“There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there’s never more than one.”- C. S. Lewis.
As I was doing some background reading for this story, I read the following at The Roys Report from 2/22: Survivor Reveals New Details of How Southern Baptist Leaders Mishandled Abuse Allegations.
Christa says the following:
An Executive Committee member told Brown he disagreed with Paige Patterson calling her and other survivor advocates “evil-doers” and “just as reprehensible as sex criminals,” she writes. However, she says the unnamed committee member pressured her to promise she would never reveal the member had talked with her. “It would be the end of me,” Brown recalled the member telling her — a sign, she said, that he was still unwilling to speak up publicly on behalf of survivors.
That should raise a few alarm bells. I think that it is pretty bad that this unnamed source is afraid to speak up when Paige Patterson said that survivor advocates are “just as reprehensible as sex criminals.” Why? If this fear is endemic in the leadership, could it cause problems with the rank and file getting behind the Task Force recommendation?
Christa has continued to express concerns that the SBC will follow through with its promises. On 6/24/22, Baptist News Global posted an Op-Ed by David Clohessy (long-time director of SNAP and a really good guy, IMO) and Christa Brown, whom I have long admired: Progress on sexual abuse in the SBC? Not so fast.
As the dust settles from last week’s Southern Baptist Convention gathering in Anaheim, Calif., this is essentially what Southern Baptist leaders are telling people: “Yes, for decades, we kept secret the identities of many hundreds of dangerous child molesters. Our organization did virtually nothing to disclose these countless crimes. In fact, we often took steps to hide them. Nor have we held accountable the hundreds of ministers who committed or concealed these crimes. But trust us. For one-year, we’re saying we’ll turn things around. But next year, we may go back to business-as-usual.”
Let’s repeat part of that quote.
Yes, for decades, we kept secret the identities of many hundreds of dangerous child molesters. Our organization did virtually nothing to disclose these countless crimes. In fact, we often took steps to hide them. Nor have we held accountable the hundreds of ministers who committed or concealed these crimes.
Think about it. For decades the SBC hid the abuse and, at times, even promoted pastors who took part in the abuse of children. DECADES. Will the SBC corporate culture change in the next year or so? I’m not so sure. I stopped reading for some time and meditated on that fact. I remember taking a course on corporate culture while getting my MBA. Corporate culture tends to be entrenched, even when it appears fairly modern. Just think about the recent spat between Elon Musk and Twitter. Think of the old version of the IBM manager and the requisite manner of dress. CNET posted IBM’s stuffy dress code through the ages. IBM has evolved, but the change came slowly, over years.
What does this have to do with the SBC? SBC has had its own entrenched culture that, in my opinion, went something like this. “Don’t cause embarrassment to the SBC or any of their churches because it will hurt the spread of the Gospel.”
When confronted with rampant abuse, many of those found in all aspects of SBC life might choose to say, “Is it that bad? Let’s go with business as usual. It feels better.”
Could some in the SBC leadership begin to say, “There’s really nothing to see here?” Yep. Look at a Daily Wire post by Megan Baham Southern Baptists’ #MeToo Moment. This article is highly critical of the Guidepost investigation and hints that the problem really isn’t that bad.
Lyman Stone, demographer at the Institute for Family Studies, told me the actual data contained in the abuse report, the result of an eight-month investigation by Guidepost Solutions, does not come close to meriting the hyperbolic terms that are peppering coverage in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and CNN.
“Statistically speaking,” he said, “there were not that many cases. This is not actually that common of a problem in this church body.”
Stone went on to estimate that there are about 100,000 to 150,000 staffers in SBC churches, but many thousands more volunteer in their ministries. Of all the allegations that Guidepost investigators reviewed, they found only two that appear to involve current SBC workers.
If you wanted to argue that based on this report, executives of the SBC mismanaged the cases that were brought to them, then fine,” Stone said. “But if you want to say this shows that [the SBC] is corrupt, hypocritical, and rife with sexual abuse — the report doesn’t demonstrate that.”
Stone added that he was shocked that Guidepost investigators only found two current cases, given how many exist in the general population. “I mean, if I had been betting beforehand, I would have bet for a couple of hundred,” he said. “Because if you’re talking about 100,000 to 150,000 people who are disproportionately men, just your baseline rate of sex offenders tells you, you should have gotten a couple thousand sex offenders in there just by random chance.”
He concluded that while the report may show the need for reforms in responding to allegations, it does not show an endemic problem of sexual abuse, adding, “It is important to distinguish these.”
Why is Dee posting this critical article? I fear that this reasoning will be used by one side in the deeply divided SBC who would like to see this “messy” task force go away. Please read this entire post because I fear Christa Brown and David Clohessy are correct in their expressed concerns.
According to Brown and Clohessy, the SBC is simply doing the “bare minimum.” Be sure to read the links.
the SBC voted last week for reforms that are strikingly limited and fragile. Bruce Frank, chair of the task force that drafted the recommendations, described them as “the bare minimum of what can be called reform.”
The “bare minimum.” By their own admission.
A problem this enormous and entrenched should have launched immediate transformational reforms. Instead, we see the creation of yet another task force, authorized for only one year, and the promise of a database — at some undetermined point down the road — that is structured to be church-dependent and survivor-unfriendly.
…Still, many are proclaiming it “a first step.” But let’s remember what happens when a minimal-by-design response system fails: More innocent children are raped and sodomized. Their trust is shattered, often leaving them incapable of meaningful friendships or stable marriages. And with faith having served as a complicit partner to child-rape, victims often are left as spiritual orphans for life.
Clohessy and Brown: Let’s involve the state and federal secular authorities.
Specifically, state attorneys general must launch thorough investigations into sexual abuse, institutional enablement and survivor maltreatment in the Southern Baptist Convention.
…Investigations like this already have been done, or are in progress, in roughly half the states in the U.S. with respect to the Catholic Church, and this is what must come next for the Southern Baptists as well.
…Also on the state level, legislators must relax or repeal archaic, predator-friendly statutes of limitations that prevent civil lawsuits.
…Ireland, Australia and other Western nations and set up well-funded totally independent inquiries into clergy sex crimes and cover-ups. Such inquiries must be focused on exposing wrongdoers and writing well-documented reports.
Why civil lawsuits are essential.
Civil lawsuits also are the most sure-fire way to prevent abuse and expose child molesters, because when civil suits are filed, the names of wrongdoers are nearly always made public, which allows parents to safeguard their kids.
SBC churchgoers: Do not be complacent. Not much has happened as yet.
Every caring person in the SBC should step back from the understandably tempting assumption that, last week, their faith group did a turn-around on abuse and that it will keep moving in the right direction.
I love this ending sentence.
Real reform — reform that can truly reverse decades of dangerous deception — takes a long-term commitment and a healthy skepticism.
I choose to remain, along with Christa and David, watchful and skeptical.