January 2, 2020
By Terry Mattingly
Protest rallies have been common during the #MeToo era, but many of the demonstrators outside the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention were quoting scripture.
As a teaching tool, they offered a large model of a millstone. That was a reference to the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus warns that for anyone who leads “little ones” astray, “it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Protesters come and go. Inside the convention center in Birmingham, Alabama, Rachael Denhollander warned SBC leaders that it was past time for them to focus on the faces and stories of sexual-abuse survivors in their own pews. Abuse survivors are trying to get church leaders to stop hiding abusers and the institutions that shelter them, she said.
Far too often, “we do this in the name of unity: ‘Don’t say anything negative. We need to be unified.’ But brothers and sisters … we are to be unified around the holiness of God. We are to be unified around our confrontation of sin and our confrontation of the darkness. We are to seek light.”
Headlines about sexual abuse among Southern Baptists are “not a surprise” to survivors, she added. “What you need to understand is these men and women have been pleading with the church to hear their voices for decades, and they have been shut out over and over and over again in the name of Christ. That’s what the SBC has done to these survivors. You need to understand the perspective that they have come from. You need to feel the grief and the betrayal and the harm and the hurt they have felt.”
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