For years some have said that the Southern Baptist Convention ("SBC") had a major sex abuse problem of its own despite the media's greater focus on the Roman Catholic Church. Worse yet, like the Catholic Church, the SBC leadership was aware of the problem and did little or nothing to address it. Rather, the focus was on covering up abuse and avoiding scandal that would hurt the denomination's image. What is stunning is that there 700 victims of abuse in Texas alone. The problem is likely far larger and, in my view, stems from the SBC's ridiculous dogma on human sexuality which parallels that of the Catholic Church which has changed little since the 12th century. No one should be surprised that when this distorted approach to sexuality was combined with the often unchallenged power afforded pastors and church leaders, bad things were guaranteed to happen. The SBC obviously should have spent less time striving to make life hell for gays and subordinating women and cleaned its own house. Here are highlights from the Washington Post:
“20 years, 700 victims” So reads part of the headline of a sweeping investigation that has found years of sexual abuse perpetrated by hundreds of Southern Baptist church leaders against an even larger number of victims.The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News reported that nearly 400 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced sexual misconduct allegations in the past two decades. As many as 700 victims — some as young as 3 — were sexually abused, some raped and molested repeatedly, according to the report.
But instead of ensuring that sexual predators were kept at bay, the Southern Baptist Convention resisted policy changes, the newspapers found. Victims accused church leaders of mishandling their complaints, even hiding them from the public. While the majority of abusers have been convicted of sex crimes and are registered sex offenders, the investigation found that at least three dozen pastors, employees and volunteers who showed predatory behavior still worked at churches.
The revelations, published Sunday, have not only led to a chorus of condemnation and calls for restructuring, but have also pushed church leaders to grapple with the troubling history — and future — of the largest Protestant denomination in the country.
The investigation comes amid a string of recent allegations of widespread sexual abuse by Catholic priests and coverups by the church hierarchy. Just a few days earlier, Pope Francis acknowledged that members of the Catholic clergy had abused nuns for years.
The abuses described in this [Houston Chronicle] article are pure evil,” [SBC president J.D.] Greear wrote. “I join with countless others who are currently ‘weeping with those who weep.’ ”
Greear called for “pervasive change” within the denomination, including taking steps to prevent abuse, fully cooperating with legal authorities when people reported abusive behavior and helping survivors recover. He did not go into detail about what those steps would look like, except to say that “change begins with feeling the full weight of the problem.”
In Texas, where the newspapers said many of the abuses happened and where the Southern Baptist Convention has some of its most prominent congregations and pastors, church leaders expressed similar feelings of alarm.
Lively told The Post last year that she was raped in 2003 when she was pursuing a master of divinity degree in women’s studies at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. The seminary’s president at that time, Paige Patterson, urged Lively to not report the alleged abuse to police and to forgive her assailant, she said.
“The worst part is that we have known for years. I have known most of this for years, and spoken out about it. No one wanted to listen. It did not matter enough to investigate and act,” Denhollander said. “Grief and repentance and silence to learn is the only proper response."
Denhollander’s husband, Jacob, said the number of instances of sexual abuse is not the primary problem.
“Better training and protection policies can help address that,” Jacob Denhollander tweeted. “The bigger issue is that there is a pattern of leaders, who knew of the abuse, protecting the perpetrator and shaming the victims.”