When will SBC address clergy sex abuse?

While other major faith groups have recognized the need for clergy accountability mechanisms, Southern Baptists persist in denominational do-nothingness.

Since 2006, clergy abuse survivors, and others, have been asking the Southern Baptist Convention to implement denominational safeguards against clergy child molesters. Southern Baptists have refused.

The requests are nothing radical. We asked for the sorts of safeguards that already exist in other major faith groups in this country. We asked that the denomination provide (1) a safe place where people may report abusive ministers, (2) a denominational panel for responsibly assessing abuse reports (particularly those that cannot be criminally prosecuted), and (3) an effective means, such as a database, of assuring that assessment information reaches people in the pews.

In 2008, TIME magazine ranked Southern Baptists’ rejection of a sex-offender database as one of the top 10 underreported stories of the year.

Now here we are in 2012, and Southern Baptists are still sitting on the sidelines.

A faith group that so devalues its children must change. So we know where this is going. Change is inevitable.

Sooner or later, Southern Baptists will learn the lesson that pious preaching won’t protect kids against clergy predators. What we don’t know is how long the lesson will take.

Maybe it will take 10, 20 or 50 years. But we know how this ends. Southern Baptists will eventually come up to speed with what other faith groups are doing to assure that predators cannot easily hide among their clergy ranks.

It is inevitable. A future is coming when children in Baptist churches will be a great deal safer than they are now. A future is coming when those who report clergy abuse will be met with ministry and outreach rather than minimization and denial. A future is coming when people in the pews will be able to find out about credibly accused clergy so that predators cannot so easily church-hop.

When that future arrives, we will all look back with a vague sense of wonder at why it took Southern Baptists so long.

But there is always someone who fights a rear-guard action to preserve the status quo. And it doesn’t matter how irrational or dysfunctional that status quo may be.

When it comes to dealing with clergy sex abuse, it looks as though the rear-guard status quo will be Southern Baptists.

While other major faith groups have recognized the need for clergy accountability mechanisms, Southern Baptists persist in denominational do-nothingness. Worst of all, they claim religious principle as the reason. Confronted with people trying to report predatory clergy, Baptist leaders retreat behind the Pharisee-like legalism of their autonomous polity as an excuse for why they are powerless.

It might be comical if it weren’t so dangerous.

But someday, even this most recalcitrant of faith groups will see the light and take action. It is inevitable.

How many more conventions will it take before Southern Baptists provide their kids with the same sorts of safeguards as kids in Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist and Episcopal churches.

This post originally ran on the ABPnews.com site on June 19, 2012.

Christa Brown

Author's Website
About the Author
Christa Brown is author of This Little Light: Beyond a Baptist Preacher Predator and His Gang. She blogs at Stop Baptist Predators.

Read more posts by

  • Dan Webster

    Perhaps you could inform us on what the CBF is doing in this area and the SBC could then follow suit. If you say nothing, I will take that to mean the CBF is doing nothing and you are just blowing steam and using this as an issue to hammer the SBC. I suspect you will not answer and I suspect the CBF is doing nothing. Correct me if I am wrong Christa by stepping up and answering.

    • http://www.facebook.com/flyboydc9 Jack Wolford

      Your logic is stupid . What CBF or Christa Brown is or is not doing has no bearing as to what SBC is or is not doing as churches making up the SBC is where the majority of abuse cases are showing up – unless , maybe you consider that a put-up job also for some other stupid reason . I just can’t with my limited vocabulary come up with a better word . Sorry Dan – Does your church have mandatory back-ground checks for employees and volunteers ??

      • tommy9999

        Jack: Dan is just showing his true attitude towards women–shameful!!

      • John Sullivan

        I don’t understand this argument of being stupid. At least he can write in English. Where did you go to school? You need to go study some basic grammar rules. As far as stupid goes, you might go look in a mirror. cheezh!!

      • Jack Byas

        Jack, I think you have been caught off base. It would be good for you to admit that you are wrong and move on.

    • tommy9999

      Dan, I can not believe you speak to Christa in such a bullying way!! You should be ashamed of yourself, but you want be.. Your comment though is spot on for what the SBC is doing–NOTHING.

      • John Sullivan

        I don’t see the bullying part but I guess that is in the eye of the beholder. The point he made was that she can and does say a lot about the SBC but nothing about what the CBF is doing. His point was CBF is doing nothing and that she would say nothing about that. Very good point. Your other post on this thread says he is against women. That is a cop out. There is nothing in the post to suggest that. To suggest that is absurd. It means you are losing an argument to resort to that kind of argument.

      • Jack Byas

        I think the point has been made that no one is doing anything. Problem here is those on the left want to point their finger and they have three coming back at them. Christa has written often on this subject. It needs to be addressed. My problem with her is that she is totally silent on the CBF as has been pointed out.
        Tommy if you want to be consistent on this, you might blame her for being silent on the CBF. Ask her why she is silent on the CBF?

  • Pingback: Kirche heute, 12. April 2013 | Moment Mal()

  • christa

    Anyone who is genuninely interested in what I’ve written about the CBF need only go to my blogsite (stopbaptistpredators.blogspot.com) and plug “cooperative baptist fellowship” into the “search this blog” block. My October 3, 2008 posting, “It’s not about Baptists vs. Baptists” provides a short summary of my view on this. If for no other reason than because the SBC is so much bigger than the CBF, there are many more abuse cases that come to light in the SBC, and this also means that many more kids are at risk in the SBC. But for anyone who cares about this enormous problem and who has the energy, I would urge that you lobby the SBC AND the CBF AND many other Baptist groups, and that you urge anyone who will listen to begin implementing effective denominational clergy accountability mechanisms and outreach programs for clergy abuse survivors. A starting place for Baptists would be to look at what the American Baptist Churches USA are doing.

    • John Sullivan

      Christa, I appreciate your response. May I ask you some questions and get a further response. I think this is a very important issue as you do and we need to do all we can to protect children.

      “It’s not about Baptists vs. Baptists” provides a short summary of my
      view on this. If for no other reason than because the SBC is so much
      bigger than the CBF, there are many more abuse cases that come to light in the SBC, and this also means that many more kids are at risk in the SBC.

      You say you don’t write about the CBF because the SBC is larger. Well to not do so makes it look like it is a partisan issue with you and you are only attacking the SBC. Could you write and article on this subject about the CBF and leave the SBC out of it. Focus on what the CBF is doing and how those in leadership of the CBF have either actively worked against you and this issue or how they have passively supported you with their lips but then did nothing by their actions.

      You have said, “A starting place for Baptists would be to look at what the American Baptist Churches USA are doing.”

      Very good, how about an article telling us what they are doing.

      I think when you have written articles for ABP they have focused on the SBC and omitted the other Baptist groups. This makes things appear that you are attacking only the SBC. The SBC has its problems but so do other Baptist groups. The Alliance of Baptist would be a good group to talk about and what they are doing.

      • http://www.baptistnews.com/ Associated Baptist Press

        We want to inform all our readers that our comments policy has changed as of April 17, 2013.

        NEW: Only one comment per user per article is allowed. To read the new policy and other changes, visit http://www.baptistnews.com/policies/item/7393. We will maintain a zero tolerance enforcement.

        If you have questions, contact editor@abpnews. Thank you.

        • Jack Byas

          Why has the policy change? This limits interaction with those that post.

          • John Sullivan

            That is a good question. I think a little explanation would help a lot. It seems to be dictatorial. An explanation would help everyone understand. I like the interaction as well.

  • Pingback: The Train Wreck That Is the Southern Baptist Denomination | Christian Pundit()