Thursday, June 13, 2013

Another year of Baptist do-nothingness on clergy sex abuse

On June 12 at their annual convention in Houston, Southern Baptists passed a resolution reminding church members to report child sex abuse to legal authorities.

Here’s what it says: “RESOLVED, that we remind all Southern Baptists of their legal and moral responsibility to report any child abuse to authorities . . . .”

Thus, Southern Baptists “RESOLVED” to “remind” people to obey the law . . . i.e., to do what they should be doing anyway.

But for Southern Baptists, a reminder to obey the law took a convention with 5000 delegates and heaps of hoopla. And of course, it’s still just talk. It doesn’t actually do anything at all. It sure as heck doesn’t impose any consequences on pastors who choose not to obey reporting laws and who instead keep quiet about sex abuse allegations against their clergy-cronies.

Southern Baptists also “RESOLVED, that we strongly urge Southern Baptist churches to utilize background checks” to screen prospective employees and volunteers. So, again, it took the vote of 5000 delegates to “urge” churches to use this bare-bones minimum of safeguard measures? And it’s still just talk, nothing more.

Furthermore, even if all Southern Baptist churches were to suddenly start doing background checks, what are Southern Baptists going to do to track the reports on clergy-predators who have not been criminally convicted? Nothing. Yet, almost all experts recognize that the vast majority of child molesters won’t show up in any sex offender database. Thus, while background checks are essential, they aren’t nearly enough.

Other major faith groups have implemented denominational accountability systems that provide review panels to receive and assess clergy abuse reports. Such systems allow for the possibility that, even when clergy abuse reports are too late for criminal prosecution (as they so often are), denominational authorities may at least be able to warn people or to remove the mantle of ministerial trust.

But not so with Southern Baptists. They’re light-years behind on dealing with clergy sex abuse. If a Southern Baptist pastor isn’t literally sitting in prison, he can probably find a pulpit to stand in. There is no denominational system that will even attempt to stop him or to warn parents in the pews.

Finally, the 5000 Southern Baptist delegates voted that it be “RESOLVED, that we urge all Southern Baptists to pray for children who are victims of abuse.”

Southern Baptists have no denominational office for even hearing the reports of those who are trying to tell about Southern Baptist clergy child molesters -- no system for providing professional counseling to people abused by Southern Baptist clergy – and no denominational system for protecting against predatory pastors who church-hop.

But oh gee whiz. . . . they’ll pray for us.

Count me among the unimpressed. It’s another status-quo year of Southern Baptist do-nothingness on clergy sex abuse.
You can read more of the resolution here, with a link to the full text.

For a concise response to the standard Southern Baptist excuse for do-nothingness  -- "local church autonomy" -- consider NapaMan's comment: "The suggestion that a reform ... would undermine the independence of congregations to hire and fire is at best a straw man and perhaps intentional deceit. Maintaining a list of church staff with a history of abuse would only shed light on who is being hired . . . ." (Read the rest of NapaMan's comment here.)
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