Friday, September 6, 2013

SNAP goes to Little Rock

A self-help organization for people who were sexually abused by clergy will hold a confidential support meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Wednesday, September 11.
The organization is SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Based in Chicago, it’s an organization that has been around since 1988. So, it has a lot of experience in helping people who have been sexually abused by clergy. And despite the word “priests” in its name, SNAP now has members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including by Baptist clergy.
Little Rock is strong Baptist territory. In several of the counties just south of Little Rock, Baptists comprise more than 50 percent of the population, and throughout Arkansas in general, Baptists comprise 25 to 50 percent of the population.
I hope some of the people who have been abused by Baptist clergy in this predominantly Baptist state will make their way to this SNAP meeting.
In particular, I’m hoping some of the boys of Benton will go. God knows they need and deserve some support.
That Benton scandal is the one that always springs to my mind first whenever I think about Baptist clergy abuse cases in Arkansas. For over two decades, Southern Baptist minister David Pierce was able “to sexually victimize scores of boys at the First Baptist Church of Benton.” And though reports indicated that, even before Pierce was finally arrested, church leaders had known about other allegations against Pierce, church leaders have not been held accountable.
Any ordinary person would imagine that FBC-Benton’s senior pastor Rick Grant should have some serious explaining to do – explaining about why he did so little for so long – but there in Benton, people didn’t seem concerned. Accountability for clergy seems to be an alien concept.
In fact, some of Benton’s most powerful citizens showed themselves to be a great deal more concerned about minister Pierce than about the many boys who were wounded. Even after Pierce had been booked on 54 counts of sexual indecency with a child, and even after it became apparent that dozens of kids had likely been hurt, people still wrote letters of support for Pierce, urging the prosecutors to be lenient. The former president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, Greg Kirksey, was just one of many who wrote such letters.
There are so many questions that still need answers in Benton – questions about who knew what and when did they know it and why they were so willing to leave so many kids at risk for such terrible harm. And why has there been so little outreach or care for the men who were wounded – wounded not only by the sexual abuse of minister Pierce, but also by the betrayal of so many others?
For the boys of Benton – boys who are now mostly grown men – and for anyone else who was abused by clergy of any kind – I urge you to make your way to this SNAP meeting in Little Rock if at all possible. It can help to get together in a private setting with others who have had similar experiences. Family members and supporters are also welcome and encouraged to attend.
SNAP’s basic mission is to “heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable."
The meeting will be held at Little Rock's downtown public library at 100 Rock Street in the Lee Room on the 5th floor from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on September 11. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Barb Dorris, 314-862-7688,