Friday, January 14, 2011

SBC Execs Have the Power

At the end of 2010, I was looking back at some of the year’s big Baptist stories, and I paused over Morris Chapman’s remarks about the Southern Baptist Convention’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.

The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force pushed proposals that they claimed would make Southern Baptists more effective in “winning the world” for Christ and that created a new revenue category called “Great Commission Giving.” The proposals were adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention at-large, and the net effect resulted in a drop in the budget for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.

Morris Chapman, the former president of the Executive Committee, opposed the proposals and published his reasons. This is where it gets interesting.

Morris Chapman went on at some length about the “enormous responsibilities” and “enormous importance” of the Executive Committee. He explained that the Executive Committee was “a standing committee empowered to function (when appropriate) on behalf of the SBC.”

Compare these remarks to what was said in 2008 when the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee refused to implement safeguards for the protection of kids against Baptist clergy predators. The Executive Committee claimed it had “no authority to bar known perpetrators from ministry or start an office to field abuse claims.”

So which is it? An Executive Committee with “no authority” or an Executive Committee that is “empowered to function”?

And how can any entity carry “enormous responsibilities” of “enormous importance” if it is not also afforded “authority”?

The obvious answer is that the Executive Committee is indeed “empowered to function” on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention. If it wanted to, it could choose to implement strategies, similar to those in other major faith groups, to bar perpetrators from ministry and to assess abuse claims that cannot be criminally prosecuted (which is most of them). The problem is that the honchos who head-up the largest Protestant denomination in the land have not yet seen the “enormous importance” of protecting kids against clergy predators, and of ministering to those wounded by clergy abuse. So, whenever that topic is raised, the Executive Committee shifts into its self-serving “no authority” posture.

This is the denomination whose officials hold a crafty “now you see it – now you don’t” sort of power. But make no mistake about it – even when they choose to mask their power, the power is still there.

In proclaiming the “enormous responsibilities” of the SBC’s Executive Committee, Morris Chapman provided “some examples of things the Executive Committee undertakes and subsidizes for the benefit and health of the entire Convention.” In particular, he pointed to this responsibility:

“The Executive Committee houses and maintains and all of its family of Web sites, including … Church Search and Job Search. The SBC is the only denomination to receive, completely free (paid for by the Executive Committee, CP-supplied budget) such comprehensive service in these areas. All cooperating churches have a web presence… and the ability to post open positions for qualified job applicants.”

So . . . the Executive Committee has the authority to provide “comprehensive service” for helping Baptist churches find pastors and for helping Baptist pastors find jobs. Indeed, Chapman brags that the SBC is the “only denomination” to provide such “comprehensive service.” Yet, despite its power to provide “comprehensive service” in this area, the one thing the Executive Committee claims it cannot do is to provide churches with a resource for obtaining reliable information about pastors who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse.

That’s where the Executive Committee chooses to wash its hands of the problem and claim “no authority.”

But make no mistake about it – the Executive Committee is making a choice with its do-nothing response. It’s not that it can’t; it’s that it won’t. It is, after all, “empowered to function” for the benefit of the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole.

Finally, Morris Chapman points out that, in 2010, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force was given a designated budget of $250,000. Contrast this with the $0 budget that was allocated when 8,000 Southern Baptist “messengers” directed the Executive Committee to conduct a study on addressing clergy sex abuse. No budget at all was allocated when the mere messengers thought something was important, but $250,000 was allocated when the honchos thought something was important.

From the get-go, when it failed to even allocate a budget, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee made apparent that it didn’t think a denominational effort to protect against clergy sex abuse was important. As Chapman himself suggests, “adequate funding” is essential if work is to get done. But make no mistake about it – the Executive Committee made a choice. It wasn’t that the Executive Committee lacked authority to allocate funding for a legitimate study; it was that it didn’t choose to.

The Executive Committee is “empowered to function” for the benefit of the Southern Baptist Convention. If it wanted to implement strategies for better protecting kids and congregants against clergy sex abuse, it could readily choose to do so. The fact that it doesn’t means that it carries not only "enormous responsibilities" but also enormous shame.


Debbie Kaufman said...

What it means is that the Convention and it's messengers mean nothing. It's more a show than an actual meeting. It creates huge revenue for whatever city the Convention is held in. But the messengers, the voting, the debates, all of it mean nothing. The committees have all the control and Southern Baptists say nothing. They either quit going or keep going for the reunions. That's it.

Until the churches actually mean something to the SBC as a whole, until the messengers are seen as having more than just a voice but able to take action it will always be that way.

Wendy said...

You can't "win the world" for Christ if you refuse to protect the most innocent and vulnerable. I'm concerned about the true condition of their souls. They certainly don't bear the fruit.

Anonymous said...

I bumped into this site by chance.I am a muslim and that means I have the most in common wiht christians.
Sadly when the religion tells Jesus died for your sins it tells the followers that you have licence to do what you want and don't worry.Religion means spirituality and spiritualtiy comes with selfcontrol and sacrifice(or suffering).Earlier christians lives were full of such sacrifices but the present ones have changed the religion of Jesus to keep on doing everything without any remorse.It wouldn't change until and unless people will not come to the real teachings of Jesus.When I read the redletter words in bible I couldn't find anywhere written in clear terms that Jesus himself said,I amd God or worship me,nor is written that I came to die for the sins of mankind.

Anonymous said...

I guess it will all keep rolling along until the messengers stop giving money. As long as they're giving money, why should the "leaders" do ANYTHING differently?