“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.” CS Lewis
I was quite glad I was going to be in Greece when the Caring Well Conference took place. I figured that I would learn if anything out of the ordinary happened at the conference. Frankly, I was not excited about the gathering. I knew it would be just one more platform for leaders to feature themselves as the most caring of all. However, they didn’t give hoot until the Houston Chronicle article came out. Then they had to *Do Something!*
However the *do something* boiled down to some materials sent to local churches with the hope they might actually *do something* about sexual abuse and a conference that few were able to attend. I’ve watched the SBC through the years and what I see is a bunch of men (of course no women unless they drag up a few to cover for them) crying crocodile tears and promising change.
Sadly that *something* has boiled down to an Executive Committee mired in secrecy and offering little help to survivors like Jules Woodson who is calling for Steve Bradley to give an account of his role in the cover up of her abuse. She is also calling for Germantown Baptist Church to revoke Andy Savage’s ordination. Bradley ain’t talking and neither are the leaders of Germantown Baptist church. It seemed (and still seems) that little will be accomplished.
I believe that the SBC leadership is going to be called into account for their system wide coverup of abuse.This conference was a just one more dog and pony show featuring safe survivors who are *good Christians* and are willing to believe that *something* will be done.
Frankly, my time was better used in following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul. At least I grew to understand better the culture which, for the first time, was given the Gospel by Paul.
When I returned, I heard all about the good talks by survivors but very little on a talk given by Boz Tchividjian. I noticed some leaders and speakers giving each other high fives each other. Yet, few, if any, spoke about the talk given by Boz. Even in some Tweets, these speakers mentioned each other but Boz’s name was frequently missing from their assessment of *incredible* speakers. So, I knew something was up.
Then, I heard from Tiffany Thigpen and Christa Brown that his talk was prophetic. Due to some illness in my family, I became distracted. Finally, I turned back to his talk given at the Caring Well conference. Boz Tchividjian spoke words that have been spoken by survivors on TWW and on other survivor blogs. Finally, there was someone who is willing to take on the SBC and their despicable history of covering up sex abuse.
In this talk, Boz states that he doubts he will be asked to speak again at SBC conferences. He will be speaking again but in a much larger forum and the SBC better be ready for some tough days ahead in 2020. But more on that later.
Here is the video. Please take the 15 minutes to listen. You will hear sentiments that have been expressed at TWW, now being expressed by Boz and aimed squarely at the leaders of the SBC/ERLC
Boz went out of his way to speak kindly of the survivors who were present. His beef, as is mine, was with the SBC. I will follow this with some comments.
My thoughts and observations
Boz was conflicted about appearing at the Caring Well Conference
Most victims couldn’t afford to get to the conference. Many had no wish to be there and some would have been triggered by the conference as well as worship music. I happen to know that this is true. Several SBC victims planned to be at other events when this conference was going on. Many were hurt that they were left out in the cold and no one reached out to them about the conference.
Boz claimed that the SBC is responsible for decimating the lives of countless victims.
This caused him to hesitate to appear. However, I am so glad he was there. He pointed the finger directly at the SBC leadership.
Boz was angered by the exhibit halls filled with businesses and he refused to wear his name tag lanyard.
On his lanyard were the names of businesses so it was a form of advertising. It was obvious that he felt this nod to money making enterprises was not in keeping with the pain involved in this conference.
Boz believes that there should be a long time of lamenting (like 5 years) and listening to victims before a hoop dee doo conference. (Hoop dee doo is my phrase, not Boz’s words.)
Boz nailed it here. The conference appeared to be more about *See, we’re doing something* as opposed to the leaders learning from the victims. For me, this conference was merely a dog and pony show in an attempt to assuage the concerns raised in the media.They made sure that victims like Christa Brown were not present since her years of advocacy have been studiously ignored or even vilified by the SBC leaders.
Boz claimed that the SBC only *did something* because a newspaper showed how sick the SBC has been in the past years.
Almost everyone, except those who went along for the ride, also believes this to be true. The SBC is not fooling anyone with their sudden concern about sex abuse.Participants have told us it will take years for changes to be made. So what else is new? Once again the SBC has an out. Tell everyone to be patient.
He claimed that the entire system of the SBC is irretrievably broken and must be dismantled and rebuilt.
He said the the church needs to be healed. A way for this to occur is to dismantle the entire “good old boys” (his words but ones I’ve also used) system. This system relies on book sales, conferences, and invitations given to one another instead of emphasizing caring and advocacy for victims.
The good old boys system is a system set up to protect one another. They should remember that Jesus didn’t have many friends.
Boz said they will claim that they are against abuse but when it involves a friend, they stop talking. From my perspective, the CJ Mahaney advocacy by the Reformed Baptists is a clear example of this. Jesus didn’t have lots of friends because he didn’t clam up and refuse to talk about those who were abusing the poor and let down. He pointed fingers at those involved in abusing God’s people.
Boz claimed that the SBC system excludes an entire gender from leadership,
He said he attended a meeting involving leaders from around the country. There was only one woman present. The SBC has to get insight from women. He made me laugh by saying this is not accomplished by some guy saying he will go home and ask his wife.
Boz called out the supposed autonomy of the SBC polity.
You will recognize what he said about this since many on TWW have said the same thing. He said a system that claims to have little or no authority over local churches would somehow find that authority if a church hired a woman or a gay person as pastor.
Boz believes that we’ve got it wrong when we say we are here to help victims. He said that the victims are here to help us.
This turns the tables on the church. Leaders like to be the ones in control, helping others It is a bit threatening to discover that church leaders are the ones that may be in need of help.
Boz used to believe that the victims hwere the man lying at the side of the road in the story of the Good Samaritan.
Now he believes that the church, specifically the SBC, is the *gravely ill* person lying by the side of the road. The Good Samaritan are the victims who are willing, even after being ignored or further abused by the system which ignores them. Even then, they are there, willing to help. He believes that the victims are the shining stars in our churches and I, too, believe this.
Boz called out the SBC for only being willing to listen to *acceptable* survivors and this is hurting the ability of the SBC to deal with abuse.
He maintains that SBC leaders have deliberately overlooked victims who don’t agree with them or are critical of the SBC process. I agree. They want safe victims who will act nice, always go to church in spite of the abuse, and adhere to the current cool theology du jour to make the leaders feel comfortable. Those unsafe victims are marginalized and vilified. They are not invited to the conferences, etc. They are accused of wanting to destroy the church because they didn’t act in the way the leaders want them to act.
Boz believes the SBC must listen ALL survivors
He believes the SBC needs to create an organization like the Australian Royal Commission did.
He says this organization needs to have pastors, leaders and all types of survivors, “not just the acceptable survivors.” They need to create a safe and confidential place for all survivors/victims to report their abuse. In Australia, they had 17,000 people come forward. 8,000 who spoke their story in person and over 1,000 who wrote their story. It took about 5 years but the Commission got a handle on the scope of the problem. I believe that the SBC has no idea of the scope of the problem. The question is “Are they willing to discover just how serious the problem is?”
He says to have a conference only after spending 5 years of really trying to find out how many have been abused.
In other words, there is much work to be done but there is little evidence that the SBC really wants to understand the scope of the problem. I have seen comments recently which express this.
Boz defined what constitutes an acceptable survivor.
This is the survivor that makes the church feel comfortable. It’s someone who still loves the church, believes in Jesus, is not attracted to someone of the same gender, etc,
However, Boz says that Jesus moved towards the marginalized not away from them. He says that the church needs to hear from survivors who do not fit into the acceptable survivor box.
This is a point I made prior to the conference and got severely reprimanded by some acceptable survivors. All I was asking is for a place at the table for the unacceptable ones.
Boz said he has learned the most from those survivors who fall outside of the acceptable box. He calls them flashes of light.
These survivors have offered him unconditional love, exhibit kindness, believe in truth telling and have become his friends. These are those he calls flashes of light.
Boz read this quote from Henri Nouwen (a particular favorite of mine.)
Thought they do not deny the darkness, they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself. Little bit of light can dispel slot of darkness They point each other to the flashes of light and remind each other that they reveal the very real presence of God.
Boz went on to name three flashes of light.
The first is Heidi who is a female pastor of a church with 85 members. She decided to do a series on sex abuse in the church. At the end of the series, 25 women, ages 55-85 came to see her and claimed that they had been abused. Most of them had never told a soul.
I happen to believe that he is speaking about Christa Brown whose stories have been told on this blog. He said she had been marginalized and vilified by leaders in the SBC yet she never stops speaking and inspiring him.Yet Christa was not an acceptable survivor.
I have an idea that I know who this is but I will save that guess for another time. Kristi’s daughter had been abused while attending a church camp. Yet Kristi has become a help and inspiration for other parents who have experienced the same thing with their children
Boz ends on a note of hope.
He believes that God is up to something. He wishes for the SBC to embrace ALL survivors which will lead to the healing of a very sick church. There is hope. He believes winter is ending and spring is coming. This reminds me of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in which it was always winter with no Christmas.
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
So why do I believe that the SBC is going to face a difficult time in 2020? Reason Number 1: Boz is leaving Liberty University and is joining a law firm.
Julie Roys posted Boz Tchividjian to Step Down From Organization He Founded to Fight Abuse
Boz Tchividjian, the founder of G.R.A.C.E.—a leading organization that equips religious groups to deal with sexual abuse—today announced that he will be resigning as executive director of the organization in May. During an interview on The Roys Report, Tchividjian also said he will be leaving his teaching position at Liberty University School of Law and will return to practicing law, focusing on helping victims of sexual abuse.
…G.R.A.C.E. has never been about me,” Tchividjian said. “It’s always been about serving and advocating for the wounded and educating and equipping Christ’s Church. And so, I think it’s time that somebody come after me, who has maybe different gifts than me, to take the organization and move it forward.”
What is his goal?
“Many of them (lawyers) should not be doing this,” he said. “They don’t understand victimization. They don’t understand the church . . . And they end up re-victimizing their own clients. I’ve encountered so many of these survivors who’ve been actually re-victimized by the very lawyers who are supposed to be advocating for them.”
He is already taking clients.
Tchividjian has already begun taking clients at his new law firm, Landis Graham French.
There is no question in my mind that Boz is going to be both an empathetic legal counselor who understands the problems inherent of those abused in churches. In fact, he is already involved in a representing a client who was abused at Matt Chandler’s The Village Church. This church is a member of the SBC…..
Baptist Press reported on this in Southern Baptist megachurch denies liability in sex abuse lawsuit
The Village Church is represented by Dustin Gaines, a trial lawyer who attended the Liberty University School of Law and served as editor-in-chief of the Liberty University Law Review.
Jane Doe One has two lawyers. One of them is Basyle “Boz” Tchividjian, a law professor at Liberty University and founder of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). A former prosecutor, Tchividjian is the third eldest grandchild of the late evangelist Billy Graham.
You can read my take on this lawsuit in Updated: The Village Church Attorney’s Formal Response to Abuse Lawsuit: They Did Nothing Wrong
I have a feeling that churches which have mishandled sex abuse situations are a bit worried as Boz Tchividjian reenters their world as an legal expert in churches and abuse. I, for one, am grateful to have a seasoned expert like Boz representing clients who’ve been abused in churches. I often have folks ask me for names of attorneys who can help them as they seek redress for abuse which occurred in the church.
My prediction: The SBC better be prepared for an increase in lawsuits. In particular, I expect that the autonomy argument will face increasing challenges. In fact, it is already happening but I’ll save that for next week.
Answer Boz’s quip: Will he be invited back to the next SBC conference on abuse?