Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Trick from the Baptist playbook

Before I went to bed last night, this article about a Southern Baptist youth minister in Kentucky crossed my screen. It was late. I was tired. So rather than load it onto the StopBaptistPredators website, I just hit print.

This morning, when I got ready to load the article, I noticed that it had been updated. The updated version no longer referred to the guilty man, Frank Shaw, as a “former youth minister” at Chester Avenue Baptist Church. That part was deleted. (The video was apparently harder to change; it still describes Shaw as a “former youth minister.”)

There isn’t anything unusual about an article being updated. But I’ve seen this sort of thing before -- where the fact that the guy was a Baptist minister gets omitted. Sometimes that fact never gets mentioned to start with.

I don’t blame the reporters. Baptists don’t make it easy for people to figure out who’s a minister. It’s not as if there’s a registry somewhere that lists all the men who carry the “Baptist minister” brand. There’s not.

Not only do Baptists fail to keep any systematic records on ministers accused of child molestation, but they don’t keep any systematic records on ministers… period.

What’s more, Baptist leaders play with the definition of minister.

In yesterday’s Kentucky case, I figure the reporter probably got some information that Frank Shaw was a minister, and after the article went to press, he may have heard from a representative of the church, who told him he was mistaken and that Shaw wasn’t actually an ordained minister. So the article got updated to delete the reference to Shaw being a “minister.”

Obviously, I don’t know for sure that this is what happened. I’m just making an educated guess.

In connection with another recent case, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch referred to the accused as “the director of children’s programs” at First Baptist Church of St. Charles. It then cited the senior pastor of the church, David Sheppard, as saying that “the man was not an ordained minister.”

Well, let’s see. “The man worked for the church running children’s programs, Bible school and evening youth services.” Sure sounds like a Baptist youth and education minister to me.

Whenever I see that “he’s not an ordained minister” line, I get suspicious. It usually means that the church is simply trying to distance itself from the ugliness of what their guy did.

But a Baptist minister doesn’t have to be ordained to be a minister. Most of the time, people in the pews won’t have a clue one way or the other about whether their minister is ordained. They’ll just think he’s their minister.

In fact, with Baptists, ANYONE can be a minister. That’s one of the problems. Baptist ministers aren’t required to have any sort of minimum qualifications or training. And there isn’t any sort of preliminary screening; Baptist ministers don’t even have to go to seminary. All they have to do is convince a few people that they were “called” by God.

It’s a perfect set-up for con-men.

But of course, the average reporter probably isn’t going to realize all this. So when a pastor tells him that “the man was not an ordained minister,” the reporter might think it means the man wasn’t a minister. And then the reporter will probably decide to err on the side of caution and not put the fact that the man was a Baptist minister into the story.

You can’t blame the reporter. He’s working on a tight deadline and where else is he going to check? There isn't any reliable registry where he can confirm who's a minister and who isn't.

I tend to notice this sort of thing because I saw how this game was played in my own case. The national headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention wrote that it had no record my perpetrator was still in ministry anywhere. And get this… I believed them.

Besides, I had already looked at the SBC’s online registry, and my perpetrator’s name wasn’t there. At that point, I presumed the online registry was a complete listing. That was a mistake. My perpetrator was indeed still in ministry, and he had been all along.

The SBC’s online ministerial registry isn’t complete… not even close. Moreover, it’s easily manipulated. I first figured that out when I saw how minister James Moore appeared, disappeared, and then reappeared on the registry. Since then, I’ve seen that lots of other ministers don’t show up on the registry either.

In my childhood church, James Moore was the music minister who knew that the youth and education minister had sexually abused me. He knew about it at the time, even when I was a kid. Years later, as an adult, when I started trying to deal with it, Moore was still there.

I was thrilled when I saw Moore’s name listed as a “minister of music” on the SBC’s registry. I immediately printed it out. “No problem,” I thought. “Moore knew what happened, and he’s surely older and wiser by now, and he’ll want to do the right thing.”

Looking back, I can’t believe how trusting I still was. As soon as I started trying to even talk about this, the church’s attorney wrote that Moore wasn’t “an ordained minister”. . . as though to preemptively stave off any possible argument that the church might bear any responsibility for what Moore did and didn’t do -- i.e., for the fact that Moore allowed the abuse to continue, didn’t tell my parents or report it to the police, and allowed the perpetrator to eventually move on to another congregation.

According to the church, it wasn’t their problem. Why? Because Moore wasn’t “an ordained minister.”

Incidentally, the attorney who came up with that “he’s not an ordained minister” line was the longtime attorney for the largest statewide Baptist organization in the country, the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Since then, I’ve talked with several other clergy abuse survivors who had encounters with this same attorney. He’s the guy the Baptist General Convention of Texas sent out to “help” churches when they had to deal with a “clergy abuse crisis.” As best I can tell, the way he “helped” was by intimidating and misdirecting the abuse survivors. I figure he pulled that “he’s not an ordained minister” line on a lot of other people, too.

Meanwhile, back at national headquarters, minister Moore’s name suddenly disappeared from the Southern Baptist Convention’s registry of ministers.

When I saw that disappearing act… and after I pulled out my printed sheet to make sure I hadn’t been mistaken… I knew for sure that there was a lot of gamesmanship going on with the whole “who’s a minister” thing. Both the clergy-perpetrator and the minister who knew about it had been taken off the ministerial registry. Yet, they were both still in ministry.

Ultimately, because I couldn’t get Moore or any of the other church leaders to even meet with me, I filed a lawsuit. Only then did the church leaders finally deem me worthy of sitting down to talk with.

Shortly after my lawsuit ended, Moore’s name reappeared on the Southern Baptist Convention’s registry as a “minister of music.” I guess they decided it was safe to again list him. Of course, he was really a Baptist minister all along.

So… here’s the lesson: When a Baptist pastor or church official tells you “he wasn’t an ordained minister,” it doesn’t mean diddly-squat. It’s just one of the games in the Baptist playbook.


Anonymous said...


I hesitate to tell you this because I know you will rejoice but I feel I must big you caustic females adieu. You have simply become too attacking for me to participate any longer on your blog.

I do feel you do some good but after discerning that about 90% of your posters are women who have never worked through their issues or are so possessed with their hatred toward men that its a waste of time to even come to this site.

I do hope you manage to work through your own issues which obviously you have not. In nearly every post you find a way to go back to your own molestation ad nauseum. You were molested--now you need to let it go and move on.

BTW, I did check with some of my influential Baptist friends and their typical comment about this blog and you is " its a good cause but she's just a kooky woman." I know you will freak when you read that comment but I hope you will learn from it. If you would polish your image a bit you might get more legitimate attention to your cause.

I will indeed miss you but not your cohorts and their viperous mouths. Maybe you can help them with their issues.

No sense attacking me from every direction on this one because I won't be reading your responses. Just read it and learn.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

In baptist pastor circles, being "persistent", and being persistent saying things "influential Baptist" leaders don't like means you are "obsessive compulsive" and "unstable" and a "sociopath".

Now "kooky". And not just "kooky", even worse, a "kooky WOMAN". To this guy, kooky is bad, but "kooky woman" is worse.

Which is precisely the title of your blog article.

"Trick from the Baptist Playbook":
Call people crazy who persistently say things that make Baptist leaders uncomfortable.

Keep bringing the heat, Christa!

Bob Allen said...

" its a good cause but she's just a kooky woman."

That's an uncanningly accurate description of the official Baptist response to your work. I deal with kooks all the time, and you're not even close.

Lydia said...

Anon, perhaps we 'caustic females' could be properly insulted if we knew your name or if you are male or female?

How do we know you are not 16 years old commenting from your parents basement?

(We know you have come back to read. They always do. Wink)

Anonymous said...

"BTW, I did check with some of my influential Baptist friends and their typical comment about this blog and you is " its a good cause but she's just a kooky woman." "

The only influence we should be concerned about is the spiritual kind. Not the earthly kind.

Ramesh said...

Anon, why do you keep insisting for people who are hurt to forgive and move on?

When the people who have committed these abuses are never brought to justice? Who have mostly never repented of their actions? And the SBC Leadership colludes to obfuscate and hinder abuse claims brought against abusers.

Also, from your earlier comments you have mentioned that you yourself have been abused when you were young, but that you have moved on and have forgiven your abusers. Good for you. I am very glad there is some closure for you.

Alas, that is not the case for others. It is very hard to put oneself in the victim's place and to extrapolate from one's own experiences.

Every one heals differently. When one is fighting awareness and trying to bring these issues into the public, lot of the old wounds resurface. This is part of the fight. This is the cost to bear. To make people in SBC open their eyes to the plight of the victims.

BTW, I did check with some of my influential Baptist friends and their typical comment about this blog and you is " its a good cause but she's just a kooky woman.".

Why don't you ask you influential baptist friends to change their ways?

Yes, I do see anyone who is an irritant to SBC, is labeled "kooky". I remember and read what they said of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And what they did. Though it was ordained from God. At least the suffering and Sacrifice.

I know you will freak when you read that comment but I hope you will learn from it.

I do not think you know Christa well. Once she survived her own abuse and has come to terms with what happened. Christa has decided to fight that her own daughter or other daughters do not go through what she went through. You have to understand a mother's heart to understand this. And the grief and sorrow that goes with this.

If you would polish your image a bit you might get more legitimate attention to your cause.

Why should Christa "polish her image"? To bring "legitimate attention"? Did the holocaust survivors "polish their image"? Did the holocaust survivors do what you suggest to bring "legitimate attention"?

What is happening on the sexual abuse is similar to the holocaust. Except this is perpetrated by mostly men and people in leadership are blind to this, for this problem mostly affects women and children.
On a different topic, if you ignore the family planning issues, I see similar inattention on this issue too...
NYT > Crisis in the Operating Room.
I visited Shazia the next day. She was in a crowded, stifling ward. The power had gone out. Her bedding was soiled. She was crying.

Outside, her husband, Allahdita, was grieving but philosophical. “It is God’s will,” he said, shrugging. “There is nothing we can do.”

That’s incorrect. If men had uteruses, “paternity wards” would get resources, ambulances would transport pregnant men to hospitals free of charge, deliveries would be free, and the Group of 8 industrialized nations would make paternal mortality a top priority. One of the most lethal forms of sex discrimination is this systematic inattention to reproductive health care, from family planning to childbirth — so long as those who die are impoverished, voiceless women

Lin said...

If one is not allowed to name evil and describe it, it flourishes.

Bonhoeffer wrote a lot about the cheap grace our anonymous friend is advocating.

What I cannot figure out is why he/she is not concerned about the eternal life of the perverts and those who protect them hence promoting the impurity of the Bride. Perhaps a reading of Revelation is in order to understand this fully.

Forgiveness is not a license to sin or cover up sin. That is cheap grace for the pervert and no grace for the victim. Done in the Name of Christ.

Christa Brown said...

Adieu to Mr. Anonymous in Plano, Texas.

Hey... isn't Plano, Texas the home of uber-Baptist-mega-church Prestonwood? Gee... I wonder if Mr. Anonymous in Plano might be connected to Prestonwood. After all, he made a point of telling us that he has "influential Baptist friends" and Prestonwood is considered one of the most "influential" Baptist churches in America. Too bad they don't use some of that "influence" to prod their denomination toward taking proactive measures to combat clergy sex abuse in the way that other major faith groups do.

John said...

Being one of supposed "10%" I say that Mr./Mrs./Ms./? speaks like a true SBC puppet. He in no way speaks for those real men who see a problem, learn about the problem and then seek ways to solve the problem. To be called "kooky" by socalled " influencial baptist friends" proves to old addage that we are known by our enemies.
Just in case some one is hurt by these hurtful remarks, please know that there are many men who support you, do not blame you, and are willing to give you all the time and space you need to fnd a way to deal with what someone else chose to hurt you with.
Viva la 10%!

Anonymous said...

Baptist leaders tend to be impressed with themselves and numbers. The fact that 16 million members is a lie they continue to publish bothers them not one bit, either.

But the real message behind anonymous' comment is the disdain for women that is growing daily in SBC life. Some of it is even perpetuated by women who cannot accept spiritual responsibility.

If you note, Christa, anonymous is more concerned with 'appearances' than truth. A serious problem in many of our churches.

gmommy said...

"In nearly every post you find a way to go back to your own molestation ad nauseum."

DUH! That statement could ONLY be made by an unstable,obsessed,empty(no new nature)person affiliated with those influential people from the SBC who we are always so impressed by.
Too bad we can't toast to his departure! ;)
(cute...the word is "teamboo")

Anonymous said...

Hoping they make a device they can place on sexual abusers..the device is a jolt and shock when someone gets a panic attack that get a jolt. I am one of those relatives who try to help one in my family with PTSD suffering from such an abus. I have had it because it is painful to see them to go through what they do.

Christa Brown said...

Anon 6:53 - The suffering associated with PTSD from sexual abuse can be quite severe - as I suspect you know all too well. My heart goes out to your relative, and to you as well. I know it can cause enormous strain in families and also for those who try to help.

Anonymous said...

That is why I don't understand those remain hardened of conscience on this issue.

Anon 6: 53

"Open Up, Open Up and give yourself away see the need hear the cry oh why do you delay...the church can't fight because it's asleep in the light." Keith Green

Anonymous said...

"The wolves are among us and yet we sound no alarm." Steve Camp

Christa Brown said...

I don't understand how so many can have such hardened hearts either. But I believe there will come a day... whether in 2 years or 20 or more... when Baptists will look back in horror and say "what in the world were we thinking?" And "How could we have been so blind?"

"How could we have used 'the Bible tells me so' as a justification for denominationally doing nothing about clergy sex abuse?"

"How could we have ever conjured such a radicalized version of church autonomy that we refused to intervene even when we had reports about ministers molesting kids? And how could we have refused to even hear people who were trying to tell us about it? How could we have allowed so many child-molesting ministers to simply roam among us? And how could we have ever twisted Biblical authority to justify such a thing?"

I hope and pray for the day when these questions will be in Baptists' minds.

Anonymous said...

Yea, those influential Southern Baptists were real good about dealing with abusive slave owners too.

Christa Brown said...

Yes... and for many, many, many decades, they even justified it... slavery, civil rights abuses, and institutionalized racism... using "the Bible tells me so" as a rationalization.

Phyllis Gregory said...

Oh, Christa. I hope you are right, but I fear you are not. I do not think there is hope for Baptist churches. As long as there are people like Paige Patterson and all the other good ole boys like him, nothing will ever change. Places like Southwestern will continue to produce preacher boys who think and act just like him.

Plus, I think Baptists (as a whole) are not able for whatever weird reason to look on one of their own as defective. I still think there are too many people who sit in the pews who just cannot accept the fact that the man in the pulpit is human and not part God.

Ramesh said...

I do not have any hope from organized religion.

The only hope I have is from Our Lord Jesus Christ and The Word. The convicting has to take place within each person's heart.

Pastor Wade Burleson Blog > The God Who Meets Me at the Place of Shame.
There is no need for pretension in real Christianity. There is no reason we Christians have to pretend we are something when we aren't. We don't need to hide our struggles, cover our failures, or sweep away our shame. In fact, the power of God will only rest on us when we allow ourselves to feel the flush heat of shame as we recount our failures to others. Christ is in the practice of pouring out His power and grace on the weak and the humble. "But we have this treasure (Christ Jesus) in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us" (II Corinthians 4:7 NIV). God chooses to use broken vessels so the glory and power of His Son will never be diminished by man's pride in supposed abilities.

Christa Brown said...

Phyllis: I tend to be a sort of pathological optimist. It's funny, isn't it? So many SBC guys have said that I do this because I'm "bitter" and "vengeful." But I think the real truth is that, in large part, it's because I'm such an incessant optimist. Only an optimist could possibly hold any hope for Baptists on dealing with clergy abuse.

But I'm also a realist, and I think it may take a long time for Baptists to open their eyes to clergy abuse. "Lasteth with the leasteth" -- that's Southern Baptists. After all, Southern Baptists waited until over 130 years after the Civil War and decades after the civil rights movement and civil rights legislation before they finally issued even a bare resolution of apology for their role in defending slavery, in opposing the efforts of African-Americans to secure civil rights, and in condoning institutionalized racism. And it should never be forgotten that they did all this while spouting Biblical authority as justification. They did it in the name of God.

You look at that resolution on paper, and it looks so civilized, doesn't it? But that veneer of civility sits on top of a huge, horrific history of violence and oppression. I'd bet that a heckuva lot of those white hoods that roamed the South were hoods that had Southern Baptist preachers and deacons underneath. Historically, it's impossible to imagine otherwise.

So... all of that's a way of saying that I figure it will take a while. Or maybe the whole denomination will just slowly die out.

Anonymous said...

But that would mean the foundations of the SBC were wrong to begin apology what about reparations?...where are those? Why don't they deconstruct the SBC and build bridges back with the other baptist affiliations that they broke from. The northern baptist churches were helping out with underground railroads and they would not step to help.

Anonymous said...

I was told by an minister in my church that there were some very inflated racist statements made by Southern church members in this last election. He did not necessarily agree with Obama but he could not believe the slurs that were still being made in South in 2008.

Anonymous said...

In searching for a new church, I happened upon this website while looking up information on a specific pastor.

Thank you for what you are doing. The same thing happened to me. I paid for my therapy and have moved on in many ways. Lest you think this happens in only one denomination....I wasn't reared in a Baptist church...

For a long time I thought the problem was mine, that I did something wrong. Having a good therapist helps. If you need counseling, go to someone with credentials. Mine is a psychologist, licensed pastoral counselor and an ordained minister.

God bless you.

Christa Brown said...

"I was told by a minister in my church that there were some very inflated racist statements made by Southern church members in this last election."

Yes. My impression from comments in the blogosphere is that it was pretty widespread. One example that was more widely-reported in the mainstream media was prominent Southern Baptist pastor Wiley Drake of Buena Park, California who prayed for the death of Barack Obama... and used the Bible to justify such prayers.

Wiley Drake also has a radio program and he was the second vice-president of the whole Southern Baptist Convention in 2006-07. So, he's actually a very prominent Southern Baptist pastor and, having risen to such a high position in the national organization, there had to have been a whole lot of other Southern Baptists who, over the course of a lot of years, promoted and supported him.

There were, in fact, some other Southern Baptist pastors who denounced Drake's remarks... but in my view, not nearly enough.

Anonymous said...

What hit me about the apology a few minutes ago.... was that it was the same thing Jesus was talking about with the Pharisees. They were in a sense apologizing for what happened with the prophets by the former leaders in Israel. He asked as to why they were doing so becasue in doing so because they were aligning themselves with them and their foudnations in applying of the Scriptures. They need to rethink a lot of their statements.

Anonymous said...

This also means that they have to make reparations to slave a result. Alan Keyes ran on this issue for a just can't make apologies. My dad never operated ike that...that is why they should make reparations for abused children as well. See how their foundations are "kooky"

Anonymous said...

I was told by an minister in my church that there were some very inflated racist statements made by Southern church members in this last election. He did not necessarily agree with Obama but he could not believe the slurs that were still being made in South in 2008.

July 31, 2009 10:24 AM

But any disagreement with Obama will be considered racist by some simply because he is black.

What Wiley Drake said was unChristian. He should have been disfellowshipped.

But if I say that Obama is a socialists and is trying to national industries including banking and health care and that I think he is inexperienced and out of his you think that is racist?

I also know that Obama attended a church that preached hate against white America and Marist liberation theory. Of course they toned it down when he started running. If I say it racist?

(You should hear some of his sermons from even 5 years ago! Scary stuff)

Anonymous said...

Comparing Obama to Alan Keyes...Keyes has a slave heritage.

Anonymous said...

Alan Keyes owned slaves?

Obama attended a Madrassa in Indonesia.