Patheos [Englewood CO]
August 13, 2022
By Eric Scot English
I have been covering the sexual abuse claims within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for over a year. As a reminder, the SBC has been accused over the years of clergy sexually abusing their parishioners. At their annual meeting in 2021, the SBC ultimately ignored the problem by putting in place an ineffective boiler-plate policy regarding sexual abuse in the denomination. Needless to say, this did not go over too well with the public. The SBC later decided to do an internal investigation into the matter. At this year’s annual meeting (2022), the SBC decided to have a third-party come in and investigate the claims.
Well, the results are in, and as expected the 300-page report shed light on the despicable actions of SBC leadership from 2000 to 2020. In fact, the report has spurred a federal investigation by the DoJ. With 190 million on the line (their annual budget), it is surprising that the SBC is claiming that it will fully cooperate with the investigation.
Just when you think that the SBC might be heeding the call from God to move towards repentance and healing you read statements like this:
“While we continue to grieve and lament past mistakes related to sexual abuse, current leaders across the SBC have demonstrated a firm conviction to address those issues of the past and are implementing measures to ensure they are never repeated in the future. The fact that the SBC Executive Committee recently completed a fully transparent investigation is evidence of this commitment,” the statement read. “We recognize our reform efforts are not finished.”
On the surface, this sounds great and I hope that they are moving towards reform. However, the fact that they think this is just an issue of the past makes me feel like they might still have the blinders on. This is still happening! This sort of thing just doesn’t stop.
The SBC needs to recognize its present situation by coming out strongly with a clear message that it will not tolerate any clergy sexually abusing their parishioners and it will take people seriously when accusations are made.
On the heels of the #MeToo movement has come the #ChurchToo movement, where survivors of sexual abuse within the Church have told their stories. Other denominations need to look at the situation within the SBC as a warning and take seriously sexual abuse within their own denomination.
This is one reason why despite all of its faults (no denomination is perfect) I am proud to be a part of the Reformed Church in America (RCA). In June they reaffirmed their 2018 commitment to “We are Speaking”
This was put together as an initiative to foster justice for people who have been and are being sexually abused by clergy within the denomination. The initiative affirms the following commitments:
- We listen to any victim’s allegation with a posture of believing their account, and will thoroughly investigate all claims.
- We will protect victims from being retraumatized and guard their character.
- We will walk with victims until they have recovered from the trauma.
- We will not allow the transfer of a known sexual predator to any other ministry position, within the classis or in another classis.
- We will hold any predator accountable in the church and by the law for their conduct.
Although not perfect, these values are a tremendous start in taking claims of sexual misconduct seriously. The SBC and the Catholic Church can learn from the RCA’s example, especially by not forwarding preditors to other churches to re-offend.
The only way the SBC can win this is by losing. They must get justice for the victims. They must stop sending preditors to other churches simply to re-offend. They must begin to take claims seriously. They must start acting in accordance with the grace and dignity they proudly proclaim in other areas of their beliefs. The world is watching. The world is waiting. Will the SBC proclaim the truth of Christ or fold under the political weight of their own greed and power? Time will tell.
ABOUT ERIC ENGLISH
Eric is a rogue philosopher, theologian, podcaster and ninja. He is a father of three, husband of one, and a poet unto himself. Eric’s main areas of thinking are in philosophy (specifically, Soren Kierkegaard), theology (Narrative Perspectivism), and culture. Eric also hosts the podcast UNenlightenment. If you are interested in having Eric speak at your event, please contact him on Facebook. You can read more about the author here.