You may have seen the absolutely horrific report on sexual sin and sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention that was released earlier this week. The report is the fruit of an extended independent investigation into claims made against various Southern Baptist leadership and congregations. I have not looked into the report in any detail but it is an absolute travesty. The report documents cases of adultery, fornication, and child molestation. In some cases, offenders were able to move from church to church, multiplying their victims. Those who tried to sound the alarm were silenced. Far too many in the Southern Baptists denomination were obviously more concerned with protecting their “brand” than doing what is best for victims. They used their polity (a commitment to the autonomy of each local church) as an excuse for not warning churches about predators hopping from one congregation to the next. Some leading pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention, including former president J. D. Grear, have argued that the Bible only "whispers about sexual sin" -- a claim that was incredibly foolish when it was made and now sounds like complicity in the cover up. The entire sordid ordeal is a massive black eye for all Christians, even those of us who are not Southern Baptist.
What makes it even more unfortunate is that we live in a time when there are all kinds of excellent resources available to churches and pastors to aid in detecting and dealing with abuse. There is really no excuse for church leaders to not have well established protocols for addressing abuse claims.
There are many lessons the broader church can take away from this mess. Obviously, making sure that you only have qualified leaders is a must. Do not confuse giftedness and personal charisma with holiness. Making sure abuse claims are taken seriously and the proper authorities inside and outside the church are involved is also a must. At TPC, we partner with MinistrySafe to help us in this area MinistrySafe provides an online training course for everyone who works with children. They are also able to provide highly competent guidance and counsel if and when an issue arises. We had the entire leadership of the CREC go through MinistrySafe pastors training at our General Council meeting several years ago. To my knowledge the CREC is the only denomination that has done something like this, but it is highly necessary; church leaders simply must be informed about abuse, how to handle abuse claims (including due process for the accused), and how to get the best care for abuse victims.
One other note: As so often happens in our culture, tragedies are immediately politicized and weaponized to further an unrelated agenda. I’ve already seen people arguing that the Southern Baptist scandal happened because the denomination is committed to a male-only pastorate, or that this case proves that all churches are full of sexual hypocrites and therefore the church should not be listened to when it speaks about homosexuality, transgenderism, etc. While any scandal like this should drive a church to humbly repent, we should also recognize that Satan uses things like this to seek to silence faithful churches from teaching the truth about men, women, marriage, and sex. As tragic as the Southern Baptist sex abuse problem is, it will also be tragic if that scandal is used to steer the entire denomination in a progressive direction, which is clearly what some are going to try to do with it.
The school shooting in Texas yesterday was yet another tragedy of senseless evil at work in our world. We can grieve with those who grieve, even at a distance, and we can certainly pray for the community in Uvalde. Sadly, as with abuse scandals, mass shootings tend to be quickly transformed into political talking points about race, gun control, mental health, or some other agenda (depending on who the shooter or the victims are). This time around, it's gun control. This is a ridiculous response: We are not going to stop horrific acts of violence like this with one more gun control law, and everyone in their right mind knows that. Knee-jerk emotional responses do not change the world in a positive way. But there was one thoughtful thread on Twitter that someone alerted me to yesterday. Ali Beth Stuckey asks the question: If the one commonality among all of these shooters is that they are young males, does that indicate something significant? Her response does not say everything that probably needs to be said about the issue, but she raises some good questions. The young men perpetrating these wicked acts are certainly not victims, but their actions do point to a much wider social sickness and spiritual rot that surrounds us.