Justice for SBC sexual abuse victims: A call for an investigatory commission

"This is why secular authorities must intervene. The Southern Baptist Convention has repeatedly demonstrated it will not take meaningful action to expose clergy predators, to rectify harm to survivors or even to assess the scope of the problem." - RNS

1348 reads

There are 6 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The writer seems unaware of what SBC actually is: an association of independent churches. It's not the PCUSA or UMC or Episcopal Church, etc. It's not really a "denomination." A secular effort to hold an association of independent churches responsible for what those churches do wouldn't get far, because it would quickly encounter that reality. Is there more SBC can do? Almost certainly, but it can't (that's "can't" not "won't") do it like a denomination would do it, and people should adjust their expectations to fit that reality. Though it still has a long way to go, recent efforts are a major step forward in the context of the kind of organization SBC is structurally.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Mark_Smith's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

The writer seems unaware of what SBC actually is: an association of independent churches. It's not the PCUSA or UMC or Episcopal Church, etc. It's not really a "denomination." A secular effort to hold an association of independent churches responsible for what those churches do wouldn't get far, because it would quickly encounter that reality. Is there more SBC can do? Almost certainly, but it can't (that's "can't" not "won't") do it like a denomination would do it, and people should adjust their expectations to fit that reality. Though it still has a long way to go, recent efforts are a major step forward in the context of the kind of organization SBC is structurally.

Exactly right, Aaron. When you read the Houston Chronicle articles that investigated the SBC abuse charges they make it sound like the SBC has control over ordination and the day to day operations of each church, often comparing things to the Roman Catholic church. One thing I kept asking myself with the criticism of the SBC was the assumption of collective guilt for what happened at each church. But my local SBC church has no control over what happens at any other one, especially if they are 5 states away and aren't even in my local or state association. 

Mark_Smith's picture

for what has happened, I am shocked at how indifferent some leaders seem to be to immoral behavior among their friends and staff and mentees. I am talking about local churches and SBC entities here (IMB, NAMB, etc.). I am so surprised by it I wonder if some of these people are saved or not. 

 

Bert Perry's picture

The SBC can, and does, disfellowship churches for any number causes.  The SBC is a club, they have club rules, they can enforce them.

Now there is in the linked article a polemic tone that I don't really like--it's (IMO) low on evidence and high on accusations.  But that conceded, it is time for the SBC (and other churches) to see what they can do to reduce the likelihood that pastors who sin in this way get another pastorate.  And in doing so, they will (given their theological and personal ties with the rest of us in the GARBC and other organizations) help all of us clean up our act.

At least I pray they will!  :^)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

The SBC can, and does, disfellowship churches for any number causes.  The SBC is a club, they have club rules, they can enforce them.

Now there is in the linked article a polemic tone that I don't really like--it's (IMO) low on evidence and high on accusations.  But that conceded, it is time for the SBC (and other churches) to see what they can do to reduce the likelihood that pastors who sin in this way get another pastorate.  And in doing so, they will (given their theological and personal ties with the rest of us in the GARBC and other organizations) help all of us clean up our act.

At least I pray they will!  :^)

The goal of a "list" of bad actors sounds great, but in reality it is a problem. If a group puts Joe Bob Preacher on the "charged with sexual allegation" list, Joe Bob can and will sue that group for defamation etc... (whatever the legal terms are). So, to defend themselves the group has to do an investigation BEFORE placing Joe Bob on a list. That means the group needs specific legal standards all preachers must adhere to. On and on until you have a top down hierarchical structure... the very thing the SBC seeks to avoid.

Bert Perry's picture

That's why you build the database off sound evidence, just like the Bible tells us to administer justice soundly.  As I see things, there are three basic categories of allegations here:

  • Things that you know you really can't prove.  (note; this is where police judge about 90% of sexual assault allegations, though about 80% of the time, they don't do a good basic investigation)
  • Things you can prove, but aren't criminal.   Things like adultery, fornication, and on a lesser note, improper closeness to a child.
  • Criminal offenses.

The courts protect you in the second two categories, and you might keep a record of the first in case something else comes up and makes the pattern clearer, but you generally don't act on it--and if you keep the categories clear, there are very few courts that will make an award against your church.  It's really not that hard.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.