Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Where's the Discipline?

When I got Sheila’s email yesterday, I found myself thinking once again about Al Mohler’s statement about the “discipline of a denomination.” Remember? Al Mohler, shown in the photo, is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he engaged this denominational double-talk in an apparent attempt to distance Southern Baptists from the sort of sex scandal that has enveloped Independent Baptist pastor Eddie Long.

Independent congregations “lack the discipline of a denomination,” said Mohler.

But where’s the discipline? What exactly was Al Mohler talking about?

Where is the Southern Baptist disciplinary process for denominationally dealing with allegations of clergy sex abuse?

Maybe Al Mohler would like to answer that question for Sheila.

Here is what she wrote to me:


I won't recount my story here, but I am now 50 years old – reported my abuser, a youth pastor in Alabama, when I was 21.

The board of deacons told me it was my fault, told me not to come back to church, and he did it because of the clothing I wore. I wasn't the only girl.

I am in such pain.


In a subsequent email, I learned that the abuse began when Sheila was in her mid-teens. Sheila was 21 when she reported it, but she says the senior pastor already knew about it because a deacon had previously told him.

That youth pastor whom Sheila reported 29 years ago is still working at a large Southern Baptist church in Alabama. While Sheila has struggled greatly over the years, the youth pastor was able to continue with a long career. He has worked as a minister of education and a minister of music at other churches in Louisiana and Alabama.

So where exactly is this “discipline of a denomination” that Al Mohler talked about?

Where is there any denominational office that will even look into allegations like those of Sheila? What denominational process exists for responsibly assessing allegations like those of Sheila? What denominational office will even receive Sheila’s report, much less “discipline” the minister or warn people in the pews?

When someone like Al Mohler talks about the “discipline of a denomination,” why in the world should someone like Sheila believe that what he says holds any real meaning?

And while we’re on the subject, what about some denominational process for providing compassionate care to those who have been wounded by Southern Baptist clergy? In addition to denominational disciplinary processes, other major faith groups now have processes that can provide counseling assistance for clergy abuse survivors. Where is that denominational process for Southern Baptists? Sheila could sure use some help. And doesn’t the faith group have a moral obligation?

Al Mohler was recently described as “the most prominent public intellectual” in the Southern Baptist Convention. I sure wish he would use some of that intellectual prowess to realistically address the problem of clergy sex abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention. Maybe if Mohler would apply himself to the task, he could tell us how Southern Baptists can cooperate together to assure effective clergy accountability mechanisms, to minimize the likelihood of church-hopping preacher-predators, and to help people like Sheila.

But I guess Mohler is too busy telling Christians they shouldn’t do yoga.


Ramesh said...

Al Mohler and Richard Land of the SBC are like the proverbial eye that only looks outwards, but is totally clueless at looking inwards.

Valarie said...

I'm so sorry for the way you were treated and the pain you have had to live with,Sheila.It's wrong.

Anonymous said...

I emailed Dr. Mohler after reading his comments, and politely asked him how the SBC would have done things differently. He has not responded at all to me.

Anonymous said...

What Mohler describes as the discipline of a denomination is not Baptist thinking at all. He does not like the Priesthood of believer at all. He is like Calvin when it comes to the priesthood. He claims to believe it but then goes on to teach a special caste system for believers.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mohler on yoga as does Doug Groothius who is an egal and not into authoritarianism like Mohler.

However, Mohler tried to get the doctrine of the Holy Priesthood of believer out of the BFM2000. The guy has a serious issue with power and authority. He is also a tyrant as many who have worked for him found out. He literally throws fits and tantrums toward his peons.

But so many young brainwashed worship him, he gets by with it. They want to get a good placement someday.

His goal is to turn the SBC into a "denomination" and guess what! It isn't one. Many folks do not know that. It is a "convention" of associated churches who "cooperate" to send missionaries. But that thinking has changed over the last 30 years or so with the rise of the power hungry who want a denomination with discipline rights over member churches.

Mohler is a bonafide tyrant who is a great politician. I would not describe him as a lowly servant to believers at all. So, I am wondering where his kind can be found in the NT scriptures. Any models there?

Anonymous said...

I am sad for the way Sheila was treated and saddened even more that nothing has changed. I would not boast about the "discipline of a denomination" when females (and males) are still treated that way in churches. There are too many victims and talk by the SBC church authorities is cheap when nothing is being done to halt, prevent and correct the clergy sexual abuse and misconduct. It is shameful and the victims should not be the ones feeling it.

Anonymous said...

So, I am wondering where his kind can be found in the NT scriptures. Any models there?

October 16, 2010 4:44 PM


Jim said...

I am amazed at what passes for intellectualism in contemporary Christian circles. Al Mohler, an intellectual? Not hardly. He is a highly effective religious opportunist; he is an arrogant, self-serving ideologue, but he is not an intellectual.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed at what passes for intellectualism in contemporary Christian circles. Al Mohler, an intellectual? Not hardly. He is a highly effective religious opportunist; he is an arrogant, self-serving ideologue, but he is not an intellectual.

October 22, 2010 2:42 PM

I agree. But if you say something long enough, people believe it.

Intellectuals allow for debate. They love it because it gives them the opportunity to prove their case. Mohler does not allow uncomfortable questions in a public venue. He ALWAYS controls the venue.

He is more about power and control than intellectualism. In fact,some of his articles scream anti intellectualism. I remember one where he talked about selfish couples who did not want children at all. The problem is, he never once said if they were believers or not. And he never made a BIBLICAL case in the New Covenant for that "sin".

He is more of a culture warrior than a theologian.

Anonymous said...

The thought that Mohler is more of a culture warrior than a theologian-that might serve him well. I'm reading a book about Jerry Falwell. That seems to describe him and look how successful he became. I don't think these men get to their high positions by being humble servants of God. They are actually shrewd businessmen and know human nature pretty well.

And I don't think they see standing up for sexual abuse victims as something that will help them gain power in their organizations-so they simply don't go there.

Christa Brown said...

Lynn: I assume that Mohler still has never responded at all to your email?

Anonymous said...

Hi Christa,

No, haven't heard a word.