A ground breaking report is published by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News. It documents the sex abuse issue inside the Southern Baptist Convention. As the Southern Baptists move forward its clear that the sex abuse issue can not be avoided.
“As a denomination, now is a time to mourn and repent. Changes are coming. They must. We cannot just promise to ‘do better’ and expect that to be enough. But today, change begins with feeling the full weight of the problem…. It’s time for pervasive change. God demands it. Survivors deserve it. We must change how we prepare before abuse (prevention), respond during disclosure (full cooperation with legal authorities), and act after instances of abuse (holistic care).”
But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.
Matthew 18:6 NLT
Nick Roark’s Southern Baptist Church in Franconia, Virginia
There is some news that we have to cover in a brief but important post. This is going to take me away from Harvest Bible Chapel for a couple of days. This will also be a brief post due to the late evening hours.
The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News Investigation
The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News published an accomplished and professional article that I believe made journalistic history. The articles were worked on by Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, John Tedesco and Jon Shapley. The Houston Chronicle began to follow the issue of sex abuse inside the Southern Baptist Convention after advocates began to push the issue. The Chronicle began to research the topic and found an overwhelming amount of evidence showing an problem with sex abuse. The idea of a registry was proposed in 2008 and the Chronicle focused on the preceding ten years going back to 1998 and the ten years that followed up to 2018. The work was done by analyzing federal and state criminal records, prison records, and more. In the article the Chronicle visited a number of courthouses and interviewed a number of District Attorneys. In the article the Houston newspaper and the San Antonio Express-News revealed how the Southern Baptists struggled with sex abuse by revealing a cover-up of 220 offenders and 700 victims. You can read that article in, “20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms.”
Its important to remember when you read such things to keep them in perspective. IN this case I believe that this is the evangelical Christian equivalent to what the Boston Globe did in exposing the child sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic faith. This blog has had to deal with sexual misconduct in a number of Southern Baptist Churches. I have written about Paxton Singer and Harvest Bible Chapel. There was the voyeurism and alleged child pornography in Fellowship Memphis. There was the Anne Marie Miller and Mark Aderholt situation which this blog covered. There was the cases inside Sovereign Grace which I think needs to be considered given the relationship with C.J. Mahaney and key Southern Baptists. When historians who are writing about the Southern Baptists look back February 10, 2019 will be remembered as the day that a page turned in history. When the epidemic of sex abuse that was always present was unveiled and looked at by the world.
Sex Abuse is a Crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention
The Southern Baptist Convention has a crisis on its hands due to the handwork and journalism of the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. The Southern Baptist Convention has long dealt with sex abuse in many forms. This publication came as J.D. Greear announced the formation of a Sexual Abuse Presidential Study Group in July of 2018. This has been a long time coming especially if you are familiar with Christa Brown’s Stop Baptist Predators. The reaction to the crisis by the Houston Chronicle’s report has been seen on the internet. Here are a couple of examples:
- J.D. Greear called the abuses described by the Houston Chronicle as “pure evil.” He said that change must happen.
- Russell Moore also commented on the situation as revealed by the Houston Chronicle. He ended his column today by stating the following. “We should see this scandal in terms of the church as a flock, not as a corporation. Many, whether in Hollywood or the finance industry or elsewhere, see such horrors as public relations problems to be managed. The church often thinks the same way. Nothing could be further from the way of Christ. Jesus does not cover up sin within the temple of his presence. He brings everything hidden to light. We should too. When we downplay or cover over what has happened in the name of Jesus to those he loves we are not “protecting” Jesus’ reputation. We are instead fighting Jesus himself. No church should be frustrated by the Houston Chronicle’s reporting, but should thank God for it. The Judgment Seat of Christ will be far less reticent than a newspaper series to uncover what should never have been hidden.”
Note its not Gays, Atheists or More, this is the Baptists Creation of their Culture
As people discuss the sex abuse crisis there is one aspect that I want to point out. Over the years many Southern Baptists and evangelicals have often had their targets. They have stated that things like gay marriage or gays are a threat to the family and American culture. Other times evangelicals have talked about atheists and secular humanists. They describe them as being lost, immoral, unethical and more. Here we are on the day that a major press report has been released that shows how corrupt the Southern Baptists actually are. Now as we stop and think of this let me ask the question. Did gays create this situation inside the Convention? What about atheists? Are they responsible for these problems? In both cases neither is. The fact of the matter is that the SBC is responsible for these actions as they let it happen. They enabled the mess and they rejected reforms and stuck their head in the sand. At some point along the way this blog would like to see a concession on this topic. If that happens that can the be the first step to a discussion among the SBC and those groups on the outside.
The Importance of Local Media is Once Again Proven
One final quick point that I want to stress. Today the media and journalism shined brightly. Today out of Texas journalism did well. Recently in history there have been people who have attacked the media and called it “fake news” or worked to undermine it. This has long been dangerous and the method that autocrats function. For those that question the need for the local and national media those days in my opinion are gone. They have been for a long time but today may many people realize the need and the essence of the free press. The SBC needed a check and the secular media did this and did it well. I hope you will consider that as you read and follow the series. There are two more stories to come out. This blog writes about SBC issues from time to time but my focus is on the EFCA. I plan to do a post about the EFCA and this story from the Houston Chronicle.