By Bob Allen
A Georgia pastor and blogger says denominational officials are ignoring a resolution adopted at this year’s Southern Baptist Convention calling for a zero-tolerance policy toward the sexual abuse of children in churches.
Peter Lumpkins, who blogs at SBC Tomorrow, proposed the 2013 SBC resolution on sexual abuse of children and amended a committee-drafted version from the floor urging denominational leaders and employees to “utilize the highest sense of discernment in affiliating with groups and or individuals that possess questionable policies and practices in protecting our children from criminal abuse.”
He criticized Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin for promoting an upcoming collegiate conference featuring C.J. Mahaney, the former head of Sovereign Grace Ministries named in a lawsuit alleging what some call the biggest evangelical sex-abuse scandal to date.
He also lamented that others appearing on the same program include Russell Moore, the recently elected president of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
“What are we saying to the public, Southern Baptists?” Lumpkins queried. “What are we saying to abused victims, Southern Baptists? What are we saying to the assembled messengers at the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, Southern Baptists?”
Lumpkins also called out Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for offering academic credit toward a seminary degree for participants in a “Pastors College” open to members of Sovereign Grace churches.
Notoriety from the class-action lawsuit filed in Maryland prompted Mahaney to withdraw from Together for the Gospel, a biennial preaching conference that he organized with Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler and two others beginning in 2006.
Sovereign Grace Ministries, however, supported Mahaney in a “note of thanks” when he stepped down as president of the 80-church church-planting network in April. The SGM council of elders released a statement in August affirming Mahaney as “a qualified minister of the gospel” and dismissing accusations against him as slander.
Recently Sovereign Grace Ministries welcomed its 16th Pastors College class and the second in Louisville, Ky., where the ministry headquarters relocated in part to strengthen connections with Southern Seminary.
“The first year proved to be a rich one with much blessing coming from our new location, including our degree-completion program with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” the group reported on its website.
Last November, Sovereign Grace Ministries announced the program allowing Pastors College alumni to pursue a master of divinity degree from Southern Seminary without disrupting their church ministry.
The program allows transfer of up to 35 credit hours from the Pastors College to Southern Seminary, more than a third of the way toward the 94 hours required for the M.Div. in Christian ministry. Flexible learning options including online courses and brief intensive classes make it possible for Sovereign Grace pastors to complete their studies without moving to Louisville.
Lumpkins termed the program an “in your face, Southern Baptists” decision. He said paid denominational employees “cannot and should not be empowered to jeopardize either our entities or our name by forging friendly liaisons with people or organizations who pose probable liability to us.”
Moore, who taught theology and served as dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Seminary before starting work as head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy and religious liberty agency in June, has appeared alongside Mahaney before.
Mahaney wrote the foreword for Moore’s 2009 book, Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches.
Lumpkins submitted his first-ever SBC resolution in May after reading graphic allegations in a second amended complaint alleging that Mahaney, a popular Calvinist speaker with a strong following in the SBC, colluded to cover up sexual and physical abuse of numerous children in SGM churches from 1982 until the present.
The original resolution, reworded by a committee before being adopted by annual meeting messengers in June, urged “denominational servants, entity leaders and our trustee boards to sever all ties, whether official or unofficial, with any evangelical organization, fellowship of ministers, and/or celebrity leader who, presently or in the past, is facing criminal and/or civil litigation for neglecting moral or legal obligations to protect the little children whom Jesus said suffer to follow Him.”