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“We must lay before him what is in us; not what ought to be in us.”—C.S. Lewis
It should not come as a surprise to TWW readers that I’ve known about the research that would culminate in Abuse of Faith: 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms, for a long time. I submitted stories from this site to Robert Downen and spoke with him about the issues that I’ve seen. So have many other abuse advocates like Amy Smith, Wade Burleson, Julie Anne Smith, Jules Woodson, and Ashely Easter.
That being said. Robert Downen went way beyond what each of us have done in exposing this miserable blight on the SBC and for that I, along with everybody in evangelicalism, should be eternally grateful. This blog got started when I watched Providence (SBC) Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC mishandle a sex abuse situation. I, along with a group of people, were mistreated when we came forward to deal with it. I plan to review some of what happened in subsequent posts When I started down this road, I thought I might be the only one of a few who had experienced something like this. God knew and was calling on a number of writers to begin to document what was happening.
This post will be looking at a few things that I pulled out from Downen’s remarkable article as well as from those SBC leaders now running around acting concerned when they knew this has been going on for a long time. Some assisted in the coverup and marginalization of those who were begging for them to do something. Sadly most of the leadership acted like my former church: kill the messenger and bury the victims.
I am in the midst of trying to deal with three big stories by victims of sex abuse or by those wanting to see justice done. However, I am going to take a break to follow Downen’s history making series. I never thought I would live to see the day when this would happen and am grateful beyond words to Downen and his team at the Houston Chronicle.
A sweet, little girl breaks my heart while the pedophile said he was the victim.
I would ask that you watch this video. It exposes the problem far better than any words I can write. You see a little girl discussing how a man molested her over a period of time. Listen to her sweet voice politely answering those who were getting to the bottom of her story. Have some tissues ready.
Then we get to see a pastor predator in prison. He brags about the 400-500 people he led to Christ. He claims that *all he did was touch her.* He then goes on to say that he was the victim!
This video will stay with me until I die. It should also stay with those attempting to change things in the SBC. Many predators are not interested in learning that they have done something horrible because they don’t believe that they did anything wrong. So when ill-educated church leaders discuss “forgiveness,* they better be ready to find out that they’ve been had.
I cannot embed this video which is in the report but the link will take you directly to the video. It is called The Abuse of Faith. The Destruction of Innocence.
Wade Burleson, who has been trying to get an SBC abuse database of years, wonders if the local church autonomy gambit is a ploy.
Wade has been trying to change things in the SBC since long before I met him. He endured ridicule and downright threatening behavior on the part of the IMB which he outlines in his book, Hardball Religion.
Downen had this to say about Wade:
n 2007 and 2018, he asked SBC leaders to study sexual abuse in churches and bring prevention measures to a vote at the SBC’s annual meeting.
Leaders pushed back both times, he said. Some cited local church autonomy; others feared lawsuits if the reforms didn’t prevent abuse.
Burleson couldn’t help but wonder if there have been “ulterior motives” at play.
“There’s a known problem, but it’s too messy to deal with,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s not that we can’t do it as much as we don’t want to do it. … To me, that’s a problem.
I believe that there are ulterior motives on the part of leadership. SBC churches which have hired female pastors get booted. We know that hell would rain down on any church which hired an LGBT affirming pastor. But kicking out a church which has covered up for a known predator is impossible. Why?
Ed Young: Pastor of Houston’s ginormous 2nd Baptist is quite self centered when it comes to sex abuse.
This extremely wealthy pastor who lives in one of Houston’s most beautiful homes has been relentless in his avoidance of dealing with sex abuse, both in his church and on a national level.
1. Heather Schneider molested at 14, dies of an overdose: Young dismisses her mother.
Beautiful Heather was an aspiring model who was molested by a contract employee at Houston’s 2nd Baptist. You can hear her story at this video. You see, this wealthy church hires outside professionals to put on a really big show at Christmas. Gotta keep the $$$$ people happy. One of those contracted people, John Forse, who coordinated church pageants and programs at Second Baptist, molested her. Her life changed and she eventually died of an overdose
When she told her mom what was happening, her mom called the police. Apparently old Ed didn’t take too well to that action. He called her to see if he could be of help and hung up when she said she had notified the police. He never spoke with her again. You can watch the story at this link.
According to the Chronicle:
It took months — and the threat of criminal charges — before Forse left his position at the church, according to statements made by Forse’s attorney at the time and Schneider’s responses to questions in a related civil lawsuit.
In August 1994, Forse received deferred adjudication and 10 years’ probation after pleading no contest to two counts of indecency with a child by contact. He remains a registered sex offender and was later convicted of a pornography charge. He is listed in the sex offender registry as transient; he could not be reached for comment.
Church officials declined interview requests. In a statement to the Chronicle, Second Baptist stated that it takes “allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse very seriously and constantly strives to provide and maintain a safe, Christian environment for all employees, church members and guests.”
Ed pled ignorance and expressed fear he would lose his growing television ministry when asked about sex abuse as he served as the SBC president.
They sure know how to pick their presidents. According to the article:
The lawyer, Neil Martin, was writing in response to a lawsuit that accused First Baptist Church of Conroe of continuing to employ Riley Edward Cox Jr. as a youth pastor after a family said that he had molested their child. In a court filing, Cox admitted to molesting three boys in the late 1980s.
Young, SBC president at the time of the lawsuit, was asked to outline the organization’s policies on child sexual abuse as part of the lawsuit. He declined to testify, citing “local church autonomy” and saying in an affidavit that he had “no educational training in the area of sexual abuse or the investigation of sexual abuse claims.”
Young also said he feared testifying could jeopardize his blossoming TV ministry.
Paul Pressler and 2nd Baptist
I have been writing for 10 years. Through those years, I have learned a great deal. For example, I heard about the Paul Pressler problem almost immediately after I began blogging. The folks who informed me would not go on record so I couldn’t write about him. However, I learned that the Pressler problem had been known for years by those in positions of leadership. Not just the old guys but some of the new and improved guys in current SBC leadership.
2nd Baptist claims they report things immediately to law enforcement. Excuse me if I find their protestations of innocence a little hard to take.
Leaders of Second Baptist have been similarly reluctant to release or discuss their policies on sexual abuse in response to two other civil lawsuits related to sexual assault claims filed in the last five years, court records show. Those suits accuse the church of ignoring or concealing abuses committed by youth pastor Chad Foster, who was later convicted.
Another civil lawsuit asserted that Second Baptist helped conceal alleged rapes by Paul Pressler, a former Texas state judge and former SBC vice president. In that suit, brought by a member of Pressler’s youth group, three other men have said in affidavits that Pressler groped them or tried to pressure them into sex. Second Baptist, however, has been dismissed from the suit, and the plaintiff’s sexual abuse claims against Pressler have been dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired.
Pressler has been a prominent member of Second Baptist for much of his adult life.
What did the SBC leaders know? Reporters need to ask them about what they knew about Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Today, the Washington Post published Pure evil: Southern Baptist leaders condemn decades of sexual abuse revealed in investigation.
They interviewed JD Greear who gave his *abuse is evil and we will do something about it now we’re forced to do so* talk. Then:
Greear also admitted that the church had failed to listen to abuse victims, although it is unclear whether he was indicating he had personally known about any allegations within the Southern Baptist Convention. He added: “We — leaders in the SBC — should have listened to the warnings of those who tried to call attention to this. I am committed to doing everything possible to ensure we never make these mistakes again.”
Hmmmmm. Well, we do know that JD Greear, Al Mohler and a numbest of other SBC types knew about the allegations against Sovereign Grace Ministries years ago. We documented Al Mohler’s incredible defense of CJ Mahaney and the ministry despite numerous complaints and even some conviction of sex abuse this ministry. So Mohler knew.
I happen to know that JD Greear also knew about the problems with Mahaney/SGM, because I wrote him in 2010 and asked him to intervene in the SGM situation since he was a friend. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was uncharitable… He just ignored it because those were the glory days of Mark Driscoll and CJ Mahaney and they could do no harm.
Al Mohler’s daily briefing on 2/11/18: Don’t worry-it’s only a small percentage of churches.
Here is link to Mohler’s briefing.
Mohler offers little in the way of solutions. He might be down for a data base so long as it’s done by a 3rd party. This isn’t new. People have been discussing this for years. Why didn’t he do it before this?
Of course he brings up the *problem* of local church autonomy. Could it be that this local autonomy thing was agreed upon because of the ability to pretend there is nothing they can do?
Years ago, some lawyers brought our neighborhood into the state road system. We are a tertiary state road which means two things: 1. We will never get plowed. 2. The City of Raleigh cannot annex us. Their foresight has saved me money.
Could it be the autonomy thing was a way to protect the SBC from lawsuits.
Mohler also claimed that only a small percentage of SBC churches were involved. Do you know there was another church group who said similar things at the beginning? Yep -the Catholic Church. This is only the first stab and I predict there will be more victims coming forward.
In the end, it seems this all comes down to money. Leaders didn’t want to do anything because it could cost too much money which can be lost in lawsuits.
Here is a person at SBC Voices making this point.
Throw the bums out: The Excommunication Solution
Dave Miller at SBC Voices wrote Responding to “Abuse of Faith” and the #Metoo Movement.
I think the SBC has got to come to grips with their unique issues. They all thought that autonomy was the solution to the problem. Unfortunately the solution is now the problem.
HELP! Does anyone know who is serving on the Presidential Study on Sexual Abuse? Is it a secret?
I have read a number of articles on the work of this new group. Go here and start clicking. If I have somehow overlooked the membership list, I apologize. However, ERLC and friends are not making this easy. Is the makeup of the group top secret? If not, the committee makeup should be SBC public knowledge. Maybe they have overlooked this. They have presentee report after report with no names yet claim it is all about diversity of input. I would like to see that diversity.
I am interested in hearing what struck you about this report.