Holding our leaders and organizations accountable

(LaTricia J.) #1

This past Sunday, the Houston Chronicle posted an article regarding the Southern Baptist Convention’s lack of response to reports of sexual abuse over the past 20 years within churches affiliated churches. There have been several additional articles in response to this bombshell report since then.

Below is just one of many follow-up articles, and it was posted on The Christian Post. However, the story is being and has been addressed by several popular news outlets as well.

One pastor I know who has been a part of the SBC and has supported it has withdrawn his support until better policies and procedures are in place to address such heavy and egregious matters as sexual abuse and domestic violence. While I understand that the SBC can’t police the churches it partners with, I do feel that the partnership should be rescinded if the church has been found to be turning a blind eye to allegations and or convictions of sexual abuse and domestic violence as one measure of holding the congregation and leadership of the church accountable for what happens and the offenses have continued to be swept under the rug.

When this happens and there’s a concerted effort to sweep it under the rug, it’s a blight to the body of Christ, it’s a knock against the universal church, it’s a hindrance to evangelism and apologetics. How is it that in the 21st century, especially in the West, that anyone can manage to think that the lid will not blow off of a pot that’s been boiling for so long?

I’m almost at a loss of words.

We have to hold our churches accountable. We have to hold our leadership accountable. We have to protect our kids and all of those who can’t protect themselves. We have to help adult women and men, yes adults, not fall prey to predators who’re only wolves in sheep’s clothing. We have to be countercultural - but the culture we have to go against is the pervasive culture of silence and insidious sacrifice in our churches. In another thread, there’s a discussion about unity within the body - but THIS is a breach of unity within the body and an utter sin against God. Yet, people have and unfortunately will continue to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to those who’re suffering at the hands of abusive monsters. Yes, that is strong language; this is a matter near and dear to my heart.

  • Do you attend an SBC affiliated church?
  • Will you be reaching out your church leaders for them to address your church’s partnership with the SBC?
  • What actions do you think the SBC should take moving forward to address allegations and confirmations of sexual abuse and domestic violence within affiliated churches?
  • Considering sexual abuse and domestic violence doesn’t just happen within Southern Baptist and Catholic churches, how can we as a body be far more proactive in taking a stand against both in a much better effort to protect those who have suffered or is suffering at the hands of abusers?

(Steve Kell) #2

I think that there is little use in nationwide churches. Their affiliations are beneficial to some people I suppose, but it is the local church that is our place to demonstrate the love of God.

As a side note: I worked for Chipotle in 2015. We were an outstanding restaurant in terms of cleanliness, customer service, delicious food, training, etc. A handful of restaurants were linked to Ecoli and 2000 restaurants nationwide turned their business focus entirely to “food safety.” The customers who took time to consider the sensational new story and were independent thinkers continued to eat at my Chipotle two thousand miles away from the problem. We gave them a reason to trust us despite the inflammatory news. I ate Chipotle everyday, it was still the best food around. When someone wants to believe that everything is tainted, there is little to stop the desire they have to see the worst.

On the other hand, If an entire organization and all it’s supporters ignores a problem they are specifically responsible for, they deserve to be completely ignored and discredited. Having said that all in response to your question. Southern Baptists who are truly faithful will be purified of the mess, will have the opportunity to humble themselves, and all things will work together for good for them.

Is denouncing people we don’t know or have never heard of our responsibility? Or is it our responsibility to make sure, no matter what is happening 2000 miles away, or next door, we never have to make excuses, or rely on “them” for our own reputation, but instead rely on our personal integrity, the relationships that we have made in love, our witness through many years? Anyone who discredits the church entirely for what a portion of people are doing badly may be resigned to being against the truth.

“Leaders” perhaps are being chosen by the wrong means. Often times it seems desire is the first factor for the ‘call’. I personally think that pastors are over emphasized in the sense that often the congregation relies so heavily on them. If Christ is the head and their are many parts, a greater emphasis on all other necessary parts may be worth turning toward.

In all areas of life the laborers are few, we need to pray for workers-and that doesn’t mean more paid ministers-just a greater faith in the church to strive for more in every aspect. We have all the reason to hope for better days ahead.

(LaTricia J.) #3

Thank you for responding @skell. The SBC isn’t a national church, it’s an organization that local churches can partner with in order to become a part of it’s network of affiliated churches. The local churches remain autonomous, however as a part of the network it’s like having an endorsement, for one. Also, what can be a benefit is that through partnering with the SBC, smaller churches have access to more resource (at least theoretically) and better opportunities to network with larger churches with an abundance of resources. I am sure there are other benefits, but those are what I can think of off the top of my head. More information can be found on the SBC website.


Sexual abuse and domestic violence isn’t just an issue associated with churches partnered with the SBC. Please be clear, I’m making a distinction by stating that churches are partnered with the SBC, which is, to reiterate, an organization and not a national church. This post that is based on the report and subsequent reports isn’t about “truly faithful” southern Baptists being cleared of “the mess” as you referred to it. Sexual abuse is a criminal act, not a mess. What about those whose lives have been impacted directly by the sexual abuse? What about the lose of relative innocence in the children who have been sexually abused? Are they less important than the “Southern Baptists who are truly faithful”? It doesn’t seem that you’ve addressed the victims, but rather you’ve focused elsewhere. Please correct me if I’ve missed the mark of your response, I would appreciate it.

Can you clarify your first question about denouncing people and our responsibility? How do you understand the responsibility of believers in regards to the local body and the universal body of Christ? What does it mean to rely on “personal integrity”?

I would like to better understand what you’re saying in the last sentence of the above statement. As it is written, how I am perceiving it, I hope isn’t how you mean it. I perceive it as you not seeing the gravity of the sexual abuse or any abuse that happens within our churches regardless of if it’s happening in a church next door or 2000 miles away. In the early church, the apostles traveled to churches miles away and wrote letters to churches to address matters that threatened the sanctify of not only the local body but also the greater body of Christ. Are we beyond or above such concern? Are we above acting in some way great or small? Also, are our hearts so hardened that we can only offer apathy towards believers who have suffered at the hands of abuse if they aren’t in our immediate family? Or is that, in general, we don’t know how to respond when we hear or read of these types of matters?

Yes, in general, church leaders are chosen in ways that aren’t biblical. I’m sure that we had the means to go to each church and inquire about ecclesiastical polity, most churches would fall short in not only the understanding of it, but also in the execution of it. I wholeheartedly agree in that pastors are over emphasized when it comes to a congregations reliance on them. Again, this points to a lack of awareness to biblical church polity.

Our better day lies in heaven. The bible informs us that evil will wax, and there will be tribulation. Yet, we as believers shouldn’t grow weary of well doing. I equate greater faith in Christ in many regards is actionable; not something that we setback and wait for an end result, but something we are called to engage with and exercise.

(Steve Kell) #4

I am utterly disconnected from coalitions, associations, denominations, national churches: anything that groups a massive amount of diverse people together means very little to me in terms of reputation. At he same time if I have to denounce every evil in the world I would spend my life doing nothing but denouncing.

Having said that, your questions would be better answered by someone more connected. I see things as if individuals are what bring heart and meaning to faith and therefore I have never felt it was a catholic friend of mine’s responsibility to explain how wrong priests may have been who abused. Because I know those people, I take for granted they do not want evil to happen in any realm, including in churches they are associated with.

Maybe my comments above should be disregarded. I was not intending to offend anyone or minimize someone’s pain. My only hopes are in individuals who have truly been redeemed by God to go and live in a way that is beyond criticism, as joint heirs, dead to sin and alive in order to be instruments of righteousness.

(LaTricia J.) #5

I don’t think that one has to be connected to anything beyond their local church and the body of Christ in order to be and show concern, and at the very least pray for God’s intervention and justice on behalf of the victims. Is that not something to even be considered? This isn’t about reputation or denouncing, and if that’s what you believe it is about, then let this be a clarification.

Admittedly, I am reading your responses as being aloof or passive and even somewhat dismissive, which is part of what led to the original report shared in the OP.

Thank you for reading and responding just the same. I do appreciate it.

(Steve Kell) #6

I tend to feel helpless about the story you posted. I can’t imagine it, I wish there were a ground swell of believers that could turn the tide around to make the body live up to our potential.

As I feel helpless that is why whenever I find a single person in my world that catches a glimpse of what is good, I want us to sharpen one another.

More related to my helplessness: People get divorced in my close family… When I think about broken homes and all I might have done to encourage them to stay away from that choice, to encourage their faithfulness to one another. All I could have done, I failed to do a tenth of what might have been necessary to keep their heads straight. My relationships with people I know are incomplete and shallow.

Then I think about the outrage I have willingly expressed in the past about politics on social media, or any national news I scoff at, even when simply to my wife, the time I waste on superficial entertainment, and I ask myself, ‘what do I have to offer the victims of sexual abuse.’ And you are right, my heart should pause and break for them and pray when they are brought to mind. And honestly in the end having your response above will straighten my head to think my clearly about that massive story of abuse, and how I have to do my share of redeeming, encouraging, strengthening myself and those around me for the better things that might have been done instead of those evils.

I know that righteous anger should be expressed at times, I tend to be passive as you’ve said. It is tough to know when righteous anger is appropriate, it does seem needed. I need a fiery, staunch, supporter of grace and truth in my life.:slightly_smiling_face: (I say this because I suppress anger in the face of evil or absurdity)

(LaTricia J.) #7

Thank you for being more open @skell.

I believe that in our helplessness when we face these types or reports no matter where they come from, that is when we need God the most. You can’t physically get to a victim far away from you; you can’t have a one on one conversation with every church leader; but you sure can join in the prayer for justice for the victimized and that God healing grace pours into their lives. You can join in the prayer that God does turn such a morbid situation into something that will glorify Him and bring us closer together as a body. As a matter of fact, there are so many angles we can pray from when we are feeling utterly helpless.

This is an instance that righteous anger is appropriate. However, I understand that sometimes what we see and feel can be extremely overwhelming that we end up expressing the exact opposite. I don’t want to do that, but I have done it. This matter stirs anger within me, and it also stirred a call to action - conviction; remember that discussion from the Core Module? This is one way of me acting, to bring light to the situation in a public way and not just on my FB page. I also sent the initial report as well as a follow-up story to my pastor because our church is an SBC partner church. And guess who will follow up with him should there be inaction? That was my virtual hand going up by the way LOL.

We have to protect our sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, cousins, nephews and nieces, and our friends. When we don’t act in some way, we condone the violation. Just as Jesus wants us to be either hot or cold, there’s no such thing as straddling the fence in these matters. We just have to make sure that our actions are righteous, appropriate, and God honoring.

Again, I think you for being more open and getting real about your emotional response. I appreciate it.

(LaTricia J.) #8

This is just a general follow-up.

This was one of the topics discussed during class at church this past Sunday morning, as I mentioned the church I attend is an SBC partner/affiliated church. There was a great deal to be said and many points to consider. Admittedly, while I have a strong position that I’m holding to, in reflection, what I see is more apathy or people being either not fazed or feeling impacted about this matter. That causes me to feel a variety of emotions. It’s hard to work against apathy or a prevailing amount of aloofness when it comes from a large group of people. There’s a disconnect and I’m not sure how to address that or deal with it outside of pouring my heart out to God. This is one of those times when I say, “Ok, You can do something now, something big …” It’s just way too easy for us to look at the victims and the places that victimization occurs as places that are so far removed from us and our immediate surroundings.

Also, an excellent point that was brought up is that oftentimes we’ve looked at the matter of sexual abuse as a problem that is predominantly found in the Catholic church because we’ve heard about it so much over the years and have heard so many accounts from survivors. And now we have the same thing being in exposed from many churches associated with the SBC. But this type of thing - sexual abuse (and domestic violence) isn’t limited these arenas. Sexual abuse can in any church. Predators prey on those with their guards down and go into places that they can easily blend into and take advantage of others. I hope as this thread is being read, that if nothing else, this is point is kept in mind.

Some points to contemplate and address in our local church bodies:

  • What are ways that we can better secure those in our local churches against such abuses?
  • Who checks the registered sex offenders list for your church? Is it the responsibility of one person or many?
  • How do we address and care for the victims without victim shaming?
  • How do we let demonstrate proper Christian doctrine, love, care, and support to victims outside of prayer?
  • How do we effectively show and express that Christianity doesn’t condone abuse of any kind?
  • How do we gird victims in their faith in Christ?

(Kathleen) #9

@LaTricia_January - I wanted to thank you for taking the time to post the articles and to pour out your heart here. Just reading through Part 1 made my skin crawl, and I find it easier to rage at those in in positions of leadership than to think through where we go from here. In fact, the disgust and sadness can be so overwhelming that it can trigger a sense of helplessness that paralyses. I say that to shed a light on perhaps another way that this can impact someone. (You already mentioned other reactions (or inactions) due to apathy, distance, or hardened cynicism.)

I am not a part of a church in the SBC, but I grew up in the American south, so I know many people in SBC churches. It is indeed a wake-up call to leaders in churches and denominations both large and small, as well as lay people, to look out for one another and demand accountability for leaders.

I live in the UK currently, and I used to be annoyed by all the child protection measures/bureaucratic hoops that the church had to jump through to be in compliance with the ‘law of the land’, but the older I get, the more I am thankful for the level of account this forces upon us. The church does have the burden of being ‘above reproach’. Unfortunately, when it’s left to us to define those perimeters, we often fall woefully short.

I am all for instituting systems that handle these sorts of issues that ensures justice both the accused and the accusing.

(LaTricia J.) #10

@KMac staying in the rage is probably easier to do than to consider what happens next. And you’re right, it can be quite overwhelming to the point of just acting at all, and in that case, the matter only compounds.

(SeanO) #11

@LaTricia_January Thank you for pouring out your heart on this matter. I have not yet responded because I needed time to think and pray. There are no words to express the heinousness of such crimes - how much more when committed in places that claim to represent the God of love who gave His Son. I think it would be appropriate for the leaders of such institutions to weep in sackcloth and ashes, or to spend a season in fasting and prayer (more modern equivalent).

Personally, I think there are a few very practical steps Churches / institutions can take:

  • perform background checks on all volunteers, Sunday School teachers and workers - especially those who work with kids - too often we rely simply on the fact that we are familiar with an individual to trust them
  • never allow an adult of the opposite sex that is not the parent or guardian to be alone with a youth / college student
  • encourage transparency - talk about it - let the kids know that they can share any concerns they have and point out the individuals (of the same gender) who they should get into touch with
  • be intentional - make plans - don’t wait for something to go wrong - set healthy rules / boundaries and stick to them

The reality is that most Churches are in desperate need of volunteers and that can lead to taking people who are neither qualified to teach nor have been properly vetted to work with youth. I’ve heard stories in the news where it comes out who committed a crime of this nature and people say, “Really, him? He seemed like a great guy. You’ve got to be wrong. Really?”

And I think this caution needs to extend to those who hold positions of authority. Even guys like Bill Hybels, who anyone would have trusted just because of all that he has done, can fall into unhealthy patterns in their lives.

I do not think we should create a culture of fear or paranoia. But we should set healthy boundaries and rules and let people know who they can talk to if anything ever seems out of place. We should make it clear to anyone even thinking of perpetrating such a crime that the community is watchful and alert and even the hint of such behavior will not be tolerated.

(LaTricia J.) #12

Thank you for your input @SeanO.

There are also numerous cases where the perpetrator is the same sex as the victim. Someone shared they’re experience in a very candid moment after the service this past Sunday. The abuser in their case was a high school teen and the same sex as and was trusted in the home of the victim (where the acts took place). This, unfortunately, isn’t uncommon in cases of sexual abuse, there are many abusers who are not even 18 years of age. I’m not specifically speaking about the SBC matter, but in general.

I strongly believe that protection starts at home. I think one of the areas that we fall short in as believers is having open honest communication and teaching regarding matters of sex, boundaries, and such with our children. We just can’t live seeing the world through rose colored spectacles. It’s as if we skirt around the topic and that leaves our kids vulnerable in so many ways. In most instances, if they aren’t taught about these matters at home, in a healthy and responsible way, they will get ‘learning’ out in the streets. Children also need to be taught some basics in self-defense. And more importantly, they need to receive love, empowerment, and value from safe people in safe spaces. I think this helps tremendously when responsible adults pour into these willing vessels so much good.

Will this mean that nothing abusive or tragic will ever happen to them? No. But I think it helps to better prepare them for the reality of our world and will also give them some amount of leverage/defense in the world when faced with manipulators and those who would try to harm them physically. It’s just a better start.

(C Rhodes) #13

@SeanO. Hi! Can you give me some idea of what a climate of accountability would look like that did not include an environment of fear or paranoia? I am curious as to what you think that would look like.

(SeanO) #14

@cer7 I think it occurs when leaders set healthy boundaries and inform in a calm and confident manner. Like when a leader takes kids on a camping trip, but has their parents sign a waiver and explains some of the dangers inherent in being in the wilderness. He doesn’t scare the kids or parents, but he does inform them that they need to listen to the leader’s instructions and be careful.

(C Rhodes) #15

Thanks Sean that provides clarity to your recommendations.

(C Rhodes) #16

Shouldn’t the Church be accountable for sexual misconduct of their leaders? Yes, I agree, it must. The Church of JESUS CHRIST is accountable for any type of misconduct. So, what makes it different. What should the Church’s accountability look like?

It is true! The Law is for the lawbreaker. 1 Timothy 4-16. So, when someone in the Church is proven to be in violation of the law of the land, we should happily submit to that authority. The process is in place to address the law breaker and it plays a vital role in the redemptive process. But that is only the beginning of the corrective process.

Judgment begins at the Household of GOD. 1 Peter 4:14-19. Because the judgment of GOD involves correction and redemption the accountability of the Church goes far beyond calling the sin by its name. It utilizes the redemptive process for healing and restitution. I hope it will always be as applicable and as varied as the individuals who find themselves in sin. That is mercy I know I need.

The plan of GOD calls for repentance and forgiveness. When we find a brother/sister at fault we remember Galatians 6:1-2.

There is clear prescription for resolving wrong-doing in the Church. Matthew 5:23-24, Matthew 18:4-10, Matthew 18:15-22. And it is wisdom to tweak our environments as we discover avenues the enemy has exploited to bring sin in our midst.

However, the Church is not about destruction but rather healing. The Church uniquely offers healing for the offended and the offender. Matthew 18:23-35. Accountability will offer a path to repentance and forgiveness, otherwise the Church’s behavior falls short of GOD’s plan for our World. We don’t hold one another accountable without enacting John 8:3-11. We are mindful that “he that is without sin, cast the stone.”

We embrace the repentance and the forgiveness that provides hope and restoration for us all. Even for the law breaker. That may cause situations and positions to adjust or change but it does not exclude loving, it does not include destruction. Vengeance belongs to GOD. Romans 12:19.

My Dad has a unique way of espousing this principle. “When I pray,” my Dad says; “someone always gets another chance.” I have witnessed the evidence of that simple principle in action. When sexual sin gripped the membership of my own Church, it was the prayer that brought immediate recompense. It was prayer that guarded my own heart against vengeful retribution. It was prayer that allowed me access to forgiveness for the offender. It is prayer that keeps me connected to mercy and love for others and for myself. My relationship with the Lord is a necessary component in my relationship with my world.

I find without that important element, it is too easy for me to be left with bitterness, resentment, and judgment without compassion. It can feel easier to hate the sinner along with the sin. But, when I utilize GOD’s plan for accountability, it is customized, it bears fruit, and it is healing.

(Carson Weitnauer) #17

Hi friends,

As an update on this grievous reality, here are ten calls to action, proposed by J.D. Greer, for addressing the crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention, as explained at the ERLC website:

Here are the bolded items:

  1. Enter a season of sorrow and repentance.
  2. Embrace a new curriculum for holistic care in the early stages of learning of abuse.
  3. Affirm three separate “Statement of Principles” documents.
  4. Take immediate action on abuse prevention and care.
  5. Consider requiring background checks, at a minimum, for all SBC standing committees and trustee appointments.
  6. Reexamine the ordination process.
  7. Update the Annual Church Profile to ask about abuse.
  8. Prepare to address abuse at the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting.
  9. Explore possibilities related to a database solution.
  10. Request that the Executive Committee enhances governing documents on disfellowshipping churches and evaluates several churches.

(LaTricia J.) #18

Here is another article that my pastor sent me this evening:

I will continue to pray that none of this just ‘blows over’, but that God’s justice prevails and His mercy abounds for the the victims.

(LaTricia J.) #19

This is just horrible. A poster in another discussion thread shared this article with us today. Would it be fair to say that this is an epidemic? And also, would be fair to say that as a body we are falling short somehow? Regardless of denominations, even as a people we’re falling horribly short, I think.

(SeanO) #20

@LaTricia_January Looking back over Church history, we seem to have the opposite problem that some of the early Church Fathers had… Some of them did not allow those who committed apostasy under extreme torture to rejoin the Church after repenting, when even Peter himself made that error without any torture involved. However, today perhaps we are too quick to restore people to fellowship rather than recognizing that sin has serious consequences and that there are times when a person must not be allowed to rejoin fellowship even after expressing sorrow due to the heinous and habitual nature of what they have done.

We also emphasize that all sin is the same (in a sense) because all sin separates us from God. That is true. But that does not mean that all sin is equal. I think that mentality could lead to confusion.

However, I have attended Churches who set firm boundaries when it came to these types of issues and did not allow those with this type of record to attend for safety reasons. So I must assume there are many other similar Churches who have policies in place to protect people.