember that that they can run, but can not hide from God. I will pray that all church administrators will ask them selves, what would Jesus want them to do? Betrayal of victim complaint,is a mortal sin against God himself.

Curt Szajnecki

Junkster said...

Though Christa's site & blog focus on predatory Baptist clergy, and on the unique difficulties in achieving change and accountability in Baptist churches, the problem of clergy abuse is likely no more less within the Baptist world than in other kinds of churches. Of course, it's kind of hard to be sure without a means to report and measure the problem, but that's just my guess based on what I know of human nature. Just saying that Baptists don't have a corner on the sin market. Likewise, there are many wonderful Christians and godly pastors in Baptist churches (I'm sure far more of those than of the bad sort), just as there are in other denominations and faith groups.

Junkster said...

Anon 10:23 PM,
Not sure what you are getting at, but an abuser could be any person in a position of power, whether male or female. An abuser could even be a female pastor of a Baptist church -- oh, wait ... that would require Baptists to allow women pastors ... nevermind!


Anonymous said...

Just because the problem is so widespread and involves other groups should not stop us from trying to get the SBC to lead out in this. Smaller groups sometimes follow a larger group's example. Also, the more we can get groups to be accountable the more fear we may be able to place in the hearts of the perps.

Christa Brown said...

"...the unique difficulties in achieving change and accountability in Baptist churches"

This is what I hope to write more about in the future... because this is what I view as the essence of the problem for Baptists. Other faith groups have systems for removing credibly-accused clergy from ministry, so as to at least take away the weapon of trust that can be so powerful in the hands of a faith-leader. But Baptists not only have no system for removing such men from ministry, they don't even have a system for warning people in the pews. With Baptists, the minister can just move on to Florida or some other state, and "minister" to a new unsuspecting congregation.

I also believe that, nowadays, Baptists generally continue to have a much more persistent pattern of aggressively re-wounding victims who attempt to report abuse. It's because there's no oversight system in place, and most churches tend to circle the wagons and act out of ignorance and fear.

John, your comment is well-taken. The SBC has over 101,000 ministers in this country, and they claim over 16.2 million congregants. But there are many other sorts of "Baptists" - National Baptists, Cooperative Baptists, American Baptists, etc. etc. The numbers are huge. Southern Baptists are the biggest of the Baptists, and the biggest of the congregationalists generally. If they would show some leadership and set an example, enormous good could be done.

Junkster said...

John & Christa,
I agree with you both.

Ramesh said...

Wade's blog > Abuse of Authority: It Must Not Be Ignored

Having been clear about my preferences that Southern Baptists write what needs to be said and sign one's name to what is written, it is still quite disturbing to me to read the unfolding saga at FBC Jacksonville, Florida. Local Jacksonville law enforcement officers, former Florida circuit court judges, and other members of FBC, all friends of the pastor, seemed to have used secular Florida authorities to unethically and possibly illegally obtain subpoenas to reveal the identity and other private information of the owners of the FBC Jacksonville Watchdog and New BBC Open Forum and Tiffany Croft's blogs.

A local Jacksonville reporter is doing some background for a story that the newspaper will be running about this in the near future. It seems that someone in the Jacksonville Police department suggested to the reporter that the subpoenas were issued because there may be some kind of ongoing federal investigation into these blogs. I was asked yesterday what I thought of such a statement from the local Jacksonville police officer. I responded with two words.

"That's bull."

I've seen this kind of thing happen time and time again. Stupid decisions are made by certain leaders to try to "shut down" the person who is asking questions. Then, those same leaders go behind closed doors and allege the person asking questions is of corrupt character and if people really knew the whole story, then they would never doubt why "leadership" did what they did. In short, when leaders get "caught" using hard ball tactics to shut down dissent, they act as if things are really worse than they are - in order to cover themselves. I can assure you federal officials are more interested in terrorists seeking to destroy the United States than they are church members, annymous or not, who are asking questions that pertain to their pastor.

The sad part about the saga at FBC Jacksonville is that secular authorities have now been sucked into church politics. It seems to me that someone in the Jacksonville police department or court system could, at best, lose their jobs. At worst, there is the making of an enormous lawsuit for public officials abusing their authority to help friends. If you think public officials, particularly court judges and law enforcement officials, are beyond corruption, then you obviously haven't been following the the horrid story of the Pennsylvania judge who used his position for personal gain.

Christa Brown said...

Thy Peace: The only thing that surprises me is that anyone is surprised at this sort of stuff anymore... but of course, perhaps I've simply seen and heard too many big-bad-Baptist-business-as-usual stories over the past few years... way too many. And from what I hear, it's not the first time secular authorities in Jacksonville have been sucked into church politics.

Ramesh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ramesh said...

Off Topic:

For Windows PC users, please run the Conficker Removal Tool or at least read about this worm, that is set to activate on April 1st.

Windows Secrets > Run a Conficker removal tool before April 1

john said...

"When the going gets tough" if you are an insider in the SBC you either change churches, go to work for one of the many conventions, etc. or find someone's character to ruin!