Monday, June 29, 2009

Kids and congregants at risk

People often ask me why I keep doing this work.

That graph is a big part of the answer. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, about 1 in 6 Americans are Baptist.

Southern Baptists alone are twice as big as the second-largest Protestant group, the Methodists. And if you add in all the other sorts of Baptists, then Baptists are about 4 times more numerous than the Methodists. That’s according to data compiled by the National Council of Churches, which listed the top 25 faith groups in the country.

Baptists are so big that they literally dwarf all the other Protestant groups.

Southern Baptists alone claim to have about 16.2 million members. That’s a population the size of Chile or the Netherlands.

To serve that population, Southern Baptists have 101,000 clergy in this country and 43,000 churches. Yet, despite their faith group’s shared identity, Southern Baptists disclaim any shared responsibility for their clergy… or for the safety of people who sit in Southern Baptist pews.

Unlike other major faith groups, Southern Baptists have no system of oversight for their clergy, and they don’t have any system of record-keeping for clergy abuse reports. In essence, they don’t even attempt to deal with clergy sex abuse in any systematic way. As a practical matter, this means that it is far too easy for predatory Baptist clergy to hop from church to church, finding new prey along the way. No one stops them.

And if the terrain gets too hot among the Southern Baptist network, then predatory clergy can hop over to one of the other Baptist groups. By and large, those other Baptist groups aren’t doing any better.

Baptist leaders keep saying that each church should handle this problem on their own. Far be it for any state or national Baptist organization to intervene or to work at devising a system by which the local churches might cooperate together to track predatory clergy.

It’s as if the federal government were to tell all the country’s towns and cities that it was up to each of them individually to fight terrorism. It can’t be done that way. The very nature of the problem is such that it requires a strong cooperative effort. There must be an effective means of assuring that critical information is communicated and shared.

But despite their huge numbers and massive resources, Baptists are still sitting on the sidelines in the fight against clergy predators. Because of their huge numbers, this necessarily means that a whole lot of kids and congregants are at risk.

Until Baptists confront the reality of clergy abuse and engage a strong cooperative effort at dealing with it, kids in Baptist churches will be at greater risk than kids in Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Episcopal churches.

And there are so many of them.

That’s why I keep doing this.

Question: In response to SNAP’s letter about clergy sex abuse and cover-ups, Southern Baptist president Johnny Hunt wrote back on February 3, 2009 and said: “I assure you we are looking into that… It will come up at our national convention that meets in June 2009 in Louisville, I am sure.”

So…. did it “come up”? Some of you who were actually at the convention, can you let me know? Did I miss something?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for continuing your work. I wish I had a great deal of wealth so I could support your work financially. But, sadly, I do not.
The work you do and this blog are a constant source of inspiration to me. I don't feel alone anymore. I don't feel guilty anymore. I cannot speak of my misery but you speak for me, and doubtless tens of thousands of others who have suffered at the hands of clergy in the United States, and around the world.
Your work gives hope to me, daily. If there are blessings left in this world, I hope they touch you in some way.
Forty years. More than forty years I suffered alone. Now, because of you, my isolation is abated and I have hope for tomorrow.
Thank you.

Christa Brown said...

Thank you for speaking out on this blog, Anon. Thank you for being here. I feel certain that, today, your voice too will hold hope and meaning for someone else. Shine on!

Anonymous said...

I was there, and no, that I recall, it didn't come up.

Maybe I was sleeping through it, but I recall motions about preachers, homosexuals, the President, and politics, but nothing on this point.

gmommy said...

Anon 6:53
Forty years is too long to suffer alone.Glad you found this virtual support group/community. Thank you for your comment and I hope blessings touch you in some way also.

terminaldigit said...

I testified today at a hearing of the Mass judiciary commitee to eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse.
Your courage will save many and gives strength to those of us who support you