Southern Baptists Overwhelmingly Approve Abuse Reforms, Public Database

A few of the many articles on the event: C.Today, RNS, BPNews

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Mark_Smith's picture

The reporting on this whole thing is hyperbolic as the media usually is. The EC of the SBC didn't keep a "secret list" of abusers in the way that statement is written to read as. All they did is keep records of leaders who were publicly charged and convicted of crimes. This is the complete "low hanging fruit" of sexual abuse. Anyone can find the guy who is convicted of abuse by a simple google search! There was nothing "secret" about it.

What I am interested in, rather than the actions of the EC, is what will First SBC of Nowhere, TX do when their rising star youth pastor is accused of shagging the 17 year old prom queen. Will he be blacklisted for life like he should be? Or will the good 'ole boy network accuse the girl of being a Jezebel temptress and run her off while he is promoted to another church? 

I will wait until those guys are blacklisted for life to be impressed.

The SBC and other evangelical churches still have a major problem with sexual abuse, and WE ARE THE CAUSE. We cover up these things at the local church level for a host of reasons... but cheer when a national group gets caught...

Bert Perry's picture

Time will tell how well they do it, but this is a wonderful start.  Mark is entirely correct, however, that the database (like the Brady database or others) is only as good as its data entry.  If churches quietly decide not to report, it will be useless.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry's picture

Moderator

What I am interested in, rather than the actions of the EC, is what will First SBC of Nowhere, TX do when their rising star youth pastor is accused of shagging the 17 year old prom queen. Will he be blacklisted for life like he should be?

Would there be any interest in finding out whether or not the accusations are true before he gets blacklisted?

T Howard's picture

Larry wrote:

What I am interested in, rather than the actions of the EC, is what will First SBC of Nowhere, TX do when their rising star youth pastor is accused of shagging the 17 year old prom queen. Will he be blacklisted for life like he should be?

Would there be any interest in finding out whether or not the accusations are true before he gets blacklisted?

What can be credibly discerned without a confession or conviction?

Bert Perry's picture

Tom, it depends on what we mean by confession or conviction.  There are--see Mark's note--a number of things that ought to exclude a pastor from the pastorate that are not illegal--e.g. fornication with an adult.  Only about 14 states ban clergy-laity sex by law, so what do you do?  I'd dare suggest that a church with allegations perform an investigation, optimally hiring an investigator, to see whose story (it tends to be notoriously he said/she said) holds up, and who brings relevant side evidence up.

There is also the reality that there are a number of "suspect behaviors" that are of interest--e.g. alone with a child, etc..--and churches might even consider mentioning "this person repeatedly was found violating the requirements of our child protection policy" and such when they're called for a recommendation.

But since it's hard to make that stick, we might have another rule of thumb; if a prospective hire is not willing for you to call former churches, that's a sign to not proceed.  Also a sign would be if the church has a hushed silence when asked about issues of trust.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

[quote=Larry]

What I am interested in, rather than the actions of the EC, is what will First SBC of Nowhere, TX do when their rising star youth pastor is accused of shagging the 17 year old prom queen. Will he be blacklisted for life like he should be?

Would there be any interest in finding out whether or not the accusations are true before he gets blacklisted?

Larry as long as the Cops with no interference do the determining and not the Senior Pastor and the Elders.  I have no problem with the Cops legitimately clearing the guy and the Church buries it and keeps it on the QT.  

Joeb's picture

It remains to be seen. However I have seen more news results indicating the Churches are reporting the incidents and the Police are taking action. However there has been a few where Christian Schools have been accused of covering stuff up down in TEXAS but it was incidents between students. One was a hazing incident going to far and another was a male student attacking a female student.

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Tom, it depends on what we mean by confession or conviction.  There are--see Mark's note--a number of things that ought to exclude a pastor from the pastorate that are not illegal--e.g. fornication with an adult.  Only about 14 states ban clergy-laity sex by law, so what do you do?  I'd dare suggest that a church with allegations perform an investigation, optimally hiring an investigator, to see whose story (it tends to be notoriously he said/she said) holds up, and who brings relevant side evidence up.

So, you're proposing that the elders investigate a fellow elder accused of sexual / emotional / spiritual abuse but who denies it? In the old days, that solution may be workable. In our current evangelical environment, not a chance. As for hiring an "investigator," who would that be? How would the average 100-member church afford it? How would the investigator get to the facts of the situation if one party refuses to cooperate? Regardless, because the investigator would be paid by the church, his / her findings could be questioned / dismissed as not credible by either party.

Based on my experience serving on an elder board, when someone accuses the senior pastor of any form of impropriety, and he denies it, it's a difficult task for the elder board to objectively handle the accusation. Some guys on the board are good friends with the senior pastor and are extremely loyal to him. Other elders may not be buddies with the pastor, but there is still pressure on the board to "support our pastor." Even if the board is able to be objective, the people making the accusation will doubt the objectivity of the elder board and question the board's findings if it finds for the pastor.

So, at the end of the day, you're left with an accusation that cannot be definitively proven. Does an SBC church still report the allegation?

Mark_Smith's picture

Is everyone is all a flutter about this investigation into the EC of the SBC when the real problem is the actions of each individual church! They are the ones who cover up the sins of their pastors or youth pastors. They pass the guy on. They high five the guy and move him on because he is " a great preacher with a bright future" or some such thing. but no one wants to investigate "us". They want to investigate "the other guy."

And to answer the question from Larry, when the YP is abusing a member of his youth group, people know it... we need to stop acting like "the girl asked for it." It is 100% the leader's fault.

 

Bert Perry's picture

No doubt it is difficult, and no doubt that smaller churches might not be able to afford a private investigator.  And at the same time, you don't need to "catch" everybody that sins.  You simply need to be effective enough that those who would willfully sin in this way think twice.

That noted, it's worth noting that there are going to be certain things that are going to be able to tell you about a situation:

  • Is an allegation made?  I don't quite go with "only 2-10% are false", but to step forward takes enough courage to at least take it very seriously.
  • Is there evidence of misconduct like pregnancy, abortion, STDs, and the like?
  • Have people in the church noticed patterns by the person in question?  Women in particular will pick up on unseemly familiarity between people, long absences from responsibilities, etc..
  • What are his patterns of time usage, spending, and the like?  

You can't do the forensics analysis and subpoena power that the police can, among other things, but one thing to note here is a lot of the worst scandals are where both sides acknowledge some level of sexual misconduct, but the woman involved is blamed because she made some decisions that made her more vulnerable to being seduced and/or raped.  (she was drinking, in his apartment, wearing something revealing, etc..)

The trick in these cases is that even if a drop dead gorgeous woman comes to my home after tying one on, wearing little or nothing, I'm still responsible for my response to her, no?  Joseph survived such a case, and Proverbs tells us we can as well, no?  And hence for a good chunk of the worst cases, I'd argue churches do indeed have a lot of the tools to deal with bad actors at least some of the time.

And in that portion of cases where you don't have or perceive enough evidence to make a call, you simply said "we had an allegation where we were not able to confirm or reject it."  And if the person stays on after the allegation, they ought to know that the church is watching.

No?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:
That noted, it's worth noting that there are going to be certain things that are going to be able to tell you about a situation:

  • Is an allegation made?  I don't quite go with "only 2-10% are false", but to step forward takes enough courage to at least take it very seriously.
  • Is there evidence of misconduct like pregnancy, abortion, STDs, and the like?
  • Have people in the church noticed patterns by the person in question?  Women in particular will pick up on unseemly familiarity between people, long absences from responsibilities, etc..
  • What are his patterns of time usage, spending, and the like? 

Regarding the allegation, how do you follow the biblical admonition of 1 Timothy 5:19-20 when it's only one person's word against the pastor? Obviously, if there are residual effects like you mention in your second point above, that is easier to ascertain. But, that isn't always the case.

Also, based on my experience serving on an elder board, most congregants are not forthcoming with information to your third point. It isn't until after the incident is public knowledge (e.g. the pastor confesses or the accuser goes public), that congregants will tell you that they suspected something wasn't right. I understand why this happens; that is, people want to assume the best about their pastor and don't want to make a serious allegation against the pastor based only on a hunch or what I call their "spidey sense." That said, my wife has a keen "spidey sense." I used to dismiss it when she would bring things to my attention based on her spidey sense. I don't anymore. Her spidey sense is pretty accurate.

That said, "spidey sense" and an accusation is not enough to convict someone or to determine whether an accusation is credible.

BTW, if a pastor confesses when accused, regardless of his reasoning, then that is a pretty straight forward case. You get a signed confession outlining his sin and taking responsibility for his actions, then you keep his confession on file forever and post his name to the database. The accusations I'm thinking about are not issues that would involve law enforcement but are issues that still involve sin / impropriety and that the pastor denies. For example, accusations concerning sexual / emotional abuse or grooming of non-minors. Accusations of spiritual abuse. Accusations of being domineering and pugilistic.

Larry's picture

Moderator

And to answer the question from Larry, when the YP is abusing a member of his youth group, people know it... we need to stop acting like "the girl asked for it." It is 100% the leader's fault.

That doesn't answer anything I said. It changes the premise to which I responded. 

Bert Perry's picture

....is to ask the complainant who might be able to corroborate aspects of their story.  No doubt, you're still going to have some people who know who won't speak up, but it gives a chance.

And again, we don't need to get to 100% cleared with a ton of evidence to make this work.  We just need to have enough cases where perpetrators get removed from ministry that those who would sin this way take notice.  And agreed 100% that domineering/pugilistic is hard to tell, especially (see thread about discernment without being judgmental) since all too often, we see a firm response as being "harsh" in our culture.

My overall thought is that in these type of matters and others involving church discipline, churches generally need to seriously up their game.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

Yes, the churches need to up their game, and part of that is holding pastors more accountable.  That's just as much a part of Scripture as Matthew 18 is.

Has anyone ever seen or heard of a church publicly rebuking an elder? So many of these guys that are named in the SBC report are pastors but I have yet to hear of one (except Johnny Hunt) being held to any semblance of account. Even Hunt is on a "restoration plan" after a sexual assault (he claims consensual affair). 

Yet the cry in Evangelical media is to keep this within the church and investigate it ourselves if it isn't already under the auspices of the men who abused others and created this disaster.  It's weird how everyone wants to apply Matthew 18 or due process but 1 Timothy 5:20 is completely missing in the discussions.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:
....is to ask the complainant who might be able to corroborate aspects of their story.  No doubt, you're still going to have some people who know who won't speak up, but it gives a chance.

Been there. Done that. The problem is that the accuser is then accused by the pastor (and his supporters) of gossip and slander for talking about his/her story to others. In this case, the others were other church staff who experienced the same leadership issues with the pastor. The pastor's perspective was that if these individuals had an issue with his leadership, before they spoke to anyone else (including the elders) they needed to go to him one-on-one first (Matt 18). The accuser tried but felt shut down by the pastor. The others were too fearful to say anything. So, in this case, the pastor claimed the accuser and the other staff gossiped and slandered him, and he wanted us to church discipline them for it. Of course, he claimed he was completely innocent of all charges.

Mark_Smith's picture

Larry wrote:

And to answer the question from Larry, when the YP is abusing a member of his youth group, people know it... we need to stop acting like "the girl asked for it." It is 100% the leader's fault.

That doesn't answer anything I said. It changes the premise to which I responded. 

Of course there is an investigation... but studies have shown almost all accusations of abuse, especially those involving children, are true.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Mark_Smith wrote:

Of course there is an investigation... but studies have shown almost all accusations of abuse, especially those involving children, are true.

Even if it's true that "almost all accusations of abuse, especially those involving children, are true," which I'm not sure I accept, the fact that it's still "almost" means that you can't assume that the accusation is true, and perform only a pro forma "investigation" before putting someone on a list as an abuser.  That's absolutely the definition of "no due process."  That shouldn't even happen in a secular court, let alone a church where we should actually care about truth and actual justice.

No one is trying to say that a real investigation process will be easy for a church to accomplish (or cheap), especially given what others said above about counter accusations that can arise from the accused, but it is the minimum necessary before destroying someone's life over something that may be completely false.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

One thing to note regarding these claims is that what's done to get there is that there are 2-10% of claims where the police are willing to bet something between a ham sandwich and their homes that they are false--only a tiny portion of which are ever prosecuted as perjury.  We're not talking about "lying beyond a reasonable doubt" here. On the flip side, about 2-3% result in convictions, and the remaining 90% or so are in a cloud of "could not or would not investigate to a reasonable conclusion."

So my best guess is that far more than 2-10% of allegations are false, but exactly how much, I don't know.  Again, either the police could not, or would not investigate further.

That noted, even if we knew it was only 2% (or even less), wouldn't we want to investigate?

(BTW, Tom, appreciate your feedback here....your point is well taken, but I'm still in the position of "somehow we've got to try here")

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

[quote=Mark_Smith]

 

Larry wrote:

 

And to answer the question from Larry, when the YP is abusing a member of his youth group, people know it... we need to stop acting like "the girl asked for it." It is 100% the leader's fault.

That doesn't answer anything I said. It changes the premise to which I responded. 

 

 

Of course there is an investigation... but studies have shown almost all accusations of abuse, especially those involving children, are true.

All allegations can be vetted by the Cops.  That's what you pay your taxes for.  If nothing is there they will determine that.  They are only going to make an arrest if there is probable cause but the security of the investigation is what helps them prove or disprove it.  The person receiving the complaint should tell no one and only if it is an underage child should the parents know.  You call the cops and go from there. At the end if they really clear the Pastor I have no problems with no one knowing about it.  Let the Cops give you advise. how to handle stuff all the time.  Then make your game plan.  My brother handled 3 incidents at the churches he was working as a Pastor in.  All three he called the Cops Johnny on the spot and stayed out of it completely. 

Jay's picture

So my best guess is that far more than 2-10% of allegations are false, but exactly how much, I don't know.  Again, either the police could not, or would not investigate further.

The actual rate of false accusations is between 2-10% according to several sources I checked online like at the National Sexual Violence Center (here) or the FBI (cited by this website although I couldn't find a direct link).  Guys are statistically far more likely to be assaulted themselves (1/6 men) than to be falsely accused of rape or sexual assault.  It's a difficult item to pin down with certainty as you can't really quantify the number of times a thing doesn't happen.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

Jay, no doubt the best estimates are 2-10%. Let's understand what it actually means, though.  2-10% is not perjury convictions--if it were, we'd have the horrific reality that 3x as many people were being convicted of perjury in rape cases as were convicted of rape.  It merely means that police had some reason to believe--confidence level somewhere between "willing to bet a ham sandwich" and "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt"--that the allegations were false.  So we'd first say "you know, some of that 2-10% are false positives", i.e. conclusions of false accusation that are themselves false.  It could be lower.

Then you've got about 5% that result in criminal charges, of which 3% result in a conviction, and 2% a prison sentence.  That leaves a huge portion--discussed at length by this Star-Tribune report--where investigators could not or would not go forward.  Intoxication is a big part of it, but also part of it is dedicating resources to traffic patrol and arresting minor league dopers instead of investigating sexual assault.  Here in MN, where we seem to do about twice as well as the national average in prosecuting these things, a third of accusers don't get interviewed, a quarter of cases don't even get assigned to an investigator, and half of cases don't get possible witnesses interviewed.  Overall, only about a quarter of cases here get a good basic investigation.

My contention is that if you made the effort ot interview the accuser and possible witnesses, you'd get both more convictions for sexual assault and more cases where the accuser has made a false accusation.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

As an example on Bert's one point of more adequate investigation getting results to clear and convict Gordon University has a perfect example.  Gordon's President in I think 2014 handled a gang rape accusation internally.  It was a group of men with one female victim and a primary Rapist who was a Pastor's son.   The President Convened a board to handle it and of course all the men LIED and said it was Consenual and cleared the Rapist.    
 

Well well the Pastor's son later got arrested by the Glouster MA Police for raping a 15 year old gal.   The Detectives backed into the Gordon matter which was never reported to the Police and when those buddies of the Pastor's son faced a Badge in an interview the truth came out.  They all gang raped the female Gordon Student who was portrayed as a slut.   Funny how facing a badge can make one tell the truth.   The Detectives also found that the Pastor's  Son was thrown out of another Christian College for raping a student. 
 

The internal Gordon investigation cleared a Serial Rapist.  The investigation by the Cops nailed the Animals to the wall.  Very good example of let the Police handle all matters whether you think the Perp is guilty or not.   

Bert Perry's picture

One side note regarding the "low portion of false accusations" is that, as I've mentioned above, false accusations are on the same order of magnitude, as far as I can tell, as legitimate prosecutions and convictions.  It's also worth noting that only rarely are false accusations (perjury) punished, so there is a legitimate perception among "prospective defendants" (i.e. "men") that the system is somewhat rigged against them.  They are, after all, seeing about as much evidence of false accusations going unpunished as of rapists actually being convicted.

The "low rate of false accusations" is often said as if it means men don't need to be worried about them, but those are the actual statistics.  And we don't even know what the case is, really, in that middle 87-95% of cases.

Keep in mind that these guys are also serving on juries, and every bit of testimony that isn't subject to punishment for perjury is worth less than testimony that is.  So the end result of what police are doing now--ostensibly to avoid suppressing reporting--is to keep rapists out of jail.

Really, the whole system, even in the best states, is a mess.  We've got failure to assign investigators, failure to interview accusers, failure to interview possible witnesses, failure to process rape kits, failure to punish perjurers, and a whole lot more.

The only way out of this is to turn those patterns around by taking Officer Friendly off traffic patrol, or hire bright young graduates with a forensics degree (like my new son in law, yeah, I'm biased here on many levels) to turn these patterns around.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.