Callous and smug.
That’s the impression I got about those high up in the Southern Baptist Convention after reading the report that dropped on the weekend about the sexual abuse scandal in the denomination, and how it has been ignored, covered up, and minimized, while victims have been vilified.
They all just sounded so callous and smug–Augie Boto and Paige Patterson especially, but also Floyd and some of the others. It was truly, truly sickening to read.
And then, of course, there was the terrible story of former SBC President Johnny Hunt actually sexually abusing someone, and now denying that anything even happened (though he did counseling for it 10 years ago).
I wanted to share three sections that really stood out to me. First, here’s one of the big takeaways in the summary section at the beginning of the report:
(EC = Executive Committee)
They go on to list the history of the issue in the Southern Baptist Convention; the refusal to reform and all the different times they were asked to; the terrible way the communicated with victims; the way they dismissed allegations and covered them up; and more.
It was truly a sickening read.
And over and over again, you read about how those highest up in the Southern Baptist Convention Just. Didn’t. Care.
And, in fact, they painted victims as the real villains, as Augie Boto, a senior executive in the SBC for years, is quoted saying here:
“This whole thing should be seen for what it is. It is a satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism. It is not the gospel. It is not even a part of the gospel. It is a misdirection play. Yes, Christa Brown [a survivor] and Rachael Denhollander [a survivor advocate] have succumbed to an availability heuristic because of their victimizations. They have gone to the SBC looking for sexual abuse, and of course, they found it. Their outcries have certainly caused an availability cascade (just like Lois Gibbs did in the Love Canal example). But they are not to blame. This is the devil being temporarily successful.”
The report also included a heartbreaking story of when Christa Brown appeared before the Executive Committee to tell her story of abuse (which occurred repeatedly when she was 16), because her abuser was still working for an SBC church. She was the only woman in the room. Some men turned their backs on her. Others sneered and chortled while she told what the pastor did to her.
And this pretty much sums up their attitude towards sexual abuse:
It was clear that many of the Executive Committee members and former members still viewed THEMSELVES as the victim, especially Paige Patterson, former President at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and former SBC Executive, who refused to be interviewed or hand over documents, as required by the task force. Again, just sickening.
Where does the Southern Baptist Convention go from here?
Honestly, I don’t know. There was nothing in the report that was new to me (other than the allegations against former President Johnny Hunt). Everything else has been thoroughly discussed on Twitter. It’s all been out there for decades. And nothing has been done.
I’m not sure anything will be done now. In fact, I’m pretty sure it won’t really.
I think individual people sitting in the pews want something done, but I see no sign that those at the top actually want anything done. Remember that the Executive Committee fought tooth and nail to not have to hand over documents to the task force, despite the vote at the Convention that they do so.
I think everybody needs to ask: Do we want to support this institution?
There are other baptist organizations that churches can affiliate with. No one needs to be part of the Southern Baptist Convention. Churches can just leave. They can form other coalitions where they do protect victims.
But even more importantly, I don’t think things can change when women are still subordinate.
I do not believe that any institution can properly deal with sexual abuse and sexual assault when that institution is focused on preserving power at the top, and focused on making sure that power is male.
This goes directly against Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 20:25-28, when He said that we aren’t to be worried about exercising power over one another, like the Gentiles do, but we should instead serve.
And yet the SBC has so many churches in it where the pastors have such power, and can’t be questioned. And where women do not have a voice. It’s all a big hierarchy. When people are more interested in preserving power than in serving and protecting others, they’ve lost the plot. They’ve lost the gospel. They’ve lost Jesus.
Again, I want to remind you that there are good churches out there.
Like we talked about in our podcast where we critiqued Josh Howerton (an SBC megachurch pastor) in how he misused research saying that women in marriages that believed in male headship did better, religiosity is positive. Going to church tends to be really beneficial!
But not all churches are the same. If the average is good, that means that some churches will bring down the average, and some will bring it up.
Right now a lot of SBC churches are bringing down the average. And maybe, if people focused on building up the healthy churches, then those churches would thrive with our volunteer hours and our tithes and our attendance, and the ones that are so focused on making sure that Paige Patterson gets his stained glass windows would wither.
(And P.S.: Thanks to Rachael Denhollander for her shout out to The Great Sex Rescue on her podcast with Russell Moore yesterday! That was awesome to hear!).
This book is a groundbreaking look into what true, sacred Biblical sexuality is intended to be, and the root causes and ideas that damage a couple’s intimacy in marriage. Going straight to Scripture, the authors dig deep into ideologies that draw couples away from God-designed intimacy, and seek to construct a framework for sexuality that truly rooted in Scripture and God’s beautiful design, elevating sexuality and marriage to the glory and sacredness it was intended to have. This is a must-read.
What if you're NOT the problem with your sex life?
What if the messages that you've been taught have messed things up--and what if there's a way to escape these toxic teachings?
It's time for a Great Sex Rescue.
What do you think? Can the SBC be saved? Should it be? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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