As Southern Baptists convene in Birmingham, we ask again: what will it take for denominational leaders to take meaningful action on clergy sexual abuse and the incalculable harm done to so many lives? Recent proposals are bare half-measures at best, with too many unknowns and too little transparency.
The Southern Baptist Convention purports to be studying the problem of clergy sexual abuse. But if the SBC is sincere about wanting to get a handle on this scandal and to understand its institutional failures, it should authorize an independent commission to delve into its files containing reports of abuse.
By suggesting the need for prior judicial determinations, the workgroup set in place a remarkably high threshold for denominational action, effectively rendering even egregious cases outside the realm of inquiry.
Sooner or later – and probably sooner – Southern Baptists will get their turn in the spotlight of still another media exposé on clergy sex abuse and cover-ups. When that happens, will anything change?
Most people wouldn’t accept excuses from a company whose product caused serious injuries to children. So why do people accept evasive explanations from a Baptist denomination for clergy sex abuse?
For far too long, officials of the country’s largest Protestant denomination have done nearly nothing to effectively address clergy sex abuse. The time for action is long overdue, and the SBC’s version of “studying it” does not suffice.
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While other major faith groups have recognized the need for clergy accountability mechanisms, Southern Baptists persist in denominational do-nothingness.