Friday, April 26, 2013

P.S. to Ed

After I posted my open letter to Ed Stetzer last week, a reader directed me to another one of Ed’s articles about allegations of child sex abuse connected to the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism. Ed’s words are so true – but so hollow -- that I decided to add this postscript.

“Truth must be known. Victims must be acknowledged. Protections must be in place.”

This is mighty fine talk, Ed. But where are the deeds? And again, why is your talk directed at others rather than at your own faith group, the Southern Baptist Convention?

So, Ed, I’m quoting some more of your words right back to you, along with the questions they raise for many of us who were sexually abused by Southern Baptist preachers.

“I think religious institutions, churches, and those that lead them have yet to come to grips with both the seriousness and frequency of this crime,” you say. I agree! But what about you, Ed? Have you come to grips with the seriousness and frequency of this crime in your own faith group – in the Southern Baptist Convention? I haven’t seen any indication that you have.

With respect to the investigation at the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, you wrote that it was “another reminder of the pain of child abuse, the importance of honest disclosure… and the need for outside help (the police if it is a current crime or a credible investigation if it is a past allegation).”

“Honest disclosure.” Sounds great, Ed. How about working to implement that in your own faith group? But how can your denomination even hope to honestly disclose ministers with credible child sex abuse allegations when your denomination doesn’t even bother with systematic record-keeping on ministers?

I couldn’t agree more about the need for “outside help.” This is why clergy abuse survivors have been asking the Southern Baptist Convention to fund a panel of trained professionals who could responsibly review clergy abuse allegations – i.e., the more-than-90-percent that cannot be criminally prosecuted. For the truth to be known, outsiders are essential for oversight. Churches cannot – cannot – responsibly address abuse allegations against their own clergy, not only because they typically lack the expertise, but because they always lack the objectivity.

Concerning the investigation of abuse within the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, you state that you “have confidence in the organization doing the investigation, G.R.A.C.E.”

So, Ed, why don’t you call for a G.R.A.C.E. investigation of what happened at Prestonwood? People in the pews deserve to know how it came about that one of the most prominent churches of the Southern Baptist Convention – a church headed by two-term SBC president Jack Graham -- allowed one of their ministers to move on to another church even after he was accused of molesting church-boys. People in the pews deserve to know the extent to which their leaders covered up for the molesting-minister and allowed more kids to be placed at risk.

In connection with the Penn State scandal, you said you were “shocked” that leaders could receive a report of child sex abuse and not report it to the police. But Ed, a “failure to report” allegation is also being made about Prestonwood’s leaders. So call for an investigation! Or are you too afraid that Prestonwood could not withstand the scrutiny that an independent investigation would bring? Are you afraid that Prestonwood would suffer damage similar to what Penn State experienced?

“Protections must be in place,” you say. But, Ed, how do you imagine that people will be protected when Southern Baptists don’t have any system for doing anything at all about clergy-predators even when denominational leaders are specifically told about them? Unlike other major faith groups, Southern Baptists don’t offer even the possibility of a denominational office for hearing clergy abuse allegations, much less for doing anything about them.

Most child molesters have multiple victims, and so one of the best ways to protect against abuse in the future is to institutionally hear the voices of those who are trying to tell about abuse in the past. But Southern Baptists don’t bother. They keep telling abuse survivors to go to the church of the perpetrator – which is sort of like telling wounded sheep to go back to the den of the wolf who savaged them. It doesn’t work.

With respect to the ABWE, you claim that you are “watching this investigation” because “transparency is essential.”

But, Ed, how closely are you “watching?” Have you noticed that the ABWE fired the investigative team of G.R.A.C.E.? Even though the investigation had been ongoing for two years, ABWE fired G.R.A.C.E. just before G.R.A.C.E. was getting ready to release its final report. ABWE hired a new investigative team with a privacy condition so that the results of any report will be released only to ABWE.

So much for transparency, eh?

“Pray with me for those children who have been victimized,” you say. But Ed, I gotta tell you, for people like me who were abused by Baptist clergy, that “pray with me” line sounds like a cop-out. It comes across as little more than a cheap slogan that Southern Baptists use to avoid taking any meaningful action.

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

Ed, is that all you’ve got?