Some people think that the truth can be hidden with a little cover-up and decoration. But as time goes by, what is true is revealed, and what is fake fades away. Ismail Haniyeh
The letter included in this post so distressed me that I was unable to sleep more than two hours last night. This letter by the Credentials Committee is proof positive that the SBC never intended to do anything with churches that had pastors who covered up or didn’t report sex abuse. Jules Woodson’s story is probably the most well-known story of sex abuse within the SBC. It was confirmed by the youth pastor who stepped down from his church. It was confirmed by the associate pastor who stepped down from his position. The only one who never acknowledged his role in this tragic affair was Steve Bradley who continues as the lead pastor of Stonebridge Church (formerly known as Woodland Hills Baptist Church) where Jules was molested.
To make matters worse Jules reached out to Steve Bradley who has continually refused to respond to her. This committee whose glossed over Jule’s molestation claims that the church is an example of the faith and practice which closely identifies with the SBC’s statement of faith. Be sure to read that line carefully. The SBC thinks it is in keeping with their faith and practice to have a pastor of a church who did not report Jules’ abuse and who now refuses to speak to her. This is what the SBC thinks is just peachy? I’m sure Jesus is impressed.
Here is the letter. It will be quite obvious that this committee does not include the best, the compassionate, and the brightest in the SBC…or maybe it does and that is worrisome.
Southern Baptist Convention
MIKE LAWSON, CHAIR
November 16, 2020
Dear Ms. Woodson,
The Credentials Committee desires to reach out to you personally and inform you of our decision regarding Stonebridge Church. As we have not been able to connect via phone or Zoom, please receive this letter in the spirit from which it was drafted: to sincerely thank you and inform you. Thank you for your patience as we have worked and prayed our way through this process.
First, we wish to thank you. Thank you for being willing to share your story and for drawing attention to the need for churches to make an intentional effort to prevent abuse and to care well for victims of sexual abuse. Thank you for the effort it took to provide us with all the information regarding your abuse. It helped provide an understanding of what you experienced and continue to face as a result. We want you to know that we read and grieved over the information available to us including: your blog, articles, and your interview with the New York Times that we watched in its entirety. We prayed for you and all the victims, and, more recently, for you and your mother as you care for her in these difficult days. Thank you, for your boldness and courage in coming forward with your story. We believe that you and others like you are making a difference in how churches respond to reports of sexual abuse and helping them create intentional policies and practices that will help prevent such things in the future.
Your story has been a particular force in transformative change at Stonebridge Church. In recent years, they have taken significant and extensive steps to improve policies, practices, and procedures to better serve their people. These steps are set up to offer increased protections and improved responses to reports.
Our committee has considered the information available to us regarding StoneBridge Church’s relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention. Our committee’s assignment as outlined in SBC Bylaw 8, is to consider the current relationship between a church and the Convention. Neither our committee nor the Southern Baptist Convention has any authority over another Baptist body as stated in Article IV  of the SBC Constitution. This committee’s role is to determine if a church is in friendly cooperation with the Convention and make a recommendation to the Executive Committee when we determine a church is not currently in friendly cooperation with the Convention as described in Article III  of the SBC Constitution. At this time, we do not have any information that causes us to conclude that the church does not have a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith, and we have determined that SonteBridge Church be removed from inquiry.
While the nine of us on this committee have a very limited and specific task, we care about you and other survivors. We requested and have been granted access to trauma-informed counselors. If you think they might be of any help to you as you continue your healing journey, we will gladly connect you to them. We know that receiving this information may be difficult, and we are sorry for any pain it may cause.
The SBC Credentials Committee
Let’s go through their letter
- They claim to have read Jules’ blog. Jules does not have a blog.
- They claimed to have contacted Jules via phone and Zoom. Jules has NO record of any such attempt.
- They claim they have not been able to connect with Jules. They didn’t try very hard.’
- They claimed to have watched the NYT video *in its entirety.” Such a backbreaking determination to make it through the video… It wasn’t long.
- They claim that their spirit in writing this letter was to sincerely thank Jules. Yeah, right.
- They claim that Stonebridge has *transformed * how they do things because of Jules’ testimony. Bradley has NEVER contacted Jules so what changed? He’s still in hiding and this committee is enabling him.
- They claim that Stonebridge Church has “a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith.* The SBC appears to have wretched standards.
Let’s discuss some other observations.
- They have had Jules’ submission in their possession for one year. They had no intention of denying Stonebridge Church their *friendly cooperation with the SBC.” That was obvious by the delay.
- JD Greear hired Bryan Loritts as a pastor, knowing full well there were serious questions. Was that a signal about his view on sex abuse in the SBC? The Caring Well thing has gone bust but many of us knew it would.
- The Credentials crowd released the letter in the midst of the election turmoil, COVID and, the holiday season, hoping it would fade into the background. We’ll make sure that doesn’t happen.
- Steve Bradley’s name is not mentioned once. Looks like he has some BFFs on the committee.
- His fellow pastor, Larry Cotton, stepped down but Steve ducked his responsibility in this mess. No buck stopping here for Steve. He’s a coward.
- Jules’ story is the most well known and documented one in the SBC. One friend said that the SBC is sending a signal to other victims that they don’t have a chance. I agree.
- The committee has offered *trauma-informed* counselors to Jules. If they used the same research tools to find them as they did to examine Jule’s submission, I would run as fast as I could from such counselors.
- They claim to care about Jules. They don’t and it is obvious from their shoddy, ill-conceived letter. If they had truly cared, they would have contacted Jules. They didn’t no matter how they word it.
- How much money did Stonebridge contribute to the SBC?
- The SBC is in decline. I would imagine it would be tough to remove a well-known megachurch from the rolls.
Bottom Line: Children are not safe in the SBC and the Credentialing Committee proved it.
The SBC thinks it is just fine for a pastor not to report sex abuse as well as to ignore letters from a victim asking to speak to her former head pastor. This sums up, for me, the Baptist faith and practices. Because of this, I do not recommend that anyone bring their children to an SBC church. They love guys who avoid police reports at all costs. They love the pastor who refuses to speak to a victim. They care for the rich and powerful. The little student who gets molested is just the cost of doing business.