Friday, September 18, 2009

Let us prey (on women)

“Where does the Baptist buck stop?” That was the title of a 2002 column by longtime religion writer Terry Mattingly. He was one of the first to articulate why it is so much more difficult to get a handle on clergy sex abuse among Baptists than among some other faith groups.

Now, Mattingly has written a column about the new study on clergy abuse of adult congregants, and he voices some special concerns about Baptists.

"Abuse happens everywhere, but the abused — in a denominational setting — at least have a hierarchy of some kind to which they can appeal. And then there is the issue of the bottom line: Their lawyers have larger institution to sue that, to one degree or another, is supposed to be monitoring the careers of its clergy.

Meanwhile, the nation is filling up with totally independent, nondenominational churches with few if any ties — especially legal ties — to anyone or anything. Is anyone keeping track of the clergy who serve these churches? Is anyone accountable for them? We are dealing with a form of church government and tradition called the “free church” and, truth is, the clergy in these churches are very, very free indeed.

I do not want to pick on the Southern Baptist Convention . . . The clergy are ordained by local congregations and, while they are registered for pensions and the like, there is not an official system that governs the movement or monitoring of clergy. . . .

The SBC, however, resembles the Roman Catholic Church in contrast with the totally disorganized, non-structured reality that is the post-denominational world."

Terry Mattingly, who knows and understands Southern Baptists quite well, sees the reality of things: Southern Baptists merely pretend to be nondenominational but they're actually quite structured. Yet, on the abuse front, Southern Baptists fail to make their clergy "subject to discipline" in the way that most other denominations do.

You can read the rest of Terry Mattingly's insightful column here.


Jim said...

Interesting observations on the structure of the SBC. Today, a majority of clergy ordained by churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention are "examined" for ordination by councils or committees organized or supported by the local Baptist Association. The Association is the closest organization to the local church, in the Southern Baptist hierarchy. Churches belong to Associations, which are resourced by State Conventions, that feed financial resources, names for trustees and committees, etc. to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. Each of these entities has an executive leader. Of course the SBC talking heads will say that churches are at the core of each of these groups, and there is a kernel of truth in that, but it is not the whole truth. Each of the hierarchical organizations is connected to the other, up and down the chain. Every year local churches elect messengers to a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. Every messenger is premitted to register his/her votes on a carefully scripted agenda designed to reflect the wishes of the SBC Executive Committee. When the messengers "get it wrong" the Executive Committee all but ignores their wishes. Please, do not allow anyone to assume, for one moment, that the SBC is not a higly organized, interconnected, well funded organization. When the SBC wants to act against a congregation who calls a female to be pastor, or one that does not make gender orientation a test of faith, it can act with near lightening speed. It could act in the arena of clergy sexual abuse against children and adults if it chose to do so. The issue is one of "will" not "ability". There is no will to act. Right now they are too busy with a "Great Commission Resurgence" to care very much about the sexual exploitation of women, or little girls and boys being raped under the steeple. I imagine the whole sorry sight makes Jesus want to vomit.

Anonymous said...

And nothing is going to change anytime soon since there is not one single SBC pastor willing to stand up and actually do anything about it. Some give lip service but that's just politically expedient. What a pathetic mess!

New BBC Open Forum said...

I'm a little behind on my reading and just read this statement from your article a couple of threads back.

For example, imagine all those young women who were sexually abused by former Baptist pastor Darrell Gilyard -- at least 44 of them that we know about. (I say “former” because Gilyard was recently convicted of child molestation.)

I think you left out a word. It should have read...

"I say 'former' only because Gilyard was recently convicted of child molestation."

If he wasn't sitting in a prison cell right now, he'd still be a pastor somewhere and still preying on women and girls.

New BBC Open Forum said...

While not specifically to do with the problem of clergy sexual abuse, do any of these sound familiar?

Christa Brown said...

New BBC: You're absolutely right. Gilyard is a "former" Baptist minister "ONLY because Gilyard was recently convicted." Baptist leaders did nothing. For over 2 decades, they allowed Gilyard to move from church to church to church to church, from Texas to Oklahoma to Texas again and then to Florida, preying on women and girls every step of the way. And they didn't stop him or warn people. As New BBC so rightly says: "If he wasn't sitting in a prison cell right now, he'd still be a pastor somewhere and still preying on women and girls."

Prison is the only thing that will prevent a Baptist minister from standing in a Baptist pulpit, because Baptist leaders do nothing to impose accountability on ministers who carry the Baptist name.

Christa Brown said...

Yes, the lines are certainly familiar -- "Why are you attacking an anointed man of God?" -- and more.

And they're very current lines. Just a few days ago, on a Baptist blog, there was a discussion about a Kentucky church that recently ordained a convicted sex offender, and did so knowingly, with all sorts of talk about God's forgiveness, etc. Before going to prison, the guy used to be a youth leader in a Baptist church, and he was caught just before they were getting ready to ordain him. So now he's out of jail, and some other church is ordaining him. And when people urged the church not to, a Baptist minister on a Baptist blog writes: ""People should start praying to God and stop trying to play God." (meaning that if God called him, then God called him, and it's not anybody's business to say otherwise.... )

You wouldn't think it would even be debatable, would you? But to this day, Baptist ministers STILL engage discussion on whether a convicted sex offender can be put in the pulpit in a high position of trust as a minister. It's blind, irresponsible and arrogant lunacy.

Lydia said...

Christa, ordaining a previous 'Christian' sexual pervert is against scripture. They do not even know scripture. 1 Tim says that elders must be above reproach to the 'outside'.

He claimed to be saved when he was molesting.

This has nothing to do with forgiveness. Forgiveness does make moot the qualifications for elders/pastors.

But in all seriousness, the real shame is that it is probably about the only job he can get as a convicted molester. He most certainly could not teach school. How bizarre is that? Our PUBLIC schools are safer than our churches!

Christa Brown said...

Lydia: That's exactly right because public schools have oversight systems and Baptist churches don't.

We also have a serious problem in Baptist churches because so many Baptist leaders are way more concerned about preserving ministers' careers than protecting kids against sexual abuse. Take a look at some of the comments on the BaptistLife forum on the subject of whether a minister convicted of child molestation can remain a minister. E.g. David Mwengi's comment about "judge not" and about how a person who may have seemed "wired" to sin is "undone by the blood of Christ." (Oh... and we're just supposed to take them at their word and put kids at risk because they SAY they've been "undone by the blood"???) And then there's the routinely petty Ed Pettibone saying that "a convicted repentant rehabilitated child abuser should do whatever God calls he or she to do" and, with respect to the newly ordained convicted child molester in Kentucky, that "all of us should be praying to God for them rather than playing God" (presumably meaning "judge not").

I find it flat-out scary that Baptist ministers could even engage a debate on the question of whether a convicted child molester can be a minister. The answer is no, and it's not a close call.

And of course, if they still debate about whether CONVICTED child molesters can be ministers, you know they're still light-years away from doing anything about ministers for whom there is substantial evidence of abuse and/or credible accusations in the way that most other major faith groups now do.

Anonymous said...

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Lydia said...

Christa, Pastors as a group have little credibility for me anymore.

I find they are more concerned with their job prospects than truth or protecting innocents.

They would argue with me that 1 Tim qualifications for elder (which includes pastor) do not apply to someone born again after being a pervert.

But look at what it says: must be above reproach to the outside.

Ya think raping children would qualifyfor not being above reproach, wouldn't you?

But then, a truly saved former pervert would seriously understand such a thing

What on earth do these guys do with perverts who ARE pastors while they are molesting? I guess forgiveness means we ignore 1 Tim and let them keep their position.

Perhaps they should be the first ones to ask the Born Again pervert to babysit for their kids or grandkids.

Anonymous said...

These pastors who say he should be ordained because "God" called him are playing God by pretending to know what's truly in this man's heart. No one on earth knows if he's rehabilitated besides himself and God. Not these pastors, not anyone mortal.

So, pastors, stop playing God.