Monday, December 27, 2010

Top Baptist abuse-related stories of 2010

1. Southern Baptist pastor Matt Baker was convicted of murder. Despite multiple prior reports of sexual abuse and sexual assault, Matt Baker was always able to move on through churches, schools and organizations affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. No one stopped him. Links to my many postings on the Matt Baker story are at the bottom here.

2. The Tina Anderson story: The alleged rape of a 15-year-old by a deacon, and its cover-up, implicated multiple Baptist pastors and multiple Baptist churches from New Hampshire to Colorado to Indiana to Wisconsin.

3. Frank “still-no-apology” Page was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. This is the man who publicly castigated clergy abuse survivors who speak out as “nothing more than opportunistic persons.” Rather than imposing consequences on a leader who wrote such stunningly callous remarks about clergy sex abuse survivors, Southern Baptists promoted him.

4. After Southern Baptist pastor Daniel Moore of New Whiteland Baptist Church in Franklin, Indiana, was charged with child sex abuse, the pastor, ministers and deacons of Calvary Baptist Church in the nearby town of Greenwood invited him to worship at their church “anonymously.” And in what appeared as an effort to influence the judge to impose a lesser sentence, Calvary’s leaders also wrote a letter of support for Moore. Congregants from New Whiteland packed the courtroom in support of their former pastor.

5. Stephen Carter, a former Southern Baptist missionary who worked in Belize for four years and then became the director of a Baptist camp in North Carolina was found dead of an apparent suicide. At the time of his death, he was awaiting trial on six child sex charges. We have seen no Baptist public outreach effort to help children who may have encountered this man in Belize or to help those who made the allegations in North Carolina.

6. Baptist pastor Robert Dando pled guilty to repeatedly abusing two boys in Virginia, starting when they were 7 and 8 years old. Virginia prosecutors said that, under questioning, Dando also admitted to sexually abusing boys in the United Kingdom. Dando was closely connected to the highest levels of Baptist worldwide leadership; he previously served as executive assistant to the president of the Baptist World Alliance. More on this story is here.

7. “More than 600” felony offenses turned up when about 900 churches and organizations conducted background checks on staff and volunteers by using the discounted service offered through LifeWay, which is the publishing and research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptist Convention has about 45,000 churches. Do the math.

8. Eddie Long, pastor of the 25,000 member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta, was accused by four young men of having used spiritual authority to coerce them into sexual acts when they were teen church members. The case was also noteworthy because of how other Baptists tried to distance themselves from it. For example, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote that independent Baptist congregations lack “the discipline of a denomination.” Mohler appeared to be suggesting that Southern Baptist churches are less likely to have such scandals because they have a denomination. But where’s the discipline? When a man described as “the most prominent public intellectual” in the Southern Baptist Convention talks about “the discipline of a denomination,” people ought to ask about the system of discipline in his own denomination.

9. In New Hampshire, Southern Baptist pastor Timothy Dillmuth and two church elders were found guilty of failing to report suspected child sex abuse. The prosecutor described it as “a conspiracy” that was “not only unlawful but shameful.” The judge pointed out that they “deliberately attempted” to keep the matter within the church and, because they used religion as a rationalization, said “they would do it again.” Abuse reporting laws are rarely enforced; this case was a remarkable exception.

10. Okay, this one isn’t going to make anyone else’s list, but I’m proud of it and so it goes on my list. The Reverend Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, presented me, Christa Brown, with the Phoebe Award. The 3,000 member church gives this award to “someone who has made a difference in our world” and “who stands up for truth and right.” Kudos to Rev. McKissic for recognizing that the work of seeking to protect against clergy-predators is not work that attacks the church but work that seeks to help the church. In 2011, I’m hoping that many more Southern Baptist pastors will arrive at the same understanding as Rev. McKissic, and will care enough to do something about it.

Wishing for all of you peace in your hearts in 2011.

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