Reform the Southern Baptist Convention
I am writing this in the backdrop of the sexual abuse scandal that came out of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). I realize that not every person in the SBC is complicit in this scandal: indeed many SBC members, who go to church on Sunday and are active in their church, had no clue that this was about to come out, just like me. Dr. Russell Moore had heard about it and said something but did not realize the magnitude of it.
So I am not writing this out of a desire to judge the entire SBC. Again, this scandal came from the actions of a small number of people on the SBC leadership. But it's time to say it.
Reform the SBC
So now that the list of 700+ names and/or incidents within the SBC has come out, it's time to act. The SBC formed an action committee to make some changes, but I am a little bit disappointed in the scope of the actions proposed here.
One of the issues is that some have claimed this record contains essentially pastor-client privilege information. I strongly doubt this for multiple reasons. First, I doubt there are non-disclosure agreements or personal disclosure statements for any of these. You see, pastoral counselors should, and professional therapists must, have the client(s) sign that they understand that the pastor/therapist will keep their information confidential. This constitutes counselor-client privilege. I disagree because there is no evidence of the person on the phone or who sent a letter to the SBC being informed of their rights and an agreement to not disclose being established. So I do not believe there is sufficient evidence of a counseling relationship between whoever answered the phone at the SBC and whoever called or wrote a letter to the SBC. So I believe this is not an issue: I believe it is wrong to withhold this information from proper legal authorities. And I believe that, rather than waiting to be implicated in legal proceedings, the SBC should confidentially divulge the entire list to all legal authorities when a proper request is issued to them. Defending this list could be viewed as obstructing justice. The list does not itself, in my opinion, constitute incontrovertible evidence that a crime has occurred, but it could serve to be the initial justification for victims to sue their perpetrators.
Do I think the SBC should be defending anyone? Nope, not at all. In fact, the opposite: if you are a pastor or former pastor on that list, tough. I don't care if they begin yanking retired SBC pastors out of nursing homes to put them on trial. If the SBC wants to show proper godly remorse over this incident caused by the minority within the SBC, they should fully comply and in fact go above and beyond the legal requirements. It's unlikely that old retired pastors will get pulled out of nursing homes to stand trial due to the statute of limitations, so I'm not recommending it: I'm only saying that the SBC should not be obstructing.
The SBC has formed a committee to take action to prevent this from happening again. However, I don't think they are doing enough, and I think they gave too much power to those in their body who would like to stop all of this. There is a small cadre of people within the SBC who are vocally opposed to whatever may come across as "me too" movement behaviors. However, I don't think this is anything like what the Me Too movement is doing. I will also point out here that the SBC had better prevent another scandal by FULLY fleshing out and handling all incidents that are known.
The SBC should pay reparations to all those who have proved that they were indeed harmed by the SBC. Didn't Jesus say, when Zachaeus promised to give back anything he had stolen from others, that "today salvation has come to this house"? If we can't even repent as well as Zachaeus did, it may be time for the SBC to close its doors. It may be time to move on to another denomination. I have not yet done so because I am giving the committee time to fix the problem, but if anything like this happens again, I will leave the SBC. The only thing holding me here now is their match to my theological convictions and the desire to give the committee a fair amount of time to fix the problem.
The reason I feel so strongly is that this list of 700+ items is not just a list of incidents. It's a list of 700+ souls who were severely harmed. I'm sorry, but if you are a pastor who ever did something like this, you no longer qualify to be an elder or pastor under 1 Timothy 3, not unless you went through an extensive rehabilitation program during which your leadership powers were removed. And even then, I would hesitate to ever vote for any person to be in any leadership position if they had ever harmed someone within the flock, even if they went through an extensive rehabilitation program.
What We Owe The Lost
Another issue here is that, based on how the SBC has currently behaved, the lost may interpret us as being lukewarm to even cold towards others and the crimes that were committed here.
I say committed because if there are 700+ incidents, there is at least one incident which actually happened, so those who would argue that this is a list of "potential" incidents must recognize that there must be at least one real incident. However, I believe there are a lot more legitimate incidents. I'm just pointing it out.
So the SBC owes the lost here (cf Rom. 1:14) to take action. If they watch us not take action, they are right to conclude that we are not legitimately Christian. They are right to conclude, if we take no action, that we are lukewarm. If we do nothing, we send a clear signal that we, the SBC, do not value justice.
Didn't Jesus flip tables in the temple when some of the few within the religious organizational complex was taking advantage of His flock? If our response is not equivalent, what does that say about us? How much do we really value the lost?
What We Owe The Victims
I once went to church with a woman whose father was an SBC pastor. He raped her. But when the church found out about it, her church forced her to apologize to the church body for beguiling her father. Can you imagine the amount of psychological and spiritual trauma this caused her? She still goes to church within the SBC; how she manages this, I have no clue.
Can you imagine how she feels right now, watching the SBC potentially not take action? Can you imagine how any other victim of sexual abuse or rape within the SBC feels right now, watching the SBC stalling on its decisions?
We owe it to the victims to take action
decisively. We owe it to those who will be born, yes, but
we also owe it to those who are now suffering from the trauma,
whether they've been to therapy about it or not.