When Bible verses, prayer, hymns, faith, God-talk and church rituals are perverted into weapons for sexual assault and then hammered into shields for church cover-ups, they become neurologically networked with trauma, and this renders them polluted and often toxic for the survivors.
We must not only deal with the ongoing effects of atrocities, we must also change society itself. Lamentations may acknowledge sorrow over atrocities committed, but they do not repair the harm nor transform the world.
Korean minjung theologians speak of han, the deep and abiding suffering that persists as a result of unresolved injustice. Right now, I believe our faith communities are overwhelmed by han. In this in-between space of conflict and despair, let’s remember that doing right is its own reward.
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.
Two months after a series of investigative newspaper stories reported widespread sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention and while denominational leaders ponder solutions, the numbers of Southern Baptist clergy in the criminal system for alleged sex offenses continues to grow.
Survivors of clergy sexual abuse and experts from across the country traveled to Maine March 29 to support legislation making it a crime for clergy members to abuse their positions of trust to have sexual relations with adults.
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.
Changing male-dominant leadership and language that have been the norm for thousands of years may not always be easy or comfortable, but when we understand the suffering that results from failure to do so, we can change.