Saturday, December 26, 2009

To serve churches with information

Just before Christmas, GuideStone released a press statement about the 2010 church compensation survey of the Southern Baptist Convention. As the SBC’s financial services arm, GuideStone provides retirement and health benefit plans for ministers. The compensation survey is designed to give churches accessible online information so that they can see how much other churches pay their ministers. Presumably, it also provides ministers themselves with the information to know whether they should pressure their churches to pay them more or go in search of greener pastures.

The survey is being conducted “through the joint efforts of Baptist state conventions, LifeWay Christian Resources, and GuideStone Financial Resources.” All of these are Baptist entities under the big-tent umbrella of the tentacular Southern Baptist Convention.

The chief executive officer of GuideStone, O.S. Hawkins, gave the following explanation as the reason for the survey:

“The 2010 SBC Church Compensation Survey is another avenue by which we all can work together to serve our churches with information to help them adequately compensate their ministers and employees.”

Did you get that? They want “to serve our churches with information.”

That’s fine and good. But how about serving the churches with information that’s even more important than how much other ministers make?

How about serving the churches with information about ministers who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse?

For that sort of information, Southern Baptist officials consistently say it would violate local church autonomy. But for information about how much ministers should be paid, they say the information works “to serve” the churches.

I don’t see the difference.

The compensation survey has been conducted every two years for the past 12 years. Baptist officials have explained that the data is made available “with complete respect for the autonomy of each church.”

“How each church uses this information is up to each local church,” they say. “The information can be a useful tool to help a church be more objective in its consideration of staff compensation.”

Wouldn’t it also be “a useful tool” for Baptist officials to provide local churches with information by which they might be more objective in their consideration of clergy sex abuse reports?

Why do Baptist officials view it as “a useful tool” when they provide information to help churches adequately compensate ministers, but as violating church autonomy to provide information that might help churches know whether ministers have been credibly accused of child molestation?

In response to church questions about “what should we do” with the compensation information, Baptist officials said this: “Many churches have viewed the information and intentionally made sure their minister’s compensation is higher than average because they recognize they have an above-average minister serving their church.”

What about ministers who are below-average? What about ministers who are so far below the boundaries of acceptability that they have been repeatedly accused of sexual abuse? What about ministers who hide evil deeds behind a mask of respectability?

Wouldn’t it be helpful if churches could also view information by which they might make sure their minister was not someone who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse?

If Baptist officials can provide information so people in the pews can make sure to pay their ministers enough, why can’t Baptist officials provide information so people in the pews can make sure their ministers haven’t been credibly accused of child molestation? Both are a matter of providing information. Neither violates church autonomy.


JOHN said...


Of course you are correct. This is why some of us as pastors and retired pastors know for a fact that the SBC could and should provide such a list. Tis has always beenthe case when the SBC power structure wants to do something that willtrengthen their power base. The survey mentioned has beenongog fr years and yes, it does provide a tool for pastors to share with their churches when a raise is needed or desired. Not all pastors use it ut many do.
The reason I beleve they do not share your convictions is because of money, image, and it is not something the want to talk about or address.
If the pressure can be kept on tsooner or later they will be fored to reckon with this shame.
In the mean time I pray for those who still face the posibility f becoming yet another victim of this needless crime.

Junkster said...

Excellent post.

John said...

Please fogive all of mistakes in my post. I have been undlot of stress lately with m Mom and daughter both with stage four cancer. I will try to do better. Thanks for your understanding and forgivenes

Christa Brown said...

John: My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

No apology needed. No forgiveness needed. No need for you to "try to do better." None whatsoever. I only wish for you and yours peace and comfort and well-being.

gmommy said...

I am so so sorry about your mom and daughter. I can't imagine what you all must be going thru.