NYTimes: The Baptist Apocalypse

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Jim's picture

Definition: "a point on a curve that separates an arc concave upward from one concave downward and vice versa"

Reminds me (dates me!):

  • Dylan: "You don't need a weather man To know which way the wind blows" and
  • "There's something happening here What it is ain't exactly clear" source

How I feel:

  • As someone who identifies as a Baptist (for almost 50 years) and loves Baptist history ...
  • It pains me when my 'tribe' is sullied / defiled by the sins of the world
  • The #metoo movement has landed on our laps!
  • Very very sad!
  • Side: when a church drops the name "Baptist" - do we even need to wonder why?!


Bert Perry's picture

I am pretty sure that the victim, Megan Lively, has removed the "alleged" from the notion that Paige Patterson discouraged her from filing a criminal report of rape.  There is no police report.  It's a fact.  Just like Patterson ogling the teen girl, and just like him bragging about ignoring a women's shiners (and likely concussions and/or broken bones).  We also have the fact (not allegation, FACT) that when the SBC was asked to create a database of pastors shown the door for sexual sins, they did not do so partially because of concerns about local church autonomy.

The quicker that brand of Baptist theology goes, the better.  And like Jim says, 'tain't no surprise that a lot of people want nothing to do with that brand.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

But on the odd chance that some of y'all are involved in crisis pregnancy and other pro-life ministries, it strikes me that Planned Parenthood Infanticide has a long pattern of allegedly failing to file required reports into suspected child sexual abuse.  

So if, perchance, one served on the board of such a ministry, one might see if clients would be willing to answer (a) whether they went to Planned Infanticide and (b) whether they'd be willing to investigate whether a police report was filed on their behalf if they were underage.  

Reason I mention this; my alma mater just paid $500 million to about 350 women who were abused, but where they didn't file required reports.  The fallout from a civil suit along these lines could bankrupt large portions of Planned Infanticide or other abortuaries.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Every couple of years or so, someone demands the Southern Baptist Convention set up a national Sexual Predator Database.  We need to be warned of the sexual predators and abusers out there.  This sounds like a good idea, until you get to the details.  There are numerous reasons this has not, and probably will not, be done. 

First, if they have been convicted of a crime, they have already received due process and are in the legal system.  A church can do a background check.  There are several organizations that can help a church with this.  Also, if there is alleged illegal behavior, we can, and should, let the police and courts figure it out. 

Second, however, if a person is guilty of immoral, but not illegal, behavior, the issue is much more difficult. 

Difficulties include: 

How do we keep a database? 

Who is in charge? 

Who pays for the database?  It will become very expensive. 

Do we hire Private Investigators? 

Do we just take the word of one or more accusers, or do we critically investigate their charges? 

Do we just assume if there is more than one accusation, they must be true? 

Do we have a trial? 

Who will be the judges?  Will lawyers be hired? 

What do we do when the database is sued for defamation? 

What happens when the database makes an error?  And, errors will be made!  A person’s life could be forever ruined – by faulty evidence. 

How much will a lawsuit cost? 

What about someone we know is guilty, but we can’t prove it?

What if an individual or group have a vendetta against an individual? 

We might have to make a long, detailed list of unacceptable behavior, borderline behavior, and tolerated behavior.  And, that list could get downright creepy. 

Whether you like it or not, there really are varying degrees of abuse.  From a man telling his wife that a dress makes her look fat, to serious physical abuse.  From being mean, inattentive, insensitive, to rape or murder. 

Do we investigate boyfriend / girlfriend behavior?  If so, at what level, to what degree? 

Do we investigate the details of divorce? 

Do we investigate and report the appearance of evil? 

Do we report strong, or mild, suspicions? 

Is the wrong activity one person’s fault, are both are guilty, is one 90 percent guilty, while the other is only 10 percent guilty?  In some of these cases, should both be put on the database? 

Even if someone is on the database, a church is free to believe it, or disregard it.   

Are there instances where we forgive and restore someone to service? 

Would we ever take a name off the database?   Or, are they all sentenced to life without parole? 

I understand the demand for a Sexual Misconduct Database.  But the devil is in the many, many details. 

Having said that, there is no place for abuse in the life of a minister, or in a church.  Use all reasonable safeguards.  And, as we now know, report any illegal activity to the proper governmental authorities.  If legal, but immoral, that person should probably at least be reported to the church leaders and your local Baptist Association.  The last place a person should be abused is in church or a religious organization. 

Please, however, do not condemn someone for doing their best, yet getting some minor detail wrong, or not reporting things exactly right.  None of us are perfect.  Also, please allow a person due process, before you condemn. 

A sexual predator, though, should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. 

The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.  -Proverbs 18:17 NKJV

David R. Brumbelow

TylerR's picture


Bert wrote:

The quicker that brand of Baptist theology goes, the better.  And like Jim says, 'tain't no surprise that a lot of people want nothing to do with that brand.

These actions have nothing to do with Baptist "theology." Baptists are unique, in that they have no doctrinal center like, say, the Presbyterians. Baptist coalesce around the doctrine of the church; that's all. And, if you read a good Baptist history (e.g. David Beale's new book) coupled with a good discussion of Baptist polity (e.g. Strong or Erickson), this will make better sense. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Ron Bean's picture

Having had some experience in situations like this, there is an attitude that has surfaced too often and is often expressed in the phrase, "We must protect the ministry, the church, and/or our pastor."

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

David, keep in mind that my big issue is not with the difficulty--I'd actually agree somewhat with you on that--but rather with the fact that the stated reason to not do it was not your reasons, but rather local church autonomy.  Again, if local church autonomy means the freedom to hire perverts, count me out.

Regarding those difficulties specifically, the technical part of it is easy, and the big difficulty is getting people to actually report the real moral failure in specific terms instead of just describing everything from looking at a girl to forcible rape as "moral failure."   The really bright side of the equation is that as this was implemented, one would be helping Baptists to rediscover a notion of communal responsibility--really in some ways the doctrine of the universal church--as they get told "if you fail to make entries into the database, and if you fail to use the database when hiring, that makes you liable for what an errant pastor not reported to the database does."

Hey, if Paul could report Alexander and Hymeneaus to the world, and if John can report Diotrephes, exactly why can't we keep record of Jack and David Hyles, Jack Schaap, and Tullian Tchividjian?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

Bert’s points are spot on.  The rush to judgement especially if it is a moral lapse like phonography, adultery, or teenage pregnancy could  be devastating.  So we can’t overreact like Uncle Sam and call out the fire trucks for true moral lapses.

 Remember the Prof at the other Southern Baptist seminary took his life.  That was very sad.  Pastor Elders everyone needs to be very very loving to anyone caught up in these areas if they are repentant.  The last thing we as a church need is someone taking their lives over a moral lapse, because their publicly shamed. Bringing people in front of the church in my mind for these things is public shaming. Accountability can be achieved in private. 

I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out what’s criminal and what’s not. Just refer any and all allegations to the Police.  Let them decide what they will or will not pursue.  They may hand it right back to the Pastor and say nothing hear is criminal. After that the church can handle situation as they see fit.  A church must not be afraid to consult Police. That’s what they’re  paid for.  They are never bothered by a citizen reporting anything even when they get the crazies in.  

When the Crazies were in the Federal Building all the other agencies used send them around.  The FBI sent them to the IRS and the IRS sent them over to the Secret Service and etc.  I don’t know how many times I got the guy with the Hungarian Spies following him around Philadelphia.  At least twice.  If some of  the other Agents knew you they’d tell the crazy to ask for me in particular.  Not fun.  Bert you would have got the biggest laugh seeing me go through a crazy interview  

Due to all this stuff happening I know a number of Bible Colleges and Churches who have removed the Baptist from their name.  However I know of a number of historic Baptist Churches in the Philadelphia area who still preach the gospel and proudly keep the Baptist name.  My brother goes to such a church  I believe that historic Baptist Church in Boston at one time still uses the Baptist name.  

Jay's picture

Every couple of years or so, someone demands the Southern Baptist Convention set up a national Sexual Predator Database.  We need to be warned of the sexual predators and abusers out there.  This sounds like a good idea, until you get to the details. 

It IS a good idea, and it’s not hard to do.  The SBC has the power, money, and manpower to set it up.  Hey, I will even volunteer my time and energy to maintain it for them.

Furthermore, from what I understand, that push usually got real momentum before being stonewalled or shut down by none other than Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler.

Coincidence?  I doubt it.

"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