Pastor Seeks Higher Standard for Reporting Sexual Abuse
By Bob Allen
April 15, 2016
A Southern Baptist pastor/blogger has submitted a resolution for consideration at the upcoming meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention calling on leaders to get tough on churches that tolerate or conceal sexual abuse.
Bart Barber, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, said he is asking the SBC resolutions committee to consider a resolution titled “On Sexual Predation in the Southern Baptist Family” when it reports at the 2016 SBC annual meeting June 14-16 in St. Louis, Mo.
The resolution supports removal of any church that knowingly places a sex offender in a position of leadership over children or other vulnerable participants, or acts to hide alleged misconduct from church members or discourage reporting it to police.
Barber, whose church is aligned with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, said in an introductory blog March 28 he is raising the issue now because “these days more of the women seeking pastoral counsel from me have been molested than haven’t been. A clear majority.”
“The change has taken my breath away,” Barber said. “No, not nearly all of it is happening in churches, but too much of it is.”
Barber said anecdotal evidence alone is enough to suggest reports of predatory sexual behavior toward both minor and adult members of churches by clergy or church staff are widespread in Southern Baptist life. “Woefully common,” he said, are anecdotes about churches that try to prevent its reporting to legal authorities, hide sexual misconduct from the members of the congregation or suppress the public release of information regarding sexual misconduct on the part of church leaders.
When such churches are considered in “friendly cooperation” with the SBC, Barber said, those actions “damage the convention’s credibility in its efforts to call to salvation a world full of people who are enslaved to sin and are often involved in destructive sexual practices.”
Barber said he understands concern about damage to reputations brought on by false accusations – according to the National Sexual Violence Research Center somewhere between 2 percent and 10 percent of abuse allegations are false. But even in those cases “investigation by trained investigators working for the proper authorities rather than avoidance or suppression of accusations as the most reliable means to discover both false accusations and valid accusations for what they are.”
Barber said there are instances where amends need to be made for what happened in the past, but what drives him more is concern “that the worst days of church sexual misconduct may be ahead of us rather than behind us.”