Last week we did a post on the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News reporting on a major sexual abuse scandal in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Over at First Things, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary administrator Keith Whitfield challenges his fellow Southern Baptists to take a hard look at what that convention has become. Here is a taste:
The past twelve months have been a heart-rending season, with a handful of dismissals surrounding sexual misconduct and one for the mishandling of cases of sexual misconduct. Now another shoe has dropped: The Houston Chronicle published three articles—“Abuse of Faith,” “Offend, Then Repeat,” and “Preying on Teens”—on more than 700 abuse cases that occurred in Southern Baptist churches over the past 20 years. The banner graphic is a chilling mosaic of mug shots of Southern Baptists who were convicted or pleaded guilty to sexual abuse, faces that represent only a portion of the 220 known perpetrators since 1998.
It is devastating to realize that many of these accounts have been known for years. These survivors and many others have attempted to tell their stories, but their voices have been silenced. At times, their pleas have been ignored. In other instances, the accusations have been handled “in house” to protect the reputations of churches and leaders. Some survivors were even encouraged to “forgive and forget” those who victimized them. These responses are unacceptable, reflect complicity in the abuse of the vulnerable, and provide a place for predators.
As Southern Baptists, we have to come to face reality: These reports show a systemic problem spanning decades of neglect in handling abuse cases in our local churches and through our cooperative structures. While some of these same issues may be present in churches outside the SBC, this is the moment the Lord has appointed for us to deal with them in our cooperative family of churches. The SBC faces a moral crisis as big (if not bigger) than the theological crisis we faced over the “battle for the Bible” in the 1970s–1980s. The theological crisis called us to protect the faith; this challenge calls us to live it.
I believe there are five key systemic reasons for our negligence that allowed for the disturbing scope of the abuses outlined in the Chronicle‘s report.
Read the entire piece here. It is a heartfelt reflection from an SBC insider that is worth your time.
I just have one issue with the piece, and I think it sheds more light on the current state of the Southern Baptist Convention. Whitfield writes: “The SBC faces a moral crisis as big (if not bigger) than the theological crisis we faced over the ‘battle for the Bible’ in the 1970s-1980s.” I am bothered by Whitfield’s decision to equate (or nearly equate) the sexual abuse of women in the convention with the fight over the inerrancy of the Bible. The former is a moral crisis. The later was a fundamentalist attempt to use one evangelical interpretation of the Bible as a means to win political control of a Protestant denomination. There is no comparison.