Shortly after the sex abuse scandal in Southern Baptist churches came to light earlier this month, the Southern Baptist Convention’s president J.D. Greear published a list of 10 churches (including some prominent megachurches) that had a history of hiring predatory pastors and/or ignoring claims of sexual abuse. He said those churches specifically needed to prove they’d corrected their policies when it came to handling these cases.
It was a small step in the right direction.
But now, the SBC’s Executive Committee bylaws workgroup says there’s no need to check in with seven of those churches at all.
That’s an awfully quick turnaround time, wouldn’t you say?
Listen to how they defend themselves:
“We understand it is difficult, if not impossible, to issue a report on sexual abuse that will be met with satisfaction by everyone,” Ken Alford of Valdosta, GA, chairman of the SBC’s bylaws work group, said in a message released Saturday evening.
The group’s announcement clearing all but three churches on Greear’s list was met with dismay — but not surprise — by victims’ advocates who have spent years calling for reforms.
“The statement of the SBC executive committee work group was a Saturday night massacre of hope for any near-term change on sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention,” activist Christa Brown wrote Monday in an email to the Chronicle.
“A lot of people are very upset,” said victims’ advocate Dee Parsons. “I’ve been getting a number of emails saying: ‘This is it. They’re playing games with my emotions.’”
Just to name one example, Houston’s Second Baptist Church was one the SBC group said didn’t need further scrutiny. Yet here’s why they were on the list in the first place:
A former youth pastor at Second Baptist, Chad Foster, had pleaded guilty in 2013 to three counts of sexual assault of a child and two of online solicitation of a minor. Investigators said Second Baptist officials stayed quiet about Foster’s earlier dismissal from the church in 2010, even after Harris County detectives arrested Foster.
But because the SBC group said the church has “significant, detailed procedures and policies in place to prevent abuse and properly respond to charges of abuse,” the church was cleared of all wrong-doing and more investigation. Just like that. They said they take care of it, so we believe them!
Did anyone really expect the SBC would conduct a thorough, unbiased investigation? Some Christians in denominations stained by accusations of abuse think that doing so would make their group look bad, but in the long run, people would arguably have more respect for denominations that offered up its guilty parties in order to set an example.
We know that there are bad seeds in any organization, religious or otherwise, that boasts thousands of members. And as we know from the Catholic Church, cover-ups destroy credibility more than anything. Taking responsibility, on the other hand, is an act of humility.
What we have is a Southern Baptist leader who took baby steps in fixing a serious problem… only to be blocked by the very people he was trying to help.
(Screenshot via YouTube)