December 21, 2018
By John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera
Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. That’s certainly true “out there” in the world. But it’s just as true “in here” in the church.
Last week, the Fort Worth Star Telegram released a series of articles reminiscent of the Pennsylvania grand jury report from earlier this year. You remember—the report that outlined rampant sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. I say “reminiscent” because of the similar details: clergy who used their position to harm the vulnerable, decades of intentional coverup of the crimes by those in authority, reassigning perpetrators to other churches and allowing them to harm more victims, and the emotional manipulation and even shaming of victims to protect the institution.
Even so, the Fort Worth report differed from the Pennsylvania report in one significant detail: The churches and clergy being exposed this time were on the opposite end of the ecclesiastical spectrum. One hundred sixty-eight leaders of independent fundamental Baptist churches, known as the IFBC, have been accused of a litany of crimes, including rape, kidnapping, and sexual assault. The victims included young children and teens, and stories included some of the most prominent IFBC leaders and churches in America.
This Fort Worth report hit me hard, maybe because I grew up on the outskirts of the IFBC movement. What I mean by “outskirts” is that my church followed Jerry Falwell out of the IFBC when he founded the Moral Majority and built a large university. Still, we had a bus ministry run by a group of really good men and women, who would get up extra early on Sunday mornings and pick up hundreds of mostly women and children who did not have a ride to church.
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