Over the last several years we’ve seen steadily-increasing attention to the problem of sexual abuse in independent Baptist (or baptistic) churches and ministries. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram investigation into independent fundamental Baptist churches last December was big news. The Houston Chronicle series on Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches two weeks ago was huge.
Given that the problem can no longer be ignored, how should independent churches respond?
1. They should not cease to be independent.
Independent churches are free of denominational control for a reason, and it isn’t because they want to get away with poor ethics or because they see no value in connecting with other churches and ministries. At some point in time—though possibly long, long ago—each of these congregations examined the Scriptures and came to the conclusion that they must retain the power to govern their own affairs and control their own relationships with other entities. I’ve written previously on why churches believe the New Testament requires this kind of autonomy.
Agree or disagree, this is not a matter for casual dismissal or vague disparaging of churches’ motives. It’s a matter of conscience and conviction.