Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Next Major Clergy Abuse Scandal Will Be Southern Baptist

Let me be upfront here that this is not a Baptist bashing post. I am a former Southern Baptist and have still good feelings about my past faith community. It is also not a effort to deflect from the Catholic Church's own problems.

I will be doing another post today as to the Catholic angle that I hope is encouraging to a Catholic in Europe that might come across it.

I talked about good signs that at least in the USA the Catholic Church might be coming out of these troublesome times. See The United States Catholic Church is Turning the Corner on Sexual Abuse . Just as it is important to point out what went wrong it is just as important to point out what is going right.

One thing that angers me about the media coverage and in fact people's reaction to the Catholic Clergy abuse scandal is that people are not seeing the BIGGER picture. It is comforting I suppose to go oh Look at the supposed Holy Catholic Church and then ignore problems in elsewhere. Whether they are in schools or in other faith communities.

Now people that blast the Catholic Church on this (and yes it deserves some blasting) all have different motives and agendas. Many of course are shocked and dismayed that the Catholic Church acted in a negligent manner and want Justice. Others sadly want to USE and I mean use the victims to further an theological agenda. Then there is a segment that wants to USE the victims to diminish the Church's role in society and the public square. All this is going on.

The Catholic Church because it proclaims to boldly give the TRUTH has a big ole bulls eye on it's back. This is understandable and as a Catholic I agree the Catholic Church must be held to the highest standards on how it runs it's affairs.

However what happens (at least in America) when the sexual abuse story lines run out. It does ,as I posted earlier, appear that the the needed reforms that the Bishops put in are working.

Well the media and others will look elsewhere. Christian Faith communities that learned from the Catholic Church will do well. Those that did not will be in for a heap of trouble.

Which leads us to the Southern Baptist.

Beside the Catholic Church in the USA the next faith Community that has the biggest bulls eye on it's back is the Southern Baptist AKA the Southern Baptist Convention. The abuse scandal will hit large there I fear.

The abuse scandal rocked many Catholic's faith and indeed some lost it. How could a Church that proclaims itself the True Church do this. How could a Priest that is ordained do these evil actions. Maybe all this Catholic stuff is garbage.

Southern Baptist sadly will have to go through the same thing. How could these respected Baptist leaders do this. How could people that accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (born again) do this. Maybe all this Baptist stuff is garbage.

I am going to be linking a lot in this post to Look at that side bar when you get a chance. There appears to be a problem and the problem does not appear to be just "decades" old.

I also encourage you to read her blog . She her latest entry Irish Catholics and Texas Baptists .

In fact it is a strange and ironic fact theological wise that the Southern Baptist Convention is in fact more powerful and exerts more influence than the United States Catholic Bishops on its individual Churches and in many facets of life of its members.

In some ways I am jealous. If the United States Catholic Bishops was as as effective as the Southern Baptist Convention no telling what we could do. When the Convention acts people listen and there are consequences. When the Bishop's Conference acts I wonder if anyone is paying attention or cares.

Now as incredible as it might seem despite seeing the headlines the Southern Baptist Convention is acting like there is no problem. See on her front page "TIME ranks Southern Baptists' rejection of sex-offender database as a top "underreported" news story of 2008" and all the other article related to that issue.

The Southern Baptist Convention is trying to hide behind their theological principle of local Church autonomy. See here good post on this at Autonomy: It's a Bogus Excuse

Now again it is very interesting to see the similar positions that the Catholic Church USA is in as to structure and the Southern Baptist.

One reason we have not seen more media coverage of this is the "structure" of the Church. If you are a lawyer the structure means there is less money available. That is not a lawyer bashing comment. These cases can be expensive to an average lawyer to handle. The lawyer here basically has just the local Church's insurance policy and not a whole Diocese with it's assets.

However what if this "veil" to use a legal concept "corporate veil" was pierced. What if we saw a pattern of Baptist leaders in the community to State Conventions and officers to Seminaries to the SBC Convention itself involved in a cover up? That I suspect is coming.

I was a supporter of Mike Huckabee for President. Now I am not saying there is any proof that Huckabee condoned or was involved in any cover up of sex abuse claims. But I have to tell you in the back of my mind I was hoping and praying Huckabee was not involved in any such actions as when he was head of the Arkansas State Baptist. Needless to say for various reason Huckabee had enemies in the SBC so I was holding my breath.

Perhaps since people focus so much just on the Catholic angle that the media did not even think of this angle?

So why is the SBC just pretending there is no problem and sticking it's head in the sand. Well for the same reasons the Catholic Bishops did. That is scandal and money (lawsuits). Again look at her site and we see a huge potential problem that does not seem to be decades old.

In the Southern Baptist Church the scandal could be much bigger for various demographic reasons.

One is the rural nature of the Southern Baptist Church. In rural areas problems get hushed up and there is let me say a cozy relationship with Law enforcement and others in authority. Who of which by the way are very likely to be members of a Church where something happened.

You also have the issue of the Board of Deacons in a local Church. In a sense they are the guys that run the show. These members often are prominent members of the community and have deep pockets themselves. It would not shock me at all that instead of going to their insurance company some Deacons ponied up some money to keep all this stuff quiet. Being quiet entailed also letting the offender( the Pastor, The Minister of Music, The Minister of Youth , The Minister of Education etc etc) go about his merry way to another Church in another State.

When you look at the well run Missionary activities of the Southern Baptist Convention that is truly worldwide the temptation to get rid of the problem and the avenues to do it can be tempting.

Again the Southern Baptist like the Catholics have a huge target on their backs. On the Catholic side we hear "How dare you talk about gay marriage and abortion when your priests are abusing little boys!!!" Well the Baptist are right now right in the middle of the Culture wars and you can expect they will get the same treatment. It is coming. Hiding from the issue will not help. In fact it is imperative that the problem be nipped in the bud.

None of this will be pleasant. As a Catholic (though a good bit of this abuse was decades old) it was demoralizing!!! I had Priest friends that went through a very rough time. But they still wore that collar with pride. We got through it and I think we are much better Church for it. I see signs of renewal now. More later as to that in my other post.

However to mitigate the REAL damage that will occur on many fronts it is essential the Southern Baptist stop the bleeding now. There will be a real need for the moral witness of the SBC in the future as secular forces and the culture of Death attack us all from all sides. It is therefore critical the Southern Baptist act now to get their house in order.

Now Southern Baptisst are not the only ones that are not picking up lessons. I think for instance in several black protestant faith communities there is a huge scandal that is happening. However it will the the SBC that will again be targeted.


Mary Ellen said...

Wow! This is a really interesting post, a real eye-opener! Of course, I knew that there has been sexual child abuse in other area of the faithful besides the Catholic Church. Heck, just last year on "To Catch a Predator" they had a Jewish Rabbi who came walking into their trap after he responded to what he thought was the invitation of a minor to have sex...I think it was a 13 year old.

I know that this will also add fodder to the crowds of christian haters who have the attention of the media. It's become socially acceptable now to bash Catholics on TV and in the general public. Not a day goes by where I don't hear or see someone write about "all those pedophile priests". I'm not sure if the attention being aimed at the Southern Baptist Church will keep the heat off of the Catholic Church. I believe it will fan the flames even more and we will all suffer for it.

James H said...

It happens. I mean I am down here in Evangelical country and see it. I know a lot of people in the legal community and things get settled.

There are other offenders of course. A lot of stuff that happens in Assembly of God and Pentecostal churches gets swept away

The flip side too and one reason why people should be concerned is the rights of the accused. If I was a southern Baptist where there are a lot of Lay people of authority doing things I would be concerned about Statue of limitations and such.

The balance here is that is needed gets lost too.