Boz Tchividjian to SBC: This is How Your System Is Broken

"Tchividjian derided the denomination for claiming to have 'little authority against abusive churches and pastors,' yet mustering up authority if it needs to confront an SBC church that has 'ordained a woman or a gay man.'" - Church Leaders

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Bert Perry's picture

Yes, we have congregational church government, but we also have "club rules" for our associations.   To overcome the "limitations" of congregationalism, all we need to do is to figure out what those rules ought to be with regards to these issues and enforce them.  And if we don't have or enforce these rules, our churches and associations are going to learn the hard way that plaintiffs' attorneys have ways of figuring this out. 

(put another way, the best time to get our acts together in this regard is before we know our specific church/association has big problems)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

There is no real leadership in the SBC, at least when it comes to sexual abuse. What I mean is the issue is a local church issue, and not really one with denominational leadership. The problem is each individual church not dealing with problems in their midst. That is the problem.

Second, Boz then addressed the problem as lack of female leadership... well, once again, local churches appoint their leaders. And the SBC is by definition complementarian.

Once again, SBC "leadership" DOES NOT DECIDE what local churches do.

Third, caring for survivors (a strange term unless your life is threatened, but whatever) is not a simple issue. In a vacuum, you could shower care on them. In reality, there are the courts, lawyers, insurance companies, liars, deceivers, and pure victims et. al.

My main objection to Boz's points he acts like the issue is a denominational leadership one when that is not the case. It is up to each local church to take this up, with the help of leadership. This is not a top down problem, but a bottom up one.

Bert Perry's picture

Mark, "Google" the phrase "SBC disfellowships church".  You will find numerous cases where the national or state bodies have shown an errant congregation the door because of failure to handle sexual assault well, racism, and a host of other issues.  Yes, congregationalists do not regulate the day to day operation of member churches, and that's a good thing, but state and national bodies have constitutions for a reason.  

That's what Boz is pointing to.  Yes, there should be some "bottom up", but also some "top down".  If there is no "top down", then rogue churches will by default define the SBC (or our associations) in the eyes of the public.  To use a picture J.D. Greear has used, it's churches where convicted rapists still occupy the pulpit, at least unless those errant brothers are shown the door.

If the SBC (or GARBC, or whoever) doesn't want to "flip the bird" at prospective members, it's something they've got to do.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

has a convicted rapist in the pulpit I DON'T NEED Boz or J D Greear to lead a revolt to get him out!

Man o man...

Wake Up.

Listen to ourselves... talking about churches with youth pastors raping kids, pastor sexually assaulting people, and we act like the answer is to disfellowship the church? How about the people at that church get saved and listen to the spirit of God!

Mark_Smith's picture

I did not say SBC has no pull. You missed the point once again.

dcbii's picture


Mark_Smith wrote:

has a convicted rapist in the pulpit I DON'T NEED Boz or J D Greear to lead a revolt to get him out!

Mark, I'm mostly in your camp on this, and it *should* be obvious, but unfortunately, experience has shown that there are plenty of churches willing to do the wrong thing in this area (see Corinthians), and that is just as true in our time.  You'd think this would be a no-brainer, but there really are some who don't get it.  For those congregations (probably not typical of those here on SI) who don't get it , but who still maintain a national association of some sort, the national association will have to step in to defend their principles and reputation.

Dave Barnhart

Mark_Smith's picture

I appreciate that, but there is a big difference between a member having a sexual issue (Corinth) and "doing nothing" versus the Pastor having a sexual issue and "doing nothing." If a so-called church ignores something this bad... wow.

What I see in all of this is a desire to sweep the "local church problem" under the rug. The SBC is taking the position that this issue is just one of ignorance. If the local church just knew more... But come on. They are being urged to use the heavy hammer of the denomination to crack down on this. But that would just cover up the apparent fact that "churches" are full of unsaved people who choose "unsaved people" to lead them. Scary stuff.

You see, the SBC claims that sexual abuse is a widespread problem in the SBC. If it is mostly covered up, then that means that a shocking amount of church leadership has failed. Education is not the complete answer to this. The old leadership has to be removed! Who is talking about that? And by "old leadership" I do not mean the SBC president or other entity heads. I mean deacons, elders, pastors, associate pastors, and youth pastors.


Joeb's picture

From what I have seen it’s still going on or more Church To issues are coming to light. I don’t know which.  Most are outside the typical Fundy/Evangelical Realm like the churches that people from Sharper Iron attend.  Seems to be ones in rural areas and down and out working class areas.  It runs the whole gamut with even a HYLES Anderson connected church popping up.  

More churches in the independent realm, but some who really by now have no excuse and still want to leave dead dogs lie.  Hence the lawsuits.  Now that some states are removing the statute of limitations retroactively we may see more but old incidents being exposed.  

I think BOZ words to the SBC are very appropriate considering what Paige Patterson and his minions did for and are still doing for Gilyard. Considering after Gilyard got out of jail from a three year sentence for attacking two teenage girls in his last church Gilyard is back in a SBC pulpit. That is thanks to one of Paige’s minions in FL, who runs an SBC Mega Church.  It’s just a little to flagrant I’d say.  There is s lot more to the Gilyard story with those SBC Mega Church Pastors covering up other things Gilyard did in Florida.  Some really outrageous and I don’t hear the SBC clamoring for the heads of those Pastors.  So I’d say BOZ is in a firm position to make his criticisms.  

Again the info concerning IFB Churches has really gone dead except a couple of incidents.  As I said before this indicates to me the IFB Churches and Institutions are ahead of the curve and not foolish  enough to repeat history.     

Bert Perry's picture

Mark, really appreciate what you wrote last night.  As you note, if indeed this is widespread--and that's certainly what we'd guess from the Houston Chronicle and other notes out there--then we do have a very, very serious situation.  I'm not quite ready to say they're all unsaved--I'm thinking that it's the same kind of blind spot that let Christians ignore the evils of slavery and Jim Crow for three centuries plus--but yes, it is a tremendous problem.

The most interesting thing to me is the question of why, and as I've noted before, the process of putting a child protection document together for my church (it's approved!  Yay! I get to start putting things up!) is very instructive.  More or less, when I read through the BJU Grace report, the PII ABWE report, the debacle at MSU with Larry Nassar, SEBTS/SWBTS/Patterson, Tina Anderson/Chuck Phelps, and a lot more, what struck me was that everybody was making the same mistakes.  You had the urge to handle things inside, fairly abusive treatment of the victims (blaming them, etc..), minimization of the offenses, failure to contact the police and other authorities, and undue deference to authority figures, especially men.  This was compounded by failing to enforce what little sanctions were imposed.

Everybody.  Even more interesting is this; I put provisions in the first draft to counter this--requiring compliance with law enforcement, stating statistics on the extent of the problem, banning felons and those with sex crime convictions from working with kids, etc..--and when I got deacons' feedback, most of this was removed.  Now combine this with the fact that pretty much everybody in fundagelical Christendom sends their pastors to the same group of colleges which teach about the same things for Christian counseling, and what we see is that we simply have a cultural problem.  Everybody's been taught--not necessarily overtly but implicitly--to give great credence and authority to pastors and deacons.  Everybody wants to make the church look good (at least in the short term), etc..  Hence in that portion of cases that involve our ministries, we tend to make the same mistakes.

And so, with regards to the understandable notion of "throw the bums out and start over", my response would be "teach them and see how they respond."  Draw you a picture; when I opened up about my babysitter exposing himself and giving my brother and I an impromptu sex ed lesson while hosting a children's worker training session, you could hear a pin drop.  So I think this is just a blind spot where Christians can be persuaded to do the right thing if only the information is shared with them.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

It struck me last night that there is also a tremendous amount of ministry that we can do if we are only willing to hear people out.  Way outside the issues of sexual abuse (AFAIK at least), a young man shared with me that he's scored super high on a quiz that said it measured signs of PTSD.  His trauma appears to be a fairly distant relationship with his parents (who are also my friends) and having been the overweight kid with a bit of autism in school, and my response was "hey, I'm here for you, but I've got to admit I'm in deeper than I can swim--can I link you with a Christian counselor who might be able to provide better help than I can?".  

So way back, Mark, to your comment about how tough and complicated these things are, yes, they are, but it starts by doing something we all can do; listening.  Some counselors like Diane Langberg (who also spoke at the ERLC conference) note that this can be one of the most healing things out there.  Can we listen, cry a bit, hug?  Perhaps out of our comfort zone--I HATE to be seen crying--but maybe it's where ministry lies.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture


Problem is leadership. Baptist ecclesiology vests authority in local church. That puts enormous responsibility on congregations to choose men of integrity to be their pastors. This means Baptists will always have quality control issues, because control is local. That will never change.

Many leaders are cowards. That likely won't change, either, as principles so often give way to (for lack of better term) a CYA mentality.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?