Wednesday, February 21, 2007

So it's not just the Catholics...

I have long held that there is no way sex abuse by members of the clergy only occurs within the Catholic church. Apparently, the time for the Southern Baptists has come.

The article from mentions that the Survivors Network, which originated as a place for people to discuss and root out Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse, has decided it's time to deal with Southern Baptists. According to the article,

Church leaders concede there have been some incidents of abuse in Southern Baptist congregations, but say their hands are tied when it comes to investigating complaints across the denomination.

The article also goes on to explain that Southern Baptist churches are independent of a larger body, (which is different from the Catholic church, where reporting abuse to a bishop or the pope has clearly done a lot of good,) which means they are able to "discipline" ministers with or without turning them over to the authorities for their heinous actions. According to some victims, this can lead to a cover-up operation similar to what the Catholic church has historically done. Rather than "higher-ups" dealing with hopefully soon-to-be deposed priests, in the Southern Baptist church, no one above the local church ever has to know what dirty little acts the ministers have been committing.

What is the Southern Baptist Convention's response?

...President Frank Page said the denomination plans to teach its churches how to conduct background checks, and to require letters of recommendation for job candidates. But he said the Southern Baptist Convention does not have the legal authority to create an independent board to investigate abuse complaints.

And if that isn't enough, the article goes on to say:

Southern Baptists passed a resolution in 2002 urging its churches to discipline ministers guilty of sexual abuse and to cooperate with authorities in their prosecution.

However, according to one victim, that is not enough:

Southern Baptists need an independent review board precisely because there's no clear chain of command among Baptist churches. The SBC also does not keep a list of ministers who have been accused of abuse ... [and] this means molesters could move from church to church.

Another victim told her story:

When [the victim] became pregnant with [the minister's] child at age 18, church leaders forced her to go before the congregation and ask forgiveness as an unwed mother. But the congregation was never told it was [the minister's] baby...

"In any denomination where you have these men with this power that's not questioned and you have these people who are vulnerable ... you're going to have a problem. They're allowing these men to go from church to church. They're not protecting the victims. They're protecting themselves."

So what's the answer? An independent review board, for one thing. Honesty, for another. Christians are no different than any other person on the planet - they're going to screw up. But to be in such a position of power and to abuse that power so egregiously is disgusting. It's time for these men to go to jail. The time for congregational forgiveness is over and criminal prosecution is the only answer. This is the only way that children will be protected. It's time for church leaders to admit what's going on behind closed church doors and deal with this problem by forcing the perpetrators into the criminal justice system. Until that happens and as long as Southern Baptists are allowed to ignore this behavior, children will continue being sexually abused by minister's who apparently take Matthew 19:14 too literally.


Addie said...

Ive actually been witness to this kind of stuff.... in my husband's old church, there was a married man there having affairs with several of the teen girls.... the church found out about it and did pretty much nothing - he kept teaching the young married class.... once the authorities got involved though, he committed suicide.... I felt so bad for his wife and kids

Addie said...

and thats why me and my husband are methodists.... ha

SerenitySprings said...

That's really sad. The thing is, this kind of behavior isn't about a certain denomination. I'm sure clergy/leaders in almost every denomination are doing these types of things. It's amazing to me that sex can be the thing that makes people evil.

Addie said...

*I was just kidding about the denomination thing

greeneagles said...

Thank you for a well written blog. To often these stories send people into an instant rage against Christians and their perceived or, in cases such as this, actual hypocrisy. Through the bitterness of the attack the truth is often lost.

The fact is simply that we all sin. Sin is not specific to one religion or to one denomination. In the case of sexual sin, many in places of power became entangled because of a misplaced since of entitlement and/or an increased level of temptation that is often brought on by them allowing small inappropriate behaviors grow into much larger ones over time. Sin always presents a slippery slope.

You make an excellent point that an independent board should oversee these cases. While I believe that the sole power of Redemption is found in Christ Jesus, I also believe that each of us is accountable to our actions here on earth. I would pray that the guilty and the innocent are able to find salvation; however, the guilty should be punished for their crimes and we clearly see that, in a good number of these cases, we seem unable or unwilling to prosecute these criminals.

The actions of those guilty parties are one of the reasons why God has become less relevant to some people, but the cover-up by the authorities in charge is one of the reasons why God has become despised by many. We have chosen to build walls instead of opening ourselves up to others. It is unfortunate that we as Christians often look to protect our good name rather than protect our truest treasures.

After all, if we truly took the words of Jesus literally in Matthew 19:14, then we would see the utmost importance that He has place on each generation of youth. Their souls are the ones upon which we must entrust the earthly foundation of the church.