Saturday, April 17, 2010

In the London Times!

The London Times Literary Supplement published a review of my book, This Little Light, in its April 16th edition. The review, written by Patrick Lindsay Bowles, is searing and insightful. It's also funny. Where else do you get to read about "hillbilly pilpulism" and the "much-dreaded zebra"? Take a look.

And just think... a lot of people in London are reading about it, too, and are learning about Baptists' denominational do-nothingness on clergy sex abuse. Thanks to Patrick Lindsay Bowles!

Suffering and the Children
by Patrick Lindsay Bowles

"The current crisis for the Catholic Church over decades of child sexual abuse has further obscured a similar but less reported story. One of Time magazine’s “Top Ten Underreported Stories of 2008” was the refusal by America’s largest Protestant church, the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), to create a database of those among its 101,000 clergymen who have been convicted or credibly accused of sexually abusing children. That refusal is one of the practices that make the 44,000 churches of the SBC, says Christa Brown, “a perfect paradise for predators”. The shocking evidence, expertly marshalled by Ms Brown, a successful appellate lawyer in Austin, in this riveting account of her own victimization, suggests that in the case of the SBC the distinction between predator and clergyman is all too often diaphanous.

In powerful descriptions of her abuse and its aftermath of madness, tainted relationships and loss of faith (years later, writes Brown, “I would sometimes go out alone on moonless nights and scream into the ocean . . . . I didn’t have a clue why I was screaming”), the author demonstrates how her own descent into hell corresponds to a typical scenario for Southern Baptist victims. Under the guise of counselling a child, she says, a pastor rapes her, quoting scripture all the while, but insists that she is the guilty party and enlists his church and the SBC to successfully cover up his crime. Three decades after the incidents, Brown was finally able to put a name to what had happened to her; having become a mother made it urgent to her to file a complaint. Although the SBC claimed to have no record of her aggressor, he was serving in a well-known church when Brown located him in 2004. On January 18, 2006, her former church produced a letter acknowledging the facts of the case, for which Brown agreed to suspend legal proceedings.

The SBC gives two reasons for its refusal to maintain a list of predators: 1) Each of the churches belonging to the SBC is autonomous, so it is powerless to intervene. 2) We can, they claim, simply check to see if our ministers have criminal records. Rebuttals: 1) While the SBC has yet to sever ties with any of the thousands of its churches in which paedophiles are or have been known to occupy the pulpit, its Nashville headquarters keeps very close tabs on what is going on and where. On June 23, 2009, the SBC “disfellowshipped” the Broadway Baptist church of Fort Worth, Texas, because it has one openly gay member. 2) Over 90 per cent of sex offenders have no criminal record.

Data from American insurance companies suggests that Protestant clergy lead Catholics in the sexual abuse of children, with the SBC the worst offender. A combination of suprajudicial procedures (e.g. victims, who are warned not to contact police, may not address the SBC with complaints, which must come to it from the church, in other words, from the pastor or person who committed the crime about which the complaint is being made); hillbilly pilpulism (the SBC’s resident quack “expert” distinguishes between sexual predators, who are first degree felons facing potential life sentences in prison if caught, and who simply, says he, don’t exist in the Baptist clergy, and mere “wanderers”); and systematic persecution of victims who complain means that most of the SBC’s predatory activities remain unprosecuted. The former President of the SBC, Paige Patterson, whose hobbies include “hunting dangerous game” (his website shows him kneeling behind the much-dreaded zebra) shocked other faith group leaders, including Catholics, when he referred to Brown and other victims of confessed rapists as “evil-doers” and “just as reprehensible as sex criminals”.

The SBC’s lawyers place their faith in the statute of limitations, which requires that complaints be made by the age of twenty-eight (average age of childhood sex abuse victims: twelve; that of the complainants: forty-two), in the fact that fewer than 10 per cent of clergy sex abuse cases are ever reported, and in the high suicide rate of victims. Alone among faith groups, the tax-exempt SBC, with $10 billion in assets, offers no counselling to victims, yet provides free counselling to clergymen who have been caught raping children.

Both Brown’s story and the data she has gathered on other victims of the SBC in This Little Light and on her website ( and blog ( suggest that legal reform is urgently needed. When the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse disappears, as it inevitably will, the resulting class action will probably spell the end of the SBC.

The SBC has refused to keep a list of its criminal clergymen; Brown has kindly begun to keep one for them, pro bono. They have clearly bullied the wrong woman, and in so doing have awakened both a whistleblower of historic proportions and a writer."


Anonymous said...

Wow. Good for you!

John said...

I have followed this blog for several years. Sometimes it is hard to see progress due to the size of the SBC. However, you have made progress and I believe in the near future the SBC leadership will began to feel the pressure to do somethig positive to help protect our children better.
Thanks again for a job well done.

Anonymous said...

Christa, This is so cool. Congratulations. You should be proud. I hope Baptist leaders are squirming.

Anonymous said...

Oh Christa!

Yay for you! Words are inadequate to express my gratefulness to you for what you do and what it has meant to me personally. Thank you will never be enough.

I like how it was put that you are keeping a list of these predators for the SBC pro bono! Indeed!

I hope you always know that many cheer you silently form the sidelines. Never give up!


Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto this site by accident...and read this entry (and then many others)...what a shock! As a life-long member of a Southern Baptist church, I had no idea that any of this was occuring in my larger faith body.
I've never heard any news from the pulpit or the SBC to indicate any problems with clergy sex abuse in our denomation...and now, I'm frankly horrified.
In ignorance, I've always allowed my pastor(s) and deacons make decisions regarding the teachers/child care workers watching my two young children (ages 5 and 2)during church and Sunday School...well, not anymore. I'm getting background checks on every single person working in our childcare services, ASAP. And I'm guessing I'm going to have to pay for it myself.
I came accidentally and ignorantly, but I'm leaving slightly more educated...thanks.
Elana D.

Anonymous said...

Excellent. That article could not even have been written if not for your perseverance and voice. Thank you for keeping a list and being a whistle blower because the SBC surely doesn't. It is as though the abuser gets a pat on the back from his church and sent elsewhere to continue if that is what he desires.

Stay the course, Christa. Change must come because no one in their right mind would allow what we know has happened to be inflicted upon even one more person. We are behind you and are so thankful for the job you are doing.

There are some who want to cover their ears and not hear anything negative about their church or beloved staff. I had one person tell me that all churches have warts. I said all people have warts. My husband added that even warts have to be cut out sometimes. Touche!

Kaye Maher

Anonymous said...

If they would get rid of youth ministry programs for apprenticing approaches..the character traits of ministers would actually be forced to be under more scrutiny in terms of qualifications. Paul stated he was a highly detailed in his ethos as a Pharisee but also was misguided in believing the Gentile Christians were heretics. He was not lawless in regards to to Jewish civicness but when He realized he was persecuting Christ as the Lord's favor was bestowed to the Gentiles it broke his arrogance. Paul by no means infers a sloppy induction of men to be overseers by ignoring their past. They were to be tested and found to be held above reproach

Anonymous said...

so no one in Baptist land has been caught molesting in a month? What gives? Remove the collusion sidebar and re-post the molesters.

Thank you.

Christa Brown said...

I think the many Baptist leaders and ministers who collude in clergy sex abuse and who cover it up are a very big part of the problem -- without their complicity, the molesting ministers would not be able to persist so easily. What I've posted is just the tip of the iceberg, but I think this sort of collusive conduct is important for people to know about.

For those of you who don't know what "sidebar" Anon 10:11 is talking about... take a look at the right column of the StopBaptistPredators website. And see these new web pages on Baptist individuals and institutions whom many might say have colluded in clergy sex abuse.

And gee whiz Anon... if you'd like to see Baptist clergy molesters posted somewhere, I suggest you contact Baptist leaders in Nashville and tell them to get busy. Though I've posted a great many Baptist clergy molesters, the reality is that mine was always a feeble effort at best. If Baptists would simply care enough to allocate some Cooperative Program dollars to the task and to assign a few paid employees to the job, I'm sure the list of Baptist clergy predators would be much, much longer.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Rus Kelly has also convinced me that 75% of SBC ministers have no idea what they are talking about when they insist that church "tithing" is biblical? One of the most prominant ones has gone so far to say if you disagree with church tithing you are on the "side of Satan." Maybe they need to read over the Didache.

Anonymous said...

I saw the review in the TLS...keep up the work.

Deborah said...

You're right, Christa: collusion is a HUGE issue in the SBC. You've worked hard to expose how frequently SBC leaders cover for those guilty of heinous acts of clergy sexual abuse. I worked inside the SBC structure for 7 years. For decades before that and one year after, I served the denomination in numerous volunteer capacities. I've seen SBC leaders cover up many unethical behaviors, including other forms of abuse. In 2004-2005, I myself was abused, not sexually or physically, but brutally – one witness described it as being “flayed alive.” A number of people in the structure saw what was happening and recognized how wrong it was, but each one actively or passively participated in the cover-up. I appealed all the way to the top leadership in 3 Southern Baptist organizations, each time imagining the leader would be aghast at what was happening in the ranks of their organization and would move quickly to set things right. Each time, to my shock, I discovered the top leader fully committed to the collusion – and in 2 of the 3 cases, orchestrating it. (One of the three is included in your online list of SBC leaders who have colluded in protecting sex offenders.) Since then, observation and extensive research has shown me: What I experienced was far from an isolated incident. In the Southern Baptist structure, collusion to cover ungodly behavior is pervasive and deeply rooted. Two motivations seem clear: People collude to protect the institution and their place in it.

Deborah Brunt

Christa Brown said...

Thank you for sharing a part of your story here.

"I appealed all the way to the top leadership... each time imagining the leader would be aghast at what was happening... Each time, to my shock, I discovered the top leader fully committed to the collusion...."

I understand... and so would literally hundreds of other people. What you describe is the sort of high-level collusion that has covered up for horrific conduct in many contexts and by many people within the Southern Baptist Convention. When ordinary, decent people encounter such widespread collusion, particularly among religious leaders, it is almost invariably shocking... and literally almost unbelieveable. But you are exactly right... it's far from an isolated incident. Collusive conduct within the Southern Baptist structure is "pervasive and deeply-rooted."

Anonymous said...

Was reading bout Mike Warnke last night on how at the height of his popularity in 1985 that he had already two affairs by 1979. I was stunned that his promoters turned a blind eye on questions had already begun occuring on "shifting" facts about his stories six years earlier. It was not until 1991 that someone had the boldness to go public on him.