Tuesday, November 16, 2010


How an organization spends its money can tell you a lot about what it thinks is important.

So I decided to take a look at the 2011 proposed budget for the largest statewide Baptist organization in the country, the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

It’s a budget that allocates a total of $38 million for net expenses.

How much of that do you imagine they allocated for addressing “clergy sexual misconduct”?


That’s three thousand five hundred and four dollars.

I’m guessing that amount is just enough to allow the BGCT to reprint some of its glossy brochures and put them on a table at the next annual meeting.

That’s it. Nothing more. That’s how little they care.

It's a tragic number that gives substance to the reality of the BGCT's institutionalized blindness to clergy sex abuse. (And the very fact that their budget labels it as “misconduct” only furthers the evidence of how the BGCT persists in minimizing this conduct. But I digress . . . this posting is about numbers.)

The Baptist General Convention of Texas once bragged that it was doing more than any other statewide Baptist organization in the country on the subject of clergy sex abuse. So there isn’t much reason to think the Baptist budgets in other states have allocated anything more.

A budget of $3,504 makes apparent that no one at the Baptist General Convention of Texas is even taking the first tiny baby step toward trying to responsibly address clergy sex abuse. And they sure aren't doing anything to minister to the wounded.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas should have allocated at least 10 times that amount for the sole purpose of conducting a study to assess their own institutional failure in the case of minister Matt Baker, who was convicted of murder last January. The BGCT needs to work toward understanding how and why a minister with multiple sexual abuse and assault reports was able to move so easily through so many of the BGCT’s affiliated churches and organizations, without anyone stopping him. They need to work toward understanding why it took a murder before those abuse and assault allegations were brought to light.

They need to work toward understanding how a Baptist minister with multiple abuse and assault reports was still able to get a job working as a chaplain at a residential treatment facility for emotionally troubled youth. Doesn’t the BGCT do credentialing for Texas Baptist chaplains?

They need to work toward understanding how, even at the end of his career, just before he was hauled up on a murder charge, a minister with multiple abuse and assault reports was still able to get a job working with college kids at a Baptist Student Union. It was a job funded by the BGCT. Didn’t anyone check his background? How could they have overlooked so much?

In most other organizations, an institutional failure of the Matt Baker magnitude would lead to a lot of questions. Leaders would try to understand how things went so wrong. They would try to figure out what they should do to assure that it wouldn’t happen again.

But at the Baptist General Convention of Texas, so-called “leaders” just hunkered down and stayed silent . . . as though it simply wasn’t their problem.

Kids and congregants in Texas Baptist churches are the ones who pay the price for the BGCT’s institutionalized blindness toward clergy sex abuse.

$3,504. That’s how little the BGCT cares.

The BGCT’s proposed budget is 177 pages long, and for me, it was an eye-numbing exercise to look at it. But if you’re someone who likes numbers, or if you just want to peruse it for yourself, here it is: http://www.bgct.org/documents/pdf/2011_Proposed_Detail_Budget.pdf

Meanwhile, I’ll point out just a few other items that caught my eye.

The “Ministers’ Wives Retreat” gets $9,000. The office of the Chief Financial Officer gets $61,882 for “Tax Seminars.”

Thinking about the fact that Matt Baker was able to work as a chaplain, I noticed that the BGCT’s budget allocates $2,248 to the “Chaplaincy Endorsement” program, and a total of $113,029 to “Chaplaincy Ministry.” But of course, that doesn’t count the salaries and benefits for the BGCT people who work in the program. (Once you start looking at some of the compensation packages for BGCT officials, you start to understand real fast about where a lot of the offering plate dollars go.)

"Counseling and Psychological Services" gets $115,148. (You can read more about that program here: “Therapy for perps but not victims.”)

Finally, the “Ministers’ Protection Plan” gets $1,300,000. I’m told that this is how the state conventions help to assure that Baptist ministers are provided with disability benefits. Of course, I’ve got no problem with ministers being able to get benefits when they become disabled. But here’s what I don’t understand: Why can denominational officials use the pooled money from autonomous churches to provide Baptist ministers with disability benefits, but they can’t use the pooled money from autonomous churches to provide Baptist congregants with the resource of a trained review board for objectively assessing clergy abuse reports and for informing people in the pews about credibly-accused clergy?

Kids and congregants would be a whole lot safer if the Baptist General Convention of Texas cared just as much about protecting them as it cares about protecting ministers.

But $3,504 is all they allocated.

Remember that number. That’s how little the BGCT cares.

Related post: "Once every two weeks for Texas Baptists"

See also: "How much do Southern Baptists budget for dealing with clerical sex abuse?" Baptist Planet, 11/17/2010


Unknown said...

"Kids and congregants would be a whole lot safer if the Baptist General Convention of Texas cared just as much about protecting them as it cares about protecting ministers."

I learned a long time ago that it's all about the preachers. From local associations on up the chain, it's all about the preachers. Run by preachers, for preachers.

Anonymous said...

The SBC and the state conventions are for benefitting those at the top of the pyramid (scheme.) The purpose of the congregation is to supply the money, with no questions asked.

If only the people would stop giving or make some demands re how their money is spent. The problem is that those at the top have aligned themselves with God himself. If you criticize them, you are causing division, murmuring, sinning against God's annointed, etc., etc.

If there is a God, would he approve of people giving money to support these conventions?

Christa Brown said...

"The purpose of the congregation is to supply the money, with no questions asked."

Yup. In my view, the BGCT is an organization that hasn't shown itself worthy of receiving people's money, or the money they think they're giving to God. It was only a couple years ago that this organization was caught up in the Valleygate scandal involving $1.3 million in lost and mismanaged church starting funds. And as if that weren't bad enough, we also see that, year in and year out, they basically don't give a hoot about those wounded by clergy sex abuse, or about assuring that those ministers whose retirements the denomination helps to support are also ministers who are held accountability to bare-basic rules of ethics.

Anonymous said...

Those who know of this site can discuss it all til doomsday, but how do you get the attention of those in the pews?

How do we inform them? I'd think most people in Baptist churches have no clue about any of this and have never heard of StopBaptistPredators. How do we change that?

Anonymous said...

Maybe you need to be a speaker at one of those pastors' wives retreats.

John Doe said...

Hmm.. $3,504 for all the clergy sexual misconduct? Obviously they don't think it is such a big problem in the Lone Star state.

Shoot, as one survivor of a Baptist predator, it cost over $55,000 (in 1996) for me to enter a two-week, inpatient treatment program for sexual abuse survivors.. All this just to try to regain my life after my experience with a "man of god." Lucky for me I had good insurance and the lion's share was taken care of..

Yet, what about those clergy victims who do not have good insurance, or insurance at all? They get to deal with the aftermath in their own ways possibly through drug abuse, alchohol, prostitution, perpetuation of the abuse cycle on their own children and/or spouses, and many other unhealthy ways.

$3,504 breaks down to $292 per month, or $9.60 per day - This isn't leadership. This is a sad attempt to feign concern.

My prayer would be that God allows the same level of mercy to be shown to these leaders as they were willing to show to each victim of clergy abuse.

I'm thinking the same $3,504 won't last half a minute on the 'mercy' meter..

Anonymous said...

It cost me 10 times that much for my therapy. Baptists don't care.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas, they're for helping ministers, not people. They may wear suits but they're just goons protecting their own. The Baptist Goon Convention of Texas

Anonymous said...

A big bad Baptist church in Texas

I know a church
It starts with a "P"
I know a church
Whose people won't see
I know a church
It's all about "G"

Christa Brown said...

Lynn: I wish I knew the answers to your questions. But I don't. However, I also think it's worth remembering that, even when the people in the pews made their will known on this, the SBC execs still didn't actually do anything. Remember? Even when 8000 messengers voted to instruct the SBC Executive Committee to conduct a study on creating a database of confessed and credibly-accused clergy-predators, the Executive Committee never even set aside a budget for a study. Shows how little they actually respect their own purported bottom-up polity, doesn't it? It's an unaccountable, intractable power system.

Anonymous said...

What do churches get that makes it worth it to be part of the SBC? Maybe it's to the pastor's advantage, but the congregation doesn't really get anything from being a part of it. Or would it cost the individual church money somehow if they opted out?

I guess people could vote with their feet by leaving or with their wallets by not giving? But the issue would have to become a burning issue for them first, and I guess it isn't that yet.

I guess apathy allows many wrongs to go un-righted.

Christa Brown said...

"I guess apathy allows many wrongs to go un-righted."

And still more wrongs to occur . . . as preacher-predators simply move on to their next prey.

Unknown said...

Lynn, I'm not a fan of the current SBC leadership. But you are asking the wrong question. Churches aren't part of a denomination for what they get out of it. Churches in congregational systems like the SBC band together to do ministry that they cannot do by themselves.

One of the problems with congregationalism is that it fosters the idea that the local church should do what is good for it rather than focusing on what is good for the whole church universal and the whole mission of Christ. Congregationalism can empower great mission endeavors when coupled with cooperation. Or it can lead to selfish little circles of people who are their to preserve their own congregation and their own traditions even if that isn't making disciples for Jesus Christ.

"What's in it for me?" isn't a gospel question. "What's in it for those who are outside the walls of my congregation?" is the gospel question.

Anonymous said...

I see what you're saying. I do realize that the purpose of the SBC is to do good in the world, spread the gospel far and wide, etc. But along with the good that is done, a huge bureaucracy is created w/ salaries to be paid, etc., right?

And what I meant as far as benefits to the local church is-does the SBC provide disability insurance or health insurance, that kind of thing, to pastors as a group, who are part of the SBC? Or retirement benefits? That's what I meant by-how does the SBC benefit pastors or churches.

Do regular church members get to see the nitty-gritty details of what is done with all the money that goes to the SBC? Can they find out people's salaries, perks, etc.?

I grew up in an IFB church. I think they too have larger organizaations they can belong to and send missionaries through. I'm sure my parents had some vague idea that missionaries were out there spreading the gospel. But they certainly didn't know how the money is actually spent.

So I ask again-along with all the good that the SBC probably does do-are there benefits to local churches or pastors also?

Unknown said...

I see now what you are asking Lynn. And yes, there are benefits to both pastors and the congregation in being a part of a denomination. In the SBC for pastors it includes an annuity retirement program that churches and pastors can participate in. For the church the benefits are primarily opportunities for wider mission as well as resourcing and training from the denomination for church leadership.

In the ABC, where I served for many years, the denomination has a system of recognition for clergy and a placement system that churches can utilize to find qualified pastors who have been vetted by the denomination as to the education, training, experience, etc.

I'm no longer serving in a Baptist denomination but now service in the United Methodist Church where the system is much more connectional. And I find that connectedness and cooperation to be refreshing. But, I'm not hunting converts from one church family to another here. :-) But as a Christian on a journey I've noticed that Baptists miss out on some great opportunities for service and ministry when they isolate themselves.

Christa Brown said...

"But along with the good that is done, a huge bureaucracy is created w/ salaries to be paid, etc., right?"

Yes. And it is indeed HUGE. I think a lot of the people in the pews think that most of their offering plate dollars go to support missionaries. But actually, every time I get the chance to see actual numbers, I'm always a bit amazed at how little goes to missions. A HUGE chunk goes to support the bureaucracy. And of course, public relations people and media staff are part of that bureaucracy, and they do a good job of building up the image and promoting the brand.

Timothy is right that the denominational structure supports retirement benefits, etc. for ministers. But one other aspect I want to mention is that, for many people, there is often a very big element of the intangible and inarticulable in what keeps them within a particular faith community. I frequently wind up hearing from people who say things like "My grandfather was a Southern Baptist pastor" or My whole life has been in Southern Baptist churches." People's own self-identities, their personal histories, and their family histories are often wrapped up in their faith identity and their faith community. Because their faith identity is so much a part of them, this means that, in order to see something so ugly as the possibility that a pastor abused a kid, or that their faith community has become corrupted in a cover-up, they have to open themselves to grief. Most people don't willingly choose a path of grief, and they will try to avoid it if possible. I think the avoidance of grief plays a role in why so many people lapse into denial, and spew vitriol toward and about the victims . . . because it helps to protect themselves from feeling the grief that they otherwise would if they opened their hearts to the possibility of believing the victims' stories.