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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

SBC Executive Committee and Ordained Predators

Bob Allen of the Baptist Center For Ethics has reported that members of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee have finally agreed to meet with SNAP to discuss the SBC's response to sexual abuse by clergy. SNAP which stands for "Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests and other Clergy" is a national support group for victims of clergy abuse.

Please watch the Video HERE.

Led by Christa Brown, an Austin attorney and survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a SBC minister, SNAP has attempted to meet with SBC President Frank Page and the Executive Committee for over 5 months.

In months past, Page pledged to "not ignore" SNAP's request for a denomination-wide program targeting sex abuse by Baptist clergy. At least one SBC "spokesperson" agrees that more scrutiny of persons involved in ministry is needed.

SNAP's proposed policies/suggestions are included below:
--Establishment of an independent review board as an auxiliary to the SBC, with adequate funding to receive and investigate reports of clergy abuse and arrive at a determination of whether they seem credible. All reports would be archived, and there would be a process for notifying a particular church whenever a report of abuse is made about a minister who worked in that church. For a model, they commended procedures adopted by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.

--After a review board is established, the SBC should publicize its existence through a toll-free number for reporting abuse and material to educate churches about sexual abuse and existence of the review board.

--Immediate adoption of a "zero tolerance" policy, under which a church is expelled from the SBC for hiring or retaining a minister credibly reported to have sexually abused a minor. The SBC already has a similar policy in place regarding churches that affirm homosexuals.

--Discourage the use of "secrecy contracts" to settle lawsuits over clergy sex abuse by offering victims assistance with counseling costs in exchange for pledging not to discuss their abuse with the media. Such a policy, the letter said, would "demonstrate a strong commitment to supporting those who reveal such abuse rather than the churches that strive to keep it secret."
Since September, EthicsDaily.com has published over 25 articles pertaining to SNAP and sex abuse by clergy. Clergy abuse is a hot topic covered by hundreds of religious journalists throughout the country. Unfortunately, I rarely read posts written on this topic by those in the Southern Baptist blogosphere.

We live in a world of Amber Alerts and Pedophile scandals. Two of NBC's most popular television shows are Law And Order: Special Victims Unit and Dateline's To Catch A Predator. A respected Congressman was caught having dirty online chats with 13 and 14 year old male page's. State legislature's across the country are trying to pass versions of Jessica's Law. The Roman Catholic Church is trying to recover from one heckuva sex abuse scandal. And one of the most well-known Southern Baptist churches was recently ROCKED with a revelation that would horrify any decent human being.

A conference on Baptist Identity is fine and dandy. But the Southern Baptist Convention desperately needs an on-going conversation concerning sex abuse by clergy. In the 50's and 60's, many Southern Baptists hid behind certain doctrines to avoid helping African-Americans in their struggle for Civil Rights. Hopefully, the Southern Baptist Convention will not hide behind Congregational Autonomy to avoid having this much needed discussion.

Sex abuse by clergy is an issue that Baptists of all stripes must address - bloggers included.


Blogger Kevin Bussey said...


Why have the other Baptist outlets not picked up this story?

9:56 AM

Blogger RM said...

While I agree totally that the SBC should have some type of organization to deal with sexual predators I am not sure we have the organizational structure to do so. As pastors, we all know that sometimes people cry "wolf" when nothing has happened and thereby ruin a pastor's life and ministry. I would need to know how the structure would provide for a pastor to be able to defend himself against untrue accusations. Just because someone accuses a pastor of something doesn't make it true.

I know the previous paragraph sounds weird but I want to be fair to pastors as well as those who have been abused. Without a court of law, I'm not sure we will ever get to the truth in some of these issues. I'm also not sure how the SBC can and should handle this touchy issue.

3:15 PM

Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...


It's a shame that the Baptist newsoutlets are not on top of this story. The state editors should be the ones pushing the hardest for a plan to protect the kids.

CNN has picked up the story.

I agree. However, this is a serious conversation that needs to be had. Much time and effort needs to be spent on coming up with a plan to protect children from abuse.

9:41 AM

Blogger Christa Brown said...

Catholics, Presbyterians and other faith groups have implemented independent review boards for considering reports of clergy abuse. There are models to follow. Baptists wouldn't have to invent the wheel. RM - I agree that just because someone accuses a pastor doesn't make it true. But I think you'd be surprised at how often there is subtantiating evidence for the accusations - other ministers who knew about it, witnesses, diaries, "love letters", multiple accusers who tell the same details about modus operandi, and sometimes even confessions from the perpetrator (who offered his repentance to another minister or something like that), etc. etc. Yet, even in cases where there is substantial evidence, the cases often cannot be criminally prosecuted because of archaic statutes of limitation for child sex crimes. (Yes..SNAP is working around the country to try to get those changed as well, but that takes time, and meanwhile kids are at risk, and I believe church and denominational leaders have a moral obligation to get those ministers out of positions of trust so as to protect the safety and well-being of kids. When FBI reports estimate that less than 10 percent of all child molestation incidents are ever even disclosed, much less prosecuted, much less convicted, it's far too dangerous to have a policy of leaving men in the pulpit unless and until there's a conviction.

8:44 PM

Blogger D.R. said...


With all the coverage on this story in your blog, with Bruce Prescott, and on the Mainstream site, why has there been no coverage of the apology given by SNAP to the SBC about the false accusations that the SBC did not try to contact them? It seems that in the interest of balance you should at least put an update at the end of your page regarding this. Here is the article:


I agree that the SBC needs to help local churches and could do more as an organization, but I think the way that SNAP handled themselves left much to be desired. I appreciate their passion and understand why they would respond in such a way, but I don't think it actually leads to the type of relationship they really want to have. I am glad they did apologize and hope in the future they will be able to work with the SBC. Still, their reaction has become commonplace among so many groups and individuals these days - jump on the SBC first, then get the facts later. When the SBC does it - it's inexcusable, but when others attack the SBC prematurely, it just seems to be accepted and just not a big deal. BDW, you've asked me before why I always seem to jump to the support of the SBC. Well, this sort of situation is one reason - without some advocate for the SBC in the moderate and liberal blogosphere then readers like yours would only see the negative.

8:27 PM

Blogger Christa Brown said...

d.r. - Here is the actuality of SNAP's apology. We said the SBC had not responded to our 9/26 letter and they had with a letter dated 9/29 and sent by regular mail (not certified) to SNAP's Chicago office. The 9/29 letter was never forwarded to any of the SNAP leaders to whom it was addressed (we're all in different places - SNAP is a grass-roots organization whose work is done largely by volunteers - it accomplishes an amazing amount of good with amazingly little in the way of funds). It was a mistake, and as soon as we realized it, we immediately apologized both publicly and privately. I also personally notified reporters to whom I had spoken.

Given that the SBC then mobilized its press arm to characterize SNAP's mistake as a "false accusation," I think it's important for people to look at the actual SBC letter of 9/29. It wasn't a letter that gave them any bragging rights anyway, and it wasn't any kind of response on the substance of SNAP's requests. It was a terse brush-off letter that ended by saying "continued discourse between us will not be positive or fruitful."

Perhaps the actuality of their brush-off response letter is actually worse than if they had made no response at all. Maybe that's why no one ever picked up the phone and said "Hey Christa - how come you're saying we didn't respond - didn't you get our 9/29 letter?" (And it would have been easy enough to do because I reached out to Frank Page by email and gave him my phone number.)

At least SNAP knows when it makes a mistake and has the decency to make a prompt apology. Where is the SBC's long-overdue apology for having written me that they had no record my perp was still in ministry??? Even if they had no record (despite the fact that he was a long-time colleague of a former SBC president and of a Florida convention president), shouldn't they have made some effort to find him? He was able to continue in children's ministry at a prominent Florida mega-church until over a year later, after I myself finally tracked him. Do SBC officials even recognize that this constituted a mistake on their part? I have no reason to think so.

10:59 AM

Blogger D.R. said...


Your response is just the type of thing that I think causes the SBC to not want to work with you guys. You just don't seem to get it. First, you treat the SBC like it is a major corporation instead of a group of cooperative churches that only actually exist for 3 days in June. Yes, there is an Executive Committee, but even they cannot do much until June. But then you treat the SBC as if it is not a corporation by demanded a prompt response to an organization that you just described as "a grass-roots organization whose work is done largely by volunteers." The way you guys really down people and groups (I have been to your website where 90% of it is bashing someone or some group - where are the stories of positive results and great partnerships??) makes organizations like the SBC not want to work with you.

Finally, unlike the Catholic Church (which is by far where SNAP has had its best influence), the SBC doesn't have an authoritative counsel or a pope to command things be done. Infrastructures must be built, just like entities and votes must be taken even to begin these processes - committees must be formed and lots of work is ahead. This is a huge task and you, more than anyone, knows this. And your organization can offer a whole lot to help. But the way you went about it was poorly chosen and in the end probably won't help you.

Let me give you some advice about how to become influential in the SBC, if you are willing to admit there is a better way of doing business than the way you have engaged in the past few months.

First, go to the mega-churches. Offer background checking support and resources for the major mega-churches in the SBC. Second, go to the larger association directors in cities like Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Orlando, Memphis, Nashville, etc. and offer resources and help. Then go to the state conventions. In the meantime work with bloggers, younger leaders, and the heads of the SBC entities, especially LifeWay and the seminaries. But go to all these people with some respect, not telling them how horrible they are and how they must do something now because they suck otherwise. People (especially Christians and Churches) don't like to hear they are failures and idiots. You just don't get a lot of people on your side like that.

Just like you don't go into Mardi Gras with a harsh message yelling at people to repent because what they are doing is stupid (yeah I have had some experience there), you don't go up against the SBC telling them they suck, if what you want is to help them. If you just want to embarrass them into doing something, then fine, you've done your job, move on and leave us alone. But if you want to actually work with the SBC, then start acting like you want to be partners with us. Going about it with this attitude of righteous indignation (whether appropriate or correct) will not accomplish your goal with the SBC, or any other major denomination with which you really want to work.

One last thing - clergy sexual abuse is horrible and I am saddened by the state it has come to in our country and even in our denomination, but let's remember that it is not a part of every church and many people have never personally experienced this, nor have they even come close to a situation like this. My point in saying this is that while the SBC does have a responsibility to do something, realize that this has not been on the radar of most of the 16 million (or 8 million depending on who you talk to) members. And that is the SBC - the millions of members. That is who you must reach. The Executive Committee can only do so much and they really don't represent the SBC. I do. Kevin does. The individual member in the pew whose pastor and staff are wornderful is the SBC. That is who you are speaking about when you say the SBC is doing nothing and you are bashing them left and right. Instead of doing that why not start educating those guys in the pews. You guys are a grass roots movement. Why not start with the grass roots?

1:48 PM

Blogger mom2 said...

As a woman, I say Amen to D.R. The attitude I can hardly keep from getting from the Christa Brown post is feminism on the prowl.

2:37 PM


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