Here’s the lead in an Associated Press report dated yesterday, February 21:
The victims’ advocates who dogged the Roman Catholic Church over sex abuse by its clergy have now turned their attention to the Southern Baptists, accusing America’s largest Protestant denomination of also failing to root out molesters.
I offer two brief responses to this report. First, every person who reads this story should weep. We should weep and pray for God’s grace to be poured out on the broken lives mentioned in this tragic piece. SBC churches should be neck-deep in extending the redemptive love of Christ to individuals and families who have been torn apart because of this kind of sin. Not only that, SBC churches need to become all the more vigilant about protecting the little children to whom they minister.
Second, the title and the lead of this report suggest an analogy between leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention and elements within the Roman Catholic hierarchy that infamously tolerated child-molesting priests. But this is a scurrilous comparison at best, and the analogy hardly rings true. There is no hierarchy in the Southern Baptist Convention. In keeping with our congregational polity, the convention has no power to compel or coerce any church to do or to believe anything, much less hire and/or fire ministers. (For those who need a brief primer on the congregational polity of Baptists, see here and here.)
Rodney A. Bradford
If this attack causes SBC churches to take a hard and long look in guarding the children to whom they minister, that is good. Every SBC church does well in making sure they have a “Child Ministry and Protection Policy” that is clearly understood by all that minister to children. Background checks on all that work with our children is not optional but just plain smart in the current environment in which we find ourselves. Most of the state convention offices (SBC) have resources to help churches to establish such policies.
I would suggest that this is an opportunity for churches and our convention to be quite proactive in regards to child protection. We can not afford to back peddle and become defensive. The debacle of the Catholic church in regards to child molestation should be a clarion call to all churches. This type of behavior should not be tolerated. Let this motivate SBC churches as well as all congregations to give due diligence in guarding the precious children to which we have been entrusted.
You’re right about the difference between Catholic and Baptist polity. That being said, there is a lot more the SBC and all other baptistic/congregational church can and should do.
For example, networking is a powerful way pastors stay connected and “attractive” to churches looking for clergy. Denominational leaders have the responsibility to step in and speak truthfully about pastors’ history regardless of their official power or influence over a local congregation. As you implied, we should do everything we can to stop this kind of injustice.
I continue to be a wee bit cynical over those who pursue lawsuits.
a) They often, willfully, serve satan’s purposes
b) As an associate told me after winning a lawsuit; “Don’t be fooled it IS the money
c) There are 10 of thousands out there who would love to sue the SBC out of existence – they hate the SBC for whatever reason. They’re just looking for an excuse.
d) We’re all grievous sinners. Children are not my temptation but other heinous acts are. Lord help us all.