Sunday, June 2, 2013

Baptists ignore the standard

Ken Herman
In his Austin American-Statesman column of June 1, 2013, Ken Herman quotes from the invocation in the Texas Senate that was delivered last Sunday by pastor Don Garner:

“Father, I pray especially that each member of the Senate here, each member of their family, Father, would come to a lively faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I expect many evangelicals would hear that and say “what’s the problem?” Herman answers that question in a subsequent comment.

When people are invited to offer invocations in the Texas Senate, they typically receive the following instruction: The invocation “should be of a general nature, nonsectarian and nonpolitical. Due to the religious diversity of the Senate and of the general population of Texas, please be mindful of your terminology and respectful of other faiths.”

“I don’t believe that an invocation praying for people ‘to come to a lively faith in the Lord Jesus Christ’ meets that standard,” writes Herman.

Neither do I. And this strikes me as just one more example of how Baptist preachers often seem to think they’re exempt from the standards that apply to others.

The Texas Senate has a standard. Pastor Don Garner ignored it.

We see a similar pattern with respect to clergy sex abuse. As Frederick Clarkson recently explained, while “many other traditional religious denominations” have developed denominational policies and procedures for addressing clergy sex abuse, the Southern Baptist Convention still sits on the sidelines.

It’s as though they imagine themselves to be immune to the problem and exempt from the responsibility to protect against it. It’s an aberrant sort of self-delusional recalcitrance, which in its blind recklessness leaves countless kids at greater risk of serious harm.

In other major faith groups, the standard of care has become the provision of denominational review panels, which at least allow for the possibility that outsiders to the pastor’s own church may be able to hear and assess clergy abuse complaints. Since almost all experts recognize that the vast majority of child molestation complaints cannot be criminally prosecuted, other faith groups at least allow for the possibility that, with a credible complaint, a minister could be removed from his position of trust as a clergyman.

But with Southern Baptists, there’s no such thing. There’s not even the pretense of such a thing. Even with multiple complaints of abuse, if a Baptist pastor isn’t literally sitting in prison, he can probably find a pulpit to stand in. There is no denominational structure that will even attempt to stop him.

The Southern Baptist Convention ignores the standard of care that is now recognized in other faith groups, and it shirks the institutional safeguards that other denominations have adopted.

The largest Protestant denomination in the land simply thumbs its nose and leaves kids to suffer.